Amex Platinum for Less (2017 edition)

Amex Platinum for Less

The 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 (and, therefore, Marriott too), Hilton, National Car Rental; free unlimited Boingo Wifi; annual $200 in airline fee reimbursements; Global Entry fee reimbursements; and more.  You can find a nearly complete checklist here: Amex Platinum Checklist.

You get all of that, and more, for “only” $550 per year.

Is there a way to get Amex platinum for less?

Once you get used to these benefits, it can be hard to give them up. But, the Platinum card’s $550 annual fee (or $450 annual fee for the Business Platinum card) 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?  Why, yes.  Yes, there is.  Here are a number of options..

Reduce effective annual fee with airline fee reimbursements

All Amex Platinum cards offer up to $200 per calendar year in airline fee reimbursements to the primary account holder. 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.  Others may value it much less if they are likely to leave it unused.  The amount that this effectively reduces the annual fee depends upon the value you place on those credits.

For an up to date list of what works and what doesn’t, please see: Amex Platinum and PRG Airline Fee Reimbursements. What still works?

Reduce the effective annual fee with Uber credit

Consumer Platinum cards now offer up to $200 per year in Uber credits.  Unfortunately, the credits are doled out a little at a time: $15 per month and $35 in December.  If you don’t use the $15 credit on any given month, it is lost.  The credit does not roll over to the next month.  For those who use Uber or Uber Eats frequently, these credits can be as good as cash.  Personally, I don’t use Uber regularly enough to be sure to get $15 value per month (mostly because Uber Eats hasn’t yet arrived in Ann Arbor).  I personally value this perk at about $75 per year since I think it is likely that I’ll often fail to use the credit on any given month.

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 $550 + $175 = $725. If you share this cost equally, this works out to only $181 per person.  That’s a reasonable price to pay for lounge access, elite status, and more.

Two important benefits that authorized users do not get are the airline fee credits and Uber credits.  I believe that the primary cardholder should get these extra perks in exchange for organizing this group deal.

For details about which perks apply to authorized users and which do not, please see: Amex Platinum Checklist.

Important Note: If you reduce costs by sharing cards with friends, you should 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 (and should) ask Amex to place strict spending limits on each card, just in case.

Less Important Note: Sadly, the Business Platinum card charges $300 for every authorized user so it is impossible to bring the Business Platinum fee under $300 per person with this trick.

Amex Platinum brand-specific features

In April, I posted a comparison of the many versions of the Amex Platinum card (found here). Even though all of the Platinum cards cost $550 per year (except for the business version which costs $450), some of the branded cards have features that make it possible to lower the effective annual fee…

Charles Schwab Platinum

Reduce annual fee up to $200:

  • $100 or $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 $550 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

The table below shows various scenarios for reducing costs with or without friends…

Card Scenario Effective Annual Fee Per Person
Business Platinum

Baseline

(1 cardholder)

$450
Platinum

Baseline

(1 cardholder)

$550

Share with 3 friends

(4 cardholders)

$181

($550 + $175) / 4

Morgan Stanley Platinum

Share with 1 friend

(2 cardholders)

$225

$550 / 2

Share with 4 friends

(5 cardholders)

$145

($550 + $175) / 5

Charles Schwab Platinum

$250K invested

(1 cardholder)

$450

($550 – $100)

$250K invested, share card with 3 friends

(4 cardholders)

$156

($450 + $175) / 4

$1M invested

(1 cardholder)

$350

($550 – $200)

$1M invested, share card with 3 friends

(4 cardholders)

$131

($350 + $175) / 4

Or, Fee Free for 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.

Summarized best options for keeping Platinum cards year after year with lower per person fees

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 $550 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 $150.

If you don’t want to consider the value of the airline fee credits, your effective annual fee would be $350. However, you could add on 3 friends for $175 per year and split all costs equally, for a total of only $131 per person.

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. This cuts the annual fee in half from $550 to $225 per person.

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 be only $145.

Is it worth it?

When you consider that Delta charges $495 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: This status gives you the ability to choose nicer or bigger cars from the 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
  • SPG Gold status: SPG Gold status itself is only mildly valuable, but this will also instantly match you to Marriott Gold status as long as you link your SPG and Marriott accounts.  Marriott Gold offers free breakfast or lounge access at most Marriott hotels.

Additional information about each of the Platinum cards listed above can be found here: Which is the best Amex Platinum card?

For a list of valuable perks including how to enroll in each one and which perks are offered to authorized users, please see: Amex Platinum Checklist.

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. Based on the $450 AF I was charged this year + $175 for AU this is what I did:

    $100 for each AU x3 = $300

    I pay: $325 they pay $300. But I use the $200 airline fees and $200 Ubereats credits.

    Next year if AF increases I will ask them to contribute with $125 instead.

    Its really good. We all used to have our own Amex Plat, we got the 100k $3k offer and just opened a EP to keep the points.

  2. Why isn’t the Ameriprise version covered? Because its not fee-free the first year? Can’t you just cancel and reapply?

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