The Platinum Card: Do the Perks Justify the Fee?
The Platinum Card® from American Express is the favorite card of some of the most successful people in the world, and these cardholders undoubtedly use it for many extravagant purchases. At the same time, Wise Bread is all about frugality and saving money. So is this credit card just like a flashy piece of jewelry or an impractical sports car? Or can frugal credit card users find enough value in this card to justify its $450 annual fee?
How This Card Works
First, let's get one thing straight — this is a charge card, not a credit card. That means that all cardmembers are expected to pay their entire statement in full each month. That is how I use all of my credit cards, and doing so might be the most wise and frugal piece of personal finance advice that anyone can offer. But if you ever need to carry a balance, you should not use a charge card.
Next, this is a rewards card. For each dollar spent, cardholders earn one point in American Express's Membership Rewards program. These points are worth one cent each towards travel reservations, gift cards, or other products and services. But in addition, cardmembers can transfer their points to miles with over a dozen different airlines. And when these points are used for last minute trips or flights in business or first class, it is possible to receive over five cents in value per point.
Reviewing this card's benefit is like examining a top-of-the-line Swiss Army knife. The closer you look, the more features you will find. So let me just touch upon what I find to be the highlights, but be advised that it would take me pages to describe everything.
- Business lounge access. Cardmembers receive free access to the lounge programs of US Airways® Club and Delta Sky Club® and your immediate family or up to two traveling companions can go too.
- Airline fee credit. Hate airline fees? This card will reimburse you for up to $200 a year in airline fees such as luggage fees, seat fees, and in-flight food and entertainment. It does not apply to ticket purchases or first class upgrades.
- Global Entry fee credit. American Express will reimburse you for the $100 enrollment fee for Global Entry. This program, operated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol allows travelers expedited entry when arriving from an international flight. In addition, members also get access to the TSA's Pre Check program, which speeds security screening.
- VIP treatment. Many credit cards offer some sort of special treatment, but this is the real deal. Membership includes 24/7 access to a personalized concierge service that will do just about anything you ask, such as make travel arrangements, dinner reservations, book event tickets, or give you directions.
- Travel insurance and purchase protection policies. This card comes with many polices that reimburse you for lost or damaged goods or help you out if you have difficulty traveling.
- Tons of other stuff. There is the Fine Hotels and Resorts program, shopping assistance, a Cruise Privileges program, Limousine Program, and on and on.
There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and additional authorized cardholders are $175 each. As a charge card, there is no interest rate, but those who do not pay their statements in full will be in default. Cardholders should expect significant consequences in that event. Thankfully, there are no foreign transaction fees for this card.
- Unparalleled benefits. There is no other credit or charge card available to the general public that features such a comprehensive slate of benefits as this card.
- Membership Rewards program. Once I learned to take advantage of flexible reward programs like this, I fell in love. The possibilities are endless once you review all the options, and consider that each airline has its own partnerships with other airlines. For example, I can transfer my points to British Airways program for awards on their partner, American Airlines, or to Air Canada for awards on their partners United or US Airways.
- Travel benefits. Between the lounge club memberships and the fee credits alone, travelers can find much more value than the annual fee costs.
- Annual fee. There is no way around $450 a year for an annual fee. I won't kid you, this is a lot of money.
- Additional cardholder fee. Most cards offer free additional cards, but American Express is charging $175 each. Nevertheless, this can be reasonable considering that the additional cardholder will get all the same lounge access as the primary cardholder, worth hundreds of dollars to frequent travelers.
Who This Card Is Best For
American Express will be the first to tell you that this card is not for everyone; it is an exclusive product. That said, the ideal user of this card is someone who travels frequently and can use many of the lounge access and travel rewards features of this card. And for those not made out of money, this card can make sense when the cardholder receives a significant portion of the $450 in value back each year. When you think about it, it doesn't take that much business or leisure travel to rack up $200 in fees or utilize some airport business lounges to get necessary work done.
And if you can receive more value from this card than it costs you, a luxury like the The Platinum Card® from American Express may actually be worthy of consideration by our frugal readers.