The mainstream move to premium cards happened several years ago and was very much aided by people realizing you could use included credits to substantially reduce the burden of the overall annual fee. American Express has closed the door on some of this while adding new benefits and, yes, increasing their premium card’s annual fee. Here is what American Express says for their American Express Platinum card.
New Benefits and Higher Fee for the American Express Platinum
Last year, card issuers had to adjust to a customer base that was no longer traveling and many of whom were considering dropping their premium cards. By looking at the new benefits of the American Express Platinum, it is no secret that Amex thinks that travel is back to stay.
New American Express Platinum Benefits
Here are the new “benefits” that the American Express Platinum takes up.
$200 Hotel Credit: An annual statement credit for prepaid bookings at Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection properties made available through American Express Travel.
$179 CLEAR Credit: An annual statement credit for a CLEAR membership, which offers expedited security screening at select airports and stadiums across the U.S.
More Lounges in More Places: American Express offers access to more airport lounges compared to any other U.S. credit card program, with over 1,300 airport lounges in 500+ airports and 140 countries around the world. This includes the recently expanded The Centurion® Network, with over 40 lounge locations worldwide, offering a premium airport lounge experience.
Premium Private Jet Program: Access to a 20% discount on Wheels Up Connect and a 40% discount on Wheels Up Core memberships. Plus, get a $500 or $2,000 credit added to your Wheels Up account to use toward your initial flight within your first year depending on your selected Wheels Up membership. For more information, visit here
American Express highlights those travel-side benefits while also rolling out additional benefits coming to the Platinum card.
$240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Limited-time statement credits on streaming services in 2020 have been one of the most popular Platinum Card offers, with 78% of Platinum Card Members having received credits. Now, the Platinum Card is offering up to $240 in annual statement credits ($20/month) on eligible purchases or subscriptions with Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM and The New York Times.
$300 Equinox Credit: An annual statement credit ($25/month) on purchases of select Equinox Fitness Club monthly memberships or a digital subscription to Equinox+ (the on-demand fitness app).
We are also launching a new benefit with Equinox+ for Blue Cash Preferred Card Members. Card Members will receive up to $120 in statement credits on purchases of a digital subscription to Equinox+, the company’s on-demand fitness app.
Global Dining Access by Resy: Access to the new Global Dining Access program by Resy that gives Platinum Card Members exclusive reservations at some of the world’s top restaurants, access to premium events and other perks like priority notify and VIP status. Dining continues to be a top spending category, and nearly half of consumers surveyed* say that they’re willing to spend more on unique dining experiences than they were before the pandemic.
The New Annual Fee
The new annual fee for the American Express Platinum card for those who apply now is a whopping $695. This is up from the already-previously increased fee of $550. This fee will go into effect for any cardholders (who had the card prior to July 1, 2021) on the renewal date that takes place after January 1, 2022.
My Take on These New Changes
I may be completely out of touch with “digital entertainment” but I had honestly looked at that and thought, “ok, that is nice” thinking it would be a $20 credit each month for anything coded as to being streaming service. But, nope, it doesn’t include Netflix, Hulu, MLB TV, NFL Gamepass, Amazon Prime video, YouTube – services that likely got a usage bump in 2020.
Instead, it is for PEACOCK? Ok, I get that some cord cutters may go that way. I have to admit I like Audible and Sirius XM but my problem with both of those is that monthly subscriptions are under the $20 mark which means you would not get the full $20 credit per month if you are only subscribing to one of those services.
Then we get to the “travel” side of things. In my opinion, you cannot herald your expanded lounge access as a “new” benefit since that would exist without an announcement or anything like that. This is constantly being upgraded to so it doesn’t deserve a bullet point – unless you are reaching hard to justify that annual fee increase.
The $200 hotel credit, again, sounds good on the face of it but you still need to book directly through Amex at specific hotels. This is not nearly as good as booking direct with hotels and getting the statement credit. The good thing is that there are some nice deals through Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program so people will definitely get value from this.
CLEAR credit doesn’t excite me. While they are expanding to new locations, there are also very frequent deals that give you 2, 3, or even 4 months free with CLEAR. In fact, TripIt Pro gives their subscribers 4 months free and then you can get a year’s subscription for just $149. That is a $30 savings from the stated $179 with Amex. If you travel enough to use CLEAR, you should have TripIt Pro so this would drop the Amex value of that to $149.
My take on this is that Amex really should have put more into this before rolling it out. It is almost like they decided they “needed” to raise the annual fee to almost $700 and then went around the executive table to see what things sound like they could throw them in to justify it. Kind of like those mystery boxes you can order online that each one will have something worth “more than $50” with over 20 items included – and you basically get junk and one thing that you would never pay $50 for.
But, if you have not had the American Express Platinum before, while it is the worst time to get it with the new fee, you can get 100,000 Membership Reward points after spending $6,000 on the card in the first 6 months. It is a strong bonus offer and will give you a bunch of things like 5X points on travel booked directly with the airline or with Amex travel and many more travel perks. I just do not suggest that most travelers keep the card past the first year. It just isn’t worth it for most, especially many that live outside of major cities.
Featured image courtesy American Express