As any businessperson knows, you have to spend money to make money. The same can be said for travel rewards credit cards, where a higher annual fee generally means you’ll get more back in rewards and perks. The trick is figuring out whether your spending and travel habits will generate rewards that exceed the annual fee.
The Nerds took a look at two high-end travel cards from American Express to see which is the better deal. As it happens, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express and The Platinum Card® from American Express cater to different types of travelers, so choosing between them should be fairly simple.
Which type of traveler are you?
If you like to earn free flightsAmerican Express Membership Rewards points, which you can transfer to other rewards programs and use for free flights and hotel stays. You’ll earn three points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines, 2 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. restaurants, and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
The card has an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195. But a sizable chunk of the fee each year will be offset by a $100 credit to reimburse you for airline fees, including checked bags, in-flight purchases and airport lounge day passes.
The card also has a generous sign-up bonus: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. NerdWallet values Membership Rewards points at an average of 1 cent apiece, so the bonus will also take the sting out of the annual fee for quite some time.
American Express Membership Rewards charges a fee to transfer points to other rewards programs. You’ll pay $0.0006 per point, with a maximum fee of $99. For example, transferring 25,000 points will cost you $15.
If you like luxury travel perks
At first glance, the annual fee of $550 looks pretty steep, especially for a card with a so-so rewards structure. You can earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights and hotels — but only if you book directly with the airline or via American Express Travel. Other travel booked through AmEx earns 2 points per dollar, and you get 1 point per dollar on everything else.
But the benefits that come with the card are worth quite a bit more than $550.
Like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers cardholders an annual credit to help cover the cost of travel incidentals like baggage fees. But on this card, the credit is $200 a year, which takes a big bite out of The Platinum Card® from American Express’ annual fee.
You’ll also earn a bigger sign-up bonus: 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.
But the real value of The Platinum Card® from American Express is the other luxury travel membership programs you’ll have access to.
- Hilton HHonors Gold status, which includes a 25% elite status bonus on all Hilton HHonors points earned, every fifth night’s stay free, complimentary access to fitness centers and Wi-Fi, and two complimentary bottles of water per stay.
- Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you free access to 900 airport lounges around the world.
A credit toward the cost of TSA PreCheck, which allows you to go through expedited security lines at the airport, or for U.S. Customs’ Global Entry Program, which allows “expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States,” according to the program’s website. The credit — $85 for TSA PreCheck or $100 for Global Entry — is available once every five years. (There’s no guarantee you’ll be approved for either program; the credit goes toward the application fee.)
Which card is right for you?
If you’re interested in getting high rewards for travel purchases and day-to-day spending alike, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is probably the better choice.
If you travel frequently for business or pleasure and want a little luxury to smooth your way, The Platinum Card® from American Express will leave a rose on your pillow. OK, probably not. But if we find a credit card that will do that for you, we’ll let you know.