Amex Platinum for less

Pay less for platinumThe Amex Platinum card comes with a slew of useful benefits such as lounge access (Centurion Lounge, Delta SkyClub, Priority Pass Select lounges, etc.); elite status with Starwood, Hilton, National Car Rental; free unlimited Boingo Wifi; annual $200 in airline fee reimbursements; Global Entry fee reimbursements; and more.

Once you get used to these benefits, it can be hard to give them up.  But, the Platinum card’s $450 annual fee can be tough to stomach.  One approach to keeping the benefits is to cycle through different versions of the Platinum cards each year.  Thankfully, there are many versions: the regular Platinum, the Business Platinum card, and a number of co-branded Platinum cards (Ameriprise, Mercedes-Benz, Morgan Stanley, Schwab).  With the exception of the Ameriprise version of the card, you would still have to pay the annual fee for signing up, but you’ll get a signup bonus and up to $400 in airline fee credits to offset that annual fee (as long as you sign up mid-year, you can take advantage of the current calendar year’s $200 in airline fee credits, plus the next calendar year’s $200, then cancel the card before paying the 2nd year’s annual fee).

What if you don’t like the idea of constantly juggling Platinum cards?  Is there a cheaper way to keep one Platinum card forever?

Active Military

Amex will waive all fees for active military personnel!  All you have to do is ask.  More here: Top 10 things I’d do if I were in the military.

$200 airline fee reimbursement

All of the Platinum cards offer up to $200 per calendar year in airline fee reimbursements to the primary accountholder.  Reimbursements are not supposed to be given when you use the card to buy airline gift cards or to reimburse award ticketing fees, but in practice such charges usually are reimbursed.  I book many Delta awards each year, for example, and whenever I use a Platinum card to pay for the associated fees, I find that the fee gets reimbursed (with one exception: when the credit card charge is about $250 or higher, it does not get reimbursed).  So, the $200 airline fee reimbursement is very close to being as good as cash for me.

Reduce cost with a little help from your friends

Most Platinum cards charge $175 per year for the first 3 authorized users, combined.  Additional authorized users cost $175 per year, each.  Since authorized user cards get almost all of the benefits of the primary card, it is possible to reduce the effective annual fee by recruiting friends to share the cost in exchange for getting their own authorized user cards.

For example, if you recruit 3 friends to share the cost of a regular Platinum card account, then your total annual fee would be $450 + $175 = $625.  If you share this cost equally, this works out to only $156 per person.

Another way to do this is to take the airline fee credit into account.  The fee credit is available only to the primary user, but can reduce the total effective annual fee by up to $200 (depending upon how easy it is for you to get these credits).  If you’re feeling magnanimous, you can split the reduced annual fee four ways:  $450 + $175 – $200 = $425.  Shared equally, this works out to only $106 per person.

Another reasonable approach is to charge the primary cardholder (yourself) a fixed $200 annual fee in exchange for keeping the $200 airline fee credits to yourself.  This would make the annual fee effectively zero for yourself (if you value the airline fee credits as being as good as cash).  Then, the total remaining annual fee for you plus 3 friends would be $250 + $175 = $425.  Split 3 ways amongst your friends, this works out to $142 per person.

Note 1: If you reduce costs by sharing benefits with friends, you would probably want to make it clear to your friends that they are to use the Platinum card only for its benefits and not for spend (since you’ll have to pay the bill if they charge anything to the card!).  You can also place strict spending limits on each card just in case.

Note 2: Sadly, the Business Platinum card charges $175 $300 for every authorized user.  This is the only version of the card that offers in-flight wifi and a 30% rebate when using points to book flights on your designated airline.

Amex Platinum card-specific features

Rapid Travel Chai recently posted a comparison of the many versions of the Amex Platinum card (found here).  Even though they all cost $450 per year (except for the Mercedes branded version which costs $475), some of the cards have features that make it possible to lower the effective annual fee…

Charles Schwab Platinum

Reduce annual fee up to $200:

  • $100 / $200 annual statement credit for Charles Schwab investors.  Those with combined qualifying Schwab account balances of $250,000, get $100.  Those with combined qualifying Schwab account balances of 1 million dollars or more, get $200.

