|by Mr Credit Card|
About a year ago, I upgraded my American Express® Preferred Rewards Gold Card to the American Express Platinum Card. I have held off writing a review because I wanted to have first hand experience with using the card. As time passes, I would like to share my experience with you. So here goes…
How I use the American Express Platinum Card and is it worth it?
This is going to be quite a long review because this card has simply lots of features. So I’ll start by actually telling you the key features that I make use of the Platinum Card® from American Express and how I make back the $450 annual fee. Most folks think that you need to be a super high spender to get this card. This could not be further from the truth. Here are some of the unique features that more than pays you back the annual fee.
Borrow 60,000 Membership Reward Points – This is one of the best ways to make use of this card together with sign bonus miles. For example, if you are short of miles in your frequent flyer account, you can borrow points to top it up so you can get your free flight. Most frequent flyer program also offer bonus for miles transfer or purchases. Membership Rewards occasionally gives 25% to 50% bonuses for transferring points into air miles. When used correctly, this is a great way to get your free tickets or business class upgrade.
Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status – The very first thing you should do is to sign up for a Starwood Preferred Guest membership even if you do not have one. That is because with a platinum card, you automatically qualify for gold status. All you have to do is to get a “code” from Amex Platinum. You then all Starwood and mention the code. And once they enroll you, you are an automatic gold status.
Car Rental Memberships – The next thing you should do is to sign up for memberships in Hertz, National and Avis. The Hertz Gold membership is worth $60 a year. You enroll at www.americanexpress.com/premiumcarrental.
$200 Annual Airline Credit Fees – Each year, you are given $200 to spend on airline amenities like food in airlines, baggage fees (not too sure if I would call that an amenity?). You do however, have to pick the airline that you wish to earn these on (and you can only pick one). But if you fly a couple of carriers, just pick one and you could have that $200 in credit annually.
Lounge Access – Platinum cardholders are also given complimentary access to Priority Pass memberships. There are various tiers in their membership. The lowest tier requires a $199 annual fee and a $27 fee for each visit by yourself and a guest. The highest level has a $349 annual fee but free visits by yourself and a $27 fee for guest. With Amex Plat, you can visit Priority Pass Lounges for free though you have to pay a $27 fee for a guest. Essentially, that means you are getting at least $349 worth in value because of the membership fees that Priority Pass Card charges. This is in contrast to other cards where even though they offer Priority Pass memberships, you have to pay for each entry. Enrollment can be done over the phone with Amex Platinum customer representative.
You also get access to US Airways, Delta SkyClub and American Airlines’ Admiral Club Lounge. The Delta Skyclub membership fees ranges from $300 (if you are a Diamond Medallion member) to $450 (if you are just a silver member). The annual membership for AA’s Admiral Club Lounge ranges from $350 to $500 depending on frequent flyer status. US Airways Lounge membership cost anywhere from $225 to $325 a year. So merely using these Lounges a couple of times a year pays off quite a bit of your Platinum annual fee.
Fine Hotels and Resorts – This is one program and perk that I have made most of my annual fee back. Basically, Amex has teamed up with “better” hotels in most regions in the US (and abroad as well). If you use your Amex Plat to book these hotels through Amex, you will receive a free amenity and a room upgrade when available. For example, I stayed at the Fairmont Miramar at Santa Monica and got complimentary breakfast, a room upgrade and $100 in credit (which I used for a massage!). A couple of bookings like that and you will earn back the annual fee.
No Foreign Transaction Fee – One of the nice features of this card is that there is no foreign transaction fees. And you’ll get to save that typical 3% fee when you travel abroad. Personally, I travel international once a year and this benefit is great because I do not have to get another card just to avoid this pesky fee.
Complimentary Global Entry membership – Global Entry is US Government program that is granted to pre-approved travelers so that they may bypass arrival lines. The membership fee is $100 and is valid for 5 years. Amex Plat will actually foot the bill for this. If you travel abroad a lot, and consider applying for Global Entry. Mrs Credit Card and myself will soon be applying for this.
There are other great perks which I have not used (like international business companion ticket). But by using the above features, I more than cover my annual fee (plus Mrs Credit Card additional fee). As you can see above, you do not need to be a super spender to make this card worthwhile. As long as you sign up for the perks and make use of a couple of them, it more than pays for itself.
Now, let’s get on to the review itself where I will highlight the other perks not mentioned here.
Rewards and Formula
Membership Rewards First – The Platinum Cards reward is based on the Membership Rewards First program. “First” is the higher end version that is only available to platinum and centurion card holders. You will earn one point for every dollar that you spend and Membership Reward Points do not expire. (Watch the Video)
Bonus Points Mall – Amex also has a program called Bonus Points Mall where they have partnered up with online merchants like Target.com etc. When you access their sites through Bonus Points Mall on the Amex site and use your Platinum card, you can earn 4 points for every dollar that you spend on the card at these sites. This is actually a feature most people do not use, but is a great way to earn points.
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s look at the other features of this card.
Platinum Travel Service – Platinum card holders can make use of Platinum Travel Service to make all their travel reservations. The advantage of using this service is that they will coordinate your bookings in terms of using the reward points you have earned.
