The Underappreciated American Express Platinum Card

Joe Brancatelli offers a useful column on the basics of US domestic airline lounge programs and why you should be a member if you travel frequently.

Buried in the bottom section called ‘the fine print’ is the best piece of advice in the article.

 If you’re an American Express Platinum cardmember, use the Airport Club Access Program. If you pay for your ticket with the card, you receive access at some clubs run by American, Continental, Delta or Northwest airlines.

Actually, you do not need to pay for your ticket with the card to use the benefit. And it isn’t just some clubs, it’s all the standard lounges that a membership would get you into (ok, it doesn’t get you into American’s flagship lounge, but then neither does an AAdmiral’s Club membership). The only real caveat is that you have to access an airline’s lounge you must be flying that airline same day. You can’t use the Delta lounge in Atlanta with a Continental ticket, for example.

While situations may vary, I personally consider the American Express Platinum to be one of a handful of ‘killer apps’ for travel. Lounge access is the biggest benefit.

Generally travelers will be able to buy membership with a single airline for less. But this gets you both the network of Delta/Continental/Northwest lounges and American’s lounges. It really just leaves United/USAirways and Alaska out of the domestic US carrier mix. That’s a pretty big benefit if you’d otherwise buy a membership with any of the four carriers that American Express covers.

Amex also provides:

  • Starwood Gold status (not worth a ton…)
  • Virgin Atlantic Silver status (not worth a ton…)
  • the Fine Hotels and Resorts program (if you stay at one of their properties and make the booking through them you may get a discount but will generally get some add-on amenities like free breakfast and a single category room upgrade)
  • their Concierge service, provided by Circles which is a step above VIPdesk (which provides service for several less expensive cards)
  • the fine dining program, only occasionally useful but they do appear to get a single table at a handful of difficult to reserve restaurants so you might luck out.

Now, the card is expensive. On very rare occasion I’ve seen a fee waived offer. I once posted such an offer and boom Amex pulled it in a few hours. But I’ve also seen targeted offers of as many as 100,000 Membership Rewards points at signup. That sort of bonus is huge.

Even carrying this card I’m not a big fan of the Membership Rewards program. It’s fine, but I still prefer to put spending on my Starwood American Express card, as Starpoints are more valuable.

But ithe Amex Platinum is a frequently underappreciated asset in my view. In fact, the only real benefit of great use to me that the Centurion (black) card offers that the Platinum does not is airline status (Continental, Delta, and Virgin Gold and USAirways Platinum). Ok, I’d take the Mandarin Oriental buy one night, get one free deal too I suppose. But with a $5000 upfront fee and $2500 annual fee, I’ll keep my Platinum card thank you.

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. I’ve bought four companion tickets in the two calendar years I’ve had the card, saving in average about $200 a pop. Assuming, then, that I value the lounge access at over $50 (that’s an easy one) I’m saving on net.

    The only thing about the companion program is that you need to book a ways out. I’ve tried booking two weeks out and been almost laughed off the phone. They have very limited capacity. And for three of four tix, I have been booked on American, which I hate, and on which I have no status. (But since as of late 2007, the Platinum gets you into the American lounge, so there’s something.) The other carriers that participate in the companion program – CO, DL, US, UA, and NW – seem to seldom have any capacity available.

    I have found that the hold times to speak with their folks are getting shorter which is good. And their training seems to be improving. But you still have to walk them through every permutation of airport you’d like (they don’t seem to be able to search DCA-IAD-BWI on one search, so if you’re willing to fly out of any of the three of those to, say, OAK or SFO, you’ve got to go through six searches).

    The only catch I’ve found on lounge access is that in Admirals Clubs you have to pay for the WiFi; only “real” members get it for free. But what do you expect from an airline that would have its employees drug, hog-tie, and rob you for the cash in your wallet? I’ve used the CO and NW lounges extensively in DCA, DTW, IAH, MSP, EWR, CLE, and MEM and never been denied a benefit, including lockers and showers.

  2. For my international and domestic travels the Priority Card is what I find the most useful.
    I do carry the Platinum card but it isn’t used as much as my Priority card.

  3. Thanks for this tip – never knew this!

    Does the Amex card have to be a US issued card?

    I have one from New Zealand and an upcoming NYC-LAX flight on AA and no status so lounge access would be a real bonus!

  4. One big annoyance I’ve had with American Express for a long time is that a *US* American Express Platinum card will NOT get you into the American Express “Card Member lounges” in either Tokyo or Osaka (where the minimum card status to enter is Gold).

    I’ve been fighting with Amex about this for several years, as I frequently travel to Japan, but have gotten nowhere.

    The lounges will only accept JAPAN-issued Amex cards. I’ve explained both at the lounges and to Amex that part of the Amex value prop is making international travel easier and it stands to reason the lounges at these airports would be used as much by travelers from elsewhere (especially those in transit) as Japanese folks. It doesn’t make sense that I would ever be refused service at any lounge branded with the Amex logo throughout the world and it bothers me that Amex hides behind their own internal structure and franchise arrangements as the reason/excuse. Terrible customer experience and an example of a company that must not get the idea of designing processes and experiences from the “outside in.”

  5. Thanks for the info, I am actually an Admrial Club member, because generally all I fly is American.

    Recently my next two trips (New Jersy and UK) I will be flying United, so it’s a shame that the card doesn’t work for admission into their lounges. I knew that there was catch, too bad it had to be United.

  6. I have a starwoods Platinum Amex card. is this accepted for the Ailine club access program AMEX advertises?

    M McKay

  7. I only once tried to use my Platinum American Express Card for airport lounge access (in Bangkok) and was denied. I had to pay$35 and promptly canceled my card when I returned home.

  8. I have had real trouble with the AmEx Platinum travel service.They book my flights under various names:
    MrSeth Kahan
    Seth Kahan
    Seth Weaver Kahan

    and even after repeated long phone calls in which I give them all my frequent flyer miles they do not associate my sky miles number with my tickets. For this servie they charge an extra $40 per booking.

    The end result of all these various name spellings and no sky miles numbers is that it is hard for me to check in online. So far I have been able to do it, but this is a showstopper for me.

  9. Sounds like the card sucks for international travelers. Those are the ones who most need a lounge!

  10. This is a very old post. The US Amex Platinum has since added Priority Pass membership which provides international lounge access.

  11. I am an Amex cardholder since 04. I have used it for everything and anything except the companion ticket feature which im an little iffy about specially after reading all consumer comments. But for traveling overseas, I love my Amex platinum. No foreign transaction fees and free lounge access. I know someone had already mentioned this but platinum members get the highest level of free Priority Club membership (if you never had it then you just have to call Amex platinum cust service and they’ll mail it to you with couple of weeks). I have not been denied access to any lounge, anywhere I have traveled except like the Emirates Business/First class lounge. If you have a guest, you can take them inside with you for another US $25. Overall, I love all the features.

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