Morgan Stanley Platinum Card Fee Free (how to earn the $550 Annual Engagement Bonus)

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Morgan Stanley Platinum Card $550 Annual Engagement Bonus

Amex Platinum cards come loaded with high end perks such as airport lounge access, hotel elite status, airline fee rebates, credit towards Uber and Saks Fifth Avenue spend, and much more.

Amex Platinum cards come in several different “flavors”.  One of the best is arguably the Morgan Stanley Platinum Card because it offers one authorized user card for free (See: Which is the Best Amex Platinum Card?).  The authorized user gets many of the same perks as the primary cardholder (see our Platinum guide for a list of perks, along with which ones apply to authorized users).

Another benefit available exclusively to Morgan Stanley Platinum cardholders is the $550 Annual Engagement Bonus.  Morgan Stanley customers who meet certain requirements get back the card’s $550 annual fee each year.  Those requirements used to be very hard to meet.  The old requirements were to maintain a minimum of $1,000,000 in eligible assets and liabilities with Morgan Stanley or have paid at least $10,000 in managed fees/commissions.  Now, there appears to be a better option…

Morgan Stanley Platinum CashPlus Account

Andy, at Deals Points, reports a better option for earning the Morgan Stanley Platinum $550 Annual Engagement Bonus.  Morgan Stanley’s new Platinum CashPlus Account is the key.

Andy reports that the following steps will qualify you for the $550 Annual Engagement Bonus:

  1. Open a Morgan Stanley Access Investing account and maintain at least $5,000 in the account.
  2. Open a Morgan Stanley Platinum CashPlus Account.
  3. Register the accounts for online access.
  4. Sign up for the American Express Morgan Stanley Platinum card.
  5.  You will get the $550 Engagement bonus during your first year after a month if you meet the fee avoidance criteria and within three months if you don’t meet the fee avoidance criteria. For subsequent years, the annual bonus will be paid in the month after your American Express Platinum account anniversary.

See the Deals Points post for full details.  I’ll highlight a few key considerations:

  • You must establish your Platinum CashPlus Account before signing up for the Morgan Stanley Platinum card.
  • The Platinum CashPlus Account normally costs $45 per month.  This would wipe out $540 of the $550 annual benefit unless you meet the criteria to maintain the CashPlus Account fee free.
  • Platinum CashPlus Account monthly fees are waived if you maintain the following:
    • $5000 in total monthly deposits AND $25,000 in Average Daily Cash Balance (in the Bank Deposit Program)
    • Additional eligible Morgan Stanley investment account (the Access Investing account should qualify)
    • Morgan Stanley Online enrollment
  • Eligible deposits, in order to meet the above $5K per month deposit requirement, include:
    • Direct Deposit of payroll
    • Incoming Transfers
    • Mobile Check Deposit
    • Branch Check Deposit
    • Incoming Send Money with Zelle®
    • Incoming Wire
    • Any Social Security Deposit
    • Distributions from a Morgan Stanley Retirement Account

Is it worth it?

Assuming you meet the requirements to keep Platinum CashPlus Account fee free, here are the costs involved in earning the $550 Annual Engagement Bonus:

  • Access Investing account annual fee: 0.35% = $17.50 per year if you maintain exactly $5,000 in that account.  Let’s round up and call this $20 per year.
  • Cost of money for keeping $25K in the Platinum CashPlus Account.  Compared to Citi’s high yield Accelerate Savings account, which currently earns 1.35%, the Morgan Stanley account earns more than 1.3% less.  By keeping $25K in the CashPlus account instead of the Citi account, you lose 1.3% of $25K = $325.
  • Cost of time for making sure to make $5000 in deposits each month.  There must be an easy way to automate this, so I’m not going to estimate this cost.

Total estimated cost: $345 per year. 

Well… is it worth it? 