Airport Club Lounge Access – already mentioned above.
Fine Hotels and Resorts – already mentioned above.
International Airline Program – The International Airline Program allows you to get a complimentary business or first class ticket when you purchase a full fair business class or first class ticket from Travel Platinum Service (using your platinum card off course). Participating airlines include Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air France, Air NewZealand, Aitalia, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Delta Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Jet Airways, LAN Airlines, Luthansa, Mexicana, SAS, South African Airways, SWISS and Virgin.
Cruise Privileges Program – Platinum Cardholders who book their cruise vacations through the Platinum Travel Service with any of the cruise partners will get either a $300 shipboard credit or a two level stateroom upgrade. You will also receive special amenities from each cruise. Partners include Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, The Yachts of SeaBourne, and Winstar Cruises.
Platinum Destination Vacation – American Express has also partnered up with select group of exotic vacation partners that will allow you to earn points and use points for these vacations. For example include Abercombie & Kent, American Express Vacation®, AutoVenture, Brendan Worldwide Vacations, Classic Vacations, Insight Vacations, Mountain Park Travel Canada, Orient-Express Hotels, Trains and Cruises, PerryGolf, PrimeSport, Ski.com, Tauck World Discovery.
Premium Car Rental Program – see above.
Gold Starwood Preferred Guest Membership – see above
International Communications Solutions – This perk allows you to get the YouToMe Service where you can do call forwarding from your cell phone or you can give your friends a toll-free number to call you. Card members will be given 15 minutes of free air time. I have not used this service, so I cannot say if it is good or not.
The Limousine Program – Amex has partnered up with Carey, a limousine company to provide limousine services. The perk is that you can earn three points for every dollar that you spend on the card.
Platinum Villas – As a platinum card member, you can get access of absolutely gorgeous villas for an absolutely gorgeous price off course! Amex has teamed up with Abercombie & Kent, Beautiful Places, Four Seasons Residence Club, Lacure, The Mansion at MGM Grand and Villas of Distinction to offer luxurious villas for your vacation.
Private Yacht Program – Amex has partnered with Fraser Yacht and International Yacht Collection to offer card members customized Yacht trips to various destinations worldwide!
Private Jet Service Program – Amex actually markets this service for private jet programs. Their partners include Atlantic Aviation Flight Services, Bombardier Flexjet, Delta AirElite Business Jets, Le Bas International, Sentient Jet Membership.
Travelers Check and Foreign Currency – Amex allows you to get fee free travelers checks at any of their world wide travel offices.
American Express Travel Website – Amex has actually their own travel website where you can book your trips. You can earn double membership points when you use the site to book your trips. When you spend more than $3,000 a year, you will get a statement credit of $100.
Platinum Concierge – Platinum card holders can have access to Amex Concierge service. This is a service that I have used many times, including the one that I made reservations for this years valentine’s day!
By Invitation Only – As a platinum cardholder, you will be able to get access to certain very high profile. For 2009, these events include :
Platinum Dining Reservations – Amex Platinum has made arrangements with restaurants, bars, bistros etc to hold a couple of tables for last minute reservations. I have many friends who have made last minute reservations at extremely hard to get restaurants. Now, they did not get the best seats, but they did get a place.
Platinum Shopping Partners – Amex has partnered by Neiman Marcus, Sony and Bergdorf Goodman to offer card holders certain privileges. For example, Platinum Card members can enroll their card in Neiman Marcus InCircle Program. You can then earn both InCircle Points and Membership Reward points when you shop at Neiman Marcus. Once you have accumulated 10,000 points, you can exchange them for a $100 InCircle gift card. Being enrolled in the InCircle program also allows you to earn InCircle points at Bergdorf Goodman as well. As for Sony, being a platinum card member allows you to enjoy VIP status with Sony’s program.
Premium Seats Program – Platinum card members can also get access to tickets before the general public for events in L.A. and New York. Examples of venues include Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall.
Premium Access – Card members can also get early access and preferred seating (before the general public) to hot events like concerts etc.
Departure Magazine – Once every quarter, you will get a “Departure” magazine from Amex. This magazine has articles on various places and travel articles around the world. It also has some interesting write ups on things like antique, where to exotic stuff etc.
American Express Selects – This is a program where you can shop at various online sites like hotels.com or orbitz.com (through Amex site) and get special discount using your Platinum Card.
Premium Protection – Amex calls these “premium protection”, but there really standard and common in most Visa and Mastercards these days. But here is a laundry list of features found on the Platinum card (that is found in most other Amex cards as well).
Premium Global Assist – This is a 24/7 hotline service that you can call for emergency medical, legal service especially if you are in a different country. (I haven’t had to use this yet!)
Roadside Assistance – I once had to use this when I left my keys in the car!
Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance – This is an extremely useful feature because you do not have to pay the extra insurance when you rent a card (if you charge the rental to your Platinum Card).
Baggage Insurance – When you an airline ticket with your Platinum Card you will automatically get a “combined” baggage insurance of up to $3,000. Usually, the airlines also takes out baggage insurance, but Amex will top up to an extra $2,000 over the airline coverage as long the total coverage does not exceed $3,000.
