The Platinum Card® From American Express: Is It Worth It?

The Platinum Card® From American Express is really designed for those seeking VIP treatment and benefits.  This card is technically a charge card, not a credit card (meaning: you’re expected to pay your outstanding balance in full each month).

The Amex Platinum charge card offers a very plain vanilla rewards program, which we discuss below.  The real question that comes attached to this card: do the rewards and benefits justify the steep $450 annual fee.  The remainder of this post is dedicated to arming you with enough information to make that call.

Earning Rewards with The American Express Platinum Card

The Amex Platinum card provides you with 1 Membership Reward point per dollar of spend, and 2 MR points per dollar spent at (excluding car rentals and non-prepaid hotels).  GetDebit values MR points at just slightly north of $0.01 (you can read our analysis of the value of Amex MR points here).

Amex Platinum Sign Up Bonus

You’ll receive 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months of card membership (with just a touch over $250). However, if you’ve had the Platinum Card in the last 12 months, or any consumer Zync, Green or Gold Card within last 90 days, you won’t be eligible for the sign-up bonus.

The Power of Amex Platinum’s Benefits

Platinum’s muscle really comes from a number of unique benefits that we’ll cover below.  Quantifying these benefits can be quite challenging, making for a difficult apples-to-apples comparison with more traditional rewards cards, so in the end you’ll need to judge whether the myriad benefits justify the steep $450 annual fee.  The game here is for us to call out all the “gotchas” of each perk, and then for you to figure out how many of these benefits you can actually take advantage of.  Only then can you make a smart decision.

The Amex Platinum Card comes with a number of benefits listed below, many of which we cover in greater detail below.

  • No pre-set spending limit
  • 24-hour concierge service
  • Flying without black-out dates
  • Early notice about hot events
  • By Invitation Only: access to extraordinary events not available to the general public.
  • Airport Club Access
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • Fine hotel and resort benefits
  • Companion offer via International Airline Program
  • Fraud Protection

No Pre-Set Spending Limit

Unlike a typical credit card, which comes with a fixed credit limit, the spending limit for the American Express Platinum card adjusts as you use the card, factoring in your payment history, credit record, and any other relevant financial information that American Express has access to.

24-Hour Concierge Service

This is an interesting benefit, and ties into the hot trend of having a “virtual assistant” at your beck-and-call.  So, the main questions you are likely to have are “What things can I use the concierge for?” and “Is the concierge actually useful?”.

Based on our own analysis of the Amex Platinum Concierge Program, I’d say that it definitely can offer value for certain types of requests, especially restaurant and event bookings.  For more complex tasks (such as trip itineraries, finding a great nanny or an honest, good contractor) it’s much less dependable.

Flying Without Black-Out Dates

You can use Membership Rewards points to pay for all or part of a flight, hotel stay, vacation or cruise booking.  Amex calls this their “pay with points” program.  Amex’s prices generally seem in line with the industry (according to my research, Amex was formerly powered by Travelocity, but now Orbitz powers their site).  There are no black-out dates simply because Amex is actually buying the ticket for you, and then debiting points from your rewards total.  The nice thing about this is that, unlike a normal award ticket, you can still earn bonus mileage.

$200 Airline Fee Credit

The devil is really in the details on this one.  And, lo and behold, here are the details:

  • You get $200 in credit each year that you can use to offset specific incidental airline charges.
  • Charges that you cannot offset (as they are not deemed “incidental”) include: wireless internet, fees incurred with airline alliance partners, airline ticket upgrades, mileage point transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets.  I guess they really want you to buy the food on the airplane, huh?
  • Another rub: you need to select a specific airline to which you can get the credit.  While you can make the selection at any time during the year, once made, you can only change it once per year, in January.  If you don’t change it, whatever you chose the prior year will be your default new selection.

I’ve also heard, though haven’t confirmed, that you can use the credit towards airport lounges (obviously, it would need to be a lounge associated with the airline you selected).

Companion offer via International Airline Program

Again, there are a lot of details here that need to be called out.  The basic premise is that anytime you purchase a qualifying business or first class international ticket on over 20 participating airlines, you can get a complimentary companion ticket.

  • Like most companion and award tickets, you’re still on the hook for taxes and fuel surcharges.  According to Amex, taxes range from $50-$250, but it’s the fuel surcharges that can really wipe you out (these charges can hit upwards of $1,300 and are especially prominent for flights to, from and within Europe).
  • There is also an additional fee of $39 per ticket charged by Amex (non-refundable).
  • Bookings must be made through Amex Travel using your Platinum Card.

Needless to say, first class and business class full fare tickets can be extraordinarily expensive.  If you’re routinely flying those routes on your own dime, then the $450 annual fee on this card is probably not even on your financial radar.  However, if you are flying on business, then this could be an amazing way to bring along your significant other in style without (completely) breaking the bank!

Traveling Abroad Just Got A Little Cheaper With the American Express Platinum Card

One nice call-out, and something quite unusual for American Express, is that there’s no foreign transaction fee on the Platinum Card.  While that’s certainly nice, and used to be quite rare, it’s not that hard to find such cards anymore (basically all of Capital One’s credit cards have no foreign transaction fee, for example).

Concluding Thoughts on the Legendary Amex Platinum Card

As a pure-play rewards card, the Platinum Amex doesn’t have a leg to stand on due to very average rewards coupled with a jaw-dropping $450 annual fee.  However, if you can take good advantage of the Platinum’s wide suite of benefits, it may make more sense.  The one benefit that really jumps out at me as a game-changer (if you can truly take advantage of it) is the free international 1st/business class tickets.  If you put together just one of these deals, you’ll more than break-even on the annual fee.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

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