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American Express Platinum Review: Luxury Isn’t Cheap

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American Express Platinum Review: Luxury Isn't Cheap

The Platinum Card® from American Express Editor's Rating: 3.8 / 5

Introduced in 1984, The Platinum Card® from American Express was the original high-end travel card. Three decades later, American Express has relaunched the card with what it refers to as a “new generation” of benefits. The question is whether those benefits justify the card’s next-generation annual fee of $550, a $100 increase that took effect in March 2017. The answer to that question lies in another question:

Do you consider yourself a Platinum kind of person?

If you do, then the perks on this card will probably delight you. If not, then you may be best served looking elsewhere, because unlike some of its competitors, American Express isn’t trying to persuade the broad middle class of consumers to give a pricey premium card a shot. Its target is people who already live at or near the high end. For those customers, The Platinum Card® from American Express promises a new layer of luxury.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • Has annual fee

    Annual Fees

    $550

    APR

    • Purchase: N/A

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
    • New! Up to $200 Uber Savings Annually.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
    • As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
    • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More. Terms Apply.
    • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline. Terms Apply.
    • Terms Apply.

The Platinum Card® from American Express: Benefits and basics

The rewards program on The Platinum Card® from American Express is better than it used to be, as it now provides the opportunity to earn 5X points on airfare and hotel stays. But the perks available to cardholders are what truly distinguish this card. The list is long — as it should be for $550 a year — so grab a cup of coffee.

  • You’ll earn 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on airfare purchased directly from airlines or booked through American Express Travel, 5 points per $1 spent on hotels booked on amextravel.com, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
  • The sign-up bonus has been boosted by 50%: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.
  • You get $200 a year in credit to offset airline incidental expenses such as baggage fees or in-flight purchases. The credit applies to a single airline you choose — you can change once a year — but you can’t use it for airfare.
  • Once every four years, you can be reimbursed for the application fee for Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre-Check ($85).
  • You get access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide, including American Express’ own Centurion Lounges and International American Express lounges, as well as Delta’s Sky Clubs and Priority Pass Select and Airspace lounges. It’s the best lounge access of any premium card.
  • The card’s hotel perks include Gold status in both the Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton HHonors programs, along with these two notable features:
    • Book two or more consecutive nights at a property in AmEx’s Hotel Collection, and you’ll get an automatic upgrade, if available, and a $75 credit for dining, spa, resort or other activities at the hotel. AmEx says rooms at Hotel Collection hotels are $150 a night and up, depending on location.
    • Book a stay at one of AmEx’s Fine Hotels & Resorts and get upgrades and amenities that the issuer says are worth an average of $550 per stay. They include automatic room upgrades, if available, early check-in, late checkout, free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and amenities unique to each property. The hotels in this collection are ultra-high-end. Think Four Seasons, not Super 8.
  • The card gives you $200 worth of Uber credits every year. The credits are issued on a monthly basis — $15 each month and $35 in December. They don’t roll over; if you don’t use them in the month they’re issued, you lose them. You also get Uber VIP status, if you live in a city where that matters.
  • American Express’ new Global Dining Collection promises cardholders access to “one-of-a-kind dining experiences,” special reserved seating and culinary events. The issuer also says it is expanding its By Invitation Only program, which can get you into exclusive events or members-only VIP experiences at events such as Wimbledon and the Kentucky Derby.
  • If you like your premium cards weighty, the card is made of stainless steel. Metal cards are all the rage nowadays, but unlike cards made of metal bonded to a plastic core, this one is solid steel, which turns the plunk factor into a clank factor.
  • The card charges no foreign transaction fees, which is standard for a travel card.

Soft benefits vs. hard cash

The relaunch of The Platinum Card® from American Express can be easily — and fairly — viewed as a response to the 2016 introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, the closest thing the credit card world has seen to a viral sensation.

When you take into account the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ card’s gigantic original sign-up bonus, since reduced, and its hundreds of dollars worth of annual credits for travel spending, Chase essentially paid some cardholders’ annual fees for as long as 10 years. That made the math easy and made the card appealing to people who had never before thought of themselves as premium travelers.

American Express is taking a markedly different tack. Much of this card’s value lies in the automatic upgrades, premium services, exclusive access and other “soft” benefits that it unlocks, rather than in hard dollar figures. It’s not about traveling on a discount. It’s the difference between offering cardholders, say, $500 worth of points to use to book a room at a nice hotel and offering them $500 worth of upgrades and services that will make their stay at a $1,000-a-night hotel more enjoyable.

The Platinum Card® from American Express isn’t terribly attractive to “churners” — people who apply for cards, collect the sign-up bonus and other easy-to-grab incentives and then cancel. That’s by design. AmEx wants to define Platinum not just as a product but also as an ongoing lifestyle.

Hear it from Nerds who carry the card

NerdWallet team members who carry The Platinum Card® from American Express say using the exclusive perks is the key to getting your money’s worth:

The Platinum Card® from American Express: Drawbacks

If you don’t consider yourself a Platinum kind of person, you’ll probably find plenty of reasons to pass on The Platinum Card® from American Express. The most obvious potential deal-breakers for some are:

That annual fee

In a world where many travel credit cards charge less than $100 a year for excellent rewards and benefits and a $450 fee has become the standard for premium cards, the boost to $550 could push you off the fence into “no” territory on this card. That’s especially true considering that so many of the benefits on The Platinum Card® from American Express aren’t easily quantifiable. How much is late checkout worth to you? Or a spa package and free breakfast? How about an exclusive opportunity to spend $8,900 for VIP seating at the Grand Prix de Monaco?

Limited-use travel credit

The $200 annual credit for airline fees and incidentals was a great deal at one time, but the competition has improved on it. The Citi Prestige® Card gives you $250 a year, applies it to any airline rather than just one, and lets you use it for airfare. The Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ offers $300 a year in credit for any travel expense, not just on airlines.

No dining rewards

Other premium credit cards give you extra rewards for restaurant spending — which, after all, is a major part of the luxury lifestyle. The Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ gives you 3 points per $1 on dining, while its less expensive little brother, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, gives you 2 points per dollar. The Citi Prestige® Card also gives you 2 points per dollar on dining. The Platinum Card® from American Express gives you just 1 point per dollar.

Is The Platinum Card® from American Express right for you?

If you’re an occasional traveler who flies coach and stays at the Holiday Inn, The Platinum Card® from American Express isn’t going to magically get you into first class and the presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton at no extra charge. But if you’re a regular traveler who doesn’t mind spending money for quality and would love to be rewarded for doing so, then it might be a perfect fit for your wallet. Keeping in mind all the card has to offer, we’ll ask again: Are you a Platinum person?

Information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Paul Soucy is an editor at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: paul@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @paulsoucy.

Updated March 31, 2017.