Amex Platinum – Worth the Annual Fee?

I often listen to the Frequent Miler podcast. Greg and Nick are entertaining and do a good job explaining complex points and miles topics to newbies and veterans alike. Last week’s episode discussed the American Express Platinum Card and its now $695 annual fee. They went through the benefits to see if the card is still worth holding after the first year.

I also have some thoughts on this topic. My wife and I currently have four Platinum cards between us (a regular Platinum each plus both a Morgan Stanley and a Schwab version of the card). My plan is probably to close two of the cards this year as not only will the annual fee be going up to $695 from $550 for all these cards at our next renewal, but some of the benefits overlap and make the incremental value of the cards diminish.

Why do we have four of these? I got the Morgan Stanley one several years ago because it offers a free authorized user card, which I gave to my wife so that we can both access the Sky Club and other lounges when we travel. Then in late 2019, she got targeted with a 125,000 points signup offer so we grabbed it because at the time, that was an incredible offer. In 2020, I was targeted with an even better offer of 125,000 points PLUS 10x points on grocery and gas spending up to $25,000. Finally, in 2021, I was looking to add the Schwab version to be able to cash out some points to my Schwab investment account. On July 1, 2021, Amex changed the signup offer on that card to 100,000 points plus 10x on restaurant and small business spending. Somehow, despite the annual fee changing to $695 on that day, my card was only charged $550. Unfortunately, the Schwab card lost value when they adjusted the cash-out rate from 1.25c to 1.1c per point. At that rate, I’ll use my points for transferring to partners instead. I have also added three authorized users to my Platinum card for $175 per year to give my daughters and my mom lounge access.

There are benefits besides the ones I have listed below such as a Walmart+ subscription and Equinox credit, but I don’t value those at all. Lounge access and earning 5x points on flights are duplicative benefits although obviously there is value in those benefits for the first Platinum card. The same overlap applies for Amex Offers which can also save you money throughout the year. In addition, the cards offer elite status at Hilton and Marriott if you don’t already have that. I do, so I don’t really value that benefit. There is also a Global Entry/Pre-check reimbursement every four years, but so many credit cards have this reimbursement that I don’t really value it as a specific annual benefit on the Amex Platinum.

Now let’s look at the benefits that each card has available that are not redundant and how I value each benefit.

1) $200 Annual Uber credit – Value: $200. We use Uber Eats or Uber enough to get full value out of this benefit on multiple cards.
2) $200 Airline fee credit – Value: $150. While I manage to use up these credits on all the cards, the time and effort involved to make sure I use them takes away a bit of the value. It’s not straightforward, especially if you don’t spend money on luggage or seat fees.
3) $200 Hotel credit – Value: $175. Again, even though I managed to use all of these credits last year and will probably do so this year, it takes time and effort to use these cost-effectively. I’m not booking a $900 per night Ritz Carlton in New York to save $200.
4) $179 CLEAR credit – Value: $179 for the first two cards. $0 for each additional card. We have four of us who use CLEAR – myself, wife and 2 daughters. So, we get good value out of the first two credits, but zero value out of the others.
5) $100 Saks credit – Value: $75. Would I ever shop there without these credits? No, but what I usually do is stop by Saks twice per year and buy a $50 gift card with each Platinum card. Then we save them for when my wife wants something nice at Saks.
6) $240 Streaming credit – Value: $240 for the first card and about $120 for the second card. $0 for each additional card. I like the SiriusXM subscription and set it up for $10 per month. I also will take advantage of ESPN+ and Disney+ monthly credits when my annual subscriptions end which are worth about $15 per month. Without the credit, I would probably not bother with Peacock Premium (as I get regular Peacock through cable) and NY Times (but I do like having it) so I will discount those by about half in my valuation.

Total value for first Platinum card: $1,019.
Total value for second Platinum card: $899.
Total value for each additional Platinum card: $600.

As we can see, there is value in keeping two of these cards open each year. When the annual fee hits, I will likely cancel the Schwab card and one of either my wife’s card or the Morgan Stanley card. Keeping one of these open ensures she will have lounge access.

Of course, Amex could offer me retention bonuses for some of these cards so that could change my thinking or leave more than two cards open for another year. I will make sure to post about what I decide when the time comes.

If you enjoyed this post (or have questions), let me know in the comments or send me an email at emptynestermiles@gmail.com. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.

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