Has the AmEx Platinum Turned Into a Glorified Coupon Book?
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The Platinum Card® from American Express raised its annual fee this year, and added a few more random discounts narrowly disguised as “statement credits.” We’re looking at you, Walmart+ and SoulCycle.
With a massive $695 annual fee, is The Platinum Card® from American Express just a glorified coupon book?
The card offers a long list of credits at various retailers — Uber, Saks Fifth Avenue, Equinox, just to name a few. But the statement credits have so many different deadlines and requirements that they can be downright difficult to use. And in the worst cases, it might even tempt you to spend money on things you might not have otherwise. Terms apply.
Here’s a look at how using The Platinum Card® from American Express is similar to couponing — and why that doesn't have to be a bad thing for certain spenders.
Savings with The Platinum Card® from American Express
If you want to get the most out of The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll want to take advantage of as many of the card’s benefits as possible to recoup the $695 annual fee. In fact, if you maxed out every single benefit, you’d actually get more than $2,000 in value.
Here’s a rundown of how much the card’s benefits are worth:
Airline incidental credit that covers charges for checked bags and onboard food/beverage: $200.
Credit for Clear membership: $189.
Two annual $50 statement credits to Saks Fifth Avenue: $100.
Monthly Uber credits, doled out up to $15 per month, with an extra $20 in December: $200.
Fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. If you choose Global Entry, that would be $100 / 4 years = $25 per year.
Airport lounge access via Delta Sky Club, Centurion Lounges, Escape Lounges and Priority Pass: This is at least a $429 value for unlimited Priority Pass visits without even factoring in access to the other clubs.
Equinox gym credit: $300.
Digital entertainment credit: $240.
Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection credit: $200. Note that stays at The Hotel Collection properties must be two nights minimum.
Walmart+ membership: $12.95 per month, $156 annually.
SoulCycle At-Home Bikes: $300 per bike.
This list doesn't take into account AmEx Offers savings, the perks of holding Gold-level elite status in Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, savings from the International Airline Program and less tangible benefits like concierge service. Terms apply.
How The Platinum Card® from American Express credits are similar to coupons
1. They're limited to certain retailers
The Platinum Card® from American Express is different from other cards in that its benefits are tied to specific retailers. If you don’t usually shop at Saks Fifth Avenue or prefer Amazon to Walmart+, these benefits could easily go to waste.
The digital entertainment credit, for example, doesn’t include some of the big players, like Netflix or HBO. Instead, it applies only to subscriptions to Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM and The New York Times.
2. They don’t cover the entire cost
Just like a BOGO deal or coupon for 10% off, many of the credits on The Platinum Card® from American Express will not cover the entire cost. You’ll still end up paying $2,200 for a SoulCycle At-Home Bike, even with the $300 discount.
3. Some assembly is required
The benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express aren’t always automatic either. Sometimes, you have to set up your recurring subscriptions correctly to be able to take advantage of them. For instance, enrollment is required for the Priority Pass membership and the Marriott and Hilton elite status privileges. Terms apply.
Not to mention, many of the credits are given in different intervals. Some are monthly, biannually or even every four years. So you might need some calendar reminders to make sure you’re using each one throughout the year, particularly if you don’t frequent some of the retailers.
4. You can add more coupons if you don’t have enough
Big savings can also come in the form of the regularly updated AmEx Offers section of the website. That’s where you’ll find dozens of cash-back offers, discounts and statement credits that come with regular purchases you make online or at retailers. To take advantage of them, you’ll want to add them to your card before making a purchase so that the benefit is triggered when the expense hits your account. It’s easy to add AmEx Offers to your account.
Most cardholders will find value in only a few of the AmEx Offers most applicable to their needs. Not everyone will want to buy prescription lenses, a gift basket of cheese, wine subscriptions or a hotel stay. These offers are, in effect, modern-day coupons, without the clipping.
So, is the Amex Platinum coupon book a bad thing?
Coupons encourage people to spend more or make purchases that they may not necessarily need. But many shoppers will tell you that they make careful lists of what they need and then search for coupons that help with the things they were already planning to buy. No matter what you call The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can make back more than you spend on the annual fee if you spend strategically.
AmEx Offers are actually a great thing. They make The Platinum Card® from American Express a more approachable card rather than just a card for high-spending international business travelers. The newer benefits, like statement credits for the Walmart+ monthly membership program, help attract a new customer who may not have chosen the card before.
Frequent travelers and savvy shoppers will find that this card is more than just a coupon book. Many cardholders may actually be able to get more in value, and be able to fly, stay and lounge in a way they wouldn’t have been able to without The Platinum Card® from American Express.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card