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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  1. […] Now, you say what about the annual fee on the card—it is $450, is it not?  The value of the card outweighs this cost.  In fact, I would go as far as saying it even pays dividends.  It is not only a card you keep for accruing points, it is also a card you also keep for its benefits.  Below are the travel benefits, which Gary of View From the Wing recently outlined: […]

  2. […] mind you, but this card comes with instant Gold Status on Starwoods, at a hefty fee–$450.  For more info about the benefits, here’s a link to View from the Wing since I would be plagiarizing anyway if I posted about it. The only thing currently holding me […]


  1. Gary
    You are mixing up the cards costs. You have the Amex business Platinum card. Each additional card member is 200$ on this one! It is 175 for 3 on the personal Amex Platinum card only.
    Is Amex asking you to spread the love? :-) In general I agree with you, but soon I fear the Chase card will take over. Amex needs to woo US airways and Lufthansa to beef up the points transfers and lower foreign fees to 1-2% on the Gold Cards and affinity Plat cards.

  2. Thought I was clear that I was talking about the personal card, though I happen to carry the business one. Was that unclear? Re-reading my post I think I’m clear in saying additional cardmembers are $175 for 3 cards (personal card). Apologies if this is unclear!

    And no, no spreading the love on Amex, as I say I have this card and have had it for about a decade. It’s more about the BENEFITS of the card rather than the card for SPEND (which I outline clearly in other posts, eg Sapphire Preferred).

  3. To be super clear, it is $175 for card #2 (bringing your all-in fee to $625), then $0 for card #3 and $0 for card #4.

    Each card, regardless of fee, gets the $100 Global Entry credit.

    I’ve given cards 3 and 4 on my account to family members – on strict orders not to actually spend money on the card (except for Global Entry)…but to use them only for lounge access and the FHR hotel benefits.

    Card #5 on an account attracts a $175 fee.

  4. Hard to believe that you still see the MR points as so valuable given the devaluations that have hit recently. The number of partners is worse than it was and those that remain are generally less valuable than they used to be.

    It is definitely not nearly the same “killer app” it was in 2008. Not by a long shot.

  5. @Seth I think I’m pretty clear in my post. This is a card to get for the BENEFITS not for putting spend on. Though I *do* put spend on the card, very large charges that Amex will approve but that is beyond my credit limit from Chase. I think I am very explicit about this in my post.

    I believe this card is a good value for lounge access. Then add in a signup bonus and it’s certainly worthwhile the first year. And I believe it’s also worthwhile on an ongoing basis when you get $200 of the fee rebated back through airlien fee reimbursements.

    My argument for this card, and the reason I continue to carry it, is because of the benefits and not because of the Membershio Rewards program per se. Although I do find Membership Rewards to be valuable, but I still privilege spending on my Chase Sapphire Preferred and Starwood Amex, and I use this card to get into lounges, etc.

  6. In November 2011 I signed up for this card under the targeted 100,000 miles with $10,000 spend in 5 months. So, for spending $10K I ended up with 110,000 miles and will hold them until I can get a 50% bonus to Delta thus making it 165,000 Skymiles. Even better would be if they offered an MQM bonus on the transfer!

  7. Hey Gary,

    Per this page the American Express Platinum Mercedes Benz card offers Priority Pass Select, $200 Airline Fee Credit and the Global Entry credit.

    It seems like this card offers all of the same Platinum benefits.


  8. Gary:

    Are the Admirals Club benefits from this card exactly the same ones you’d get buying the Admirals Club membership directly from AA?


  9. Gary:

    I looking at applying for this card in the coming months. How do I maximze the lounge access. We usually travel in a group of 4-6 people. Thanks.

  10. It’s worth mentioning the $200 credit is per calendar year. So, you can get $400 of credits before your annual fee comes due. That right there covers most of your $450 fee the first year.

  11. @Nickfromct You’ll need more than one card (remember that cards 1-3 come with a single additional fee) in order to get that many folks into a lounge.

  12. @toomanybooks — (1) FINALLY you do get internet access systemwide when using an Amex Plat, that’s new as of just a few weeks ago :) (2) you must fly American same-day to access the lounge with Amex Platinum, that’s not a restriction with a club membership.

  13. Thanks. If you are mileage running this month to ORD or SFO, look for me in the Admirals Clubs.

  14. Gary, your post is about signing up for the card. What is probably more interesting to your readership is whether or not we should RENEW our existing Plat card. This is exactly the time that many of us signed upf or the card last year, so some advice here would be appreciated….one specific question I have: if I cancel now, when would be the earliest I can sign up again for the bonus (if ever)?

  15. Regarding the Mercedes platinum card – which I have had for about 5-6 months: (1) I can confirm it definitely behaves “just like a non-MB platinum card”, that is, I have gotten my global entry credit, my $200 airline credits, I’ve used priority pass, I’ve made an FHR booking (a little bit of a hassle for them to determine my eligibility – the supervisor said I was literally the very first MB user they had ever had – but it all got sorted and should be running smoothly now); etc. and (2) I leased a new MB (two actually, with two certs from two MB plat cards), and I was able to do just what they said – negotiate my absolute best deal and whip this thing out at the end for an extra $1K off the gross cap cost. Another benefit is you get 2K extra miles per lease – we did a couple of 24 month low mileage leases so this is a great benefit (increases miles allowed by like 15-20%). Very good card so far!

  16. Does the priority pass that comes with this card include any free stays or do you have to pay for each one? The Chase Ink card came with 2 free stays per year I think.

