Apparently, American Express didn’t #DeleteUber.
The issuer has announced a slew of upcoming benefits on its most premium card, The Platinum Card® from American Express. The new benefit making the biggest splash: Cardholders will be able to earn up to $200 in Uber credits each year, starting March 30, 2017. But these changes — coupled with a 22% increase in the annual fee, from $450 to $550 — have garnered a mixed response from cardholders.
The move comes after a challenging year for AmEx. The issuer lost several co-branded card partnerships, including a major one with Costco. Its edge in the premium market also took a hit when Chase released the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, a card that offered more rewards and benefits than The Platinum Card® from American Express, for the same annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® recently slashed its sign-up bonus, creating an opening for AmEx to up its game.
But the Uber-centric bid for wealthy cardholders’ attention could suffer from events beyond AmEx’s control. The popular rideshare company has been in damage-control mode recently, having ended up at the center of several controversies and the target of a boycott.
The Platinum Card® from American Express announced several changes taking effect March 30, but these are the most notable:
- Earn up to $200 in Uber credits each year. You can get these ride credits in $15 increments each month, with an extra $20 in December. Unused credits expire the month you receive them — that is, they don’t roll over, according to American Express. (More on that later.)
- More bonus points for hotels. Cardholders will earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on eligible hotels booked through amextravel.com. That’s in addition to the 5 points per dollar that can be earned on flights booked directly through airlines, announced last year.
- The sign-up bonus is increasing 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..
- Gold cards, at no extra charge. Cardholders will be able to add Gold cards to their accounts for authorized users for no extra fee. Currently, it’s $45 for up to five Gold cards and $45 for each one after that. (The cost of adding Platinum cards to the account will not change: $175 for up to three additional Platinum cards, and $175 for each thereafter.) Reducing the cost of authorized users may provide an edge over the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, where additional cards cost $75.
- Metal card. The Platinum Card® from American Express will be made of metal going forward. It’s not the only card that’s all about that plunk. Current cardholders will get metal cards upon renewal, but they can call and request one sooner.
- Annual fee rising to $550. That’s a $100 increase. The new $550 annual fee takes effect March 30 for new cardholders. Existing cardholders will see the new fee on their annual renewal date starting Sept. 1, 2017.
How the Uber credits work
Here’s what you should know about the new Uber credit system, which is perhaps the most complicated of the changes:
- The Uber credits will accrue for cardholders in $15 increments, once a month, starting March 30, 2017. Cardholders will get an extra $20 in credits in December. They can also receive Uber VIP status, a loyalty program that can help you get access to exclusive benefits and discounts, where applicable.
- The $15 credit will be added to a cardholder’s account on the first day of each month. The monthly credits must be used by midnight local time on the last day of the month, according to a statement from AmEx. They won’t roll over. In other words, you can’t get the full $200 worth of benefit unless you spend at least $15 on Uber every month (and $35 in December).
- To qualify for the credits, you need to add The Platinum Card® from American Express as a payment method on the Uber app. You can do that by clicking “Payment” on the left rail on the Uber app, then clicking “Add payment.”
How the offer falls short
Some cardholders on Twitter were excited about the changes. Others were not, arguing that the added benefits weren’t worth the increase in the annual fee. A sampling:
@AmericanExpress can’t wait to see the new card design in person!
— Kyle Baptist (@kylebaptist1) March 2, 2017
@AmericanExpress Hot Diggity, can’t wait!!
— shinjitsu (@hiflvn) March 2, 2017
@AmericanExpress You have to be kidding with these changes. I do not use Uber and will NOT BE PAYING $100 more for this card.
— Fran Picone (@Franapicone) March 2, 2017
@AmericanExpress You jack up the annual fee to $550, make the Uber credits hard to use, etc. Um no thanks!
— Derek Seaman (@vDerekS) March 2, 2017
Indeed, you’ll have to use Uber quite frequently to get the full $200 worth out of the ride credit. And some folks aren’t very happy with Uber lately. Among the company’s recent controversies:
- It became the target of a boycott after it was accused of trying to break a strike by New York taxi drivers protesting the Trump administration’s travel restrictions involving certain countries. The hashtag #DeleteUber trended on Twitter. Uber responded by announcing support for its drivers affected by the restrictions.
- Google’s self-driving car division sued the rideshare company, alleging that it was using stolen intellectual property for self-driving cars. Uber denies the accusations.
- A female engineer who formerly worked at Uber alleged sexual harassment at the company in a blog post that went viral. Once again, #DeleteUber trended on Twitter. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick launched an investigation into the claims.
- An Uber driver released video footage of Kalanick arguing with him. Kalanick apologized.
For cardholders in big cities who regularly use Uber, the credit could make the card more valuable. But for most people — and perhaps most people with The Platinum Card® from American Express — the rising price of the card might just outweigh its additional benefits.