- The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a much higher annual fee than most credit or charge cards, which can scare off some people. However, the card comes with enough perks, rewards, and tangible benefits to far outweigh that annual fee.
- After some back and forth, I finally decided to open the card, and in just the first year, I got more than $2,000 worth of value.
- Airport lounge access, up to $200 in Uber credits each year, up to a $200 annual airline-fee credit, up to $100 in annual shopping credits, elite status at Marriott and Hilton hotels, special perks at other hotels and resorts, and access to exclusive events are just a few of the many benefits the card offers.
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Ever since I started learning about points, miles, and credit card benefits (or “travel hacking,” as some call it), I had debated applying for a Platinum Card from American Express.
The card came with a ton of useful benefits, and as fairly regular traveler, it seemed like a no-brainer for me. I kept holding off, though — the $450 annual fee just seemed like too big of an upfront, even if I made that value back. Then, the fee was raised to $550, and I figured I really couldn’t justify it.
Finally, I took a hard look at the math, and decided to go for it. I still wasn’t crazy about paying $550 a year just to have a card open, but what pushed me over the edge was really looking at how much return I’d get for that $550.
Here are the perks I had in mind when I decided to open this premium charge card, and how I value them. Keep in mind that my valuations are not scientific and are approximations based on my actual use, plus my habits and preferences.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.
Amex Platinum card details
Annual fee: $550
Welcome bonus: 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months
Points earning: 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airline, and on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, 1 point per dollar on everything else
Foreign transaction fee: None
Membership Rewards points and a hefty welcome bonus
The Platinum Card earns Membership Rewards points, the currency in Amex’s loyalty program. They can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through Amex’s travel website, or transferred to any of 19 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the most valuable).
The card earns a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airline, as well as flights and hotels reserved through Amex Travel. It earns one point for every dollar spent elsewhere.
Membership Rewards points don’t have a fixed value, so it’s a bit tricky to figure out how much they’re worth.
To get an idea, we can look at valuations published by the travel website The Points Guy, an Insider Picks partner. The website’s team approximates the value of each point at 2 cents, though it’s possible to get a lesser or much greater value depending on how you use them.
The Platinum Card comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening your account. Based on The Points Guy’s valuations, those are worth about $1,200 which alone makes up for two years of the annual fee.
Learn more: 5 ways Amex cardholders can redeem their points — plus the method that gets you maximum value
If you transfer them to airline frequent-flyer programs and use them to fly round-trip to Europe — or even one-way in first class — you could end up getting a much higher value.
First-year value: $1,200
Airport lounge access
I enjoy flying, but, like many people, I find airports to be generally unpleasant. I think most would agree that the time spent in the terminal waiting for your flight can be the most stressful part of a trip.
Fortunately, there’s a perfect solution: airport lounges, exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection, food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities.
Though lounges used to be reserved for first-class and business-class passengers, many are now accessible to any traveler who holds either a lounge membership or a certain credit card — and the Platinum card offers access to three kinds of lounges.
The first is Amex’s proprietary Centurion Lounges, located at eight airports in the US and in Hong Kong. These chic venues are an oasis in the middle of the main terminal’s chaos, featuring amenities like comfortable seating and complimentary cocktails and food created by award-winning mixologists and chefs. Access to these lounges is limited to holders of Amex Platinum or Amex Centurion cards.
If you’re flying with Delta and carry a Platinum Card, you can also access any Delta Sky Club lounge. With more than 30 locations, Sky Clubs offer snacks, complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks (with more “premium” drinks available for purchase), fast WiFi, and a place to unwind. Some also feature showers.
Finally, the Platinum card comes with a membership to Priority Pass membership, a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world.
With that membership, you and two guests can access any lounge location (as long as there’s room) to enjoy free snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, showers, and more — all separate from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal.
If you have an international version of the card, rather than the US version, be sure to double check the guest policy for your card’s Priority Pass benefit.
Thinking about how I’ve used the lounge access since having the card, I’d conservatively estimate the value at about $150. That’s factoring in the snacks, breakfasts, coffee, and drinks I haven’t had to pay for, but not including things like WiFi, comfort, or the fact that it’s made it easier to finish up work from the airport when I’m catching early-evening flights on Fridays.
First-year value: $150
$200 airline fee credit
Every calendar year, the Platinum card from American Express offers a $200 credit toward incidental fees on one airline of your choice.
It doesn’t cover tickets but applies to a wide variety of things such as checked bags, flight-change fees, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, airport-lounge day passes (if you don’t already have complimentary access), and sometimes even things like seat assignments and extra-legroom upgrade fees.
While it’s not specified, you may even be able to purchase airline gift cards with the credit, which you can use for ticket purchases. Be sure to search online to see whether this works for your chosen airline — the frequent flyer message board FlyerTalk even has dedicated threads for each airline.
