Maximizing value from Amex Platinum cards

In my opinion, the value of holding an Amex Platinum card dropped recently when we learned that US Airways and American Airlines lounge access would no longer be an included perk.  And, to make matters worse, as of May 1, Delta will no longer allow cardholders to bring in guests for free.

On the plus side, Amex has been installing their own Centurion lounges in some airports (Las Vegas and Dallas, so far) and reviews have been quite positive. And, in those lounges, Platinum cardholders can bring immediate family members or up to two guests.  Still, two new lounges and promises of more hardly make up for the loss of US Airways and AA lounges, and reduction of access to Delta lounges.

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Despite the lounge situation, it’s still possible to get good value from Platinum cards.  The Platinum cards have a $450 per year annual fee (or $475 for the Mercedes branded version).  You can reduce this cost by teaming up with friends and relatives: For $175 more, you can add up to three people as authorized users on your account.  Each user will get almost all of the perks associated with having a Platinum card except for the $200 airline fee credit.  So, if you assume you’ll always get the $200 airline fee credit reimbursement, the math works out to just over $100 per card: ($450 + $175 – $200) / 4 = $106.25.  In my opinion, that’s pretty good for the perks this card offers!  Keep in mind, though, that charges placed on these cards go to your account.  You can limit spending on these cards, but basically you need to really trust anyone you do this with!

Below is a round up of card benefits including personal anecdotes showing how I’ve received real value so far.  Note that there are quite a few additional benefits such as extended warranty protection, Amex Sync promotions, etc. that I won’t mention here because they are available on many other Amex cards as well.  The focus here is on benefits available specifically to Platinum cardholders.  Note too that you have to enroll in most of these to get the benefits.  You can enroll through this website:

exploreplatinum.americanexpress.com/Benefits/BenefitEnrollment

$200 Airline Fee Credit

Amex will refund airline fees charged to the Platinum card up to $200 per calendar year.  This credit is not supposed to cover gift cards and award fees, but it often does anyway (see “Award fee reimbursements: searching for limits”).  Keep in mind that this benefit is only for the primary cardholder and only for one designated airline.

$100 Global Entry Fee Credit

Use your Platinum card to pay the $100 Global Entry fee and Amex will automatically reimburse your account for that amount.  This benefit does apply to authorized user accounts as well (as long as they pay with their cards).  Global Entry is a nice system that lets you bypass most of the lines when reentering the U.S. from abroad.  However, for many of us an even bigger benefit is TSA PRE.  By having global entry, you automatically qualify for TSA PRE (which is mostly used for domestic travel).  With TSA PRE, you can enter the faster TSA PRE security lines, keep your shoes on, and keep laptops and liquids in your bag.  If you haven’t tried it, let me just say it’s awesome.  I’m pretty sure it has saved me at least once from missing a flight.  And, it has certainly saved me multiple times from extremely long security lines.  Yes, there are times where the TSA PRE line is just as long as the other lines (especially during peak business travel hours), but I still appreciate keeping my shoes on, etc.

Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status

Once you get your card, call Amex at 1-800-525-3355 to get your SPG account upgraded to Gold status.  SPG Gold status gives you the following perks:

  • Earn 3 points per dollar instead of 2 at SPG properties
  • 4PM late checkout
  • Room upgrades, when available
  • Welcome gift with each stay: bonus points, free internet, or a complimentary beverage
  • Delta crossover rewards: Earn 1 SPG point for each dollar spent on eligible Delta flights

SheratonChicagoClubLounge

Room upgrades are not guaranteed, but I’ve had good luck being upgraded into lounge accessible rooms.  This means free breakfast and free evening snacks (which are sometimes substantial enough to stand in for dinner).  Pictured above is the lounge at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers where I received a complementary upgrade to the club floor thanks to my Gold status.  Its hard to asses an absolute value to Gold status, but suffice it to say that I’ve seen very real savings and benefits from all of the perks listed above.  When asking for late checkout, I often get told something like “I’m sorry but 1PM is the best we can do.”  And, I reply nicely “Oh, I thought that 4PM late checkout was a Gold status perk. Was I wrong about that?”  So far it has worked every time.  Note, though, that the 4PM late checkout benefit is subject to availability at resort and conference center hotels.

Car rental elite status

The Platinum card offers elite status with three car rental companies: Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, and National Emerald Club Executive. This is a bigger deal than I had previously realized.  With National Executive status, for example, you can book (and pay for) a mid-sized car but then choose from any car in their Executive Aisle.  Recently my family vacationed with friends and we put this benefit to great use.  Because minivan rates were so high, we reserved two separate cars.  At National, though, I went ahead to see if I could find a minivan in the Executive Aisle.  Success!  The other family cancelled their car reservation and we saved the cost of an entire rental.  To make the deal even sweeter, we saved money in every place that charged for parking during the trip since we only had to pay for one car instead of two.

Airport Lounge benefits

As I mentioned at the start of this post, the Platinum card’s lounge benefits will soon become less valuable, but they still have real value.  The Platinum card automatically gives the cardholder access to Delta SkyClubs, Centurian Lounges, and Airspace Lounges (currently at BWI, CLE, and JFK).  And, you can enroll in Priority Pass Select for access to “over 600 participating lounges worldwide”.  Note though that you do need to enroll in Priority Pass Select, and use your Priority Pass card to enter those 600+ lounges.

