Amex Platinum Complete Guide

Amex Platinum cards come loaded with high end perks: up to $500 per year in various credit reimbursements, access to multiple types of airport lounges, hotel and car elite status, and much more.  All of this goodness comes at a steep price: More than $500 per year.

There are multiple versions of the consumer Amex Platinum card.  In addition to the regular card, there are Platinum cards branded by Ameriprise, Morgan Stanley, and Schwab.  Even though these four Platinum cards are strikingly similar, they are considered separate products.  There’s no reason you can’t get the welcome bonus for each one.

There is also a business Platinum card, but it is different in a number of ways.  It offers different point earning bonuses and some different perks.

Annual Fee

Primary User

  • Consumer Platinum Cards: $550 per year
  • Business Platinum Card: $595 per year

Authorized User

It is possible to add authorized users for free by giving them Green or Gold cards instead of Platinum cards.  In this case, the authorized users get very few perks.  If you want your authorized users to get lounge access and other top end perks, they will need authorized user Platinum cards.  And these cost money to add to your account:

  • Business Platinum: $300 per year for each Platinum employee card
  • Morgan Stanley Platinum: First Platinum authorized user card is free. Add up to 3 more for $175 per year.
  • All other consumer Platinum cards: $175 per year for up to 3 Platinum authorized users.

Save money by sharing

If you have family or friends that you trust, consider sharing the cost of renewing your Platinum card each year by adding them as authorized users.  Your friends won’t get airline fee or other credit reimbursements, but they will get lounge access, elite status, and more.  The trick is to make sure they use the card only for the perks and not for spend since you will be responsible for any payments made with the card.

A Delta SkyClub membership alone costs $545 for 12 months.  You can give friends the same access when flying Delta by adding them as authorized users.  How much would your friends pay you for this benefit?

The best card to do this with is the Morgan Stanley Platinum card since it offers the first authorized user free.  After that (or if you don’t have a Morgan Stanley card), your best bet is to rope in 3 friends for just $175 more.

This table shows the total cost of card membership depending on how many authorized users are involved:

Number of Platinum Cards Consumer Platinum Morgan Stanley Business Platinum
1 (Primary Only) $550 $550 $595
2 (Primary + 1 AU) $725 $550 $895
3 (Primary + 2 AUs) $725 $725 $1195
4 (Primary + 3 AUs) $725 $725 $1495

Perks

Access to high end perks is the reason to hold an Amex Platinum card.

Perks for all Platinum cards

The following perks apply to all Platinum cards:

Benefit How to access or enroll Available to additional cardholders (authorized users, employees)?
5X points at amextravel.com: Earn 5X points for prepaid hotel and airline bookings at Amextravel.com
This benefit is automatic. Yes. Points and bonus points are added to the primary card holder’s account.
$200 airline fee credit: Amex will automatically reimburse up to $200 per calendar year for airline fees for your selected airline only. Eligible fees include: baggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases, and airport lounge day passes.

Go to benefit page and click “Select a Qualifying Airline”.

For tips on using this benefit, please see: Amex airline fee reimbursements. What still works?

No. Authorized user cards do not receive their own $200 in fee credits. Spend on authorized user cards does count, but only the primary account is credited. In other words, you cannot increase the $200 limit by adding additional cards.
Airport Lounge Access – Centurion Lounges, Airspace Lounges, Escape Lounges: Cardholder plus two guests are allowed free. No need to enroll. Simply show your Platinum card when visiting a Centurion Lounge. Yes
Airport Lounge Access – Delta SkyClubs: Cardholder is allowed free when flying Delta same day. Extra charge for guests. No need to enroll. Simply show your Platinum card and same day boarding pass when visiting a Delta SkyClub. Yes
Airport Lounge Access – Priority Pass Select Lounges: Priority Pass Select member plus two guests are allowed free entrance.  Unfortunately, beginning Aug 1 2019 this membership will not include Priority Pass restaurants. You must sign up for Priority Pass Select. Go to benefit page and click “Enroll in Priority Pass”. You will receive a membership card by mail. Present Priority Pass card and boarding pass at lounge entrance. Yes. Each authorized user must sign up for Priority Pass Select.
Global Entry or TSA Pre fee credit: Full reimbursement for signup fee once every 5 years, per card. Note: signup for Global Entry since that includes TSA Pre. Sign up for Global Entry here. Pay with your Platinum card. Reimbursement should happen automatically. Yes. Pay with the authorized user card in order to get reimbursed. Terms & conditions explicitly state “Additional Cards on eligible Consumer and Business accounts are also eligible for the $100 statement credit”. Note that this works with no fee Green and Gold Authorized user / employee cards too.
Emergency Medical Transportation Assistance Call the Premium Global Assist Hotline: 1-800-333-Amex (toll free), or 1-715-343-7977 (direct-dial collect) Yes
Hilton HHonors Gold Status: Hilton Gold members receive free breakfast, room upgrades when available, and other perks at Hilton hotels. Go to benefit page, find the Hilton HHonors Gold benefit, and click “Enroll Now”. Yes. Authorized users may have to call Amex to enroll.
Marriott Gold Status: Marriott Gold members receive a points welcome gift with each stay, room upgrades when available, 2pm late checkout, and other perks (details here). Go to benefit page, find the Marriott Gold benefit, and click “Enroll in Marriott Gold”. Yes. Authorized users may have to call Amex to enroll.
International Airline Program: Save money when booking premium cabin international flights originating in the US or Canada.
Book your flight on amextravel.com.  Make sure to log into your Amex account to see flight discounts. Yes
Fine Hotels & Resorts: Book high-end hotels through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts and get: room upgrade, daily breakfast for 2, 4pm late checkout, noon check-in, free wifi, and unique property amenity.  Also: Earn 5X Membership Rewards for prepaid bookings.
Browse to www.americanexpressfhr.com and log into your Platinum account. Yes
Preferred Hotels & Resorts Elite Status: Lifetime elite status offers perks such as extra points, welcome amenity Click here to enroll Yes
Fiesta Rewards Platinum Status

