This article is part of my usual refresh of our travel reward credit card reviews. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be revisiting and updating all of our in-depth credit card feature articles. You can read the current series here.
This our review of the American Express Platinum card.
The Amex Platinum card offers the largest travel rewards sign-up bonus currently available in the UK. However, that large sign-up bonus comes with an annual fee and a significant one at that.
In addition to the big welcome bonus, the Platinum card has a raft of benefits that we’ll be analysing to help you work out if this card makes sense for you.
The key facts
You will receive 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points when you sign up and spend £2,000 within three months of taking out the card.
As I explained in this guide, American Express 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 Marriott Rewards (soon to be Marriott Bonvoy) points.
That means that this sign-up bonus is worth 30,000 Avios or Virgin miles. That’s enough miles for return business class flights to the likes of Venice or the Algarve. It’s also enough for a return flight to New York in economy with either BA or Virgin.
A premium card 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 cancel your card at any point during the year.
The Platinum card belongs to the same family as the Preferred Rewards Gold credit card (which I recently reviewed in full here) and the Green card. However, it is a charge card rather than a credit card which means you must clear your balance in full each month or risk a notch on your credit report.
Day-to-day earnings rate
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.
This is a poor return when you consider that the Platinum card is American Express’s flagship card product. It’s also why this card has never appealed to me as an everyday spending card.
In addition to the substantial sign-up bonus, there are also numerous (travel related) benefits that accompany the Platinum Card.
Feel free to add any key benefits that I may have missed in the comments section below.
One of the main attractions of the Platinum card is the 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 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 be purchased elsewhere, even directly from Priority Pass themselves!
This Priority Pass allows unlimited free entries for the main cardholder + a guest to any one of the 1,000+ lounges in the Priority Pass lounge 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.
In fact, I know people who offset the £450 Platinum fee each year by making their 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 buy elsewhere.
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 at Gatwick’ trick that I’ve covered in the past.
Amex Centurion lounge access
Amex has a range of mostly US-based lounges that they’ve named Amex Centurion lounges. You don’t require an Amex Centurion card to get in though. Platinum cardholders can access these lounges for free along with two additional guests.
The Centurion lounge network currently includes:
- Dallas-Fort Worth
- Hong Kong
- Las Vegas
- New York
- Miami (temporarily closed at the time of writing)
- San Francisco
- Buenos Aires
- Hong Kong
There are further Centurion lounges set to open in 2019 including one in London Heathrow Terminal 3.
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 ascribe much value to the Hertz benefit, seeing as Tricks of the Trade readers can get complimentary Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Five Star status by using this link here.
Refer-a-friend bonus points
American Express heavily promote their refer-a-friend scheme which gives bonus points for every person who applies and is approved for a card via your personal referral link.
Platinum cardholders receive a whopping 18,000 Membership Rewards points for every successful referral – capped at a maximum of 90,000 Membership Rewards points per calendar year.
You could certainly make an argument for keeping the Platinum card for a while if it means you’ll be able to bank three or four referrals, netting you more than 50,000 extra points.
Hotel elite status
The Platinum card offers complimentary elite status in various hotel loyalty programs.
You will receive status in the following programs:
- Starwood Preferred Guest Gold – Including 4 pm late checkout and upgrade to a preferred room (subject to availability).
- Hilton Honors Gold – Including free breakfast at most properties and an upgrade to a preferred room (subject to availability).
- Radisson Rewards Gold – Including early check-in/late checkout and a complimentary upgrade (all subject to availability)
- MeliaRewards Gold – Including 4 pm late checkout (city hotels) unless the hotel is at 100% capacity.
You also receive free Jade membership in the 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 would be very welcome, I’d imagine.
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, Tricks of the Trade readers can access similar hotel benefits via the Xexec Travel team. This will give you additional benefits at Four Seasons, Shangri-La, Park Hyatt, St. Regis and Peninsula hotels to name but a few. You can find further details via the Hotel Benefits tab at the top of the page.
Am I eligible for the Platinum sign-up bonus?
You are eligible for the sign-up bonus UNLESS you hold or have held one of the Amex Green, Gold or Platinum cards or American Express Rewards credit cards in the last six months.
You WILL still receive the sign-up bonus on this card if you currently 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.
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 the Platinum card right for me?
This question mainly concerns the wisdom of keeping the card long-term. The strong sign-up bonus makes applying for the card and holding it until you’ve triggered the bonus, an attractive proposition, but should you keep it beyond that?
With 30,000 Membership Rewards points available for taking out the card, I think most people could justify spending a couple of months of Platinum fees to secure that bonus.
At £450 per year, this card is head and shoulders cost-wise, 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.
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 travel with a partner and a couple of kids three or four times a year, this is likely to be a fairly marginal call. The comprehensive travel insurance plus complimentary lounge access for the four of you each time you fly as well as all of the other perks may make this work for you.
Equally, you need to do the maths and calculate how much you would otherwise be paying for equivalent worldwide travel insurance. You also need to consider how much value you place on lounge access. If travelling with kids, the thought of trying to keeping them quiet and well behaved in the lounge may mean a sandwich from Pret is, in reality, the far more appealing option.
There is no one right answer in terms of whether you should keep the Amex Platinum card long-term. As you can see from the above, there are many variables that could make this card a ‘keeper’ for you or not.
If can persuade a colleague to pay £150-£200 in exchange for a supplementary card and a ‘top-of-the-range’ Priority Pass, keeping the card, at effectively a new net cost of £250-£300, becomes much more appealing.
Purely in terms of the sign-up bonus, the Platinum card 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 spending requirement. If you cancelled your card immediately after triggering the bonus and took a pro-rata refund of the annual fee, those three months would 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!
Do you think the Platinum card is worth £450 a year?
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.