Amex Platinum review: $2,000 in value in my first year — despite its $550 annual fee

Platinum Card from American Express

Ever since I started learning about points, miles, and credit
card benefits (or “travel hacking,” as some call it), I had debated
applying for a
Platinum Card from American Express
.

The card came with a ton of useful benefits, and as fairly
regular traveler, it seemed like a no-brainer for me.

I kept holding off, though — the $450 annual fee just seemed
like too big of an upfront, even if I made that value back. Then,
the fee was raised to $550, and I figured I really couldn’t justify
it.

Finally, I took a hard look at the math, and decided to go for
it. I still wasn’t crazy about paying $550 a year just to have a
card open, but what pushed me over the edge was really looking at
how much return I’d get for that $550.

Here are the perks I had in mind when I decided to open this
premium charge card, and how I value them. Keep in mind that my
valuations are not scientific and are approximations based on my
actual use, plus my habits and preferences.

Amex Platinum card details

Annual fee: $550

Welcome bonus: 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards
points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months 

Points earning: 5x points on airfare purchased
directly through the airline, and on flights and prepaid hotels
booked through Amex Travel, 1 point per dollar on everything
else

Foreign transaction fee: None

Membership Rewards points and a hefty welcome bonus

The
Platinum Card
earns Membership Rewards points, the currency in
Amex’s loyalty program. They can be exchanged for statement credits
or cash back, used to book travel through Amex’s travel website, or
transferred to any of 19 airline and three hotel transfer partners
(transferable
points
are among the most valuable).

The card earns a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased
directly through the airline, as well as flights and hotels
reserved through Amex Travel. It earns one point for every dollar
spent elsewhere.

Singapore Airlines First Class

Membership Rewards points don’t have a fixed value, so it’s a
bit tricky to figure out how much they’re worth.

To get an idea, we can look at valuations published by the
travel website The Points Guy, an Insider Picks partner. The
website’s team approximates the value of each point at 2 cents,
though it’s possible to get a lesser or much greater value
depending on how you use them.

The Platinum Card comes with a welcome offer of 60,000
Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in
the first three months after opening your account. Based on The
Points Guy’s valuations, those are worth about $1,200 which alone
makes up for two years of the annual fee.

Learn more:
5 ways Amex cardholders can redeem their points — plus the method
that gets you maximum value

If you transfer them to airline frequent-flyer programs and use
them to fly round-trip to Europe — or even one-way in first class
— you could end up getting a much higher value.

First-year value: $1,200 

Airport lounge access

I enjoy flying, but, like many people, I find airports to be
generally unpleasant. I think most would agree that the time spent
in the terminal waiting for your flight can be the most stressful
part of a trip.

Fortunately, there’s a perfect solution: airport lounges,
exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection,
food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities.

Though lounges used to be reserved for first-class and
business-class passengers, many are now accessible to any traveler
who holds either a lounge membership or a certain credit card —
and the
Platinum Card
 offers access to three kinds of lounges.

The first is Amex’s proprietary Centurion Lounges, located at
eight airports in the US and in Hong Kong. These chic venues are an
oasis in the middle of the main terminal’s chaos, featuring
amenities like comfortable seating and complimentary cocktails and
food created by award-winning mixologists and chefs. Access to
these lounges is limited to holders of
Amex Platinum
or Amex Centurion cards.

If you’re flying with Delta and carry a Platinum Card, you can
also access any Delta Sky Club lounge. With
more than 30 locations
, Sky Clubs offer snacks, complimentary
soft and alcoholic drinks (with more “premium” drinks available for
purchase), fast WiFi, and a place to unwind. Some also feature
showers.

Finally, the
Platinum Card
 comes with a membership to
Priority Pass
membership, a network of more than 1,000 airport
lounges around the world.

With that membership, you and two guests can access any lounge
location (as long as there’s room) to enjoy free snacks, drinks,
newspapers and magazines, showers, and more — all separate from
the hustle and bustle of the main terminal.

If you have an international version of the card, rather than
the US version, be sure to double check the guest policy for your
card’s Priority Pass benefit.

SIN Ambassador Transit Lounge Singapore

Thinking about how I’ve used the lounge access since having the
card, I’d conservatively estimate the value at about $150. That’s
factoring in the snacks, breakfasts, coffee, and drinks I haven’t
had to pay for, but not including things like WiFi, comfort, or the
fact that it’s made it easier to finish up work from the airport
when I’m catching early-evening flights on Fridays.

First-year value: $150

$200 airline fee credit

Every calendar year, the
Platinum Card from American Express
offers a $200 credit toward
incidental fees on one airline of your choice.

It doesn’t cover tickets but applies to a wide variety of things
such as checked bags, flight-change fees, in-flight food and
drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, airport-lounge day passes
(if you don’t already have complimentary access), and sometimes
even things like seat assignments and extra-legroom upgrade
fees.

While it’s not specified, you may even be able to purchase
airline gift cards with the credit, which you can use for ticket
purchases. Be sure to search online to see whether this works for
your chosen airline — the frequent flyer message board FlyerTalk
even has
dedicated threads for each airline
.

The best part of the airline credit is that because you
get it each calendar year, not card member year, you could get it
twice in your first year of having the card.

