About American Express Platinum Card
Are you shopping for a luxury credit card? The American Express Platinum card could be a good fit for frequent travelers who pay bills on time.
Credit card companies have realized consumers are willing to pay for a little luxury.
The American Express Platinum is one of several popular “luxury” credit accounts, which, by our definition, is a credit card that charges between $400 and $500 for an annual fee.
The Platinum’s annual fee is $450, and, like most luxury cards, emphasizes its long-term perks over its relatively pedestrian 40,000 intro points. The company recently announced they would bump up their bonus points on airline purchases, but we’ll get to that in a few minutes.
As with all the credit cards we inspect, this review will do a quick rundown of the Platinum card’s short- and long-term benefits, its fees and penalties and a survey of what some of the more popular personal finance sites are saying about the card.
As we work through this material, we’re going to include the insights of Kaja Olcott, communications director with frequent flyer aficionados Reward Expert.
What the Platinum Offers Now and Into the Future
Whenever you research credit cards you want to get, you should always look at them through a short-term and long-term lens. Doing so will help you understand which card is best for you and will pay the most dividends over time.
Short-Term Benefits: 40,000 Points
At the time of our research, the AmEx Platinum was offering 40,000 membership points to anyone who spent $3,000 with the card in the first three months of owning it. This $3,000 requirement is what credit card companies call the “Threshold Amount”.
Once you hit the threshold amount, it could take up to eight weeks for your points to show up on your account. You can use those points in the AmEx Membership Rewards program, where you can purchase gift cards, merchandise and travel.
Your points will have different dollar values depending on what you buy. Travel purchases are a 100:$1 value, so 40,000 points are worth $400 in travel booked through the Membership Rewards portal.
Platinum members do not get redemption bonuses when they book through Membership Rewards, whereas Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred cardmembers get 25% and 50% bonuses, respectively, when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Long-Term Benefits: Travel, Travel, Travel
If you judge the Platinum card by its short-term benefits, it might seem like a super-overpriced card to wield in your wallet. But as with most other luxury cards – Sapphire Reserve and MasterCard Black, for example – the card’s real power lies in its long-term benefits.
As with competing luxury cards, the long-term perks of the Platinum are all travel-related:
- 5x points bonuses airfare purchases made on airline websites or through Membership Rewards
- Points transfers to the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program
- Points transfers to 17 airline frequent flyer programs
- Yearly $200 reimbursement on airfare purchases
- Free entry into Priority Pass, Centurion, Delta SkyClub and Airspace airport lounges.
- Complimentary gold status with SPG and Hilton HHonors
The cash value of these perks is immense because of the quartet of lounge entries you get – those alone are worth nearly $1,000 and give you access to around 1,000 lounges.
AmEx’s 5x points bonuses on airfare purchases was a new perk at the time of research, and Reward Expert’s Kaja Olcott said it’s no coincidence that American Express announced the big bonus shortly after the Chase Sapphire Reserve came onto the scene in 2016.
“American Express’ announcement about the airline bonus is, overall, great news,” Kaja said. “It’s a hint of a trend of elite cards following suit with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.”
But the bonus wasn’t just a reaction to Chase’s competing card; customers had been hoping for a new benefit for a long time.
“When AmEx and their Platinum program announced its upgrade,” Kaja said, “it was a long time coming because people were waiting on that.”
And people were eager for more travel perks because, as you’ve probably guessed by now, luxury cards are designed for frequent travelers who enjoy luxury when they fly. And when it comes to that class of people, Kaja says the Platinum’s lounge privileges are unmatched.
“Amex is great for the very frequent flier, and if you’re spending a lot on flights, it’s very lucrative,” she said. “AmEx has 17 airline transfer partners, whereas Chase has seven.”
The Fees and Penalties
If there’s one thing you absolutely need to know about the Platinum is that it’s a charge card, which is different than your average credit card.
Charge cards are meant to be paid off in full, every month. You don’t have a credit limit like you would with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the MasterCard Black, nor do you have an APR.
A normal credit card would charge you a predetermined APR on any balances you don’t pay off, but with the Platinum you’ll be charged a penalty percentage for whatever balance you don’t pay off each month.
According to American Express’ terms and conditions for the card, your penalty percent of 2.99 kicks in if you have don’t pay your balance in full for two consecutive billing cycles. For the sake of clarity, we’ll round that 2.99% up to 3%.
Now, 3% doesn’t sound like a lot, but, when you consider how much a one-time penalty costs in terms of APR, it’s pretty sobering.
Let’s say you have a $5,000 balance that you don’t pay. The 3% penalty will kick in, which equals $150. When you “annualize” that total (project what it would be over 12 months), you get $1,800 over one year, which equals an APR of 36%. That’s a huge APR for a credit card.
Aside from your penalty, here are the main fees you need to worry about:
- Late fee: $37
- Foreign transaction fee: None
- Annual fee: $450
- Fee for additional users: $175
- Returned payment fee: $27
If you’ve read through our other credit card reviews, you might be surprised by the simplicity of this fee structure. There are no APR’s for balance transfers and cash advances because this card doesn’t allow transfers and advances.
As for the fine print, there are a few things you should now. While the Platinum is a charge card, there could be cases where American Express lets you pay for a purchase over time through three different programs:
- Select & Pay Later
- Sign & Travel
- Extended Payment Option
Purchases in these categories are transferred, as far as we know, to AmEx’s Pay Over Time program, which resembles traditional credit card repayment structures.
According to their terms and conditions, only charges over certain amounts will be eligible for Pay Over Time, and you won’t know what that dollar amount is until you enroll.
What Other People are Saying About the AmEx Platinum
Experts in the world of credit cards have very positive things to say about the Platinum, hailing it is an excellent travel card for frequent flyers:
- The Simple Dollar’s Holly Johnson said, “While The Platinum Card from American Express is in a league of its own when you consider its travel benefits, its annual fee is a huge turn-off for many.”
- NerdWallet’s Erin El Issa said, “You may be surprised to find that the annual fee is easily outweighed by this card’s awesome perks and sign-up bonus. When it comes to combining luxury and practicality, no one does it like The Platinum Card® from American Express.”
- Upgraded Points wrote, “The (card) is a valuable addition to your wallet if you prefer luxury travel benefits and travel frequently.”
Consumer reviews of the card are mixed:
- Credit Karma: 3.7 stars from 52 reviews, with the most recent reviews complaining about customer service. Three of the five most recent reviews at the time of research were 1 star.
- Wallet Hub: 4.1 stars from 449 reviews, with several recent reviewers saying that the card is worth the $450 annual fee.
Our Final Thoughts About This Credit Card
The American Express Platinum card is one of several luxury credit cards available to consumers. It has a $450 annual fee and offers 40,000 bonus points for anyone who spends $3,000 in the first three months of owning the card.
It has a great collection of long-term benefits, most of which are focused on the traveler. Access to Priority Pass and Centurion lounges sets the card’s perks apart from other travel-heavy luxury credit cards.
Unlike other cards, however, the Platinum doesn’t charge APR. Rather, if you don’t pay off your balance, you’re subject to a 2.99% penalty that, when put in terms of APR, is astonishingly high.
Based on the research we’ve done for this review, we think the Platinum card is a good fit for travelers who book multiple trips a year and enjoy staying in Starwood Preferred Guest or Hilton hotels.
However, the card’s 5:1/1:1 points system isn’t as beneficial as what you’d find with other cards.
If you’re hesitant about signing up for this card, take a look at the perks offered from the Chase Sapphire Reserve or MasterCard Black luxury cards. Both have their own unique set of short-term and long-term benefits that may suit you better.