Travel Insurance – Most credit cards have this feature and it is activated when you book your travels with the card. For the Platinum card, the limit is $500,000.
Purchase – This feature protects you from any damage, loss of goods you with the Amex Platinum for up to 10,000 per occurance and up to $50,000 in claims a year. I’ve had broken goods before, but the stores always took them back and I’ve never had to use this feature.
Extended Warranty – When you something with the card, you will have extended warranty that is equal to the original warranty period (capped at one additional year).
Return Protection – If return a product you bought with the card (within 90 days of purchase) and the merchant refuses to accept it, Amex will refund you the original purchase price (excluding any shipping cost) for up to $300. If you get returns of up to$1,000 in value each year.
Event Ticket Protection Plan – This feature protects you in the event that you bought tickets with Amex and cannot attend the events. You can be reimbursed up to $2,000 per incident for up to two incidents in a twelve month period. It needs to be a legitimate reason like medical reason for example. The “qualifying reasons” are not stated on the website so you will have to call their toll-free number to find out more. New York state residents do not qualify for this feature.
Guaranteed Fraud Protection – On their website, Amex will guarantee you against any fraudulant charges to your account.
Identity Theft Assistance – Amex has a 24/7 hotline for you to call in case your identity has been stolen. It has happened to me so I cannot comment on this service.
Dispute Resolution – This should be a standard feature for all credit cards. But essentially, when you dispute a charge, Amex will try to reverse it and if it can’t in the instant, they will help you dispute it on your behalf with the merchant.
Emergency Card Replacement – Amex will replace your card anywhere worldwide as quickly as 24 hours. Years ago, I was traveling in Australia and I lost a Visa card. I did not get a replacement card until I got home! It is moments like these that you wish you had an Amex!
Emergency check cashing privileges – Amex allows you to use your card to cash personal checks for up to $10,000 every 30 days worldwide.
No Pre-set Spending Limit – No pre-set limit does not mean unlimited credit limits. But from my experience, I have never been called by Amex even if I have a spike in my spending for the month. When I’m about to put a huge ticket on the card, a phone call to customer service does the trick and I’ve always had no problems. This feature I believe will increasingly become more important as credit card companies indiscriminately cut credit lines.
Phew – So What’s The Verdict? – Before I get to that, let me explain why I got this card. Firstly, American Express has been constantly sending me mails to upgrade my gold card. I got it partly for the ego of having one, but to also use it so I could actually review the card. How could I call myself Mr Credit Card and review a $450 annual fee card if I did not have one!
Throughout my 15 years relationship with American Express, I have always had nothing to say but good words about them. Service has been great. Now, I do understand not everyone has a great experience with them.
In 2008, the Amex Platinum still had the Domestic Companion Feature ( one get one free) which they have discontinued. I used the Domestic Companion Complimentary Ticket three times and that alone paid for the annual fee. I have used their Roadside Assistance, their concierge numerous times, got into airport lounge on a few occasions. So even without the domestic companion ticket, I think this card is worth the value.
While reviewing the card again and writing this review, I realized that I have under utilized in several ways.
Firstly, I should be using the card more to shop online via shopamex.com at their Bonus Point Mall and earn more points.
Secondly, I have not enrolled in InCircle! Should do that just in case Mrs Credit Card goes on a shopping spree in Neiman Marcus!
I have also not used American Express Selects and get discounts shopping online!
So rather than say whether this is a good card or whether the $450 fee is worth paying, the question to ask is will you make it worth your while to get this card. After thinking long and hard about it, my answer is yes – it has for me and I think it will be worth it to keep this card going forward. Because there are so many features in this card, I have found that just using a few of them over the years have made this card so worth it. For example, I mentioned earlier that I used the domestic companion when the feature was still around and it paid for the annual fee. Recently, just booking hotels that are part of the Fine Resort and Hotels a few times a year has paid off for me. So has joining the Hertz Gold membership. I also use airport lounges whenever I fly.
This card will appeal to various groups of people. For example, a frequent traveler will find this card appealing because of flexibility of Membership Rewards frequent flyer partners and hotel partners. Using airport lounges for free and getting various room upgrades at hotels will easily pay for the annual fee of this card. Busy executives who use the concierge service a lot will find that the card will pay for itself.
A business person in an industry where client entertainment is so important may find this card very useful indeed if getting great seat for concerts etc is important.
If you are in an industry serving high end clients and image is important, this is also a good card to get. Just to give an example : Last year, I sat down with two financial advisers over lunch at a diner. One took out a “gold” credit card to pay. But my keen eye told me it was a First Premier Bank Gold Card – a sub-prime card! The other financial adviser took out a “platinum card”. It turned out to be also First Premier Bank’s Platinum sub-prime card! Look, I never moved my accounts over to them. I’m Mr Credit Card and I don’t hand over money to a financial adviser who does not have good credit scores!
So round up this long review, I absolutely love my Platinum Card® from American Express. For me, the features more than pay for the fees and the service (for me at least) has been great.