Use the Spanish language page: http://www.fiestarewards.com/inscripcion

And enter code: AMEXPLATINUM

Yes. Use the Spanish language page: http://www.fiestarewards.com/inscripcion

And enter code: AMEXPLATINUM

National Car Rental Executive status: Book midsize cars and select any car from the Executive Aisle for no extra charge. Enroll here. Yes
Hertz Rental Car Privileges: Special elite-like benefits for Platinum cardholders, plus discounts, plus four hour grace period for rental car returns. Details and enrollment form found here. Yes
Cruise Benefits: Pay for your cruise with your Platinum card and receive $100 to $300 per stateroom shipboard credit plus additional amenities unique to each cruise line Participating cruise lines and other info can be found here. Yes
ShopRunner: Free shipping at a number of merchants. Sign up here. Yes
Active Military Fee Waiver: Amex will waive fees (including annual fees) for US active military personnel. Call the number of the back of your card and tell them you are serving on active duty military and had heard that AMEX offers to handle your account in accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Yes (primary user must call and can get fees waived for additional cardholders)
Neiman Marcus In-Circle
Call 1-800-525-3355 to enroll Yes

Additional Business Platinum Perks

The following perks apply only to Business Platinum cards:

Benefit How to access or enroll Available to additional cardholders (authorized users, employees)?
1.5X points per dollar: Earn 1.5X on individual purchases of $5000 or more Automatic
Yes.  Points and bonus points are added to the primary card holder’s account.
$200 in Dell Credits: Up to $100 in credits each year from January through June; and another $100 July through December.
Go to benefit page to enroll. See: Maximize value: $200 Business Platinum Dell Benefit No. Employee cards do not receive their own Dell credits.
35% points rebate on airfare: Pay with points for airfare on your selected airline or for business or first class with any airline and get 35% of your points back. Book flights through AmexTravel.com and select to pay with points. No.
Gogo inflight internet passes: 10 passes per calendar year Click here to enroll. Yes. Click here to enroll.
WeWork: Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. Access 300+ workspaces in 75+ cities Click here to enroll. No.

Additional Consumer Platinum Perks

The following perks apply only to consumer Platinum cards:

Benefit How to access or enroll Available to additional cardholders (authorized users, employees)?

$200 in Uber Credits: Amex will reimburse $15 per month ($35 in December) for Uber charges. You will also get Uber VIP status.

This benefit is known to work with Uber Eats as well.

Add your Platinum card number to your Uber account as a payment method. You do not have to pay with the Platinum card in order to get this benefit.  Important: when requesting a ride, select Uber Cash for payment in order to use your credits. No. Authorized user cards do not receive their own $200 in Uber credits or VIP status.
$100 in Saks Fifth Avenue Credits: Up to $50 in credits each year from January through June; and another $50 July through December. Enroll here. Pay with your consumer Platinum card at Saks Fifth Avenue online or at locations in the US and US Territories. No. Authorized user cards do not receive their own Saks Fifth Avenue credits.
5X points on flights booked directly with airlines. With business cards you must book through Amex Travel to get 5X. Automatic benefit Yes

Additional Morgan Stanley Perks

Morgan Stanley Platinum cards add the following perks:

Benefit How to access or enroll Available to additional cardholders (authorized users, employees)?
First authorized user free: Add one Platinum authorized user for free. Add up to 3 more for $175. Simply add an authorized user to your account N/A
Invest with rewards: Liquidate Membership Rewards points for 1 cent each when deposited to your Morgan Stanley brokerage account. Log into your account to redeem points to your brokerage account. No. Authorized user cards do not receive their own $200 in Uber credits or VIP status.
$500 anniversary spend award: Spend $100K in a cardmember year to get $500.  If you spend exactly $100K per year, that amounts to a bonus of half of 1 cent per dollar spent. This benefit is automatic Not really. Authorized user card spend does contribute towards the required $100K spend, but authorized users do not get their own $500.
$550 Annual Engagement Bonus for Reserved Clients To qualify for Reserved status, a client’s household must have and maintain a minimum of $1,000,000 in eligible assets and liabilities or have paid at least $10,000 in managed fees/commissions. Details here. No

Additional Schwab Perks

Schwab Platinum cards add the following perks:

Benefit How to access or enroll Available to additional cardholders (authorized users, employees)?
Invest with Rewards: Liquidate Membership Rewards points for 1.25 cents each when deposited to your eligible Schwab account. Log into your account to redeem points to your Schwab account. No. 
$100 to $200 statement credit Receive a $100 Card statement credit if your qualifying Schwab holdings are equal to or greater than $250,000 or receive a $200 Card statement credit if your qualifying Schwab holdings are equal to or greater than $1,000,000, when measured following Card account approval and annually thereafter. No.

Additional Ameriprise Perks:

Ameriprise Platinum cards add the following perks:

Benefit How to access or enroll Available to additional cardholders (authorized users, employees)?
Bonus Points for Spend: Earn an additional 5,000 Membership Rewards points for every $20,000 in eligible purchases on the Card, up to 30,000 additional points per year. This benefit is automatic. If you spend exactly $20K (or a multiple thereof up to $120K), this card earns 1.25 points per dollar. Sort of. Authorized user card spend contributes towards the required $20K spend in order to earn bonus points on the primary user’s account.

Which Platinum card is best?

Your first decision point should be consumer vs. business:

  • A business Platinum card is best if you highly value Gogo internet, the 35% Pay with Points rebate, or the $200 Dell credits.
  • A consumer Platinum card is best If you highly value the $200 Uber credits, $100 Saks credits, and the ability to earn 5X directly with airlines.

Which consumer Platinum card is best?

If you decide that a consumer card, rather than a business card, is right for you (see above), then consider these decision points:

  • The Morgan Stanley Platinum card is best if you want to add a Platinum authorized user (since the first AU is free), or if you have over $1M in assets with Morgan Stanley (since you’ll get $550 back).
  • The Charles Schwab Platinum card is best if you prefer cash back over travel rewards (since it lets you cash out points at 1.25 cents each); or if you have a lot of money invested with Schwab since you’ll get an annual kickback ($100 for $250K invested, or $200 for $1M invested).

If you are serving on active duty in the military, then get any or all of the cards since Amex will waive the fees upon request.  Call the number of the back of your card and tell them you are serving on active duty military and had heard that AMEX offers to handle your account in accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

Application Tips

Should you apply?

Platinum card welcome bonuses are usually worth considerably more than the card’s annual fee.  So, as long as you can make use of some of the card’s perks, and as long as you can meet the offer’s minimum spend requirements, it makes sense to sign up for at least one year.  You can always cancel once the annual fee comes due in year 2 so as to avoid paying for the second year.

Are you eligible?

Anyone with decent credit is eligible for the regular consumer Platinum card.  Other cards do have requirements:

  • Morgan Stanley Platinum: To get this card you must have a Morgan Stanley account. Fortunately, a low-end Morgan Stanley Access Investing account works fine.
  • Schwab Platinum: To get this card you must have a Charles Schwab account.  Fortunately, even a no-fee checking account is fine.  And, incidentally, Schwab has one of the best no-fee debit cards around with no foreign transaction fees and it reimburses ATM fees.
  • Ameriprise Financial Platinum: To get this card you are supposed to be an Ameriprise customer.  In practice, they do not enforce this requirement.
Applying for Business Credit Cards

Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale, or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.

When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.

Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.

How to apply

Simply click through to the appropriate application page and fill out the details.  Here are the current welcome bonus offers.  Click the offer you are interested in for more details and then click through to the application page.  Note that some people find an even better offer for the generic consumer Platinum card by checking the CardMatch Tool.

The Platinum Card® from American Express
60K points
60K after $5K spend in 3 months

$550 Annual Fee

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
Up to 100K points
Up to 100K: 50K after $10K spend in the first 3 months + 50K after additional $15K spend in the first 3 months.

$595 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 150K after $20K Spend (Targeted)

After you apply, you can check application status here.