Morgan Stanley Platinum

Reduce annual fee (via help with friends approach) with first authorized user free:

  • First authorized user free, next 3 $175 total, then $175 each.

Or, for those with $1 million or more invested with Morgan Stanley:

  • Morgan Stanley will waive the entire $450 annual fee as long as you “maintain a minimum direct deposit or cash balance and use some of the bank’s payment systems”.  Details here.

Reduced Cost Scenarios

Each of the tables below show various scenarios for reducing costs (with or without friends)…

Scenario group 1: Ignore airline fee rebate, split fees equally

Card Scenario # Cardholders Effective Annual Fee Total Annual Fee Per Person
Platinum Baseline 1 $450 $450
Share with 3 friends 4 $450 + $175 = $625 $156
Morgan Stanley Platinum Share with 1 friend 2 $450 $225
Share with 4 friends 5 $450 + $175 = $625 $125
Charles Schwab Platinum $250K invested 1 $450 – $100 = $350 $350
$250K invested, share card with 3 friends 4 $350 + $175 = $525 $131
$1M invested 1 $450 – $200 = $250 $250
$1M invested, share card with 3 friends 4 $250 + $175 = $425 $106

Scenario group 2: Assume $200 airline fee rebate as good as cash, split fees equally

In this scenario, the starting individual annual fee is assumed to be $250 ($450 – $200).

Card Scenario # Cardholders Effective Annual Fee Total Annual Fee Per Person
Platinum Baseline 1 $250 $250
Share with 3 friends 4 $250 + $175 = $425 $156
Morgan Stanley Platinum Share with 1 friend 2 $250 $125
Share with 4 friends 5 $250 + $175 = $425 $85
Charles Schwab Platinum $250K invested 1 $250 – $100 = $150 $150
$250K invested, share card with 3 friends 4 $250 – $100 + $175 = $325 $81
$1M invested 1 $250 – $200 = $50 $50
$1M invested, share card with 3 friends 4 $50 + $175 = $225 $56

Scenario group 3: Free for yourself after airline fee rebate. Friends pay the rest.

Card Scenario # Cardholders Effective Annual Fee Total Annual Fee Per Person
Platinum Share with 3 friends 3 $250 + $175 = $425 $142
Morgan Stanley Platinum Share with 1 friend 1 $250 $250
Share with 4 friends 4 $250 + $175 = $425 $106
Charles Schwab Platinum $250K invested, share card with 3 friends 3 $250 – $100 + $175 = $325 $108
$1M invested, share card with 3 friends 3 $50 + $175 = $225 $75

Summarized best options

If you’re in the military…

Get any of the cards and then call and ask to have the fees waived.

If you’re wealthy…

If you have a million dollars in assets and liabilities with Morgan Stanley, then the Morgan Stanley Platinum card wins hands down since they’ll completely waive the $450 annual fee as long as you “maintain a minimum direct deposit or cash balance and use some of the bank’s payment systems”.  Details here.

If you have a million dollars or more parked in Charles Schwab accounts, then the Charles Schwab Platinum card is a good choice.  You’ll get $200 in statement credits per year in addition to up to $200 in airline fee credits.  So, if you value those airline fee credits at or near face value, your effective annual fee will be only $50.

If you don’t want to consider the value of the airline fee credits, your effective annual fee would be $250.  However, you could add on 3 friends for $175 per year and split all costs equally, for a total of only $106 per person.

If you do value the airline fee credits at face value, then one option is to magnanimously add on three authorized users and split all fees equally.  This will result in a total per person cost of only $56 ($6 more than if you kept this deal to yourself).  Or, better yet, split the fees across your authorized users and keep the card effectively free for yourself.  In that case, your friends will still pay only $75 per person per year.  That’s incredibly cheap considering the benefits provided.

If you only have 1 friend…

If you can only dig up one friend who wants to pay annually for Platinum card benefits, then go with the Morgan Stanley Platinum card since the first authorized user is free.  Per person annual costs when splitting with 1 friend range from $125 to $250, depending upon the approach you choose.

If you have lots of friends…

Again, the Morgan Stanley Platinum card wins out.  If have 4 friends interested in splitting costs, the per person annual charges would range from only $85 to $125.

