Let’s face it: the only reason to get either the AmEx Platinum or the American Express Gold is the killer benefits. The rewards rate isn’t anything special: you can get much higher rewards with an everyday savings card that gives bonuses on typical spending categories. But the perks, well, they’re what AmEx is known for. When deciding between the Platinum, which has cachet and awesome fringe benefits but a really high annual fee, and the Gold, which has slightly less awesome benefits and a much lower fee, you’ll have to decide how much you value ease of travel.
The cards themselves: Gold and Platinum
Both the Gold and the Platinum are charge cards, which means that you’re expected to pay your balance in full each month. If you don’t, you’ll be hit with high fees and an APR of around 35%. But unlike a credit card, a charge card has no pre-set spending limit and won’t affect your credit score.
One thing is immediately obvious: the Platinum has a $450 annual fee, while the Premier Gold’s is only $175 and is waived the first year. The Gold also has a better rewards rate: it gives 3 Membership Rewards points on airfare and 2 on gas and groceries, while the Platinum doesn’t have any bonus categories. You may be tempted to declare the Gold the winner based solely on the rewards minus annual fee calculation, but don’t write off the Platinum yet. We’re just getting started.
Fringe benefits put the Platinum on top
It’s in benefits that the Platinum blows the Gold out of the water. To begin, we’ll detail some of the best AmEx Gold benefits: roadside assistance, baggage insurance, preferred seating and ticket sales for concerts, purchase and return protection, and warranty extension. That’s a not-unimpressive list, and what’s more, the Gold lands you in the second tier of Membership Rewards points. You can get a points advance of 15,000 MR points, letting you them before you earn them. So, not bad, Gold. But the Platinum has all that and way more.
Let’s start with the frequent flyer perks: The Platinum gives you free Priority Pass membership, which gets you in to 600+ airport lounges worldwide (“Would you like some champagne with your wifi, sir?”); a $100 credit towards the Global Entry program, which lets you skip the customs lines once you’ve proven that you’re not a security risk; a $200 credit towards expenses on your favorite airline, covering incidentals like bag fees or inflight meals; and a 20% Membership Rewards bonus on travel. This last perk takes some explaining. If you use your points to book a vacation through AmEx, they’ll credit 20% of those points back to your account. We’ve heard that AmEx agents basically use Travelocity, so you won’t be overcharged.
And those are just the airline-related perks. What’s more, you get a dedicated concierge service, free room upgrades at high-end resorts, dinner reservations at Michelin restaurants, and expanded credit card rental car coverage. The Platinum also waives its foreign transaction fee, the charge levied on all overseas purchases, making it a lovely international credit card. And since it’s in the highest tier of Membership Rewards points, you can get a points advance of up to 60,000 points (that’s equivalent to $600).
Most of the AmEx Platinum’s benefits are hard to quantify: how much do you value a concierge? But looking solely at the areas we can put numbers on, you get $100 upfront (for the Global Entry program), $400 for the Priority Pass membership, and the $200 credit. If you weigh these perks against the annual fee, you receive a net gain of $250 with the Platinum as opposed to a net loss of $175 with the Gold. Of course, you get better rewards with the Gold, but you may prefer to supplement the Platinum with a no-fee rewards card that can serve as your go-to while you enjoy the Platinum’s perks.