Advertiser Disclosure

Making the Most of American Express Platinum

August 4, 2016
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
Making the Most of American Express Platinum
At NerdWallet, we adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

The Platinum Card® from American Express — by name and color — may seem like a card intended for tech CEOs, real estate moguls and oil tycoon heirs. That’s not necessarily true.

While this card certainly isn’t for the most frugal spenders, don’t be too quick to write it off before at least seeing what it offers. It’s a good fit for travelers who want to move about in style, value convenience over cost, and don’t mind paying a large annual fee when it’s well-justified.

How to maximize rewards earnings with The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earning the greatest overall rewards when you carry The Platinum Card® from American Express means knowing when to use it — and when you could get more value by using a different card in its place.

If you’re traveling, book your trip through the American Express travel site. Doing so earns 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on general travel and 5 points per dollar on flights and hotels, the highest available rate on The Platinum Card® from American Express. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.

(You also earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines, but not through online fare aggregators or travel agencies.)

AmEx’s travel tool is functionally similar to Kayak, Travelocity and other aggregators. What separates the AmEx platform is discounted pricing — called “Insider Fares” — on some flights, hotels and cruises. You should still compare pricing on AmEx’s site to other options if you want to be sure you’re getting the best deal, but combining AmEx’s discount with the added point bonus can make it the cheapest route.

If you want more flexibility, consider combining The Platinum Card® from American Express with another general travel card. The rewards program on The Platinum Card® from American Express is somewhat limited, since the true value of this card lies in its non-rewards perks. Other travel credit cards are available that give you 2 points or miles per $1 spent on everything. The rewards on these cards can be redeemed for any travel purchase — not just travel booked through the issuer. So you could book your flight and hotel with The Platinum Card® from American Express, then use the rewards from a second travel card to cover other travel costs.

Spend enough to earn the sign-up bonus

Like many high-profile travel cards, The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a 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.. Make it a point to use this card exclusively for a few months, and you should be able to hit the bonus threshold fairly easily with your regular spending. (If you can’t, then a premium card like this one probably isn’t for you.)

Maximizing beyond rewards

The real value of The Platinum Card® from American Express — and the reason for its $550 annual fee — lies in its high-end travel perks. This card covers a number of travel-related expenses that some people will find themselves spending on anyway. Getting the most out of this card means using them. Here’s what it comes with:

$200 annual airline fee credit

Cardholders can designate one airline per year (from a list of qualified partners) to receive an airline fee credit of up to $200. The credit covers charges like baggage fees, airport lounge guest passes and in-flight refreshments.

Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Don’t wait in the general security or customs lines: Cardholders are reimbursed for the application fee for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) once every five years.

Airport lounge access

If you spend a lot of time in airports, you know the value of having a quiet place to relax, plug in your phone and maybe even get some work done as you wait for your next flight. The Platinum Card® from American Express grants customers access to more than 1,000 airport lounges, including The Centurion lounge network, Delta Sky Clubs, Airspace Lounges and Priority Pass lounges. On its own, Priority Pass Prestige membership costs $399.

The Platinum Card® from American Express annual fee looks a bit less daunting when you add up the value of these perks.

How to redeem rewards on The Platinum Card® from American Express

To redeem rewards with The Platinum Card® from American Express:

  1. Go to americanexpress.com.
  2. Log into your account.
  3. Under “Membership Rewards” header, click “use points.”
  4. Choose an option for points redemption.

How to maximize at redemption

With most credit cards, the value of a rewards point depends on how you use it. The Platinum Card® from American Express is no different.

If you want the best value for your points: Membership Rewards points are worth most — 1 cent per point — when redeemed for travel booked through American Express, gift cards, Uber rides and charitable contributions.

If you don’t mind sacrificing value for flexibility: Lower value options include Amazon purchases (0.7 cent per point), statement credit (0.6 cent per point) and merchandise through AmEx’s site (0.5 cent per point).

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:

Kevin Cash is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kcash@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kevin_cash.