Is it worth it?

When you consider that Delta charges $450 per year for an individual SkyClub membership and that individual access to Delta clubs when flying Delta is just one of the many perks of the Platinum cards, almost any of the prices listed above are well worth considering.  That said, access to Delta SkyClubs is worth nothing at all if you don’t have opportunity to use the benefit.  And, even if you do have the opportunity to use it, you may not value the benefit highly.  The same goes for the card’s many other perks.  The important question is not how much it would cost to buy these perks, but rather how much you value them.  How much are you willing to pay for lounge access, elite status, etc.?

Here are some ways in which the card’s perks can potentially save you a lot of money (if you make use of them and do not have other easy ways to get these perks):

  • Boingo Wifi: Potential to avoid international data charges.  No need to pay for wifi when Boingo is available.
  • Delta SkyClub access: Free snacks, drinks, and internet access.
  • Centurion Lounge access: Free meals, drinks, internet, and even free massages (at some locations)
  • Priority Pass Select: Benefits of lounge access vary by lounge, but generally include free snacks and internet, at minimum.
  • National Car Rental Executive status: Select nicer or bigger cars from Executive Aisle for same price as midsize car. I’ve personally saved a lot of money with this perk by being able to rent a single large vehicle instead of two separate cars.  This saved on tolls and parking fees too!
  • Hilton Gold status: Free breakfast at Hilton properties

Additional information about each of the Platinum cards listed above can be found on my Best Offers page.

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Comments

    • Technically it is for you and up to one additional guest staying with you. In practice, some hotels will give the free breakfast benefit to everyone staying in your room if you ask nicely

  1. If I have a million dollars parked in an investment account, do I really care for saving couple of hundred bucks on fees? 🙂 (Hopefully not!!)

    • You should!

      $1M isn’t that much and not caring about fees is a sure-fire way to waste large amounts of money.

      • $1M isn’t that much if you’re a billionaire, but it certainly is if you’re not rich. Sure, you could save $1M over the course of your entire life fairly easily if you live frugally, but the vast majority of people are so financially irresponsible it would make your head spin. Something like 66%+ of the US population doesn’t even have enough in savings to cover a $1,000 emergency expense. It’s sad, really.

    • Caring about a few hundred bucks in fees is important to becoming and staying a millionaire.

  2. So you get a couple hundred bucks in benefits if you give several other people unfettered, full access as authorized users to a credit line for which you bear legal responsiblity? Well, the tables and graphs and stuff are very convincing. Can I get back to you on that?

    • Obviously, if you don’t trust your friends then you shouldn’t do this anyway, but Amex does give the primary account holder fine grain control over how much each authorized user can spend.

    • For God’s sake, there is trust and there is not having a front door because it saves money. Whatever amount you might set for other users would have to be at least enough to make the card usable, and it will be far more than the annual fee. And it not just about trust. If one of your friends has a financial hiccup, this line will be the first to get hammered. It will be impossible to collect.

      Oh, and you will always be running around, hat in hand, asking them to pay their share, which will probably not strengthen the friendship any. Even between parents and children, such arrangements often end in ill will.

      All this to save…what…a couple hundred bucks?

      This is a spectacularly terrible idea.

  3. Don’t forget Global entry reimbursement for each cardholder. That totals $400 for me and three AU’s on the Ameriprise version. So far, that’s $600 profit which includes $200 in airline fees. I received no signup bonus but we are taking a few trips in coach so the lounge access will be very useful.

    • GE is only every 5 years. It is a known great benefit for the first year, but if you are just doing the “how much to make in the first year” calc, then it is different from this post (and has been posted on to to the point of overkill in the last weeks). The point of this post was to see if there was financial rationale to keep the card after the first year 🙂

      I find the argument week (since it is really just one argument, share it with friends), but I do make the distinction between first year benefit analysis and subsequent years.

    • Question is, would you pay $100 for GE? Personally, I wouldn’t, maybe for $50 I would. GE reimbursement is worth only what you would actually pay for It not necessarily what they charge.

  4. Don’t understand your math. If the fee for each additional user is $175, shouldn’t the total fee for the case where you have three friends joining in be $425 + 3*$175. How are you getting $425+$175 in that scenario?