Reconsideration

If denied, call reconsideration: 877-399-3083 (new account holders); 866-314-0237 (current account holders)

Application strategy

One option for keeping Platinum benefits for many years without paying full price is to sign up for a new Platinum card each year.  While you will have to pay the annual fee each year, you’ll also receive a nice welcome bonus as long as you haven’t had the same card before.  For example, if you’ve never signed up for a Platinum card before, there’s no reason you couldn’t sign up for the Ameriprise Platinum in year 1, the Schwab Platinum in year 2, etc.

Even better is to sign up for each card mid-year so that you can earn two sets of calendar year credit reimbursements with each signup.  For example, if you sign up for a Platinum card in mid 2020, you can earn the full $200 in airline fee reimbursements in 2020 and again in 2021 before cancelling the card once the 2nd annual fee comes due.  It’s even possible to stretch it out to three credits with one annual fee by signing up in early December and earning credits this year, next year, and in early January of the year after that.  See also: Amex Airline Fee Reimbursements. What still works?

Earn Points

Credit Card Welcome Bonuses

The easiest and quickest way to earn Membership Rewards points is through Amex credit card welcome bonuses.

Most Amex welcome offers stipulate that you can’t get the bonus if you’ve ever had that card before. That said, it doesn’t preclude you getting a bonus for a similarly named card.  For example it’s possible to get the welcome bonus with each and every type of Platinum card.  Additionally, targeted offers sometimes do not have that once per lifetime language.  In those cases, you can get the bonus even if you’ve had the card before. See: 8 ways to get the best targeted Amex welcome bonus offers.

Below are the Amex cards with the best current and public Membership Rewards welcome offers.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
Up to 100K points
Up to 100K: 50K after $10K spend in the first 3 months + 50K after additional $15K spend in the first 3 months.

$595 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 150K after $20K Spend (Targeted)

The Platinum Card® from American Express
60K points
60K after $5K spend in 3 months

$550 Annual Fee

American Express® Gold Card
40K points
40K after $2K spend in 3 months

$250 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: 50K after $2K spend in 3 months + 20% back as a statement credit at US Restaurants within the first 3 months (up to $100 back). [Expired 1/9/19]

American Express® Business Gold Card
50K points
50K points after $5K spend in 3 months

$295 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: 75K after $10K spend, targeted -- call to ask for offer. (last reported 11/7/18)

The Morgan Stanley Credit Card from American Express
10K points
10K after $1K spend in 3 months

No Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: None.

Business Green Rewards Card from American Express
3x points in select categories
Limited time offer: Earn 3x points on combined eligible purchases up to $50K in the first 3 months on spend on US Restaurants, hotel stays booked directly with hotels, and airfare purchased directly from airlines
(Offer Expires 11/6/2019)

$95 Annual Fee

Credit Card Upgrade Bonuses

Amex frequently offers bonus points for upgrading from one card to another.  For example, we’ve seen 50,000 point offers for upgrading from the Business Gold Rewards card to the Business Platinum card.  Even better, these upgrade offers often do not have the once per lifetime language.  That is, if you are targeted for an upgrade offer, you may be able to earn the bonus points even if you’ve had the card before.  It is best to accept these offers only after you have earned a signup bonus for the higher end card.

One strategy to try with Platinum cards is to downgrade to the lower priced Green card when your second year annual fee comes due.  Then wait and hope to get an upgrade offer to go back to Platinum.

Amex Business Platinum 50K Upgrade Offer

Credit Card Category Bonuses

The next best way to earn Membership Rewards points is by using the best card for each category of spend.  If you spend a lot personally or through your business on any of the below categories, you can do very well.  Particularly noteworthy is the no-annual-fee Blue Business Plus Credit Card which offers 2 points per dollar for all spend, up to $50K spend per calendar year (then 1X thereafter).  That’s fantastic.

Spend Category Best Options
US Supermarkets
American Express Gold 4X (up to $25K per year, then 1X)
EveryDay Preferred Up to 4.5X* (max $6K per year)
US Gas Stations
Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
EveryDay Preferred Up to 3X*
US Restaurants American Express Gold 4X
Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
Flights
Platinum consumer cards 5X
Business Platinum (via Amex Travel) 5X
Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
American Express Gold  3X
Prepaid Hotels
Platinum cards (via Amex Travel) 5X
Select Car Rental Companies Morgan Stanley Credit Card 2X
Select US Department Stores Morgan Stanley Credit Card 2X
US Shipping Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
US Advertising in select media Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
US Computer related purchases
Business Gold Rewards Up to 4X**
Everywhere else Blue Business Plus 2X
EveryDay Preferred 1.5X*

* The Amex EveryDay Preferred card earns a 50% bonus every billing period in which the card was used for 30 or more transactions.  Before the 50% bonus, the card has the following bonus categories: 3x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases.  After the 50% bonus, it offers: 4.5x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1.5x); 3x points at US gas stations; 1.5x points on other purchases.

