Treat Yo’self: Reviewing the Amex Platinum Card

As I’ve stated before, if you want to have a successful travel blog, you need to stuff it full of reviews. When people travel, they don’t want any aspect of the travel to be something they haven’t already read a review of on a travel blog. My wildly popular “Lounge Life” posts are a testament to that – this blog had almost no traffic at all before those posts went up, and now… Well let’s just say it still has almost no traffic, but that I expect a major uptick any moment now.

So here’s my review of the Amex Platinum card. By making it especially specific to me, my hope is that this review holds no relevance whatsoever to your own situation.

Bonus: Usually a 40,000 point sign up bonus after $3000 spent in the first three months. Recently, a 100,000 point bonus was available, and I took advantage of that, which finally righted the wrong I inflicted upon myself when I threw a targeted offer for 100,000 points in the garbage last summer. I don’t think 40,000 points is a terrible bonus in any case… it isn’t huge, but it’s still competitive. Citi offers 50,000 for the Prestige card, and I think Membership Rewards points are better.

Screen grab from travelcodex.com

Earning: 1 point per dollar. In other words, this card is a terrible earner, which is bizarre to me. I think Amex’s target customer is the person of considerable means who gets the Platinum because it has a bunch of fancy benefits, and who doesn’t really consider the overall earning potential of the card. I doubt most of the customers for this card have a big portfolio of other cards, especially since the fee is really high. So if you spend a lot of money and don’t really care about points except as an afterthought, then a card that earns 1 point per dollar is fine for you. Still, for their most premium publicly available card, I wish Amex provided some incentive to actually use the card once you get it. Since I get at least 1.5 points on everything from my Everyday Preferred card plus travel/restaurant bonuses from various other cards, the only time I’d ever use this card would be for international transactions (since the Everyday Preferred has foreign transaction fees). And even then, if it were foreign travel or restaurants, I’d use the Citi Prestige or the Chase Sapphire Preferred and get category bonuses there too. Bottom line, you get this card to buy your way into the benefits it offers, not to build up a rewards balance.

Mitigations: When I evaluate cards, I always look at mitigations first – these are any benefits that help pay back the annual fee. A true mitigation should be an amount I would have spent anyway – for instance, the Citi Prestige card offers a $250 airline reimbursement good on tickets, plus a fourth night free benefit for any hotel stay. If you would normally spend $250 on airfare and stay in a hotel for four nights in a row in any given year, the Citi Prestige mitigates its entire annual fee. The Amex Platinum reimburses $200 toward airline “incidental” fees, like baggage charges, in-flight purchases, or lounge access, but not ticket sales. Until recently, it also reimbursed gift cards, despite the fact that the terms of the benefit are written to exclude them. This may or may not be the case going forward, though, and I’m going to assume for review purposes that gift cards are no longer covered. Now, I almost never check bags, and I rarely make in-flight purchases, so the fee credit ceases to be much of a mitigation at all. I think I’m just going to buy a bunch of day passes for airline lounges and sell them on eBay – maybe I’ll get $50 or so, but the annual fee is still pretty hefty even with that mitigation.

Misc benefits: This card has tons of miscellaneous benefits that are nice to have but not worth it to me. I could take or leave concierge service, the free magazine, the Fine Hotels and Resorts collection of hotel perks (most of which are way too expensive for me anyway), the private jet discounts, and so on. Some of the benefits are definitely useful, like rental car elite status, but the Citi Prestige offers these as well. In fact, there are very few things that the Amex Platinum offers that the Citi Prestige doesn’t offer. Plus, the Citi Prestige has a better lounge access policy, since it includes free guests where the Amex doesn’t. Free Starwood Gold status via the Amex platinum is probably pretty sweet for some, but I’ve already signed my life over to Hyatt and IHG, so I won’t get much use out of this benefit either. (Plus, if you’re loyal to Starwood, you probably already have Gold status anyway.)

bread
This image is from an article about fancy bread in Departures magazine, a free magazine for Amex Platinum cardholders. Bread!

Okay, so at this point, it should be pretty clear that I’m not a huge fan of this card. If you’re comparing premium cards, the Citi Prestige is objectively better in just about every way. It earns points more quickly, has a higher sign-up bonus (most of the time), great mitigations, and an awesome suite of benefits that offers the same or better than Amex. There’s one problem.

The goddamn motherfucking Centurion lounges. I LOVE THEM. The Citi Prestige card can gussy itself up all it wants, but it isn’t going to get you into these lounges. It may not matter to most people not based near a Centurion lounge, but I fly out of SFO and thus have tons of occasion to use the lounge there. And every single other lounge in the US is a piece of shit compared to this lounge (probably)… except the other Centurion lounges, which I can’t wait to visit. (I should point out that Centurion lounges cost $50 with any other Amex, so theoretically I should count how many times I actually visit them over the next year. If I don’t go at least 8 times, then I should cancel the card and just pay to get in instead.)

The bottom line is that the Amex Platinum is a not-great product with one huge megaperk that no other card offers. By all rights, I should just get rid of it after the first year, but I think I’m gonna keep it, basically paying $450 a year for Centurion lounge access. Although I tend to focus fairly obsessively on value, the simple fact is that I like to travel, and I like things that make travel more fun for me. Even if it’s not a great deal, my plan is to close my eyes and plug my ears and pretend the fee doesn’t exist so that I can sit on lime green chairs eating fancy canapés and drinking expensive alcohol “for free.”

Well there you have it… I guess this has been less of a review and more of me justifying to myself why I should keep the card even though it’s a waste of money. Check back in a year to see if I was successful. Final rating on this card: 98 Centurion Lounges out of 100.

Requisite question designed to spur a flurry of responses in the comments section: What reason could there possibly be for YOU not to cancel your Amex Platinum card?

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