Money at 30: Weighing the Value of the American Express Platinum Card After Year One

Home » Product Reviews » Credit Cards » Money at 30: Weighing the Value of the American Express Platinum Card After Year One

Money at 30: Weighing the Value of the American Express Platinum Card After Year One

Amazingly, it’s now been a full year since I first applied for my Platinum Card from American Express — and what a year it’s been! That sentiment is both sarcastic and non-sarcastic as I’ve actually really enjoyed being a cardholder, even if this period did prove to be a unique time for travelers. Of course, when it comes to the Platinum card, the big question is whether or not it’s worth the hefty $550 annual fee. Well, to help answer that question, I thought I’d break down my first year of cardholdership by the numbers — looking at the key perks and determining how much actual value I got from each.

Is the American Express Platinum Card Worth the Annual Fee?

Amex Platinum Credits

Uber credits

  • Stated value: $200 a year
  • My personal year one value: $175

When you add your Amex Platinum card to your Uber account, you’ll receive $15 in Uber Cash on the first of each month — plus $35 in December, for a total of $200 a year. The downside is that these credits cannot be carried over from month to month, so you’ll need to use them or lose them. Luckily, even if you don’t need a ride anywhere, you may still be able to utilize your Uber Cash as Uber Eats orders are also eligible.

As you can imagine, the Uber Eats side of this benefit really came in handy earlier this year. However, with all of the fees that come with delivery orders, it’s hard to say that we really got the full value. More recently, we’ve been opting for the pick-up option in the Uber Eats, which proves to be a much better deal and smarter use of our credits overall. Still, overall, I’d say we got $175 in actual value from this perk during our first year.

Saks Fifth Avenue credits

  • Stated value: $100 every six months (potentially $150 in your first year due to timing)
  • My personal year one value: $80

Another savings opportunity that cardholders have is with Saks Fifth Avenue. Shoppers can earn up to $100 in statement credits when they make purchases at Saks. More specifically, you can use a $50 credit between January and June and another $50 credit between July and December. Because of this, you could technically squeeze $150 out of this credit during your first year. Again, these are “use or lose” credits that do not carry over.

The problem here is that Saks Fifth Avenue can be quite pricey. Thus, if you believe like I do that the price of a t-shirt shouldn’t have three digits before the period, you may be turned off from just browsing the site. Thankfully, with a little digging in the sales section, you can find some decent deals barely above that $50 figure. That’s what we did with our first two orders, obtaining a pair of shoes for my wife and a dress shirt for me. While I was very happy with the price we ended up paying post-credit, I’m still not sure I would have paid the full asking price for the items. With that in mind and considering that we have yet to use our latest $50 credit, I’ll peg the value of this at $80 for now.

Airline incidental credits

  • Stated value: $200 per calendar year (potentially $400 in your first year due to timing)
  • My personal year one value: $100

Now we come to the infamously hard to use airline incidental credit that comes with the Platinum card. Boy, if people thought this was difficult to make use of before, 2020 was a completely different story (although, we’ll get to how Amex made up for that a bit later). In any case, like with the Saks credit, because this is based on a calendar year, you could theoretically get $400 in value from this during your first year as a cardholder.

In 2019, I actually did okay at using up the majority of this credit. Although the Delta SkyMiles Select subscription I purchased was kind of a waste seeing as I’m already a Silver Medallion, I was able to purchase food on a flight, buy additional SkyMiles via Mileage Boost, and get my wife a guest pass to the SkyClub using my credits. Yet, between the two years, I’d say I really only saw about $100 in value from this. Granted, part of that is due to extenuating circumstances, but I really wish they’d make some changes to this credit. For example, I’d be great if Allegiant were one of the airlines you could assign your credit to, seeing as it’s the airline I fly where I incur the most incidentals — just a thought.

TSA Precheck/Global Entry credit

  • Stated value: $100 every five years
  • My personal year one value: $0

Like with a lot of travel-minded credit cards these days, the Platinum card also reimburses cardholders for application fees associated with TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Since these programs are good for five years, this credit is also only applied every five years. As luck would have it, my wife and I already had Global Entry before we got our Plat. Because of this, we saw a $0 benefit from this up-to-$100 perk during year one, but will surely make use of it in the future.

