Carrying an American Express charge card provides you with many benefits, including no preset spending limit, the avoidance of paying interest on purchases, and the many benefits associated with being part of the American Express family.
The Platinum Card® from American Express (a Money Crashers partner) carries one of the highest annual fees for all credit or charge cards. While it’s considered one of the most prestigious cards, the question remains: Are the benefits provided worth the high annual fee?
- Sign-up Bonus. You are awarded 40,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 with the card within the first 3 months of opening the account. Points are redeemable for $250 in gift cards, or are transferable to a hotel or airline loyalty program at the rate of one-to-one. If you’ve previously held a Platinum account (within the prior 12 months), or any consumer American Express Zync, Green, or Gold card within the last 90 days, you are ineligible for the bonus rewards points.
- Fees. There is an annual fee of $450. If your account doesn’t have the Pay Over Time feature, late payments incur a late fee of up to $35. If you don’t pay your balance for two billing cycles, the fee adjusts to $35 or 2.99%, whichever is greater. There is also a returned payment fee of up to $35. There is no foreign transaction fee with the American Express Platinum card.
- APR. There is no APR because the Platinum card by American Express is a charge card – this means you’re required to pay your balance in full each month. Unpaid balances could incur a penalty APR of 27.24%, a rate that varies with the prime rate. This is in addition to any late payment fees.
- Rewards Program. You earn 1 point per dollar spent with the American Express Platinum card. These points may be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, travel, or entertainment. Points are worth approximately one cent per point when redeemed for gift cards or when transferred to a hotel or airline loyalty program. However, points are worth less than one cent each if redeemed for merchandise. You earn double points when using the card to purchase air, prepaid hotel, vacation packages, or American Express Vacations packages on the American Express Travel website. There are no limits to the number of points you can earn.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit. The consumer and business Platinum cards are eligible for a yearly $200 airline fee credit. This credit may be used toward airline expenses and incidental air travel fees, such as in-flight refreshments and checked baggage. Cardholders simply enroll for the program and choose a qualifying airline – this airline choice may be changed once per year in January. Fees charged to the card are then reimbursed with a statement credit.
- Airport Clubs. American Express Platinum business and consumer cardholders receive access to a number of airport clubs, including Airspace Lounge, which was once limited to Centurion cardholders. Airport Club Access and Airspace Lounge allow cardholders and qualifying guests to enter the club. Club services include complimentary food (such as hot breakfast sandwiches, cheese plates, and coffee, tea, or alcoholic beverages), free Internet, and showers.
- Preferred Seating. Preferred Seating with American Express gives cardholders exclusive access to concerts, theaters, and shows. Plus, you receive email notification of upcoming special events before the general public.
- Event Ticket Protection. A related benefit to Preferred Seating is Event Ticket Protection. If you use your card to purchase tickets to an event you’re unable to attend due to a covered incident, American Express will reimburse you up to $2,000 for the tickets. This benefit can be used twice in a 12-month period. Covered incidents include medical emergencies, transportation accidents, destroyed, stolen, or lost tickets, and an emergency call to duty in the Armed Forces.
- Global Entry Fee Credit. The Global Entry Program is a program with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency which provides approved travelers expedited clearance through airports when entering the U.S. The application fee for the program is $100, but if you have the American Express Platinum card, you are eligible for a $100 fee credit. If you are approved after the extensive background check and interview process, membership in the Global Entry program is valid for five years. If you have additional cardholders on your account, they are eligible for the Global Entry Fee credit as well, as long as they apply for the program with their own credit card.
- International Companion Ticket. When you use your Platinum card to purchase a qualifying Business or First-Class ticket on an approved international airline, you receive a companion ticket for the cost of taxes, fees, and surcharges. These fees may include taxes of $52 to $252 round trip, and airline fuel surcharges up to $1,334 round trip. There is also a service fee of $39 per ticket.
- Extras in Platinum Villas. If you enjoy staying in villas when traveling, Platinum Villas (part of American Express Platinum Travel Service) provides luxury villa vacations worldwide. As an American Express cardholder, you receive $500 worth of amenities, gourmet treats, and premium wine when you book seven days or longer through Platinum Travel Service.