  17. Gary, do you know how AmEX evaluates applicants for the Platinum card? Are there any special requirements, like minimum income, minimum assets, etc?

  18. @PAX…the lounge uses with the Priority Pass are free for the card holder and $27USD per Guest/per Visit. When flying AA or Delta and using their lounge 2 guests are free (at least with the Business Platinum).

  19. Gary, my comment was mostly based on this:
    It also doubles as a pretty good card for spending, since Membership Rewards points are among the better currencies out there.

    That’s what you wrote above and that’s the part I was questioning. I have the card. I’ve had it for years. I get value out of it, though less and less in each passing year it seems. And the points are absolutely, without a doubt, worth less now than they have been at any point in the past 5 years IMO. Your statement seems to disagree with that quite a bit.

    It is a great value in the first year – especially if you’re collecting the referral bonus – but the points are not such a great currency at all.

  20. On the Starwood Gold benefit, does anybody know if additional cardholders also get this for their own Starwood account, or does it just work for the primary cardholder’s own SPG account? I’m trying to weigh the pros and cons of adding my wife as an add’l cardholder, and so far it’s -$175 for the fee, +$100 for Global Entry, +some value for lounge access, for a slight net negative based on how much/little she’ll be flying without me and DL or AA–work requires specific fares, so she will likely be on Airtran/Southwest for most of her work flights.

  21. @Seth and Gary, it seems to me that a smarter strategy would be to switch between MB and Plat card each year, if that allowed. You get the ongoing benefits, plus the sign-ons.

    Any flaw in this?

  22. Mommypoints posted a 50k signup bonus for Amex Platinum yesterday. Your bonus through your referral link is only 25k, right?


  23. never mind, she updated her post today that the 50k referral thing isn’t working anymore.


  24. @Seth I also wrote: “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.”

    I beleive both statements are true — Membership Rewards is far less value than it used to be. But it’s still one of the most valuable currencies. I like my Starwood points more. I like my Ultimate Rewards points marginally more (because I have a preference for United and Hyatt!). But I’d argue that Membership Rewards are still the 3rd best currency.

  25. @bluecat I believe that among all cards, Platinum is the one they will give the bonus on in future years. I’m not sure how long you have to wait to get it again. I’d call and ask (apply by phone) and see what they offer you to get the commitment of a bonus for signup.

    I find the renewal value worthwhile, though — $200 fee credit each year reduces the cost to $250, which I think is a great deal for all of the lounge access the card provides.

    For a frequent flyer who isn’t a regular United/Continental flyer mostly or who at least flies other carriers regularly too this is a great card for the benefits.

  26. Thanks, Gary. For me, an infrequent flyer, I believe it makes sense to cancel the card for now. It’s possible the PriorityPass card will still work for the remainder of this year (to be determined), but, even if it does not, I would prefer to save the $250 for the lounge access and “start the clock” again for another sign-on bonus. Perhaps the Mercedes Benz card.

  27. @bluecat as I say, whether it makes sense to keep the card depends on how much use you’ll get out of the lounge benefit. If that isn’t worth much to you then you shouldn’t!

  28. Gary, does entry to UA/AA/DL lounges come by showing the platinum card, or is there a separate card to show too?

  29. @London Tim there’s no UA lounge access — it’s AA/DL/US and you show your Platinum card. You ALSO get a free Priority Pass Select membership, that’s a separate card.

  30. Gary – does the “Fine Hotels and Resorts Program” benefits only work when you book through them or even if u use free rooms via awRd nights?.


  31. Gary, quite right – I meant US not UA. Does the Plantinum AmEx allow you to guest someone into the lounge too?

  32. One other nice benefit is the car rental status if you don’t have it — National Executive is a nice perk.

    This card has been the mother of all boondoggles for me. I got a 50k sign up bonus last year. I successfully bumped the bonus to 100k before they shut that down. I got an extra 5k for adding pay over time. And for some strange reason, they waived the first year annual fee. I frequently use the lounge access. I received $200 in travel reimbursement last year. I will get another $200 this month. I will get the $100 global entry waiver fee. The concierge hooked me up in NYC over the holidays at an otherwise seemingly impossible to get reservation for a large group.

    All of this gives me a heavy predisposition to NOT keep the card. Just being able to say that for $0 I got $500 in travel reimbursements and 105k MR points, lounge access for a year, and hotel and car status for two years, feels good to me. It’s my best haul yet for any frequent flier program, and makes me feel, albeit in a small way, like I pulled off a mini-pudding-guy boondoggle. Paying $450 at this point would feel . . . I don’t know . . . like I didn’t get as much. But there actually is good value here, for the reasons in this post, and I just might relent.

  33. Has anyone run the numbers on whether using this card as the primary card for spend is actually worth it, particularly when using Amex travel?

    When enrolled in Membership Rewards First, you get at least 20% back when you use membership rewards points, and sometimes 25%, depending on which service you choose.

    So, is using Premier Golds still better in terms of utilizing MR points when compared to using the Plat?

    Also, I wish you could combine points obtained using different cards, but I don’t think you can..

  34. Noah, I haven’t found it particularly worthwhile to use the Platinum Card as my everyday spend card. Even with the 20% discount with Membership Rewards First, the deals didn’t look particularly appealing. Like Gary, I use the Starwood Amex Card as my everyday spend card, but then put a lot of my travel expenses (i.e., flights, rental cars) and larger purchases on the Platinum Card.

  35. Not true. I do nit pay 450 annual fee for my platinum. Now I see where his rederral bonus comes from

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