    • Read properly:

      “Most Platinum cards charge $175 per year for the first 3 authorized users, combined. Additional authorized users cost $175 per year, each.”

  5. Adding friends as AUs, got to be some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard. Really, if you can’t handle the fee or don’t feel the benefits are worth the fee, just don’t get the card. We’re scraping the bottom here for CC pumping.

  6. I would be interested to know the cost vs. benefits of the Amex Platinum CC vs. the Amex Centurion CC. What’s the better deal?

    • The Centurion card has huge fees and a few more perks than the Platinum card, but I don’t believe those extra perks come anywhere close to justifying the much higher fees.

  7. You forgot to mention SPG Gold as one of the benefits. Gold entitles you to participate in Delta crossover rewards, which for a heavy delta flyer could really add up. I am currently SPG platinum, but in January I moved all of my stays to Hyatt and Hilton, so I will lose the crossover rewards if I drop below SPG gold.

    The approximately $15K my company reimburses for my annual delta travel nets me 15K SPG points, which usually turns into 3-5 free additional nights each year. With Gold I still get late checkout and free wifi, which are really the only elite benefits with SPG that I highly value.

    TL;DR – Amex plat gets you SPG gold and Delta crossover rewards eligibility.

  8. All: there was a mistake in the original version of this post. I originally wrote that the Business Platinum card charged $175 for each authorized user (as compared to most other cards that charge $175 for up to 3 authorized users). I was wrong. The Business Platinum card charges a whopping $300 per authorized user. As a result, I removed this card from the scenario tables.

  9. For Completeness, you should mention that U.S. active military service members are entitled to have the AF waived for all Amex cards including the the Amex PLT. My cousin who’s in the U.S. Army has his fee waived. I can’t join as an AU and have the the $175 waived, but it’s a legitimate way for me to have an AF and only pay $175 for all the benefits you’ve mentioned as an AU.

    • Maybe it’s only family members who are authorized users or it has to be the same address but the AF is waived on my Platinum as an AU (my wife is active duty military) and on another Amex card that I am the primary cardholder and she is the AU.

  10. FM – this post has to go down as one of the most absurd and irresponsible posts ever written (share accounts????) And for why? Just so you can get a few noobs to click affiliate links to put a few shekels in your pocket? How desperate are you???

    Sad.

  11. It sounds like some commenters have really bad friends. Sorry to hear that.

    1. Obviously if you don’t trust your friends, you shouldn’t do this.

    2. Even if you do trust your friends, it still makes sense to setup the AU accounts to not be able to spend without your permission. Why risk it? The value of these cards is for their benefits, not to use for spend — there are much better cards for spend.

    3. As with most of my posts, I don’t see this as my “recommendation”, it is simply a write-up of some things you can optionally do to cut costs. Readers should always decide for themselves if it makes sense for them. Personally, I don’t share costs with friends: I just sign up for a different Platinum card each year (as I described in the beginning of the post).

    4. I do not have affiliate links for any of the cards in the “Summarized Best Options” section. I didn’t write this post to get affiliate commissions. I never do.

  12. Why are you recommending Charles Schwab if you’re wealthy? It is not the obvious choice at all … if you have 1 million invested in Morgan Stanley, then you can get the $450 annual fee completely waived PLUS the credits on top of that. Not well thought out this time around ….

  13. I’m not sure I would offer this to my friends, but certainly worth considering for Hubby and if any of my 5 adult kids want a card.

  14. With the new changes, the annual fee is $550, but Uber+Flight credits make the effective fee $150.

    Total costs are therefore, $150 + $175 = $325

    Split between two = $325/2 = $162.5 per person
    Split between three = $325 / 3 = $108 per person
    Split between four = $325 / 4 = $81 per person

    Compared to the other premium cards, I thinkt he AMEX plat is mediocre in terms of its tangible rewards. It’s intangible rewards are very valuable thoug, especially the Delta lounges (life saver many of times), Hotel status etc.

    I think once my year is up, I will definitely split the card with the GF, and perhaps will get other my dad in on it as well. At $100 pp per year for Delta/Centurion Lounges, Hotel status, is a good deal imo.

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