There are $0 First Year Fee and 50,000 Point Offers for the American Express Platinum: Which is Best?

There are several different variations on the American Express Platinum card, some of which are targeted at specific consumers and others that are available to everyone.

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.

While I do have a referral link for the American Express Platinum, I’m not including that link in this post because I do not want you to use it. I consider there to be better offers for the card, which I will detail below, and would encourage you to apply for one of those instead.

Back at the beginning of the year there was a public offer of 100,000 points for getting the card That was the best public offer I’ve seen, though there have been targeted offers that big as well.

Aside from that offer, which I’d consider an anomaly rather than the norm, I view 50,000 points as a good offer and anything you receive that’s targeted for more than that to be a great offer.

The Many Benefits of American Express Platinum

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.

It’s an expensive card, but I believe it’s worth the fee for the benefits it provides, although folks who primarily fly United and don’t need the non-lounge benefits may not agree.

  • Lounge access with Delta, American Airlines, and US Airways. US Airways access doesn’t even require you to be flying the airline same day. A club lounge membership with any of those carriers will cost you almost as much as the card, but you get access to all three airliens’ lounges.

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

  • $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. You can do the $200 each calendar year so if you apply mid-year you can get $400 in reimbursements during your first cardmember year.

  • 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. I haven’t found them to be outstanding, but sometimes do come through.

  • 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.

  • National Car Rental Executive Status, which lets you pick from better cars off the rental lot.

The Standard American Express Platinum Card

The standard offer for the card currently is 25,000 points after $2000 spend within 3 months.

I believe that’s fair, since I think the card is worth it for the $450 fee as a ticket to lounge access on a variety of carriers. And if you are not someone that values lounge access then this card is likely not for you. But it is not the best offer, both over time (they have had better offers in the past and if I had to guess I would imagine there will be better offers in the future) and compared to other-branded versions of the same card which I deal with in this post.

Goldman Sachs American Express Platinum Card

This one has its own unique URL,

It gives you 10,000 points after first purchase and then 40,000 points each year after $100,000 spend. So there’s a threshold bonus for big spending which is recurring on this card, rather than a big signup bonus.

A reader once sent me a link to a version of the card with fee waived the first year, but I cannot find a working link for that currently. The landing page for the card requires you to log in with Goldman Sachs credentials in order to dig deeper, and googlable terms and conditions (.pdf) do not list the fee waiver.

Back in 2008 they did 100,000 points after first purchase but I have not seen big signup bonsues for the card since.

Without a waived fee this one would not be high on my list, since aside from the threshold bonus this card isn’t all that lucrative for spending.

Morgan Stanley American Express Platinum Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Morgan Stanley offers 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after $1000 spend within 3 months.

The annual fee is $450, not waived the first year, but an additional cardholder can be added at no cost. That means a second person can have lounge access for no additional charge, along with the other benefits of cardmembership like Starwood Gold status and National Executive status.

The card also offers a $500 credit, which more than covers the fee, each year you charge $100,000 on it.

The terms say that you must have a Morgan Stanley brokerage or other qualifying account in order to be eligible for this card. Put another way, they say that if they check and find out you do not have such an account they may close your card.

The Morgan Stanley Credit Card from American Express or the Platinum Card® from American Express exclusively for Morgan Stanley is only available to you if you have an Eligible Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC brokerage Account (“Eligible Account”). Eligible Account means a Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”) brokerage account held in your name or in the name of a revocable trust where you are the grantor and trustee, except for the following accounts: Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts, Charitable Remainder Unitrusts, irrevocable trusts and employer-sponsored accounts. Eligibility is subject to change.

American Express may cancel your Card Account and participation in this program, if you do not maintain an Eligible Morgan Stanley brokerage Account.

Ameriprise American Express Platinum Card

This version of the card is especially interesting because it has a $0 annual fee the first year and the standard $450 thereafter.

There’s no signup bonus, but it’s arguably the best Platinum card for spending since they give you 5,000 bonus Membership Rewards points for each $20,000 in eligible spending, up to 30,000 points per year.

That’s effectively earning 1.25 miles per dollar as long as your spending is in round $20,000 increments.

It’s not the ideal card, or even the ideal American Express, for spending since Starwood gives you 5000 bonus miles when transferring points into 20,000 miles — effectively the same 1.25 miles per dollar — and with more airline partners than Membership Rewards has.

But of course getting the card without a fee for that first year, while still getting benefits like lounge access and the $200 airline fee credit, would be profitable indeed.

The terms and conditions of the offer have this to say about your being an Ameriprise client to be eligible:

Your ability to have this Card product is contingent on a relationship between you and Ameriprise. If no relationship exists, or if your relationship with Ameriprise ends, American Express has the right to cancel your card account or transfer your account to another American Express Card product that will have different features and benefits.

Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum

Mercedes-Benz has a co-brand card arrangement with American Express, and their version of the Platinum card is quite lucrative.