** The Business Gold Card offers 4X on the two categories where your business spends the most each billing cycle from the following categories: ⚬ US purchases at restaurants ⚬ Airfare purchased directly from airlines ⚬ U.S. purchases for advertising in select media ⚬ U.S. purchases at gas stations ⚬ U.S. purchases for shipping ⚬ U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers. 4X applies to first $150,000 in combined purchases in your two categories each calendar year, 1X point per dollar thereafter and on other purchases. Terms apply.

Credit Card Referrals

Another great way to earn Membership Rewards points is by referring friends and relatives.  In some cases referral bonuses are really big.  For example, in the past Amex has offered as much as 25,000 points as a referral bonus for the Business Platinum card.  However, if you want to keep your friends, then make sure that the offer they get is as good as the best available public offer (compare to our Best Offers page).

amex-plat

Log into your account to check for any special referral offers.

Note that this option is especially powerful since you can now refer friends to other cards — even to cards you do not have.  See this post for full details: Maximizing value from Amex multi-referrals.

Amex Offers

Amex Offers are usually best for saving cash.  But, sometimes Amex Offers provide terrific opportunities for point earning instead.  One (now expired) example was an offer for Reebok: Spend $75 or more, Get 1,500 Membership Rewards points. And one for Hugo Boss: Spend $250 or more, Get 5,000 points.

Amex Offer Reebok Boss

Sometimes Amex Offers are longer term and act more like a new category bonus.  For example, you’ll often see offers to earn 2X rewards at various merchants.

Log into your account and check the section titled “Amex Offers and Benefits” to look for offers like these.

Other Earning Options

Extended Payment Option

Amex charge cards often offer an easy way to earn additional Membership Rewards points.  All current Platinum, Gold, and Green cards are charge cards.  Once you sign up for a charge card, you will start getting emails and letters inviting you to sign up for the Extended Payment Option.  This option essentially turns your charge card into a credit card.  Don’t do it.  That is, don’t sign up until the offer includes a bonus of 5,000 to 10,000 Membership Rewards points.  In my experience, these bonus offers usually appear towards the end of your first year of card membership (as long as you haven’t enrolled already).

Amex Extended Payment Option 10K Bonus

Once you get an offer like the one shown above, go ahead and sign up.  As long as you keep paying your card’s complete balance each month, there is no downside to enabling this feature.

FX International Payments

Amex offers businesses the ability to earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $30 of foreign wire payments (max 4,000 points per transaction).  Even better, you may receive a welcome bonus offer like the one shown above (keep an eye out for this in your mailbox or email!).

Redeem Points

In general, Membership Rewards points are worth up to 1 cent each when redeemed for merchandise or gift cards. Fortunately, there are three ways in which it is possible to get more value: redeem points for flights, transfer points to hotel or airline partners, or invest rewards. More on each below…

Travel

Those with American Express Platinum cards automatically get 1 cent per point value when redeeming points for travel.  That’s not particularly good, but it’s much better than the value that people get without a Platinum card.  Currently, the only way to get better than 1 cent per point value when redeeming points for travel is with the Business Platinum Card.

The Business Platinum Card offers a 35% Airline Bonus: Get 35% of your points back when you redeem points through Amex Travel for either a First or Business class flight on any airline, or for any flights with your selected airline.

After you receive the 35% rebate, the value works out to 1.54 cents per point.  That’s very good, but it does require owning this ultra-premium card.

Transfer points

The best use of Membership Rewards points, in my opinion, is to transfer points to airline and hotel partners in order to book high value awards. Your best bet is usually to wait until you find a great flight or night award before transferring points. One exception: Amex often offers 30% or higher transfer bonuses to certain programs.  If you’re confident that you’ll use the points for good value, it may make sense to transfer points when those bonuses are in effect.

Current Transfer Bonuses

Here are the currently available transfer bonuses from Amex Membership Rewards (this table will update automatically when new offers are found):

Transfer Bonus DetailsEnd Date Sortable
Amex to Marriott 30% transfer bonus2019/10/31

Points can be transferred to the loyalty accounts of the primary cardholder or any authorized user or employee on the account.

Transfer Partners

It is free to transfer Membership Rewards points to foreign airlines. For transfers to US airlines, however, Amex charges an “excise tax offset fee” of $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99). Airlines subject to this fee are noted below.