Fine Hotels & Resorts

American Express Platinum cardholders can book hotels through the Fine Hotels & Resorts website.  By doing so, you will receive elite-like benefits:

  • Noon check-in upon arrival, when available
  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • 4pm late checkout
  • Additional special amenity unique to each property, such as a $100 food and beverage credit or a massage for two people

One great thing about booking hotels this way, is that you will receive elite benefits, points, and stay credits when staying at chain hotels.  This is not true of most stays booked through online travel agencies such as Expedia, Travelocity, etc.  In my case, I haven’t yet found a situation where the Fine Hotels & Resorts prices were close enough to the best otherwise available rates.  However, I know others have found good deals in the past, especially when combining very short stays with a $100 food and beverage credit.

More premium travel benefits

In addition to the Fine hotel and Resorts program detailed above, Platinum card members get access to many high-end (read “expensive”) travel services:

  • Cruise Privileges program: $300 per stateroom shipboard credit, or two category upgrade (depending on ship, category booked and availability)
  • Platinum Villas: receive benefits valued at up to $500 per booking
  • The Hotel Collection: Up to 475 hotel credit when staying at least two nights
  • Premium Private Jet Program: Up to $300 total per flight towards limousine transfer service, in flight catering, etc.
  • Platinum Destinations Vacations: Get up to 25,000 Membership Rewards points.

I can’t recommend any of the above services since I haven’t tried any of them (and probably never will).  If you have recommendations for or against these, please comment below.

Reader experiences

Have you received value from your Platinum card in ways that I missed?  Please comment below.

 

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Good run down of AMX-P bennies, thanks. We get value of owning multiple AMX-P cards (AMX-P, AMX-P(Mercedes Benz), AMX-P Biz. We earned over 150K MR points last year in sign up bonuses (Two months ago, got a 25K MR retention bonus for my AMX-P MB card), we got $900 Ship board credit for three cruises and have two more $300 SBC to look forward (Dec 2014, Nov 015) by being an AMX-P cardholder (plus we get a bottle of premium champagne in our suite ($100+ value). Thus, just for the cruise benefits (since we cruise 2-3x per year we get more than the $450/$475 annual fee.

    Moreover, one benefit to consider is using AMX-P for large ticket purchases for the protection you get from poor service or financial ruin. I have had refunds from AmEx for many things that were either misrepresented, or did not happen, or was broken upon arrival, etc. It is such a simple process. You go online, click on the transaction, and file a complaint. They immediately remove the charge, then launch an investigation. If they find the complaint warranted, you never see the charge again. Sometimes, the merchant will refund 50 or 75%. In the case of a partial refund, the balance due the merchant after the investigation then goes back on the card. It is an effortless process.

    • I didn’t mention the companion ticket because it only applies to very expensive fares, but you’re right: if you’re going to buy those expensive fares anyway, the companion ticket benefit is a good one.

  2. For FHR example:

    Arizona Biltmore Labor Day 2013:
    1 Night Stay
    FHR rate $110 (identical to rack rate)

    Benefits:
    -Free buffet breakfast (value $30 each, $60 total)
    -$100 F&B Credit
    -Free history of hotel book (if you filled out the AmEx comment card).

  3. I have used the fine hotel and resort booking a couple of times. Once at the Intercontinental in Atlanta. The going rate at the time was $129/night. The FH&R price was $159 with free breakfast for 2, and $100 F&B credit. It worked out especially well since I had just loaded a bunch of IHG promo codes that netted me over 30,000 points on top of the stay.

    I have a trip also booked to the Bellagio in Vegas at less than the best price I could find also including a $100 F&B and free breakfast.

    Another thing you didn’t mention is there excellent Concierge service for event tickets and restaurant reservations. They have scored me some great tickets when I haven’t been able to be by a computer when concerts go on sale.

    • Thanks for that info. I tried the concierge service once and it was a complete waste of my time. I’m glad it worked out well for you. Probably if you use it for the specific things they’re good at, you’ll get good results.

  4. Earning benefits on FHR bookings is not 100%, I had a stay at the Palazzo (IHG) in Vegas that was given no stay credit.

  5. I called AmEx regarding getting upgraded to the gold status and was told I needed to charge $30k in a year to get this status. You do not mention that above.

    • Amex gave you incorrect information. It is true with the Starwood Preferred Guest card that you have to spend $30k to get gold status, but with the. Platinum card there is no such requirement. I’d recommend calling again until you get a better answer. Make sure to call the customer service number listed on the back of your Platinum card.

  6. @ Carol: the Frequent Miler is correct. I called Amex yesterday and was upgraded to SPG Gold with no problem. I fly Delta all the time for work and had no idea I was leaving free SPG points on the table… so glad I read this post.

  7. Thanks for linking to this post in your new post today (6/10/15). Having gotten 2 Plats in our household during the recent 150K offer, I appreciate the summary – less spin and more useful info than the glitzy booklet that comes with the card or their bennies website. Much appreciated.

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