Here are the specifics:

  • 50,000 Membership Rewards points $3,000 in purchases in the first three months
  • In addition to standard Platinum benefits, there are specific Mercedez-Benz benefits: $1000 certificate for the future purchase or lease of a Mercedes after you spend $5000 on the card each year; $100 certificate when you renew your account for Mercedes accessories; 2000 excess miles waived at the end of a lease through Mercedes-Benz financial services; 5 points per dollar spent with Mercedes
  • $475 annual fee

The Points Guy flagged that the terms of the offer have recently changed to say that you will not be eligible for the 50,000 point bonus if you have had an American Express Platinum card in the past — not just if you have had a Mercedes-Benz Platinum card in the past.

Which Offer is Best?

Imagine that you were eligible for all of these offers. Which one would be the best?

  1. I consider 50,000 points to be worth more than the annual fee on these cards, so would not give up the points to save the fee. That rules out the Ameriprise co-brand card.
  2. The Morgan Stanley card has the lowest spend requirement (just $1000) to earn the signup bonus, it has a lower annual fee than the Mercedes-Benz card (by $25), and offers a second cardholder fee-free. That’s a clear winner in my book.
  3. For those that don’t have a Morgan Stanley account, however, the Mercedes-Benz co-brand Platinum American Express seems to be the best offer.

Are there other American Express Platinum cards I’m not aware of? Do you have the card? Do you want it?

(Disclosure: None of the cards linked in this post offer credit to me if you’re approved using my links. I try to offer only the best available cards, and most lucrative deals available for those cards. So if you’re aware of better deals than I’ve featured please do let me know! The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine. The content is not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.)

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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. Can I upgrade from my Amex Premier Rewards Gold to Amex Mercedes Benz, without getting a credit pull ?

    Mercedes is launching CLA Class starting at $30K. Tempting starting price for a Mercedes.

  2. Gary, where in the new T&C do you see a reference to an inability to get the bonus on the Mercedes-Benz card “if you have had an American Express Platinum card in the past”? I am reading it to say that you can’t get the offer if you currently have the regular Platinum card. I think this is a very important distinction that should be clarified.

  3. For the Morgan Stanley Platinum card, try this signup link instead:

    In the first part of the detailed terms it says no fee for the first year. It also says you get the 50k points (after $1k spend). Later on, it does restate the $450 fee (w/o mentioning the first year free), so that may make it a YMMV. Worth a shot though if you’re applying anyway.

  4. @David

    Click “Apply Now”, then “Rates and Fees”. In the table it says:

    Annual Membership Fee $0 for the first year, then $450

  5. @ParanoiaTX – you (or others) may be familiar enough with the Morgan Stanley Platinum T&C’s to know if one can receive the 50k bonus if you have an existing (generic) Platinum card?

  6. @hdawg When I upgraded earlier this year, they prorated my fee (I only had the gold for a couple months so it was $350). It didn’t hit my account immediately though. According to the CSR I chatted with, they consider my anniversary date the upgrade date, not the opening of the Gold card so my first year is at a bit of a discount. With free Global Entry and the $200 airline credit, I thought I got a good deal.

  7. @Rachel, So if I upgrade in December I would have all the benefits of having Platinum and only pay $100 or so? I am still in the process of meeting the minimum spend for the Gold and would definitely upgrade if the price is right.

  8. @hdawg, It’s based on your card membership year so it should be prorated from the date you opened your Gold card. If you call AmEx, they should be able to give you an idea of what the fee would be.

  9. I’m not sure why it seems like folks find the concierge hit or miss. I use it all of the time, and I’ve had a near 100% success rate (every response has been good, but a few have missed on an item or two).

    I could write a whole post about my strategy, but I think it comes down to the same thing as with any other concierge/assistant: you have to clearly articulate what you want. For restaurants not on OpenTable, I always send an email to AmEx to set it up, and they are always successful in doing so. I give a particular day, restaurant name/city, and a window of 1.5hrs.

    I also use them to find things that aren’t easily Google-able. For example, I was in Miami Beach recently, and I didn’t want to pay valet parking rates. So, I had the concierge send me a list of the five overnight garages closest to my hotel, with rates, and contact phone info. I also have them do things like put together golf itineraries with available tee times, rates, etc.

    This, to me, along with the lounge access is clearly what makes the card worth the fee. I would probably pay $450 a year for the concierge and lounge access alone–even without the $200 statement credit and other benefits.

  10. Spouse has platinum and I have a gold card. Trying to decide if it makes any sense to get an additional platinum issued to me for the $175 fee and then give up,the gold card. Are the points on the additional,card deposited into the same account as the original cardholder or into the additional cardholder’s separate account, assuming he or she has one?

  11. I’m an Ameriprise client and find the card a good deal for the many benefits, with annual fee waived the first year. I’ll probably not renew it, but cancel, wait a year, then try again. Since the benefits are essentially the same, the decision comes down to whether you want to buy 50,000 points for $475. That’s not a bad price, of course, but I find I can get MR points rather readily through my PRG card, and my philosophy is, don’t stockpile points by paying for them if you can get what you need without paying for them.

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