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioBest Uses
AeroMexico ClubPremier1 to 1.6AeroMexico is a SkyTeam partner. Club Premier points can be used to book flights on AeroMexico, SkyTeam alliance members (such as Delta or Korean Air), or on select partner airlines. Award prices tend to be quite high, but if you transfer points to AeroMexico with a great multiple (such as from Membership Rewards 1 to 1.6), prices can be reasonable.
Air Canada Aeroplan1 to 1Redeem for Star Alliance flights. Multiple stopovers allowed on international flights. Reasonable award prices to Europe for business and first class.
Air France KLM Flying Blue1 to 1Monthly Air France Promo Awards often represent very good value. Air France miles can be used to book Sky Team awards, including Delta awards.
Alitalia MilleMiglia1 to 1Alitalia is a member of the SkyTeam alliance. Unfortunately, fuel surcharges can be quite high, and partner awards cannot be booked online. Worse, after numerous devaluations, few sweetspots exist in this program.
ANA Mileage Club1 to 1Redeem for Star Alliance flights. Multiple stopovers allowed. Very good award prices for round-the-world travel. See also: How To Find Business Class Awards To Europe For 88,000 Miles Or Points.
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 1Avianca LifeMiles can be great for Star Alliance awards. They offer reasonable award prices and no fuel surcharges on awards. They also offer shorthaul awards within the US (for flying United, for example) for as few as 7,500 miles one-way. Best of all, their mixed-cabin pricing can lead to fantastic first-class award prices. See this post for details.
Avios1 to 1While flights on British Airways itself often incur outrageously high fuel surcharges, many BA partners charge low or no fuel surcharges. Great value can be had in redeeming BA points for short distance flights. Iberia offers very low award prices on their own flights. Round trip partner awards can offer good value under some circumstances as well. Fuel surcharges are often lower than when booking through British Airways. Aer Lingus shares the "Avios" currency with British Airways and Iberia. In most cases it is best to move points to one of those programs in order to book awards for less.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1 to 1Cathay Pacific has a fairly generous distance based award chart and allows multiple stopovers. Fuel surcharges can be very high on certain routes. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles can be a good option for booking American Airlines flights with a distance based award chart, especially if other OneWorld Alliance miles aren't available.
Choice1 to 1Choice Privileges points seem to be randomly quite valuable within the US, but dependably valuable internationally in expensive locations such as Scandinavia and Japan
Delta SkyMiles1 to 1 plus excise taxAward flights to Canada are often a great deal. Partner awards often have terrific availability, but you may pay more miles than with other programs.
EL AL Israel Airlines1000 to 20El Al’s award prices tend to be considerably higher than other programs charge for the same flights. I wouldn’t bother.
Emirates Skywards1 to 1Emirates has different award charts for each airline partner. Sometimes they allow one-way awards, sometimes they do not. In general, award prices are fairly high, but there are a few sweet spots such as New York to Milan for 90K round trip in business class.
Etihad Guest1 to 1Etihad has a very competitive award chart for American Airlines flights, among others.  For example, they charge only 50,000 miles one-way for business class flights from North America to Europe. Partner awards must be booked over the phone.
Hawaiian Miles1 to 1 plus excise taxHawaiian Airlines’ award prices tend to be quite high, but there are some not-terrible uses: fly to neighboring islands for 7.5K miles, fly first class round-trip from Hawaii to South Pacific islands for as few as 95K miles, fly first class round-trip from Hawaii to Australia for as few as 130K miles.
Hilton1 to 25th Night Free awards
JetBlue250 to 200 plus excise taxJetBlue points offer the most value when cheap ticket prices are available and when award taxes are high relative to the overall cost of the ticket (more details can be found here). The JetBlue Plus Card and the JetBlue Business Card offer a 10% rebate on awards, so you can get more value by holding one or both cards.
Marriott Bonvoy1 to 15th Night Free awards
Qantas Frequent Flyer1 to 1Best use is probably for flights on El Al with no fuel surcharges. Also useful for short AA flights. Qantas offers distance based award charts similar to Cathay Pacific. Both are OneWorld Alliance members. I recommend comparing award prices across both programs before transferring to either. Qantas offers round the world business class awards for only 280,000 points (but with many restrictions)
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1 to 1Use to book Singapore Airlines First Class awards (generally reserved for their own members) or for Star Alliance awards. Low change fees and no close-in booking fees make this a very good program for booking United Airlines flights.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1 to 1Virgin Atlantic miles can be usefully thought of as a way to get a discount off Virgin Atlantic flights (high fuel surcharges make the flights far from free), but there are some better uses. Use miles to upgrade paid flights or to fly partner airlines. A fantastic use is to fly ANA in business or first class thanks to Virgin’s generous ANA partner award chart. Or, if you can find saver level Delta awards for nonstop international travel, you can often book through Virgin Atlantic far cheaper than with Delta directly.

