This article is part of a refresh of our reward credit card reviews. Over the next few months, I’ll be revisiting, adding to and updating all of our in-depth credit card features. You can read the current series here.
In the past, I’ve 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 American Express Platinum Card.
The Platinum card is the subject of much debate. It offers the single largest welcome bonus currently available across any card issuer in the UK. However, that large sign-up bonus comes at a price and a significant one at that.
In addition to the welcome bonus, the card possesses a raft of benefits and I’m going to break down and assess those perks in an effort to try to simplify the cost v benefits dilemma and work out if this card makes sense for you.
The headline figures
You will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards (MR) points when you sign up and spend £2,000 within three months of taking out the card. As mentioned, this is the largest travel rewards sign-up bonus available in the UK currently.
As I explained in this guide, Membership Rewards points are very versatile and can be converted to a number of different airline and hotel loyalty programs. These include British Airways Avios, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, Hilton Honors and Starwood points.
That means that this sign-up bonus is effectively worth 30,000 Avios or Virgin miles. That’s enough miles for return business class flights to the likes of Venice, Prague or Faro. It’s also enough for an economy return to New York with either BA or Virgin.
Being a premium card, of course, means a premium fee. In the case of the Platinum card, the annual fee is £450 per year.
Like all Amex-issued American Express cards, the card 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 Preferred Rewards Gold card (which I reviewed in full here) and the Green card. That means it’s a charge card rather than a credit card and you must clear your balance in full each month.
This card earns 1 Membership Rewards (MR) point per £1 spent on the card. There’s also a bonus point per £1 for every £1 spent with directly with Amex Travel.
When you consider that the Platinum card is American Express’s flagship product, that isn’t very impressive at all. In fact, it’s a major reason why this card has never appealed to me as an everyday spending card.
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. Feel free to add any additional benefits in the comments section below.
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.
Airport lounge access
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 can’t actually be purchased elsewhere, 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, Platinum cardholders can also allocate a complimentary supplementary Platinum card to a family member/friend/colleague. They will then receive their own Priority Pass with the same unlimited visits for them + a guest.
Incidentally, the first supplementary Platinum card is free, with further cards charged at £170 each, thereafter.
In fact, I know people who offset the £450 Platinum fee each year by making colleagues supplementary cardholders on their account for the Priority Pass benefit alone. Their colleagues will pay them a fee in return for a great lounge access deal that you can’t ordinarily purchase.
For those who travel even just four or five 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.
Amex Centurion lounges
Amex has a range of mostly US-based lounges that they’ve named Amex Centurion lounges. That doesn’t mean an Amex Centurion card is required though. Platinum cardholders can access these lounges for free along with two additional guests.
Note: This isn’t restricted to US Platinum cardholders – “all Platinum Cards® and Centurion Members, regardless of country of issue, are eligible to enter The Centurion Lounge”.
The Centurion lounge ‘network’ currently comprises of:
- Dallas (DFW)
- Hong Kong (HKG)
- Houston (IAH)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- New York (LGA)
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- Miami (MIA)
- Seattle (SEA)
- San Francisco (SFO)
There is also a further lounge set to open in JFK in 2019.
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 car rental companies tend to try and sell you when renting a car.
You are also eligible for Avis Preferred and Hertz Five Star Plus Rewards membership. I don’t personally ascribe much value to the Hertz benefit, 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.
The Platinum card offers complimentary status in various hotel loyalty programs.
You will receive Gold status (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) – matches instantly to Marriott Gold status.
- 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 also receive free 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, readers already have access to similar benefits via the Xexec Travel team. These are available at Four Seasons, Shangri-La and Starwood Luxury Collection properties to name but a few. Taking out a £450 card purely to utilise the Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits makes little sense if you already have access to such a service via Tricks of the Trade.
Am I eligible for the welcome bonus?
You are eligible for the sign-up bonus UNLESS you hold or have held one of the Amex Green, Gold or Platinum charge cards or American Express Rewards credit cards in the last 6 months.
You WILL still receive the sign-up bonus on this card if you hold/have held either of the BA Amex cards, SPG card, Platinum Cashback card, Nectar Card or any other Amex issued by Barclays, Lloyds, TSB or MBNA.
Amex will generally allow you to hold two of their charge card products and two of their credit card products at any one time. Gold and Green are the other charge cards available while credit cards include the two British Airways cards and the Nectar credit card.
The above isn’t a hard and fast rule. I’ve held the British Airways Premium Plus, Starwood and Nectar credit cards at the same time without issue. It is one to be aware of though, as some have reported being declined for cards after exceeding those limits in the past.
There are NO minimum income requirements to be eligible for any cards issued by American Express. This restriction was removed a number of years ago.
Is it the right card for me?
This question mainly concerns the long-term value of keeping the card. That’s because the strong sign-up bonus makes applying for the card and holding it until you’ve triggered the bonus, an attractive proposition.
With a 30,000 Membership Rewards 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.
After receiving the 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 entirely
At £450 per year, this card is head and shoulders, in terms of cost, above other premium card products 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? To be honest it depends which category you fall into:
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 in terms of value.
The leisure traveller
If you fall into the category of person who travels with a partner and a couple of kids say three or four 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 otherwise be paying for 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 as to whether you should keep the card in the long-term. It requires careful consideration of your expected usage of the benefits. As you can see from the above, there’s any number of variables that could make the card a ‘keeper’ or not.
If you persuaded a colleague to pay you £150-£200 in exchange for a supplementary card and a market-topping Priority Pass, keeping the card, at effectively a cost of £250-£300, becomes much more appealing.
Analysing the card purely in terms of the sign-up bonus, this is a great way to earn a big chunk of Avios points, Virgin miles etc at low cost.
Remember you have three months to hit the £2,000 spend requirement. If you then cancelled your card and took a pro-rata refund of the annual fee, those three months would’ve cost roughly £115 in card fees – less if you can hit the spending target sooner.
I’m sure every Tricks of the Trade reader would be able to extract more than £115 of value out of 30,000 Avios!
Does the Platinum card do enough for you to justify its £450 fee?
Disclaimer: The information provided by Tricks of the Trade is intended solely as a helpful guide to relevant travel rewards card products and their various features and offers. You should always conduct your own research as recommendations provided within may not be suitable for your personal financial circumstances.