The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the best “premium” travel rewards credit cards on the market.
It comes with top-shelf perks for travelers that include airport lounge access and discounts on airline flights and hotel stays, but that comes with a cost.
With a $695 annual fee attached, it’s one of the most expensive consumer credit cards to carry in your wallet (see rates and fees).
“It seems nuts to say that a card that costs almost $700 per year would make any sense at all,” money expert Clark Howard says. “But it actually pays off for someone who is travel-oriented, travels a lot and charges a lot.”
Are you one of those frequent travelers Clark is talking about? Will the perks be worth the trade-off of a hefty annual fee? And how do you know if you’re one of the people who charges enough to benefit from this card?
I’ll answer these questions and more in this card review.
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Team Clark has spent time evaluating the credit card market in several categories including the best travel credit cards. I’ve compared the Platinum Card from American Express to the best cards in this segment of the market. And I’ve determined that it’s one of the top choices for high-volume travelers thanks to its rewards program and cardholder perks.
As you’re making your decision on whether this card is a fit for you, please use this review in conjunction with Clark Howard’s 7 Rules for Using Credit Cards.
What Is the Platinum Card® from American Express?
The Platinum Card® from American Express is a travel credit card that offers valuable perks and rewards in exchange for a hefty annual fee.
At $695 per year for access to the card, it is one of the most costly consumer credit cards available on the market (see rates and fees). It competes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Capital One® Venture X® for frequent travelers who are looking for premier perks.
The annual consumer perks are advertised by American Express to be worth more than $1,500 per year. And that’s before you get your enhanced rewards points on spending categories such as hotel and airline purchases.
Platinum Card® from American Express: Specs and Perks
Let’s take a look at the fine print to examine some of the card’s perks and drawbacks.
The rewards program for this card is built on the Amex Membership Rewards Points system. These can be redeemed for a number of items, including travel or statement credits.
You’ll earn the following multipliers for each type of purchase that you make with the card:
- 5x points on every dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or through the Amex travel portal (capped at $500,000 in spending per year)
- 5x points on every dollar spent on hotels booked through the AmexTravel.com
- 1x points on every dollar spent on everything else
- Terms apply.
As you can see, it’s travel or bust when it comes to spending rewards for this one. The 1x points on all non-travel purchases could very likely beaten by a card with no annual fee.
Clark often recommends unlimited 2% cash back credit cards for steady returns on non-category-specific spending.
This card has one of the longest lists of cardholder benefits on the market. There truly are many different ways you could get value from having this card in your wallet.
I’ll highlight some of the top ones, but you may want to take a deeper dive into the card’s website to get a full view of what Amex is offering.
- Welcome Bonus: As of June 2022, American Express is offering 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases with your Platinum card in your first six months of card membership.
- Airport Lounge Access: The American Express Global Lounge Collection® will land you complimentary lounge access at more than 1,400 airport lounges across 650 cities in 140 countries. You can recharge with food and drink along with other perks.
- Premium Status: Card membership comes with automatic “gold status” with both the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors hotel rewards programs. You’ll also get complimentary premium status with major car rental companies, including Hertz and Avis.
- Complimentary Global Entry or TSA PreCheck: Get either a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or a statement credit for up to $85 for TSA PreCheck through any authorized enrollment provider for a five-year plan.
- Purchase Coverages: Purchases made with this card qualify for car rental insurance, cell phone protection and extended warranties.
- More than $1,500 in Potential Annual Credits: You can cover the cost of your annual fee with this card by taking advantage of annual statement credit opportunities in the hotel, airline, streaming and ride-sharing spending categories. I’ll look at these in more detail later in the article.
- Terms apply.
Here’s a quick look at some of the fees you may encounter with the Platinum card:
- Annual Fee: $695
- Balance Transfer Fee: Not offered
- Cash Advance Fee: Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater
- Foreign Transaction Fee: None
- Late Payment Fee: Up to $40
- See rates and fees
Who Is This Card For?
Though it’s not one of the cards that we talk about in his wallet, Clark has been a Platinum cardholder for years. He typically reserves it for business expenses rather than day-to-day personal activity.
But don’t mistake his ownership of the card as an endorsement for everyone to join him in paying that $695 annual fee.