Cash back (invest with rewards)

The only good way to get cash back is to add the American Express Platinum Card for Schwab to your portfolio.  This card offers its “Invest with Rewards” benefit.  With this benefit you can deposit Membership Rewards points into a Schwab account at a value of 1.25 cents per point.  For example, 60,000 points becomes $750.

Considering the fact that there are so many ways to earn lots of Membership Rewards points, the ability to cash out at 1.25 cents per point is excellent.

Other options

You can also redeem points for gift cards or merchandise. At most, with this approach you’ll get 1 cent per point value, but usually you’ll get quite a bit less.

You can also use points to pay some merchants directly (Amazon.com, for example). Don’t do this. These options offer very poor value. Further, they may compromise the security of your account (i.e. if someone hacks into your Amazon account, they might spend your Ultimate Rewards points – causing you a headache in getting your points reinstated).

Manage Points

Combine Points

Amex automatically pools all of your points together.  When you earn points with different cards, the point total shown when viewing either card is the total across cards.

Share Points

Unlike Chase and Citibank, Amex doesn’t allow members to move points from one person’s account to another.  That said, it is possible to transfer one person’s points to another person’s loyalty program account.  The key is that the person who receives the points must be an authorized user or employee on the other person’s account.  For example, my wife can transfer Membership Rewards points to my Virgin Atlantic account as long as I’m an authorized user (or employee) on any of her Membership Rewards cards.

How to Keep Points Alive

Thankfully, it is very easy to keep Amex Membership Rewards points alive.  Simply keep any Membership Rewards card open.  For example, if you are about to close your one and only Membership Rewards card, then open another Membership Rewards card account first in order to preserve your points.  Amex offers some no-fee Membership Rewards cards, such as the Blue Business Plus and the Amex Everyday, so this shouldn’t be much of a burden.

Keep or Cancel?

Deciding whether to keep or cancel Platinum cards can be a tough decision.  Given the card’s very high annual fee, it’s a significant investment to keep the card year after year.  If you make good use of the card’s perks, though, it can be well worth it.  For example, a Delta SkyClub membership alone currently costs $545 for 12 months, but you get the same access when you’re a Platinum cardholder.  Plus, the Platinum card gives you access to many other lounges including Amex Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges, both of which are arguably the best domestic airport lounges in the US.

In the Application Strategy section of this post, I detailed a way to keep Platinum benefits for about 5 years by rotating through each Platinum card variant.  If you go with that strategy, you will have to pay the annual fee each year, but you’ll also receive a new welcome bonus each year to more than offset that fee.

Summary Information

Here’s summary information about each Platinum card variation.  Click through any of the links for more details:

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
Up to 100K points
Up to 100K: 50K after $10K spend in the first 3 months + 50K after additional $15K spend in the first 3 months.

$595 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 150K after $20K Spend (Targeted)

FM Mini Review: This card is absolutely loaded with high end perks. Depending upon your situation, those perks may be worth the annual fee or much more.


Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel
Other

Earning rate: 5X flights and prepaid hotels at AmexTravel.com ⚬ 1.5X points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5000 or more (up to 1 million additional Membership Rewards points per year) ⚬ 1X elsewhere

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Up to $200 a year in statement credits for airline incidental fees ⚬ Up to $200 a year in statement credits for Dell purchases ($100 Jan-June; $100 July-Dec) ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement.⚬ Airport lounge benefits ⚬ Rental car elite status ⚬ SPG Gold status ⚬ Hilton Gold status ⚬ 10 complimentary single flight segment passes for Gogo inflight internet each calendar year. ⚬ One year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork (enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019). Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Maximizing value from Amex Platinum Cards

The Platinum Card® from American Express
60K points
60K after $5K spend in 3 months

$550 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: This card is absolutely loaded with high end perks. Depending upon your situation, those perks may be worth the annual fee or much more.


Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel

Earning rate: 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel ⚬ 5X points for prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ $200 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $200 a year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline ⚬ Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status for Basic Member only ⚬ Up to $100 in credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (up to $50 in credits semi-annually, enrollment required) ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement ⚬ Airport lounge benefits ⚬ Rental car elite status ⚬ SPG Gold status ⚬ Hilton HHonors Gold status ⚬ Free Gold card AUs. Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Maximizing value from Amex Platinum Cards

The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Morgan Stanley
60K points
60K after $5K spend in 3 months

$550 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: None.

FM Mini Review: In my opinion, this is the best of the consumer Amex Platinum cards when you need two cards thanks to Morgan Stanley offering one free authorized user. Unfortunately you do need to have a Morgan Stanley account to apply.


Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel

Earning rate: ⚬ 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel ⚬ 5X prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel

Big spend bonus: $500 after $100K cardmember year spend

Noteworthy perks: This card includes all of the great perks that come with the American Express Platinum Card, plus: ⚬ 1 Free Authorized User ⚬ Redeem points for 1 cent each into your Morgage Stanley account ⚬ $550 Annual Engagement Bonus for Reserved Clients

See also: Which is the best Amex Platinum card?

