Previously I have reviewed a number of the key American Express card products and assessed their worthiness from a loyalty points perspective. Today I come to their flagship product – the Platinum Card.
The Platinum card is the subject of constant debate among points enthusiasts given it commands the single largest sign-up bonus currently available across any card issuer in the UK.
However, along with the large sign-up bonus comes a significant annual fee. The card is accompanied by a range of extra, day-to-day benefits and I am going to break down those perks today in an effort to try to simplify the cost v benefits dilemma.
Before I get into a detailed analysis of the benefits, let’s first take a look at the headline figures.
Currently, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points when you sign up and spend £2,000 within 3 months of taking out the card. This is the single largest travel credit card sign-up bonus available in the UK from any issuer.
As I have covered in my review of the Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card, MR points can be converted to a number of different airline and hotel loyalty programs. These include BA Avios, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles and Hilton points.
That means that this sign-up bonus is effectively worth 30,000 Avios. That is enough miles for a return business class trip to Malaga or an economy return to New York.
Being a premium card means, of course, a premium fee. In the case of the Platinum card, the annual fee is £450 per year. Like all Amex-issued American Express cards, this fee is refundable on a pro-rata basis should you choose to cancel your card at any point during the year.
This card belongs to the same family as the Gold Credit Card and the Green card. That means it is a charge card rather than a credit card and you must clear your balance in full each month.
This card earns 1 Membership Reward (MR) point per £1 spent on the card, which when you consider it is Amex’s flagship product, isn’t that impressive at all.
However, besides for the substantial sign-up bonus, there are also a number of core benefits that accompany the Platinum Card. Below, I will give make brief mention of a number of these – the list is not intended to be exhaustive.
One of the main attractions of this card is comprehensive (including the U.S) travel insurance for the main cardmember, supplementary cardholders and their respective ‘immediate families’ (Details of who exactly is included in that definition can be found in the T&C’s here).
Some of these insurance-related benefits require you to have paid for the trip on the Platinum card itself, but essentially the main medical cover does NOT require you do so.
This is a very good benefit indeed and one of the Platinum card’s most important attractions. The Priority Pass that accompanies the Platinum card is the best version there is and one that cannot actually be otherwise purchased, even directly from Priority Pass themselves!
This version allows unlimited free entries for the main cardholder and a guest to any one of the 1,000+ lounges in the Priority Pass network.
In addition, a cardmember can also allocate a complimentary supplementary Platinum card to a family member/friend/colleague. They will receive their own Priority Pass with the same unlimited visits for them + a guest. The first supplementary Platinum card is free, with further cards charged at £170 each, thereafter.
In fact, I know people who offset the Platinum fee each year by making colleagues supplementary cardholders on their account for the Priority Pass benefit alone. Their colleagues will pay them the £170 fee and in return receive a great deal on lounge access that you cannot normally buy.
Needless to say, for those who travel even just 4/5 times a year, this benefit can prove extremely valuable. You would also be able to take maximum advantage of the ‘£60 of free airport food and drink deal’ that I covered a couple of weeks ago.
This is another perk that I have made good use of in the past. When renting a car abroad, the theft, damage and liability additional/optional car rental insurance is covered up to £50,000. This allows you to avoid any costly additional insurance extras that a car rental company will try to sell you when you are renting a car.
You are also eligible for Avis Preferred and Hertz Five Star Plus Rewards membership. However, I don’t ascribe much value to the Hertz benefit in particular, seeing as Xexec clients can get complimentary Hertz Five Star Gold Plus Rewards status – with no need to pay a £450 fee – by using this link here.
By holding a Platinum card you are eligible for complimentary status in various hotel loyalty programs.
You will receive Gold (usually the mid-tier status) in the following programs:
- Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) – Including 4 pm late checkout and upgrade to a preferred room (subject to availability).
- Hilton Honors – Including free breakfast at most properties and an upgrade to a preferred room (subject to availability).
- Club Carlson – Including early check-in/late checkout and a complimentary upgrade (all subject to availability)
- Melia Rewards – Including 4 pm late checkout (city hotels) unless the hotel is at 100% capacity.
You will also receive Jade membership in Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Golden Circle program. This includes complimentary breakfast, 11 am check-in and 4 pm checkout (latter benefits are subject to availability at most hotels and resorts).
Eurostar lounge access
This is a benefit that gets very little coverage. By presenting a Platinum card, you can gain access to all Eurostar lounges. Given how busy stations such as St Pancras can get at peak times, the opportunity for a bit of peace and quiet and a bite to eat is very welcome.
Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection
This a benefit only available to Platinum cardholders. It offers extra perks such as complimentary breakfast, 4 pm late check-out and a room upgrade (subject to availability) at 900+ hotels worldwide.
Then again, Xexec clients already have access to the Travel Concierge and with that all of the above benefits at Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La properties to name but a few. Taking out a £450 card solely to experience these added extras at hotels makes little sense if you already have access to such a service via Xexec.
Is it the right card for me?
This question is really one regarding the long-term value of keeping the card.
With a 30,000 MR points bonus for taking out the card, I think most people could justify spending a couple of months-worth of Platinum fees to secure that bonus.
You would then have 3 options:
- Keep the card if you feel the benefits add up for you
- Downgrade to the Preferred Rewards Gold Card which carries a lower £140 fee
- Cancel the card altogether
At £450 per year, this card is head and shoulders, in terms of price, above any other premium card product in the UK market. Even the HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard only commands a £195 fee. With an annual fee that is more than twice that, the Platinum Card has its work cut out to prove its worth and sufficient reasoning for you to part with £450.
Does it make a strong enough case? Well, to be quite honest it depends:
The frequent traveller
This is the easiest type of person to make a case for holding the card. Once you factor in the excellent travel insurance, the Priority Pass and the hotel statuses, it shouldn’t be difficult at all to recoup at least the annual fee.
The leisure traveller
If you fall into the category of person who travels say with a partner and a couple of kids 3/4 times a year, this is likely to be a fairly marginal call. You would receive comprehensive travel insurance plus complimentary lounge access for the four of you each time you fly as well as all of the other perks.
But, you would have to do the maths and establish how much you would be paying alternatively for the equivalent worldwide travel insurance as well as deciding how much value you place on lounge access – you may well be happy with a sandwich from Pret and find airport lounges a waste of time.
There is no definitive answer to whether you should keep the card in the long-term, it is highly subjective and requires careful evaluation of your likely use of the benefits. As you can see from the above, there is any number of variables that could make the card a ‘keeper’ or not.
If you were able, for example, to persuade a couple of colleagues who are frequent travellers, to cover the £170 supplementary cards fee in exchange for a market-topping version of the Priority Pass, then keeping the card would become a far easier decision.
Purely from a sign-up bonus perspective, this card is a great way to earn a hefty chunk of Avios, Virgin miles or hotel points. You must spend £2,000 within the first 3 months to earn the bonus. On a pro-rata basis those 3 months would cost roughly £115 in card fees – less if you hit your spending target sooner.
I’m sure pretty much every Tricks of the Trade reader would be able to extract more than £115 of value out of 30,000 Avios for example!
Does this card do enough for you to justify the £450 fee?
Disclaimer: The above information is intended solely as a helpful guide to the relevant card products on the market and their various features. You should always conduct your own research as the recommendations provided within may not be suitable for your personal financial circumstances.