You can think of the $345 estimated cost as being the cost to get two Morgan Stanley Platinum cards: a primary card and a free authorized user card.  Consider that both users get airport lounge access and elite benefits, and that the primary user has access to $200 per year in airline fee credits plus up to $200 per year in Uber and Uber Eats credits, plus up to $100 per year in Saks Fifth Avenue credits.  Yeah, I’d say it’s worth it, but only if you value those benefits.  See this post for more details about Amex Platinum cards and their benefits: Amex Platinum Complete Guide.

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Larry
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Larry

Any data points on whether retention offers for the MS platinum are similar to retention offers on the vanilla plat? You can never count on retention offers but I have a general sense of what I’m going to get every two years on my plat and I definitely take that into account in thinking about the annual fee.

I guess one other cost of doing this is the hassle of figuring out how to get the $5k per month back out of the MS account. Maybe that can be automated too. If you just let it sit there you have to account for the lesser interest on the dollars in the account over $25k.

Loren
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Loren

The flaw in your assessment of the cost is assuming you’re only losing 1% of the $25k by tying it up in the Morgan Stanley account. That assumption also assumes you would otherwise be keeping $25k around in a savings account. If you don’t need that much liquidity though, chances are that you would be taking the $25k out of more profitable investments… That even modestly should be earning, say, 5%/yr….. Taking that into consideration you are actually spending way more than the normal annual fee to get this work around.

Larry
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Larry

I think any of these kinds of offers — opening bank accounts for new account bonuses, moving money around to get access to better rates or credit card earnings, etc. — should not be considered by anyone who is comfortable with not having a slush fund and who has decided that investing in the market or in other higher yield investments is something that they are comfortable doing with all their money. I sort of think that goes without saying. But for those who keep cash on hand as part of their overall financial plan it is definitely good to be considering ways to deploy it to pick up benefits here or there.

Loren
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Loren

You’re ignoring the scaling, though. Most lucrative opportunities for new account bonuses require a slush fund on the order about $5k.. And once you you start playing with five times that amount, you have to consider the opportunity cost of tying up $25K for a few hundred dollars here where instead you could be using that for multiple other new account bonuses. Plus, this is an annual commitment versus the slush money required for other new account bonusesusually decreases substantially after the first few months of opening the account. So either way just using 1% to calculate the opportunity cost is inaccurate

debit
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debit

Loren i will give you some money. You need to guarantee me 8% return. Anything above it is 100% yours to keep.

You will need to sign over house and title deeds to be kept in escrow in case i don’t get back my initial investment compounded away 8%

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[…] today I published a method for getting the Morgan Stanley Platinum card for free.  More specifically, the post detailed how to earn the Morgan Stanley $550 Annual Engagement […]

Casey
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Casey

Hello! I’ve had the standard AMEX Platinum and the Amerprise AMEX Platinum. Is this considered a new card or is it likely I won’t receive the bonus?

Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)
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Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)

Doesn’t seem to be an incentive for them to stiff existing cardholders…either way the engagement bonus would get their desired result of signing up for the CashPlus account. Since I already have the card, I don’t need to go through the mental gymnastics for this offer.

mark
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mark

What if you open the cash plus account, get your $550 and then close the cash plus account? Maybe repeat that a year later.

Loren
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Loren

Maybe with a different issuer….I wouldn’t trust AMEX to overlook that

WR2
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WR2

I’m wondering this too. Seems like it should work as long as you keep the access account open.

BML
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BML

Hi Greg, great post as always! I wonder if the Access Investing account is a requirement here or just as a step for the Plat CashPlus account? If I already have some investment account with stocks, do I just go straight to the Plat CashPlus? It is the latter and the fee free criteria that qualifies for the $550 engagement bonus? Or need both account to qualify? Thanks

Kevin
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Kevin

You need the CashPlus and Access Investing.