The best part of the airline credit is that because you get it each calendar year, not card member year, you could get it twice in your first year of having the card.
Say you opened the card in November — you can earn the full $200 credit before the calendar year ends, then once the credit resets on January 1, get it again before your next annual fee posts, meaning you can get up to $400 in value from this credit each year.
In my first card member year, I maxed out the potential $400 worth of credits, but for my valuation I’ll knock 25% off — since it can be annoying to max out and presumably not everyone does.
First-year value: $300
Up to $200 in Uber credits
When American Express raised the annual fee on the Platinum card by $100 in 2017, the company made it up to users by adding an extra $200 in value to the card’s benefits in the form of a statement credit toward Uber rides.
The credit is up to $200 a year, broken into chunks — each month, you’ll get a $15 credit added to your linked Uber account, with an extra $20 for a total of $35 each December.
If you travel regularly or live close to a city, this is an easy perk to get value from. You can also put the credits toward UberEats orders.
In addition, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status. There aren’t a ton of perks with this, and it’s available only in some cities, but you’ll only be connected to drivers with at least a 4.8-star rating. Uber also says Uber VIP drivers have “high-quality cars.”
I live in New York and take the subway, walk, or ride a bike most places, but I use Uber a few times a month, if not once or twice a week. Therefore, I have no trouble using the full credit. Plus, I use Uber whenever I’m in another city.
First-year value: $200
Elite status at Marriott and Hilton hotels
Elite status at hotels often includes perks like daily breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in or late checkout, premium internet, lounge access, free nights, points-earning bonuses, and more.
Usually, only the top frequent travelers earn status — but with the Platinum card, you can earn it before you’ve stayed a single night.
The card comes with Gold-level elite status at both Marriott and Hilton loyalty programs.
If you stay at hotels even a few nights a year, these benefits can be extremely valuable — Hilton offers Gold elites free breakfast for two each morning.
To come up with a valuation here, I’ll look at a single trip I took during my first year with the card: a week-long vacation in London and Paris.
Hotel breakfast can be expensive, but I’ll be conservative and estimate about $20 per person. On this trip, seven days of breakfast for two would have cost us $280 total. Although we skipped the hotel breakfast buffet in Paris to explore some local boulangeries (and eat an unhealthy number of croissants and other pastries), it was still available, so I’ll factor it in for my valuation.
For this trip, we stayed at Marriott hotels using points. At the time, Marriott offered free breakfast to Gold elites. Since that perk is no longer available for those with Gold status, I’ve been staying in Hilton hotels instead, where that benefit is still offered.
First-year value: at least $280
The Platinum card from American Express comes with a few other benefits that help offset the annual fee, as well as world-class purchase protections.
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are absolute musts for just about any traveler. Once you enroll, you can use special lanes to breeze through airport security — you won’t have to remove shoes and light coats, and you can leave your laptop in your bag. With Global Entry, you can use a fast lane when you return to the US from abroad, which makes clearing immigration and customs easy and quick.
The programs cost $85 to $100, and American Express will provide a credit for that fee every four years (memberships are valid for five years).
Amex also offers Platinum Card members access to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program. When you book participating hotels through Amex Travel — there are nearly 1,000 worldwide — you’ll enjoy perks including room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, free WiFi, and a unique amenity at each hotel, like a credit to use at on-property spas or restaurants.
An exclusive concierge service is also available to Platinum Card members. While the services are complimentary, you’re responsible for paying for any services booked or purchases made on your behalf (but don’t worry, the concierge will always ask for approval first). The service can be helpful for things like getting tickets to shows or making reservations at exclusive restaurants. I’ve used it twice: The service helped me get restaurant reservations in Tokyo that I was having trouble getting on my own, and helped me get some in-demand Broadway tickets the day they went on sale.
I’ve used the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, but that was after my first year. I already had Global Entry when I signed up for the card, and probably wouldn’t pay for the concierge services if I didn’t have complimentary access. I’ve also used the card to make a few large purchases so I could get the purchase protection, though (fortunately) I haven’t had to make a claim.
For this valuation, I’ll split the difference between what I’ve actually used and what I could have used.
First-year value: about $120
First-year value: at least $2,250
Over my first year with the Platinum card from American Express, I’ve gotten more than $2,250 worth of value from the various perks, rewards, and benefits. When I subtract what I paid on my first month’s statement for the annual fee, that’s still a whopping $1,700.
Even in each following year, when I won’t get the welcome bonus, I’ll still be ahead by at least $500 — assuming I keep the card — plus whatever I earn in rewards from spending.
While the annual fee is definitely high, the value I’ve gotten from the card’s annual benefits has more than outweighed it.