- Fine Hotels and Resorts Booking. When you book your stay through Fine Hotels and Resorts, you receive perks including room upgrades, early check-in, late checkout, breakfast for two, and other special amenities, such as massages for two, or food and beverage credits. There are also special deal opportunities, including free third and fourth night stays. Examples of Fine Hotels and Resorts include the Four Seasons Hotel New York, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, and The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, California.
- Premium Roadside Assistance. American Express provides premium roadside assistance covering up to $50 of approved services, such as towing up to 10 miles ($3 per mile after that), jump starts, and changing flat tires if you have a spare. You may use this service up to four times per calendar year.
- $400 Sign-up Bonus. If you redeem your Membership Rewards points for gift cards, your sign-up bonus is worth $400. Gift cards are available for travel, retail, dining and entertainment venues, and American Express purchases.
- International Companion Ticket. The companion ticket comes in handy if you frequently travel internationally. As an example, a recent search shows that a first class round trip ticket from New York to Johannesburg with Lufthansa cost $14,400 for one person. While you would still be responsible for taxes and fees associated with the companion ticket, the fees would be far less than the retail value of the ticket. There are more than 20 airlines you can choose from when considering this perk, including British Airways, China Airlines, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, and Lufthansa. Tickets are refundable and there are no blackout dates.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. If you travel frequently outside the U.S., you want to make sure you use a card with a low foreign transaction fee or no foreign transaction fee. While many of the American Express cards carry a 2.7% fee, the Platinum card features a 0% fee – making it especially valuable for international travel.
- American Express Benefits. American Express is known for stellar customer service and upscale travel benefits, and the Platinum card offers even more benefits than many other American Express cards. For instance, it includes travel insurance of $500,000 – much more than the typical $100,000 to $250,000. It also includes many free amenities through the card’s Villas and Fine Hotels and Resorts programs.
- Valuable Airport Club Access. Airport Club Access is generally $50 per person, but with the American Express Platinum card, it’s complimentary for you, your spouse, and your children under 21. If you and your spouse are the only travelers, you save $100 per visit.
- High Annual Fee. The annual fee of $450 is one of the highest credit card fees around. Although the Platinum card includes a number of impressive, travel-friendly benefits, you must determine how much these benefits are worth to you. For instance, if you fly frequently, the $200 airline credit, the $100 for the Global Entry Fee credit, and the 40,000 bonus points are worth quite a bit. Keep in mind that the annual fee is not waived the first year, so you’re paying $450 for the card right out the gate, with no opportunity to “try it out” first. You also need to determine if you’ll make use of the extra amenities, including the visits to the airport lounges, and booking with Fine Hotels and Resorts.
- Pay Your Balance in Full. While many consumers understand the importance of paying a balance in full each month to avoid paying interest, you don’t have a choice when using charge cards. As part of the agreement, you’re responsible for the entire balance every month. If you don’t pay your balance in full, you could be charged a high penalty APR.
- Low Points Opportunities. The American Express Platinum card isn’t designed to help you rack up points. Aside from the 40,000 bonus points you receive at sign up, and 2 points per dollar spent through the American Express travel site, you only receive one point per dollar spent with the card. Unless you travel often and make use of the extensive travel benefits, the perks you receive are just part of being a cardholder, with little incentive to use your card more or spend more in certain spending categories.
- Airline Credit for One Airline. To receive the $200 airline credit, you have to enroll with a single airline. You can only change this airline once per year. If you travel with multiple airlines, you’ll only receive credit for purchases made with the airline with which you’re enrolled.
The American Express Platinum card doesn’t provide many benefits in the form of cash back or points for merchandise and gift cards. Rather, its benefits come in the form of amenities for frequent travelers. If you travel frequently, especially internationally, the perks provided are quite nice – especially if you’re already paying for them. However, if you’re just a regular shopper who isn’t going to take advantage of airport lounges or luxurious hotel stays, you’d be better off considering a rewards card such as the American Express Premier Rewards Gold.
The Platinum Card® from American Express is most suitable for frequent jet-setters and those who enjoy luxurious travel perks. If you’re an everyday type of person, you’re unlikely to offset the high $450 annual fee with the card’s available benefits.
4.5 out of 5 stars: For those who want a charge card, and who can make use of the travel benefits, the American Express Platinum Card is a solid choice.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.