Amex Offers and unique bonus benefits for 2020

Amex Offers

  • Stated value: There is not a stated value to this benefit
  • My personal year one value: $200 ($181 in regular Amex Offers + Amazon discounts)

Perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of the American Express Platinum card (and some of their other cards) is Amex Offers. These deals can be activated in order to obtain specific statement credits or bonus points on select purchases. Although I certainly don’t have an interest in all of the Offers available to me, I have found some gems since betting my card.

According to my Amex dashboard, I’ve saved $181 using Amex Offers to date. Among these offers were $60 off a $300 purchase from GoPro, $25 back on a $45 Sam’s Club membership, a $30 statement credit when spending $100 on Wine Country Gift Baskets, and more. Plus, the recent Shop Small promotion that offered $5 back when you spent $10 at small businesses (up to 10 times) easily tacked another $50 onto my savings total.

Not included in this tally were times when I earned extra Membership Rewards points for purchases. Also excluded were two Amazon deals where I was able to get a discount when redeeming at least 1 MR point. Oh, and there’s a $100 back when you spend $100 at Dell offer I have yet to redeem So, while Amex says I saved $181 with Amex Offers, I’m going to up that to $200 for the purpose of this post — and intend on making that $300 very soon (thanks, Dell).

Wireless phone service credit

  • Stated value: $20 a month through December 2020 ($120 since May)
  • My personal year one value: $120 (so far)

As I teased earlier, with the pandemic basically shutting down travel — and, in turn, rendering some of the Platinum card’s key features useless — American Express responded by adding some temporary credits to the card. The first of these was a $20 a month statement credit on eligible wireless phone service bills. This was first instated in May 2020 and is currently set to last through the end of the year.

Since I’m writing this in October, my total potential value from this credit so far $120. And, guess what: that’s exactly how much I’ve received from it! I really appreciate Amex adding this bonus perk and making it so easy to earn. Now I’m just curious to see if it gets extended…

Streaming service credit

  • Stated value: $20 a month through December 2020 ($120 since May)
  • My personal year one value: $120 (so far)

The other temporary credit that Amex tacked on in the middle of 2020 was up to $20 a month in statement credits toward eligible streaming service subscriptions. In this case “streaming service” seemed to be pretty broadly defined as my Audible subscription managed to trigger this credit without issue. Like with the wireless credit, this was introduced in May 2020 and is expected to apply until December.

Once again, this is a credit I’ve used every cent of so far, so a total of $120 through October.

Other perks of the American Express Platinum

Hotel status

  • Stated value: There is not a stated value to this benefit
  • My personal year one value: $200

With your American Express Platinum card, you’ll enjoy complimentary Gold status for Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton. Incidentally, both of these allowed me to save money during my first year as a cardholder. In the case of Bonvoy, my Gold status let me avoid a $15 a day WiFi fee while staying at the W Hollywood. Meanwhile, our Hilton status earned us free breakfast while in Chicago earlier this year. On top of that, thanks to the clever status matching trick (which is sadly temporarily broken), we were able to earn Caesars Diamond status — good for $100 “Celebration Dinner” and lots of savings in waived resort fees.

When you combine those elements, I’d say I managed to save at least $200 thanks to these status perks alone.

Lounge access

  • Stated value: There is not a stated value to this benefit
  • My personal year one value: $70

One of the main reasons I choose the American Platinum card is also one of the hardest elements to assign a value to: airport lounge access. Not only was this part of what got me interested in the Plat but its addition of Centurion Lounges and Delta SkyClubs (when you’re flying Delta) is also what led me to select this option over the much-loved Chase Sapphire Reserve. Sure enough, I made pretty good use of all three to start my year, getting a free hour in a Minute Suites via Priority Pass, paying a few visits to some of the multiple SkyClubs around the Atlanta airport, and checking out the Centurion in Las Vegas. Heck, I even got some free Americanos and a nice place to catch up on work at CES this year thanks to the pop-up Amex Lounge at the convention center.