Say you opened the card in November — you can earn the full
$200 credit before the calendar year ends, then once the credit
resets on January 1, get it again before your next annual fee
posts, meaning you can get up to $400 in value from this credit
each year.

In my first card member year, I maxed out the potential $400
worth of credits, but for my valuation I’ll knock 25% off — since
it can be annoying to max out and presumably not everyone does.

First-year value: $300

Up to $200 in Uber credits

When American Express raised the annual fee on the
Platinum Card
by $100 in 2017, the company made it up to users
by adding an extra $200 in value to the card’s benefits in the form
of a statement credit toward Uber rides.

The credit is up to $200 a year, broken into chunks — each
month, you’ll get a $15 credit added to your linked Uber account,
with an extra $20 for a total of $35 each December.

Uber file photo

If you travel regularly or live close to a city, this is an easy
perk to get value from. You can also put the credits toward
UberEats orders.

In addition, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status.
There aren’t a ton of perks with this, and it’s available only in
some cities, but you’ll only be connected to drivers with at least
a 4.8-star rating. Uber also says Uber VIP drivers have
“high-quality cars.”

I live in New York and take the subway, walk, or ride a bike
most places, but I use Uber a few times a month, if not once or
twice a week. Therefore, I have no trouble using the full credit.
Plus, I use Uber whenever I’m in another city.

First-year value: $200

Elite status at Marriott and Hilton hotels

Elite status at hotels often includes perks like daily
breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in or late checkout, premium
internet, lounge access, free nights, points-earning bonuses, and
more.

Usually, only the top frequent travelers earn status — but
with the
Platinum Card
, you can earn it before you’ve stayed a single
night.

The card comes with Gold-level elite status at both Marriott and
Hilton loyalty programs. 

If you stay at hotels even a few nights a year, these benefits
can be extremely valuable — Hilton
offers Gold elites free breakfast
for two each morning. 

To come up with a valuation here, I’ll look at a single trip I
took during my first year with the card: a week-long vacation in
London and Paris.

Hotel breakfast can be expensive, but I’ll be conservative and
estimate about $20 per person. On this trip, seven days of
breakfast for two would have cost us $280 total. Although we
skipped the hotel breakfast buffet in Paris to explore some local
boulangeries (and eat an unhealthy number of croissants and other
pastries), it was still available, so I’ll factor it in for my
valuation.

For this trip, we stayed at Marriott hotels using points. At the
time, Marriott offered free breakfast to Gold elites. Since that
perk is no longer available for those with Gold status, I’ve been
staying in Hilton hotels instead, where that benefit is still
offered.

First-year value: at least $280

Other benefits

The
Platinum Card from American Express
comes with a few other
benefits that help offset the annual fee, as well as world-class
purchase protections.

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are absolute musts for just about
any traveler. Once you enroll, you can use special lanes to breeze
through airport security — you won’t have to remove shoes and
light coats, and you can leave your laptop in your bag. With Global
Entry, you can use a fast lane when you return to the US from
abroad, which makes clearing immigration and customs easy and
quick.

The programs cost $85 to $100, and American Express will provide
a credit for that fee every four years (memberships are valid for
five years).

Amex also offers Platinum Card members access to the Amex Fine
Hotels & Resorts program. When you book participating hotels
through Amex Travel — there are nearly 1,000 worldwide — you’ll
enjoy perks including room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout,
free WiFi, and a unique amenity at each hotel, like a credit to use
at on-property spas or restaurants.

An exclusive concierge service is also available to Platinum
Card members. While the services are complimentary, you’re
responsible for paying for any services booked or purchases made on
your behalf (but don’t worry, the concierge will always ask for
approval first). The service can be helpful for things like getting
tickets to shows or making reservations at exclusive restaurants.
I’ve used it twice: The service helped me get restaurant
reservations in Tokyo that I was having trouble getting on my own,
and helped me get some in-demand Broadway tickets the day they went
on sale.

I’ve
used the Fine Hotels & Resorts program
, but that was after
my first year. I already had Global Entry when I signed up for the
card, and probably wouldn’t pay for the concierge services if I
didn’t have complimentary access. I’ve also used the card to make a
few large purchases so I could get the purchase protection, though
(fortunately) I haven’t had to make a claim.

For this valuation, I’ll split the difference between what I’ve
actually used and what I could have used.

First-year value: about $120

First-year value: at least $2,250

Over my first year with the
Platinum Card from American Express
, I’ve gotten more than
$2,250 worth of value from the various perks, rewards, and
benefits. When I subtract what I paid on my first month’s statement
for the annual fee, that’s still a whopping $1,700.

Even in each following year, when I won’t get the welcome bonus,
I’ll still be ahead by at least $500 — assuming I keep the card
— plus whatever I earn in rewards from spending.

While the annual fee is definitely high, the value I’ve gotten
from the card’s annual benefits has more than outweighed it.

Learn
more about the Amex Platinum Card from Business Insider’s partner,
The Points Guy »

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SEE ALSO: Most
people think paying $450 a year for a hotel credit card is insane
— here’s why I signed up for the Hilton Aspire
anyway


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Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
Amex Platinum review: ,000 in value in my first year — despite its 0 annual fee