The Platinum Card® from American Express for Ameriprise Financial
60K points
60K points after $5K spend in 3 months. Terms apply.

$550 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: First year with no fee makes this card worth considering for almost everyone.


Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel

Earning rate: ⚬ 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel ⚬ 5X points for prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel

Big spend bonus: 5K bonus points for every $20K spend, up to 30K bonus points annually

Noteworthy perks: This card includes all of the great perks that come with the American Express Platinum Card, plus a few perks specific to this Ameriprise branded version.

See also: Which is the best Amex Platinum card?

The Platinum Card® from American Express for Schwab

Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel

Earning rate: ⚬ 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel ⚬ 5X points for prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel

Noteworthy perks: This card includes all of the great perks that come with the American Express Platinum Card, plus: ⚬ Use Membership Rewards® points for deposits by Schwab to your eligible brokerage account. (For example, 10,000 points = $125) ⚬ $100 credit with Schwab holdings of $250,000+ or $200 credit with holdings of $1,000,000+ on approval & each year.

See also: Which is the best Amex Platinum card?

Last updated on June 16th, 2019

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 »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Debit

First.

The index looks very nice. Like a professional.

David
Guest
David

What do you think the odds are of a green card refresh as Dr of Credit has noted as a rumor?

xshanex
Guest
xshanex

Does the free Gold Card that you can get an AU if you have a platinum card earn 4x at Grocery Stores on the 1st $25k?

David
Guest
David

Sadly, it doesn’t. It earns at the same rate as the Platinum.

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

The Platinum card doesn’t earn 4x at grocery stores, therefore the AU card wouldn’t earn 4x either. Amex Gold is a completely different product with its own $250 AF.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Thanks for the guide.
Question – if I’m flying Delta but then have a same day connection on a different airline (AA), will I still be able to use the Delta lounge during the layover? Thanks.

Paul
Guest
Paul

You can use it on departure or arrival so yes.

tro
Guest
tro

Keep or Cancel – not sure if I’m remembering correctly, but haven’t there been recentish reports of clawbacks for people who cancel cards in the first year or even at first year renewal? Or do you consider that so rare as to not factor into the keep-or-cancel decision?

bnmm44
Guest
bnmm44

Can a biz plat be PC’d to a Blue biz plus?

VX_Flyer
Guest
VX_Flyer

Excellent excellent excellent guide, guys. Badly needed for beginners and a reference for miles enthusiasts. This should’ve been made years ago, but I’m glad this extensive article has been written and released here.

This guide should be published in a PDF file for future reference. Excellent job, guys. Bravo!

MDM
Guest
MDM

Great article AS ALWAYS.

I just learned that as of 03May, the Morgan Stanley Platinum no longer includes the Boingo benefit. If you had not already signed up for it (I had not), you are out of luck.

I keep reading about all of the great Amex offers, but I never have anything interesting. Is there a trick to start getting some?

ReconScott
Guest
ReconScott

I seem to recall that AMEX views a “lifetime” as 7 years, so that after 7 years, you would be eligible for another “once per lifetime card”. Any data points on this?

Steve
Guest
Steve

I’m visiting Greece, and the Amex Plat Uber credit is listed in the Uber app as “not available in this region.” Uber is usable, just not the credit. Sigh.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Only works in US

Neil
Guest
Neil

The Morgan Stanley card is tempting. Do you know of any bonuses/promos to shift assets to MS?

nick
Guest
nick

Great summary. maybe add 5x MR on airfare direct from airlines in your chart? it only says 5x on hotel and airfare booked direct at amextravel.com right now

nick
Guest
nick

Also no mention of IAP program?

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

In comparing the Morgan Stanley and Schwab cards, if you have the $1M in assets to park, I think Schwab is a better choice.

MS is going to charge a AUM fee (I can’t find the actual %, but most investment firms are at least 1%), so you will be paying $10,000 to MS in order to get a “free” Platinum and 1 AU. That is a loss of $9450 annually.

With Schwab, you are not tied into the AUM relationship. A Plat + 3AUs will cost $525 annually ($350 AF if you have $1M, + $175 AU fee). And if redeemed as a pure cash back card, you end up getting 1.25% instead of 1% with MS.

I’d take a $525 fee over a $9450 fee any day.

Laddie
Guest
Laddie

I believe there is a significant typo in the National Car section. It says ‘Book midsize cars and select any car from the Executive Aisle for no extra charge’. This should say ‘Emerald Aisle’ not executive aisle. Executive cars are separate category. When you go to the National Link it enrolls you in the Emerald Aisle program.