American Express Business Platinum: Is the Annual Fee Worth It?
The American Express Platinum Business card is iconic, but comes with a staggering annual fee of $450. While most business owners would cringe at the thought of paying that much, we don’t think you can write off the AmEx Business Platinum that easily. It has a number of travel-related perks that make red-eyes a bit more tolerable and a collection of other benefits like concierge service and warranty extensions. Still, the AmEx Business Platinum isn’t for every business. We believe there are scenarios under which the fee is resoundingly worth it, and scenarios under which other cards are better.
Business Platinum perks are second to none
The AmEx Platinum Business makes up for its $450 annual fee, and then some, with an above-and-beyond set of perks:
- No foreign transaction fee – Most banks levy a 3% surcharge on overseas transactions; American Express usually charges 2.7%. However, the Platinum card waives the fee for foreign purchases. It takes about $15,000 in purchases to save $450. There are other credit cards with no foreign transaction fee, but most of them are personal cards.
- Airport lounge access (with the exception of Continental and United after September 30, 2011) – Full access to the 1,000+ airport lounges on the Priority Pass network would normally cost you $399 per year. Alternatively, you could pay $99 per year and $27 per visit if you don’t use the service very often. The American Express Platinum gives you unlimited access to all of these lounges. Furthermore, you can bring up to 2 companions into AA, Delta, and US Airways lounges for free, a privilege that usually costs $27 per visitor.
- $200 airport incidentals credit – You receive a $200 credit towards your favorite airline (you must pre-register that airline with AmEx) covering miscellaneous fees like inflight meals, change fees or bag fees.
- Hotel benefits: AmEx maintains relationships with over 600 hotels worldwide. Stay at them and you’ll receive free room upgrades, breakfast for two, and hotel-specific perks (the example listed is a massage).
There are also a couple perks that used to be exclusive to AmEx, but are now common on mid- to high-end Visas and MasterCards. Concierge service, for example, is available for all Visa Signatures including the no-fee Chase Freedom.
- Purchase and return protection– Though offered on most cards, anecdotally, the Platinum offers greater coverage. One Platinum cardholder lost a diamond earring within 90 days of purchase, and got a several-thousand dollar reimbursement from American Express. This extensive coverage is only available on the Platinum card.
- Extended warranty – The card automatically extends the warranty on your purchases for up to one year.
- Concierge service– This Valentine’s Day, a member of Team NerdWallet forgot to get flowers for his girl. Visa’s concierge came through. AmEx’s didn’t.
Business Platinum rewards: great flexibility, mediocre rate
You earn 1 American Express Membership Rewards First Point per $1 spent. There are three tiers of Membership Rewards Points: Membership Rewards Express (earned with the AmEx credit cards), Membership Rewards (AmEx Green and Gold), and Membership Rewards First (Platinum and Centurion).
While the Membership Rewards points are around the middle of the pack in terms of ease of redemption, and forgo the expiration dates and high accumulation thresholds that plague ThankYou Points and BofA Worldpoints, we think that the Starwood American Express actually offers more flexibility. That said, of course, the Starwood’s most valuable if you’re a frequent guest, and rarely worthwhile otherwise.
We believe the AmEx Business Platinum Card’s Membership First points are worth about 1 cent each, putting it on a level with all the other 1% rewards cards, on a high level. However, unlike most other points programs, you can transfer these points to many airline and hotel programs as needed, to top off point balances. You can also receive a “points advance” and spend up to 60k points before earning them.
When not to get the American Express Business Platinum
I’m using my card to finance my business: If you need working capital financing, the Business Platinum is definitely not the card for you. Late payments incur a penalty of $35 or 2.99% of the past due amount, whichever is greater. This adds up to a staggeringly high way to finance yourself, compared to a bank loan or a normal credit card (this card is a charge card, which must be paid off every month).
If you need to borrow, try the American Express Plum card instead – you basically get to choose between paying early for a 1.5% discount, or taking up to 2 months to pay off the balance interest free.
I don’t fly often: Though the travel perks are unparalleled, the AmEx Business Platinum isn’t the best choice for every business. In particular, those who aren’t frequent international travel won’t get all that much out of the card. In that case, you may be better off with a straight-up rewards credit card, since AmEx’s cards are generally aimed at big spenders and frequent flyers. Among the best values are the Ink Cash® Business Credit Card and the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business.