American Express Platinum’s Amazing Travel Benefits

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I’ve been recommending the American Express Platinum card for years, and have carried one for about a decade. In February 2008 I called it one of a handful of ‘killer apps’ for travel.

I’ve frequently explained that there are three kinds of credit cards: those you get for the signup bonus, those you get for the benefits, and those you put spending on.

The American Express Platinum is one you get primarily for the benefits, but that you can also do well putting spending on. I personally use the Starwood American Express, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and American Express Premier Rewards Gold for most of my spending. But American Express will allow the largest charges on the Platinum card for me, and that’s where those go.

The first thing to understand about the card is that it comes with a $450 annual fee. But here are the benefits that the fee gets you:

  • Lounge access with Delta when flying that airline same-day.

  • Lounge access via Priority Pass Select. This gets you into Alaska Airlines lounges and also a wide variety of partner lounges around the world.

  • Access to American Express Centurion Lounges. The location at Dallas Fort-Worth is the best lounge in the United States in my opinion. Las Vegas is outstanding. And several new lounges are set to open.

  • $200 airline incidentals credit. You get to select one airline for the year where Amex will credit you back minor fees — like baggage fees, change fees, lounge day passes, telephone booking fees, and inflight food or beverage purchases. Some folks have succeeded in just buying airline gift cards, but American Express has cracked down on that a bit, though some do still have success if they keep it to lower denominations. Eligible airlines to choose from are Airtran, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Spirit, Southwest, United/Continental, and US Airways.

  • Free Global Entry. They rebate the $100 fee when you sign up for the program that expedites your re-entry into the U.S. when coming back from abroad.

  • Platinum Concierge. The last time I checked, the same company (Circles) provided concierge service for the Platinum card as for the Centurion (Black) card. It’s not a high-end $20,000 a year concierge service, but better than VIPdesk or similar services that you’ll get through other credit cards in my experience.

  • Fine Hotels and Resorts Program. Extra amenities, upgrades, late checkout at hotels booked though the program, bookable online. In many ways similar to what a Virtuoso travel agent can get for you.

  • No foreign currency conversion fee. This saves the 3% fee on transactions outside the U.S. that most cards charge.

  • Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status. Good for 4pm late checkout (except at resorts and conference centers where it’s subject to availability), a 50% bonus on points-earning at Starwood hotels, and helps you avoid being assigned that room above the hotel’s HVAC system.

  • You can get three additional cards on the account for $175, which makes the per person costs quite low for lounge access.

As I say, this is a card you get for the benefits, and I find it to be worth the cost.

It also doubles as a pretty good card for spending, since Membership Rewards points are among the better currencies out there. I like Starwood points for their even greater flexibility and transfer bonuses, but Amex runs frequent transfer bonuses as well (such as 50% recently to both British Airways and Delta) and points transfer fast to most programs — instantaneously usually to Aeroplan, Delta, and British Airways. It takes a couple of days to transfer to All Nippon and Singapore. But that’s far faster than the turnaround on transferring Starwood points to miles.

And it has a pretty good signup bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points. That’s not amazing in its own right, but the bonus is about worth the annual fee in my book and if that’s true then the first year of lounge access is effectively free, and the $200 airline fee credit and $100 global entry credit is profit.

It’s also worth noting that the Mercedes-Benz co-branded Platinum card comes with an ever higher annual fee but also a bigger signup bonus.

If you use my link to sign up for the American Express Platinum card, I do manage to get a referral credit for it. You don’t have to use my link of course, but I certainly appreciate it if you do.

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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