Of course, in addition to this perk being difficult to put a dollar figure on, the lack of travel in recent months has further complicated matters. That said, in most cases, these lounge visits allowed us to enjoy free food — thus saving us money versus buying meals in the airport. Still, I’m going to lowball the value on lounge access as say I saw $70 from it during my first year.

Membership Reward Points

Points and sign-up bonus

  • Stated value: Varies by redemption
  • My personal year one value: About $1,200 ($360-$600 in sign-up bonus points and $360-$600 in other points)

Lastly, we come to the points you earn for every purchase you make using your American Express Platinum card. Like several other of Amex’s card, the Plat earns Membership Rewards points. Specifically, the card earns 5 points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with the airline or via the Amex Travel portal, 5x points on prepaid hotel bookings through Amex Travel, and the traditional 1x points on everything else. When I signed up for the card, I got the standard sign-up bonus offer of 60,000 points after I spent $5,000 in my first three months. In addition to that, I’ve since earned nearly another 60,000 from purchases, for a total of 120,000 points.

What makes putting a price tag on these points difficult is that the value can vary greatly depending on what you redeem them for. If I were to use MR points to pay for purchases, I’d likely get 0.6¢ per point. Meanwhile, by transferring points to travel partners and scoring a good deal, reports suggest I could get 2¢ per point or more in value. This is a big reason why I’ve continued to save up my points instead of looking to cash them out.

To play it safe, I’ll say that I intend to get at least 1¢ per Membership Reward points I’ve earned. This would mean a total value of $1,200. If you want to take the SUB out of the equation, I’ve still earned $600 in points so far. Meanwhile, if I did need to opt for the statement credit instead, that’d be $720 in value (or $360 excluding the sign-up bonus).

Final Thoughts on My First Year of the American Express Platinum Card

No matter how you slice it, I more than covered the $550 annual fee in the value I got from my American Express Platinum card. In fact, by my estimation, I nearly doubled the cost of the annual fee in savings before even taking the Membership Rewards points I’ve earned into consideration. What’s more, this comes in a year when travel — the card’s biggest selling point in terms of perks — came to a screeching halt. As a result, I have no reservations about holding the card for a second year and beyond.

With that said, if I had to do it again, I might have looked into a different version of the Platinum card: the Charles Schwab edition. Those who have a Charles Schwab brokerage account can apply for this take on the card that offers all of the same benefits as the “vanilla” version but adds the ability to cash out your Membership Rewards points at a rate of 1.25¢ per point and transfer those funds into your Schwab account. To me, this is a significant advantage — especially considering that the normal cash redemption rate for MR points is a mere 0.6¢ per point. And, unlike some other issuers, Amex hasn’t introduced any enhanced offers for cashing out points in this manner. So while I’ll keep saving up my MR points in hopes of nabbing an awesome travel redemption, sometimes I do wish that the Schwab cash out were an option for me.

After one year, I’m still just as excited to be an American Express Platinum cardholder as I was when I first applied. Back when travel was a thing, the perks we enjoyed made the entire experience a little easier and a bit cheaper. Yet, during these down months, I’ve also been impressed with how Amex has made up that missing value to cardholders. With all that considered, if you’re normally a frequent traveler and can afford the $550 upfront fee, I honestly think the Platinum card is worth every penny.


Also published on Medium.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at https://moneyat30.com/

Other Articles by Kyle Burbank

Money at 30: Fold Bitcoin Rewards App Review

Ever since Bitcoin surged (circa 2017), there's been plenty of intrigue, investment, and confusion about the cryptocurrency. Although the asset has mellowed out some since those record days, it's still well known for its volatility. What's more, although some apps and tools have worked to demystify Bitcoin, there are still...

Money at 30: T-Mobile Money Review

More than 18 months ago, I ended up switching my wireless service from AT&T to T-Mobile. In doing so, I was able to save money in a few different ways — but it turns out there was another savings opportunity I had overlooked until recently: T-Mobile Money. While this digital banking...

Guide to "No Foreign Transaction Fee" Credit Cards

When it comes to credit cards, most people know about the typical fees: annual fees, interest charges, etc. However, something that many may not know about until it matters is foreign transaction fees. While you may be able to use your credit card internationally — even if the currency isn’t...

Comments

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *