Money at 30: When the Fee Hits – The Platinum Card 3 Years Later
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All year long, I write about the various awesome things I get to do and ways I get to save with my American Express Platinum card. Nevertheless, when the annual fee hit my account earlier this month, it reminded me that holding the card does require a commitment. What’s more, this was the first time I was assessed the new annual fee of $695, which increased from $550 last year.
So, as someone who’s had the American Express Platinum card for three years and has now experienced an annual fee hike, is the card still worth it? Let’s take a look at a few of my thoughts on that very topic.
My Thoughts on the Amex Platinum After Three Years as a Cardmember
Since airport lounge access was one of the main reasons I initially applied for the Amex Platinum card, it’s also where I’ll start this reflection. Incidentally, I recently mused on what lounge access was actually worth. While that’s still hard to determine, what I can say is that, every time my wife and I have visited a SkyClub or Centurion Lounge, we’ve remarked on just how much we enjoy the experience and love having the ability to relax a bit before our flights. I should also note that those two particular lounge options were why we went with the Platinum over the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
While I may have been able to justify the $550 annual fee with the lounge access alone (that still might have been a stretch), doing so for the new $695 fee is not possible in my situation. Still, we’re very glad to have it in the mix and it goes a long way toward making the card worth it — even if it doesn’t get it there all on its own.
Do the credits add up?
When American Express overhauled the Platinum card last summer and raised the annual fee, it began advertising that the card offers more than $1,400 in value thanks to a number of credits. Unfortunately, while that’s technically true, a lot of these credits don’t really make sense for most people. Take, for example, the Equinox credit or SoulCycle bike credit, which offer a lot on paper but aren’t all that practical to most.
While critics of the card have pointed to benefits like these and mocked Amex for them, I have to say that the majority of the credits offered actually do help offset the annual fee for me. For example, the $200 in Uber credits ($15 per month, except $35 in December) have been easy to use for us as we’ve taken to placing an Uber Eats pick-up order each month in a bid to get the best value from this benefit. Meanwhile, we’ve managed to use the Digital Entertainment Credit (up to $20 a month) without adding any new services to our list as my Audible subscription taps $15 of it while her Sirius XM triggers the other $5. On top of that, we really enjoyed redeeming our $200 Fine Hotels and Resorts credit for a stay at Crockfords Las Vegas earlier this year.
Granted, some of the other credits are used but aren’t ones I’d value at their full amount. These include the Walmart+ subscription I now get for free but don’t make much use of and the semi-annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit ($50 between January and June and another $50 between July and December), which we’ve spent strategically but could live without. I’ve also never been a big fan of the fairly hard-to-utilize Airline Incidentals credit (up to $200 per year), although I did manage to use all of it last year when visiting my mom for Thanksgiving. Speaking of air travel, while I wouldn’t pay for Clear on my own, I do love having an effectively free membership thanks to Amex.
All things considered, if you add up the $200 in Uber credits, $200 FHR credit, and $240 Digital Entertainment credit, the $640 total is within striking distance of the $695 annual fee. Therefore, it’s hard for me to complain about the credits I’m not using when there are so many others that are providing me with value.
I’ve written about Amex Offers before but they continue to be winners for me. According to my account dashboard, I’ve saved $1,120.84 in three years of using these offers. Most recently, this included some Amex Member Week deals such as saving $50 on a $100 Dell order (I bought some Nintendo Switch games). Other offers that I’ve redeemed in the past year include $60 back on a Vegas stay, $100 on a different Vegas stay, and a total of $20 back from my T-Mobile bill. Not all Amex Offers are hits — but, with 100 available at a time, there’s a good chance you’ll find something good.
Before I get into this section, I should note that adding an authorized user to the Platinum card isn’t free — well, if you want them to have an actual Platinum card and not just a “gold” card. Interestingly, the fee to add AUs is $175 for up to three cardholders. In other words, whether you add one person or three, you’ll pay a $175 fee.
Since we wanted to add my wife to the card, we decided to also invite a couple of our trusted friends to be AUs as well. To me, this has been awesome as it allows me to gift these friends with lounge access, help them save money with Amex Offers, and more. That said, be aware that authorized users don’t receive any of the credits associated with the card. Still, I think the ability to add up to three people for this fairly reasonable fee is an underrated Platinum perk.
My Membership Rewards balance
Finally, I realize that I’ve managed to talk up all of these Platinum benefits without even mentioning the rewards it offers. Let me change that by sharing my Membership Rewards balance after three years. As of this writing, I currently have 280,514 points. On the low end, if redeemed for a deposit into my American Express Rewards Checking account, that’d amount to about $2,240. On the other end, from what I’ve seen, this amount could potentially be used to get us two round-trip business class tickets by transferring points to a travel partner… depending on how we booked, where we were going, etc.
While that’s pretty good, I do need to put a couple of asterisks on that number — one big and one small. Starting with the little one, I did previously transfer 19,000 MR points to Hilton, so those points aren’t included in my total. As for the reason why this number isn’t a fair representation of what the Platinum card has netted me, it also includes MRs earned from my Amex Gold card. So, although I won’t be including the balance in my consideration of whether or not the card is still a good deal for me, I figured it was still worth mentioning.
The Verdict: Is the American Express Platinum Card Still Worth It?
In short, yes, I do still think the American Express Platinum is worth it for me. While paying $695 upfront for the card is never easy, the benefits I as a card member do end up outweighing that figure significantly. In fact, with the credits provided to me doing the heavy lifting in terms of making up for that fee (even when valuing said credits conservatively), the other perks — such as lounge access, Amex Offers, and even the Members Rewards points — are all gravy. Therefore, I plan on holding my Amex Platinum through year three and likely beyond.
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