Amex Platinum 5X airfare. Is this their response to the Sapphire Reserve?

Today Amex has confirmed that they will be adding a new benefit on Thursday (yes, this Thursday) to their personal Platinum cards: 5 points per dollar for airfare.  In looking at my Best Category Bonuses page, you can quickly see that the Platinum card will be the single best card for buying airfare.

Platinum 5X

Those who spend a lot on airfare will no doubt be excited by this new perk.  Previously, Amex Platinum cards had no category bonuses whatsoever.  They earned 1 point per dollar. Period.  So, this is a huge upgrade.

But, but, but…

Does Amex think that this is a real answer to the Chase Sapphire Reserve?  Amex, I have an answer for you: Nope, not even close.

Let’s look at my recent post “Platinum vs Reserve vs Prestige.”  In comparing the three major premium products I found that the Sapphire Reserve trumped the other cards in 6 different ways:

  • Best signup bonus
  • Best point earnings for spend
  • Best transfer partners
  • Best travel redemption value
  • Best travel rebate
  • Best airport lounge access for guests

Meanwhile, the Platinum card edged the Sapphire Reserve in 3 ways:

  • Easiest to get card and bonus
  • Best Airport lounge access for one
  • Best elite status benefits

The new 5X benefit narrows the gap in just one category: point earnings for spend.  Even there, I’d rather have the Reserve’s 3X travel and dining than the Platinum card’s 5X airfare.  5X is great, but airfare is just too narrow of a category to sway my vote.

What Amex needs to do next…

If they really want the Platinum card to rival the Sapphire Reserve, Amex should:

  • Increase the standard signup bonus on their personal and business cards.  Yes, 100K would be nice!
  • Sprinkle in a few other category bonuses or widen the 5X bonus to include all travel.
  • Change the $200 airline fee reimbursement to be easier to get.  At the very least make it work for airfare and not just fees.  And, please don’t limit it to just one selected airline.
  • Add trip delay and cancellation benefits (this is a category I forgot to include in my comparison post, but it’s important!)

Between these suggested changes and the fact that the Amex Platinum card offers better elite status benefits and better airport lounge access (at least as a single passenger), I think you’d have a winner.  Or, at least you’d be in the running.

5X airfare is a good start, but it’s simply not enough.

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. I need to see a new card since I don’t have the Platinum (and can’t get the bonus again), and I spend very little on airfare since it’s all points. I do spend on hotels so that is a big miss if that’s all they’re doing! I agree they should make the $200 or more credit automatic like Chase, but I’m sure there is tons of breakage on that benefit so they probably won’t make it easier.

  2. I agree, most people spend a lot more on hotels than on flights. If you fly that much for work it’s probably paid for by the company. but majority of travel for work or leisure spends more on hotels and car rentals..

    Amex needs to work 2x as hard as Chase just to be even, because MR points are now worth less. They have crap for transfer partners for the most part. Majority have no interesting spots on their charts and require payment of fuel surcharges.

  3. Not sacrificing the travel benefits on my Sapphire Reserve for the extra points on Amex. Still gonna cancel when the annual fee comes due.

  4. The taxes on an award should be absorbed by AMEX. This is just nickel and diming people and it irritates me. Delta is a good transfer partner. You can use your Avios on Iberia and avoid much of the fuel surcharges.

  5. Amex eclipses the Chase card with regard to benefits for additional card holders: Global Entry Credit, Lounge Access, Priority Pass (the one place CSR does better which is bringing in additional guests), Hilton Gold Status, SPG Gold Status (through which now matches Marriott Gold Status), Concierge, Ability to book FH&R, Free Boingo, Ticket Pre-sale.

    CSR additional cards get a priority pass. The CSR really is a $150 fee card, marketed at $450 so it can draw comparisons to the Citi Prestige & Amex Platinum.

  6. Finally someone points out the lack of trip delay/cancellation benefits!

    Not worth losing those (to me) over an extra 2x.

  7. Appreciate your analysis… It’s important to recognize that one size does not fit all. How about looking at the UR value for rental cars? The last two times I rented it was cheaper than any other price I could find AND I got primary insurance.
    Thanks!

  8. Greg – This might be the best card for Amazon.com gift card purchases through MileagePlusX. Purchases on other AMEX’s have coded as airfare and earned 1 United mile per dollar.

  9. I’m guessing AMEX didn’t put out a new card b/c the first few weeks would see all the gamers plunder the card, get the bonus and drop the card.

    It’s a smart move by Amex…but likely one that won’t win them any customers in the long-term, but will make those that keep the card year-after-year marginally happier.

  10. Platinum 5X airfare is actually worse than people think. I’d use Citi Prestige card even though it only earns me 3X TYP. The upside is 3-hour trip delay insurance, which beats the extra points (couple of hundred points for some random domestic flights?) for sure. Amex has no such free insurance anymore.

  11. I have not heard a thing from Amex yet. You would think that if it is in effect from today, they would, at the very least, inform their customers!

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