It’s a great time to go premium. For new cardholders, the American Express Platinum Card just upped its Membership Rewards® Points from 60,000 to 75,000 — sweetening what has long been a very good deal.
For most of its nearly 35 years, the American Express Platinum Card remained largely unchallenged at the top of the premium card market. It offered a leading rewards program and came with so many benefits, its cardholders weren’t even aware of them all. Of course, the Platinum Card has also always had a very high annual fee, which recently climbed to $550.
Until just a few years ago, there were few card issuers willing to challenge the Platinum Card’s dominance, and they were usually premium airline cards. But in 2016, Chase rocked the credit card industry when it introduced the Sapphire Reserve. Like the Platinum Card, the Sapphire Reserve offers a strong rewards program, lots of cardholder benefits and a high annual fee of $450 (plus 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months). But the Sapphire Reserve also features 3x points on all travel and dining and a $300 annual travel credit, bringing the net cost of the card for most customers down to a mere $150. The Sapphire Reserve is also part of an ecosystem of Chase cards, including small-business cards and no-fee cards, that anyone can use to stockpile Ultimate Rewards points.
The Sapphire Reserve was so successful that many industry observers began to speculate that American Express would never recover the premium market. Yet the American Express Platinum Card has held its own as a valuable product — and for some people, a total steal.
One of the most thrilling features of the Sapphire Reserve was that it was offered as a metal card. But even with a premium metal in its name, the Amex Platinum was relatively late to the party. Yet in 2017, the Amex card was re-introduced in a very solid edition with an attractive brushed metal finish — and it even has contactless payment capabilities.
American Express has also beefed up the card’s statement credits to compete with the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit, which lowers the net cost of membership. First of all, as a Platinum cardholder, you receive a $200 annual airline fee credit toward incidental fees on a carrier that you designate. You also receive a $200 annual credit toward Uber, doled out as $15 per month and an additional $20 in December. There’s also an annual $100 credit toward Saks Fifth Avenue purchases that you receive as $50 credits twice a year.
If you actually take advantage of these perks, they add up to $500 — the bulk of the card’s $550 annual fee. And don’t forget about those 75,000 points — you get those as long as you make $5,000 in purchases during the first three months.
Don’t Like Fees? These Credit Cards Give You Great Travel Perks With No Annual Fee
Of course, the Sapphire Reserve is famously great for travelers. It offers a Priority Pass Select membership that includes access to over 1,200 airport lounges and even credit toward meals at airport restaurants. But American Express’ Platinum Card also offers a Priority Pass Select membership — as well as a Delta SkyClub membership and access to American Express’ own Centurion lounges.
In my opinion, the small but growing network of Centurion lounges is vastly superior to a typical Delta SkyClub or Priority Pass Select. Together, American Express refers to these lounge memberships as its Global Lounge Collection.
American Express Platinum Benefits
The Platinum Card doesn’t just maintain parity with the Sapphire Reserve: It’s significantly better in many ways. For example, the Platinum Card offers 5x Membership Rewards® Points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, as well as 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. You also receive complimentary additional Gold Cards, while the Sapphire Reserve requires you to pay an extra fee for all additional authorized users.
There are many other rewards than listed here, including a statement credit for a $100 Global entry or $85 TSA pre-check every four years. (The Sapphire Reserve offers these too, of course.) But if you’re a traveler, the Gold elite status with Hilton and Marriott — as well as elite status with National and Hertz car rentals — in invaluable. (For its part, the Sapphire Reserve offers you a 30% discount on Silvercar rentals.)
The Bottom Line on the American Express Platinum Card
Beyond the Chase Sapphire Reserve, there are now many card issuers that offer products with annual fees of $450 and up, but the American Express Platinum is still the most full-featured premium card available. If you take full advantage of your perks, you’re only out $50 when it comes to the annual fee (and could make much more back in value). But don’t ask me to choose which of these premium cards for travelers is better; I’m happy to carry both around in my wallet.
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Membership benefits accurate as of May 3, 2019.