BradB
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BradB

You need Access or another investment account to qualify for the fee waiver on the CashPlus. But you could open just the CashPlus and pay $45/mo ($540/yr) and still get the $550 retention bonus and the free authorized user on the plat. Better than the vanilla plat in my opinion, but would still go the fee waiver route.

Ed L
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Ed L

I’ve seen recent comments that AmEx has tightened up on credit cards. Formerly, the maximum seemed to be 5 credit cards per person, but apparently now AmEx may be limiting people to 4 credit cards. Am I correct that there was no previous limit on AmEx charge cards?

I’ve got 4 AmEx credit cards and my wife has 5 AmEx credit cards.

My question: have they changed that old “rule” of no limit on charge cards? In other words, if I put in the effort to get a Morgan Stanley Plat card, has there been any change (due to the current recession) in the chance that either of us will get approved for the Plat?

Corey
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Corey

I think the new limit on charge cards is 10.

ktc
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ktc

“You must establish your Platinum CashPlus Account before signing up for the Morgan Stanley Platinum card.”

Can you still use a referral link to sign up & get this incentive?

WR2
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WR2

I was hoping I could still get the cash plus platinum account while not maintaining $5000 in the Access investing account. I have kept open an Access account with a small amount of money for when I’m ready to get the MS plat, and they haven’t shut my account down yet after 4 months. It can’t be invested until the $5k threshold, so it just sits in a cash account earning no interest.

So I started the process of trying to open a cash plus platinum account, but it says “Unfortunately, we are unable to open your Cash Plus account online at this time”. Anyone else seeing this? I’m guessing because the Access account isn’t fully funded. I’ll call in to see if I can only open it over phone for some reason.

In any case, I’m not planning on leaving $25k sitting there, so I’ll probably close that account after I get the $550.

BradB
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BradB

No, you would still have to call even once funded. That was my experience. And the call took over an hour. They told me that everyone without an actual advisor assigned, such as with Access, needs to call. But your plan may work if you tell them over the phone that you plan to fund the access account.

TomT
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TomT

You are forgetting the May (now June) to December monthly $20 wireless and $20 streaming credits. Makes it a better deal this year.

Dima
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Dima

I wonder if MS will send you a 1099 for $550 every year. Since it’s labeled as a bonus and not a rebate sounds like they should, but would be good to see some DPs later on.

James
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James

Just wanted to note the free authorized user has some additional value as well.

Ron
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Ron

Just wanted to comment that I was able to open a Cash Plus account first without any Morgan Stanley relationship and the Access Invest account after. After some thorough research, I actually went for the lower tier Premier CashPlus account because it’s a pretty good and compelling cash management account that most people are overlooking…it has no foreign transaction fees, free checks, unlimited worldwide ATM reimbursements, metal debit card, comprehensive credit protection, Zelle, and what sealed the deal was free incoming/outgoing wire transfers (outgoing needs to call). Normally wire transfers easily cost $20-35 easily at most banks. I can’t think of another cash management account that has all these features combined (Fidelity/Schwab come close but still don’t have all of these). I only put 5k in access investing account which the ~$20 in ‘management’ fees is well worth cost since I’m technically getting free wire transfers and technically those fees I consider paying for the identity theft protection which comes out to $20/12 = $1.67/month or less. The identity insurance is more comprehensive in the sense it gives credit scores and reports from all 3 bureaus, monitoring, and insurance up to 1 million. Given all that, I can just set and forget the Access investing account since it’s 5k I don’t need and there’s no minimum balance to maintain in the Premier cashplus account. Just an automated recurring $2500 in and out of the account is all I need to keep the account fee free.

I’m still waiting for my debit card/checks, but so far fund transfers have been fast. I’ll have to test out how fast they reimburse ATM fees. At least the UI doesn’t have the visual balance quirks Fidelity has. And the bank linking is comparable to Schwab where you can verify instantly or enter in routing/account numbers (Fidelity still has trouble linking other brokerages like Merrill Edge or companies that use 3rd party banks.