As the long-reigning champion among the luxury travel cards, the American Express Platinum Card has been under attack in recent years by competitors striving to offer better rewards and more benefits than the Amex Platinum card. In response, American Express has re-launched the Platinum card in 2017, doubling down on the qualities that attracted its many fans in the first place. The new Platinum card has an even higher annual fee – among the highest in the industry – but it comes with an even wider array of exciting travel and convenience perks. This American Express Platinum Card review checks out these new features to see if the Platinum card has what it takes to once again be the king.
Is the American Express Platinum Card Worth the Fee?
The best place to start an American Express Platinum Card review is with the elephant in the room: the annual fee. At $550 per year, it is probably the highest fee among travel cards. Focused on business travelers and the more frequent vacationers who want to make their travel experience a little easier and more comfortable, the Amex Platinum focuses more on offering travel perks than travel rewards.
It is unlikely to earn its annual fee back in points for anyone but the most frequent traveler, and even those are limited to using the American Express booking service to get the most mileage. But when it comes to the more subjective benefits of card ownership, the Platinum card is easily among the best. It opens access to a wide array of airport lounges, imparts premium status at a number of hotel chains, and almost guarantees you free upgrades anywhere you go.
The list of benefits that the American Express Platinum card brings to its cardholders when they travel is pretty extensive, and can quickly exceed the annual fee assuming you make the fullest possible use of them. Covering the full range of travel needs, the card offers benefits when booking travel, while in transit, and upon arrival.
While the points overall are among the weakest of the Platinum benefits, they are at their best precisely when making travel arrangements. At five points per dollar for air travel and hotels, this card offers among the best rewards per money spent, though there is a catch. The travel can only be booked through the airline or the American Express travel service, and only hotels that are pre-paid and booked through the same service are eligible for the bonus point rate.
While in the airport is when the AmEx Platinum shows its strongest side. It provides cardholders access to five different airport lounge networks. Most other cards only offer access to one. Among them are American Express’s own network and Delta Sky Club, but for international travelers the best is the Priority Pass network, which has nearly 1000 lounges all over the world. To further help reduce airport stress, Platinum cardholders can be credited for up to $200 of airline fees per year, such as overweight baggage charges, and can be reimbursed when signing up for the TSA Pre or Global Entry services that speed up going through security.
On arrival, the Platinum card continues to help make for a great travel experience. If booked into one of the participating hotels such as a Starwood or a Hilton, the Platinum card confers automatic Gold status which carries a number of benefits such as late checkout or free upgrades. Getting around is also a little easier thanks to the $15 per month Uber credit and premium status with Avis, Hertz, and National car rentals. There is also a concierge service to take care of the little details like booking tables at upscale restaurants.
There are a lot of other benefits that having a Platinum card confers, but these are among the most important. Here is the summary of the benefits presented in the American Express Platinum Card review:
- 5 times more points for hotels and flights booked through American Express Travel and flights booked directly through airlines;
- Access to 5 airport lounge networks;
- Up to $200 in airline fee rebates per year;
- Reimbursement for TSA Pre or Global Entry membership;
- Hotel and car rental premium member status;
- $15/per month Uber credit;
- Concierge service;
While the list of benefits presented so far in this American Express Platinum Card review has been far longer than the list of its drawbacks, the card does have several major limitations that keep it from being the unequivocally best card for travelers. First is its high fee of $550 per year. Together with its relatively low general rewards rate, this means that breaking even requires spending about $55,000 using the card to get that $550 back in rewards, or $11,000 if it is all spent on qualifying travel.
The $200 airline fee credit and the $200 annual Uber credit help reduce those numbers somewhat, but require cardholders to use those services. In general, it takes some significant traveling or spending in order for the direct rewards from the card to be worth it. It also requires some additional planning when traveling, as the card offers no benefits at hotels that are not a part of the network or airports with no partner lounges.
Alternatives to the American Express Platinum Card
An American Express Platinum Card review is incomplete without offering some alternatives. For many travelers, one of these cards could be an equally or more attractive option. All of them like the Platinum card require excellent credit, but they also differ in many ways.
While American Express’s other rewards cards – Premier Rewards Gold – does not confer the same premium status as the Platinum Card, it offers bonus points in more categories such as restaurants, gas, and groceries. None of those point bonuses are as high as with the Platinum card, but neither are the fees: $195 per year with the first year free.
CapitalOne Venture Rewards is one of the most flexible options when it comes to travel rewards. It offers double miles on all purchases, without any special categories. Redeeming rewards is also easy, as they are simply applied as a statement credit against qualifying purchases.
Chase Sapphire Reserve is the credit card that is considered among the best for the kind of frequent travelers that might consider the AmEx Platinum card. It has a lower annual fee of $450, and it is offset by a flat $300-per-year travel credit. It offers triple points on a wider range of travel than the American Express, as well as triple points on dining and the ability to redeem the rewards with a 50% bonus. It is also a partner with Priority Pass lounges, and offers a similar range of perks and services to the Platinum card.
More alternatives: 5 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards in 2018
The common theme running through most of the American Express Platinum Card review has been that it is focused on frequent travelers. It offers the best rewards for travel spending, as long as it is done through qualifying airlines or American Express directly. It also offers some of the best perks in the industry through its significant network of partner lounges, hotels, car rental companies, and other travel service providers. Those who like to be treated like a VIP wherever they go and travel often enough for it to matter will easily feel the $550 annual fee is justified. Those who do not travel as often or want to maximize their rewards points are likely to find a better deal with another card instead. Do you think the Platinum Card perks justify its price? Let us know!