Clark believes this card will most consistently benefit just a specific sliver of the population:
- Small business owners who charge company expenses with a credit card
- Business travelers who run up large hotel and airline tabs
- Financially well-off individuals who charge at least $20,000 per month
He says if you don’t fall into one of those three categories, you may want to pause and consider whether you should be committing to this type of card.
The welcome bonus is nice, and I’ll talk a little later about how you could use some of the perks to offset the costs of the annual fee each year, but Clark still says that could be a losing battle for “aspirational” travelers who think this card will help them.
“Think about it this way, after three years you’re going to have paid American Express $2,085 in fees,” Clark says. “You could do some meaningful travel with that $2,085. It really has to be the right person to have this card.”
Can You Cover the Annual Fee With Perks Alone?
In order for this card’s annual fee to make sense for most consumers, you’ll need to have a high confidence level in your ability to get full value from the perks offered to cardholders.
American Express advertises that it provides more than $1,500 in annual value in the perks it makes available to its Platinum cardholders.
Here’s a rough sketch of how Amex is doing this math:
- $300: Equinox credit for digital fitness subscription ($25 per month)
- $240: Digital entertainment credit on streaming service subscriptions (capped at $20 per month)
- $200: Annual hotel statement credit
- $200: Airline fee statement credit (only for incidental fees incurred with one airline)
- $200: Uber Cash (Awarded $15 in Uber cash each month, with a $20 bonus in December)
- $189: CLEAR membership credit
- $155: Walmart+ credit for membership dues ($12.95 per month)
- $100: Saks Fifth Avenue shopping credits (up to $50 twice per year)
- Terms apply
If you use everything in the list above, it adds up to $1,584 in annual value.
It seems unrealistic to expect to check the box on each of these rewards at their full capacity each year, but how close you can come to doing so may be a determining factor in whether this card is right for you.
If you can comfortably get more than $695 worth of value out of those perks each year, then you’re at least covering the cost of the annual fee and unlocking the card’s rewards on your spending as profit.
What Are Some Travel Card Alternatives?
If the $695 annual fee for this card is simply more than you want to pay, there still are some travel credit cards that could be a better fit for your wallet.
Clark says that he considers the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card a good “starter travel card” for people who are trying to dip their toes into the proverbial travel card pool. This card carries a $95 annual fee, but it can easily be recouped by taking advantage of the Chase travel benefits associated.
If you’re looking for a card that behaves a bit more like the Platinum Card, Chase also offers the Sapphire Reserve® Card at a $550 annual fee. You’ll get a $300 annual travel statement credit with this one, as well as some of the benefits we outlined above for the Platinum card like airport lounge access and complimentary Global Entry or TSA Precheck memberships.
Another alternative worth considering is the Capital One Venture X Rewards Card. Clark added this card to his wallet in 2022 thanks to a lucrative welcome bonus and some travel perks that he thought were well worth the $395 annual fee.
“It was one that I really noodled and noodled before deciding I was going to get it,” Clark says. “The sign-up bonus was just so compelling that I had to do it.”
So, yes, it’s true that Clark has both the Venture X and Platinum Card in his possession. But he also says he finds himself “in the airport weekly” with ample opportunity to reap the benefits from those cards.
You’ll want to make sure that you travel enough to see the benefits of a travel card, especially if you’re signing up for one with a large annual fee. If you’re not, you may instead want to explore another type of rewards credit card. A cash back credit card is a strong option for many consumers.
Platinum Card® from American Express: Pros and Cons
Are you considering adding the Platinum Card to your wallet? Let’s review some of the major pros and cons of the card before you make your final decision.
|Access to premier airport lounges during travel||$695 annual fee is expensive.|
|Rewards points and discount perks with hotels and airlines||Spending rewards outside of travel are weak.|
|Cardholder benefits that could total up to $1,500 in annual value||There’s no promotional APR on new purchases.|
Bottom Line: If you are an occasional or aspirational traveler who actually gets only three or four trips in per year, this card probably isn’t the best fit for you.
While you could certainly use some of the perks that come with this card to make your vacation more enjoyable, you really have to weigh the $695 fee that you’ll be charged annually against your long-term travel outlook.
However, if you’re a small business owner or frequent business traveler, you may find that this card brings you value that is in far excess of that hefty annual fee each year.
It may sound counter to Clark’s usually frugal financial advice, but he says “go for it” if you’re in this bucket of consumers.
To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards featured, please visit the following links: Platinum Card® from American Express: See rates and fees.
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