Credit Cards

Review: The American Express Platinum Card

By: Octavia Ramirez on October 5, 2017
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When it comes to high-end travel rewards cards, the American Express Platinum Card is often at the top of the list.

With one of the highest annual fees in the market — $699 a year — the AMEX Platinum Card compensates by boasting some of the most extensive travel reward offerings.

The real question, of course, is whether all those perks make up for having to pay that much money a year for the card. Especially as the premium rewards space has heated up with cards such as the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, the MBNA Rewards World Elite Mastercard and the Starwood Preferred Guest Card.

Let’s find out out how The Platinum Card stacks up.

The Features

The perks and rewards associated with having the AMEX Platinum Card in your wallet are undoubtedly irresistible. New cardholders can earn up to 50,000 Bonus Membership Rewards if they spend $3,000 or more within the first three months of receiving their AMEX Platinum card. This automatically enrolls them in the Membership Rewards First Tier, where they earn 1.25 points on every dollar they spend on their card.

Additionally, the card’s “no pre-set spending limit” is useful when traveling and shopping abroad, allowing you to continue earning points with every dollar spent, without worrying about hitting a daily spend limit. The best part is, those earned points can then be transferred to a variety of other frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, including Aeroplan and Avios.

Here’s the breakdown of additional rewards available to AMEX Platinum cardholders:

Flight Discounts

  • Complimentary Airline Upgrades

Airport Perks

  • Airport Lounge Access
  • Airport Parking Discounts
  • Airport Valet Service

Travel Credit

  • Annual Travel Credit of $200

Entertainment Benefits

  • Concierge services
  • Platinum Dining Program
  • Golf Course Access
  • Front of the Line Access

Hotel & Car Rental Benefits

  • Premium Hotel Program Membership
  • Rental Car Discounts

Other key features that stand out, particularly for travelers, are the extensive travel insurance offerings available to cardholders. Trips booked using the AMEX Platinum Card are eligible for Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance, as long as the flights were not booked using redeemed points. Additionally, Travel Accident Insurance covers expenses related to death or disability up to $500,000, and thankfully, also covers the cardholder’s spouse and any dependents.

The Purchase Protection Plan insures eligible purchases made on your card against accidental physical damage and theft up to a limit of $1,000 per occurrence for 90 days following the date of purchase.

How it stacks up against the competition

While it has extensive rewards, the AMEX Platinum Card also has some fairly stiff competition. Let’s look at a peer — The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard — to compare. The BMO card offers many similar perks, including Airport Lounge Access, Medical and Travel Protection, Purchase Protection and Extended Warranties. The card has a $120 annual fee, a fraction of the AMEX Platinum Card’s fee. Its purchase interest rate is also 10 percentage points lower at 19.99%.

Meanwhile, the annual fee on the BMO card is waived for the first year of use, and new cardmembers receive a signup bonus of 3,000 AIR MILES. That signup bonus can get you a short-haul flight to the U.S. or Canada (e.g. a couple of provinces over, or a bordering state).

The Platinum Card bonus, meanwhile, will get you a flight to the northern half of South America, or two long-haul flights within Canada and the continental U.S. Certainly, the signup bonus advantage goes to The Platinum Card.

BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard members have the ability to enroll their spouse, or one family member or friend, to their account, with an additional card at no cost, allowing them to earn AIR MILES that much faster. Supplementary cards cost a whopping $175 for the AMEX Platinum Card. Not only can these AIR MILES be redeemed towards flights, BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard members can also receive an up to 25% discount on eligible flights within North America — even during peak travel seasons. That’s a point up for BMO.

The downside, however, is that you only earn one AIR MILE for every $10 spent on your card. This is where the Platinum Card is the clear winner. AMEX members earn 1,000 Aeroplan miles for every 1,000 AMEX member points, which could be earned by making at least $800 worth of purchases on the Platinum card. These Aeroplan miles can be redeemed on Star AllianceTM network flights. By spending the same amount on the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, you’d only earn 80 miles with AIR MILES.

Therefore, if you spend $3,000 a month, you’re earning 300 miles on the AIR MILES card. That’s not quite enough to get you a flight (redemption starts at 1,200 points, which can earn a flight in-province). On the Platinum card, however, you’re earning 3,750 rewards points, which are worth 3,750 Aeroplan air miles. 15,000 Aeroplan points will get you a short-haul flight.

At $3,000 a month, you’ll get a flight equally as fast with the BMO card or the platinum card. However, the Aeroplan option will allow you to travel to multiple neighbouring provinces and states — the Air Miles option will only get you an in-province flight (unless you’re in Atlantic Canada, where you can travel to the other Atlantic provinces).

Of course, one drawback of the Platinum Card is you need to spend enough on it to cover the annual fee. Because this card offers more reward based on every dollar you spend, we calculated that on average, versus the competition, you need to spend at least $2,500 a month to get enough rewards out of this card to cover the annual fee. 

Drawbacks

The obvious drawback with the AMEX Platinum Card is, of course, the enormous annual fee, which unlike the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard or other competition, is not waived at any point. Additionally, the 30% purchase interest rate is among the highest of any high-end credit cards, which begs the question as to why applicants are not screened for income outside of simply having an excellent credit score, which is the case for the BMO Mastercard.

The AMEX Platinum Card does offer members an annual Travel Credit of $200 — however, the restrictions lessen its value. This credit can't be used towards airfare and must be used in one single travel expense, such as paying for checked baggage, or an in-flight purchase.

Despite offering minor discounts towards certain luxury hotel groups, the AMEX Platinum’s car rental loyalty program has two companies on its roster, which is the same as the BMO AIR MILES card. The Platinum Concierge service, offering restaurant and shopping recommendations, is helpful, but appears to be a bit of a glorified Google search.

Who’s this card for?

Without a doubt, the AMEX Platinum Card is meant for the big spender. Because of the high annual fee, this card doesn’t make sense if you spend less than $1,000 a month. You also should be paying your balance off every month, because the 30% interest rate is steep.

This card is also best for frequent travelers, those, who prefer to stay at high-end, luxury hotels, and will put in the extra work to book flights and accommodations using the AMEX Platinum Card in order to justify the fee. Having a high income will also help ensure the cardholder would be able to manage paying off the card balance every month, and even absorb the 30% interest charges, if need be.

Final verdict

Contrasting the AMEX Platinum Card with the comparable BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, it’s clear that the latter is a far more economical option for the average consumer. Whether you own the Platinum Card versus others is going to come down to spending. If you’re not spending at least $2,500 a month, you’re going to get more rewards from the competition after the fee is taken into account.

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