Money at 30: How My Credit Card Saved Me $125+ On My Latest Trip
Two weeks ago when I returned home from Tokyo, I told my wife that I was excited to spend some time at home before another trip we have planned in December. No sooner did these words leave my lips that the owner of the Disney fan site I work for asked if I could go to Los Angeles for a few days. On the bright side, this impromptu trip gave me yet another opportunity to put my new American Express Platinum card to the test. Sure enough, the card came through, saving me more than $100 throughout my journey.
So how did my Platinum card come in handy? Let’s take a look at three ways it helped me save.
Three Ways My Amex Platinum Saved Me Money On Travel
Delta incidentals: $70
When I was reading up on the Amex Platinum before applying, one common complaint was that the $200 annual airline credit was annoyingly difficult to use. Once upon a time gift card purchases triggered these automatic credits but that loophole has apparently been closed for months. Similarly it’s fairly unclear whether paying your way to Delta Comfort+ from main cabin technically qualifies for credit as “upgrades” don’t count but “seat selection fees” do.
In any case, with the end of the calendar year ahead, I needed to find some ways to spend this $200. Luckily, for the first time in a long time, my itinerary was entirely domestic. This meant that my trip qualified for Delta’s Mileage Booster option. As a result I was able to add 3,000 miles to my Skymiles account for a fee of $59 (which was then reimbursed by Amex). To be fair, I wouldn’t exactly value this purchase at $59 since I wouldn’t have purchased it otherwise… but at least I got something out of my credit and will be able to use my miles down the road.
As for my other airline incidental purchase, it was one I value at its full $11: buying an in-flight sandwich on my way back to Atlanta. Again, since flying a fully domestic itinerary is rare for me, I’m not really used to paying for food while flying. So when my stomach started growling an hour or two into my cross country flight, I was glad to realize that my menu selection would be comped. In hindslight part of me wishes I also purchased a cheese plate as well because it looked surprisingly tasty. Live and learn.
Hotel WiFi: $45
One of the great ironies of travel is that cheaper hotels tend to offer free internet access while those with higher room rates often make you pay extra for it. And while I typically avoid such hotels since WiFi is a must for me, this trip’s booking decision wasn’t up to me. In turn I was shocked to learn that the location in question charged $15 a day for access! Well, that was until I learned that I would be exempt from this fee thanks once again to my card.
Since the Platinum card includes complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (alongside Hilton Honors Gold status) and the property I was staying at was owned by Marriott, I was entitled to complimentary premium WiFi! Technically this perk only applied if you booked your room directly through Marriott but the front desk agent was kind enough to add my account info at check-in. Of course she said this would cause the charges to automatically fall off my bill — which didn’t happen — but I had no problem getting them removed when I checked out. Also, the WiFi tier I received was actually $18 a day but, since the regular was $15 and that’s what I would have purchased otherwise, let’s say this benefit was worth $45.
Uber ride: $15
Ever since I got my Amex, I’ve been using the $15 a month ($35 in December) Uber credit to order Uber Eats. Although this is useful, it’s hard to say that these purchases are saving me the full $15 since I have to pay delivery fees and tips on the platform. However, upon landing in Burbank, there was really no question about what kind of transportation I would be taking to my Hollywood hotel.
Yes, for once, I actually used my Uber credits for a regular Uber. This took the cost of my ride from $21 to just $6. Funny enough, you don’t even have to use your American Express card for the leftover amount, so I tapped my Apple Card to earn 3% back on the difference and the tip. I suppose I could have also used credits from my Uber Visa but, on second thought, I might as well squeeze all of the regular cashback out of that card that I can before changes go into effect next year.
Bonus: Delta SkyClub access
When my wife and I were debating whether or not to get the Amex Platinum (and comparing it to other options such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve), something that really appealed to us was the lounge access that the card offered. While we previously had the chance to try out our Priority Pass for a short stay in a Minutes Suites, this trip marked my first time entering a Delta SkyClub via the Platinum — and it was glorious.
To be fair, I probably don’t get the full benefit of airport lounges like others would. In other words, I don’t drink and I’m a picky enough eater that not many of the snacks available appeal much to me. Nevertheless, I’m always down for a free cup of coffee and a place to relax/work. So while I won’t put a value on this experience just yet, having access to the lounges during my layovers also helped make my trip a bit easier. Bringing things full circle, I suspect additional airline incidental credits will be used by purchasing guest passes for SkyClubs on future travels with my wife.
Make no mistake: applying for the American Express Platinum card was a big decision. That’s because, with an annual fee of $550, the card does not come cheap. Moreover, even with the savings this most recent trip brought, we still have a ways to go before we see positive value on our investment. Nevertheless, with the way things are going so far, I could definitely see how the Amex Platinum can help us save money — and travel more comfortably — in the months ahead.
Also published on Medium.