What’s In My Wallet? And Yours?

 

What’s In My Wallet? And Yours?

 

By Robert McGarvey

The giant has awakened – and it has sweetened the perks that come with its Platinum Card.

Take that, upstarts.  

The question: are the upgrades good enough to keep American Express Platinum cardholders in the fold after a scheduled 20+ % fee increase kicks in later this year?

Either way, Amex had to do something. Indeed, this was a long overdue move on Amex’s part. Grumbles had grown that the card just was no longer worth the $450 annual fee, especially as it lost one airline club access privilege after another  and only Delta remains on board.

Club access probably had been the key Platinum card benefit so these losses were a big deal.

And that gave competitors room to maneuver.

The big buzz in high end credit cardholder circles for the past year has been about Chase’s Sapphire Reserve, with an annual fee of $450 and freebies ranging from $300 in annual travel credits to a 100,000 mile sign up bonus and good airport lounge access.  

A few hands also clapped about the Citi Prestige Card.

Along the way, Costco dumped Amex for Citi and, said some, this was a real blow to American Express. Don’t ask me. I have never been in a Costco and have no plans to – but I suppose that did matter to some Amex cardholders.

Here’s the money question: had my loyalty to Amex wavered as it lost benefits?  Note: I have been an Amex cardholder for 40 years, much of that the gold card but maybe 15  years ago I switched to Platinum. In recent years had I questioned if the Platinum Card continued to be worth the dough? You bet, especially when United and American yanked their clubs out of the mix (and before them, Continental pulled out in 2011) and that club access had been what kept me smiling, with both Amex and air travel.

Suddenly my questions about each rose.

But – even before the new wave of benefits – I still found enough to like in the Platinum Card.  Such as the Centurion Lounges, which I continue to believe are the best domestic airport lounges.  Amex also had added Priority Pass lounges a couple years ago (now a perk with the Chase card) and, by now, Amex insists its network  is the largest, comprising 1000+ lounges in 120 countries.  It’s not perfect but it is pretty good and once you have been in a Centurion Lounge you wish you had access to them wherever you traveled in the US.  

The club access now is as good as – probably better than – what they had when United and American were in the mix.  

There’s also a $200 annual airline fee credit for charges such as lounge access or checked bags and, yes, it genuinely works. I have bought a bottle of champagne and I have checked a locked bag with a handgun inside (fully disclosed at check in of course) and in both instances fees were reimbursed and with no teeth gnashing about my consumer choices.

I’ve also gotten the TSA Pre fee reimbursed by Amex.  Or go for Global Entry and Amex picks up that tab. One or the other, not both.

And gold status in the Hilton HHonors program. Ditto for Starwood and, since its merger, that means Marriott too.

There also is a concierge service, for help arranging restaurant reservations and such like.  Those who use it a lot like it a lot.

Did those perks add up to $450? In my mind, absolutely. I admit I never ran detailed calculations. But I was satisfied I was getting my money’s worth.

Now Amex is upping its perks.  Notably it is issuing 5X points on hotels booked via amextravel.com. That complements the existing 5X rewards on airfare purchased via that site.  

It says it has added enough airport lounges to have some 90 lounges in the US alone.  

It also is offering a $200 Uber credit, plus Uber VP status and, you know what, I confess I still haven’t used Uber but now I will.  Good for me, good for Uber, good for Amex.

The bad news is that Amex is bumping the Platinum Card annual fee from $450 to $550 – but I’ll keep it in my wallet.

Besides, this year Amex is replacing the plastic card with a metallic one and how cool is that?

I’m staying put. What about you?

 

5 Comments

  1. What you did not mention was that the airline credit had to be for only one airline and can be changed only once a year

  2. The most valuable benefits are the FHR program. None of the other programs for amenity and value added benefits for high-end hotel stays compares. At their enormous list of mostly five-star hotels, you are always guaranteed a 4:00PM checkout which adds on practically an extra day to your hotel. The benefits are innumerable from sleeping, attending a last-day meeting, sightseeing, extra beach time to catching a late flight while still have access to your room (and no begging required). The other advantages such as free breakfast are common enough but Amex Platinum is more generous. Many special hotel offers such as third night free are combinable. Platinum Amex are actually great at finding extra services to offer if you actually call them. Any problems anywhere and they will work hard to resolve issues. Two for one European Business is another favorite. Arguably best of all is their Glibal Assist which was priceless when my dad became gravely ill and died in Europe. They picked up an enormous tab.

  3. Worth it for Fine hotels .Benefit of breakfast in Paris top hotels $100-120 for two.Plus I do get upgrades.Also I find they have very smart pattern recognition software.I buy gas in another state with visa and they question it.

  4. Unlike the requirement that hotels must be booked through Platinum Travel for the 5X points, the 5X for airfare is also earned when booked directly with airline.

  5. I have been an Amex Platinum customer for over 20 years.
    20 years ago:
    1. Amex offices in a wide range of cities to help with any travel concern – Today even in large cities like NYC, they’re gone.
    2. The FHR benefits – I run into multiple properties that simply limit the availability to Amex. Despite being told multiple times to use website, has anyone actually booked on the FHR Site?
    3. Lounges – Used allow either 2 guests or entire family on same itinerary. Today, if you’re traveling with wife and 2 kids…Pick who stays outside or pay up.
    4. Membership rewards – United transfers are gone. Can redirect through Air Canada or Singapore, but far more complex than it used to be.
    5. Departures Magazine – used to have useful information on travel. Now geared towards 8 figure earning 20 year old people.
    6. Car Rental benefits marginalized.
    7. Customer service – really good at providing links to their website telling what they cannot do. Still better than most Credit cards, or health insurance companies….But they no longer really stand out.

    They keep throwing additional “Benefits” in, because they’ve lost their focus.
    Platinum card used to be a serious advantage for people who travel. Today it’s simply not that more special than most cards in this category.

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