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The Platinum Card® from American Express is largely considered the king of travel credit cards, but you’ll need a treasure chest of money to cover the new (and giant) annual fee of $695.
That’s a hefty increase from the old $550 annual fee, and is effective immediately for new applicants (it becomes effective Jan. 1, 2022, for existing card members).
But before you turn away — or you consider dumping your existing card before the $695 annual fee kicks in — consider the benefits. The statement credits alone go a long way in justifying the fee. Other money-can’t-buy perks, like AmEx Centurion Lounge access, are even more valuable (and can make you feel like royalty).
1. Over $750 in annual travel credits outweigh the annual fee
The annual travel credits alone can turn The Platinum Card® from American Express into a money-making opportunity of sorts. Multiple travel credits include:
$200 in Uber Cash credits: Use this for any purchase that accepts Uber Cash, including rides or food orders through Uber Eats. You won’t get the $200 credits at once; credits are doled out in $15 monthly increments (they don’t roll over), plus a $20 bonus in December.
$200 airline fee credit: Need to check a bag? Want a little tipple after takeoff? Charge it to your card, where you’ll receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year toward incidental fees on one qualifying airline of your choice. The credit can be a bit annoying to use given it doesn't apply toward airfare and typically won’t cover Wi-Fi or upgrades, either.
$179 Clear credit: Several premium travel credit cards offer TSA PreCheck credit, but The Platinum Card® from American Express takes airport security speediness a step further. You’ll receive a credit to cover an annual subscription for a Clear membership, which is a program that uses face and eye scans to verify your identity faster. Membership allows you to whiz through security at airports, stadiums and large venues.
$200 hotel credit: This is one of the new benefits announced with the increased annual fee in July 2021. With it, you’ll receive up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid bookings made on your card through American Express Travel at Fine Hotels + Resorts, or via The Hotel Collection properties. A word of warning, though: This might not be appealing to no-frills travelers. The properties are usually high-class hotels, which also mean high price tags. The $200 will take out a hefty chunk of your spending, but be prepared to front some of your own cash, too.
2. You’ll earn among the highest rates on travel spending out there
While you’ll have to pay the remaining balance beyond your $200 hotel credit, there’s still some good news: The Platinum Card® from American Express offers among the highest rewards rates on travel spend out there.
You’ll earn 5x Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com, and 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Terms apply.
3. Travel redemptions (and access to airline and hotel transfer partners) can increase your points value
Membership Rewards points can be used to book travel directly through AmEx Travel at a rate of 1 cent per point. There, you can find and book flights, hotels and vacation packages.
But you might find a better value in transferring them to one of AmEx’s many transfer partners. The transfer rate varies by partner, but in most cases, it's 1-to-1, meaning that when you transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards points, you get 1,000 miles or points in the partner program. Terms apply.
Value per point can vary based on redemption, but in general, NerdWallet values 1 AmEx Membership Rewards point at 2 cents.
4. Lounge access gets you into some of the best airport oases
No more hunting around for an outlet that actually works to charge your phone (only to find yourself sitting under the loudspeaker, listening to the gate agent incessantly beg boarding group D to check their bags).
As you wait for your flight, your complimentary lounge access will give you more than a reliable power source. That’s because your card is your ticket into the AmEx Centurion Lounges, where you’ll access amenities like showers, hot meals and sometimes even massages.
Benefits vary across each AmEx Centurion Lounge (there are more than a dozen worldwide), but expect perks like a Napa Valley wine tasting area in the San Francisco lounge and a craft beer bar at the Denver location.
If you’re not flying through an airport that has a Centurion Lounge, you’re not completely missing out. While Centurion Lounges are tops, your card also gets you into more than a thousand other airport lounges worldwide, including Priority Pass lounges (enrollment required).
5. Other credits for streaming, shopping and more are icing on the cake
With the annual fee increase, American Express also announced other statement credits. Some are hard to use (or aren’t super high-value on their own), but they could be the icing on the cake if you’re on the fence about applying. These include:
$25 in monthly Equinox credits: You’ll receive up to $300 in statement credits each year, doled out in $25 monthly increments, toward certain Equinox memberships. Membership fees vary by club, but can run upwards of $200 per month. The credit can also be applied toward Equinox+, which is the brand’s on-demand fitness app that costs $39.99 per month. That $25 can certainly help your fitness budget, but it’s not exactly a deal if you’re not prepared to pay the difference.
$20 in monthly statement credits to Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM and The New York Times: You don’t have to choose just one. Pay for them on your card to receive up to $20 in monthly statement credit on each of the services, for a total of up to $240 in value each year if you use them all to their max. Most services won’t require you to spend the full $20 on their own, though. For example, Audible’s premium membership is just $14.95 per month.
$100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit: You’ll receive up to $50 in statement credits for shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue from January through June, and up to $50 in statement credits from July through December (this perk was offered prior to the fee increase). Depending on your shopping preferences, you might not find a ton of value from this benefit given Saks’ stereotypically high price tags. But if you bargain-hunt the sale section of the website, you can score some cheaper items to use the credit on.
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 2021, 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