≡ Menu

Is the American Express Platinum Card worth the $699 Annual Fee?

Since I wrote a post about the American Express Black card, I’ve had my eye out for super premium credit cards.  It’s not that I would ever sign up (or even qualify) for one of these cards, but it’s my curiosity as to how some companies cater to the rich.

The premium card that I came across recently was from an advertisement that I received in the mail.  The card is the American Express Platinum Card and it comes with a hefty $699 annual fee.  While it doesn’t compare to the $2,500 annual fee AMEX Black card ($7,500 fee in first year), it’s still much higher than the average $120 fee based card.

While I typically discard credit card sign up mail, the annual fee piqued my interest.  Since some $120 credit cards offer more value than free credit cards, I assumed that a $700 card must offer “rock star” perks.

So the question remains, does the Platinum card offer at least $700 in value?  Lets take a look:

The Benefits and Value

Earned Points and Insurance

1.25 points per $1 spent, transferable to Aeroplan on a 1:1 basis. Plus a premium insurance package available with most fee based travel credit cards.  This includes car rental insurance, trip interruption/cancellation, flight delay, lost baggage, travel accident, and hotel burglary.

  • Value: I would give this a value of $120, similar to what an high end Aeroplan credit card would cost.

Airport Lounge Access  

This perk will allow travelers access to Priority Pass airport lounges around the world.  I can see this being a major draw for frequent business travelers as the lounges offer free drinks, appetizers, wifi and a place to relax out of the hustle and bustle of the airport.  The “Priority Pass” allows access to 600 lounges within 100 countries and 300 cities.

  • Value: This is the highest level of the “Priority Pass” that has a retail value of $399.

Travel Credit

The platinum card offers a $200 travel credit that is automatically renewed every year.  This can be applied against any single travel item $200 or more charged to the card.

  • Value: $200.

International Airline Program

Participating airlines (see list here) will provide a complimentary or discounted companion ticket (still need to pay taxes/fees) when booking first/business class tickets.  This is potentially a solid perk for frequent international business travelers, however, they are not clear as to their restrictions.  It appears that there is no limit to the number of trips that a companion ticket can be purchased as well.

  • Value: Undetermined (potentially very high).

Premium Hotel Membership Program

This feature will upgrade the more popular hotel points programs. In the past, I collected Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points which provided a very good return on spending.  Once you reach 10 stays at an SPG hotel, you automatically get upgraded to SPG Gold, or SPG Platinum after 25 stays.

The higher status may provide free room upgrades, late checkout and access to the club floor (free appetizers and drinks).  With this AMEX card, users automatically get SPG Gold status, Gold Elite membership with Club Carlson and Platinum membership with Le Club Accorhotels.  In addition, users get upgraded to Fairmont President’s Club Platinum Membership after five stays.  This is another feature that is challenging to put a value on and the membership levels depend on the number of stays.

  • Value: Undetermined (depends on how much you use SPG hotels.  If you really like SPG hotels, the AMEX SPG card is something to consider).

Upgrades at Fine Hotels & Resorts

The AMEX list of 700 high end hotels & resorts (Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Waldorf, among others) offers Platinum card holders with free upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, breakfast for two and a $100 credit.  Note though that these are high end hotels, so the nightly premium over something found on Priceline won’t likely add up to the extra perks.

  • Value: Undertermined (likely not something that I would use).

Preferred Golf Membership

I’ve never heard of the “Preferred Golf Membership” but it basically gives users access to some of the top golf resorts from around the world (like Pebble Beach).  The membership has a retail value of $295 which allows a AMEX user to get a free round of golf with any consecutive two night stay.  Note though that the stays are not cheap.  I just checked their reservation system for a couple of nights at a Pebble Beach resort, and the cost was $745 USD a night.

  • Value: $295 (again likely not something I would use).

Car Rental Program

If you rent a car with Hertz with this credit card, they will automatically upgrade the vehicle along with a 15% discount.  Avis will over a 25% discount in North America.

  • Value: Minimal (get better pricing with other online sources).

Final Thoughts

This is a unique card where the top benefit is not the potential points accumulated, but the side premium travel benefits.  Adding up the benefits above results in a retail value of $1014 a year and this does not include the undetermined values of the Premium Hotel Membership, Fine Hotels & Resorts, Car Rental Program, and the International Airline program.

While the retail value is higher than the $699 annual fee, there is only value in this card if the features are used.  I can see this card being very valuable to the business traveler who spends more time in airports and hotels than at home.  While I like the idea of having access to all the airport lounges and free hotel upgrades, for seldom travelers like myself, the value offered does not justify the $699 annual fee.  Then again, I stick with no annual fee cash back cards anyways.

For the extensive travelers out there, would you consider this card?

If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free newsletter service below (we will not spam you).

FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • mooyootoo October 7, 2013, 1:47 pm

    I have to admit, I actually tried this out once, in spite of the very high fee. There were a couple of reasons I did: there was a 100K point (amex points = aeroplan) bonus that allowed my wife and I to book business class tickets to Italy on points for our honeymoon, I put the $200 toward the taxes toward our airline fees, and we used the lounge access because that lounge was empty while we couldn’t find a seat in the air canada lounge. All in all, given the occasion, it allowed us to make a special trip extra memorable, and I’d say that’s worth the $700. That said, I cancelled it before I paid for the next year; once all that was done, I found I didn’t use the benefits enough to justify having it, and most of them aren’t that great anyway (SPG gold doesn’t mean much, everyone has it; the Platinum concierge isn’t very useful, they don’t tend to be very knowledgeable about activities etc in Canada; the golf membership is useless, there’s only 1 course in Canada included, in BC (I live in ON); the lounge access isn’t great because there isn’t one in Ottawa (it doesn’t include the AC lounges)). I did also get invited to a track day for free, that was put on by BMW to try to sell the new 3-series. Clearly they believe Plat card holders are their demographic…even though I always buy cars used, and have never spent more than $6K on one. It was great fun though, I’ve never driven a car that hard before!

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader October 7, 2013, 2:03 pm

    @mooyootoo, thanks for sharing your experience. What credit card do you use now?

  • Daniel S October 8, 2013, 1:10 am

    The problem with these cards is that the benefits are typically available through other means for frequent travellers. Lounge access is pretty much standard if you travel somewhat frequently. Status with hotels and car rental companies is also achieved quite easily. In other words, if you want to get value out of the card, you need to travel a lot and by all this travelling you earn the same benefits that you pay for through the card.

    Now, the companion ticket is interesting. These are typically subject to availability and require most of the times a full fare business class ticket. That could be worth quite a bit, however I don’t know too many people who pay full fare if they travel for themselves. On top of that, if you are willing to live with a few restrictions, two reduced business class fares may actually be cheaper than one full fare business class ticket.

    Long story short, I don’t think this card is worth the high fee. I believe this is marketed to people who enjoy showing their “expensive” credit card, regardless of the card cost.

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader October 8, 2013, 8:48 am

    @daniel, good analysis. When you say that frequent travellers get lounge access, are you talking about aeroplan status?

  • Daniel S October 8, 2013, 3:01 pm

    Yes, I am used to the Air Canada and other large airline frequent flyer programs. For these programs it is quite easy to reach a level that gives you access to the lounges.
    Westjet has a bit of a different approach. They offer a discount for the priority pass lounges, but don’t have their own lounges. If you fly a lot of Westjet and want lounge access, then maybe this card makes sense.

  • Harry October 20, 2013, 8:26 am

    The fee seems exorbitant to me, so if one doesn’t use it fully to take most value from it, it probably isn’t worth it for them.

  • mooyootoo October 31, 2013, 12:24 pm

    I’m now on the Amex Gold card – but only because there was a promotion waiving the fee for the year. I like the card benefits, and the signup bonuses are worth the hassle of changing up cards now and the, at least for me. My wife and I are comfortable in our house, manage our money well, buy older cars in cash, and have no intention of moving any time soon, so I leverage my high credit rating in exchange for whatever stuff credit card companies want to give me to entive me to sign up – I can accept the small hit to my credit score, since our debt-to-income ratio is so low anyway. I don’t recall, if you haven’t researched “credit card churning”, that might be an interesting article idea for you!

  • john December 14, 2013, 6:09 pm

    I have this card and I can tell you that if you travel to say…a city of 13 million people (Tokyo)…there are 2…that’s right…only 2 ATMs in the entire city from which you can withdraw cash…and they charge 3% of the amount drawn as a fee.

    A massive $700/yr annual fee…only 2 ATMs in Tokyo…an abusive 3% withdraw fee (by comparison, CIBC Visa Infinite is $15)…supposedly an international card for travelers…weak…very weak…

    Why do I have this card? I’m a SuperElite with AirCanada and I basically paid $700 for the 50000 sign-up MR bonus points converted to Aeroplan. As a SE, it makes sense if you’re using these points to book xmas international business class flights. If you don’t understand this, it means you’re not an SE.

  • Woody January 3, 2014, 9:13 pm

    I’ve had this card for a few months now. It is definitely worth it for the first year only unless as some of the folks say, you are a travel savvy person.

    The initial 50K miles + 200$ travel credit will give you 700$ in travel credit, not to mention the Fairmont Plat status including 2 free suite upgrades, 2 free room upgrades and 1 complimentary night in addition to 100$ to spend on dining or SPA.

    Besides this, I’d really think there is not much for the casual user, better go for cash back cards on other travel cards.

    Cheers,

    W.

  • Manon January 26, 2014, 1:51 pm

    I have used the Platinum Card for 10 years. During that time, I was upgraded ONCE in a SPG hotel, despite asking every single time. Their standard answer : sorry, no availability. I joined the Accorhotels Platinum card service, only to be downgraded a few months later because I had not stayed enough nights to justify maintaining my status. It took six phone calls to Amex and Accorhotels to reinstate my status, and Amex kept on telling me it wasn’t their problem.

    The companion ticket is not worth it — you have to purchase a full fare business class ticket to be entitled to it. My husband and I travel business class to Europe and we purchase these tickets at a much lower rate than full fare, while (I agree) taking away some of the flexibility the full fare offers.

    When I received my statement showing the fee had been increased to $699, I finally caved in. My husband has a spouse card at a cost of $175 a year, and the total fee for the year would have been $874. We do use the Priority Pass lounges and the special security line at Pearson, but frankly, it is not worth that much money a year.

    I phoned Amex to cancel the card. After 10 years of membership, they were at best indifferent about my wish to cancel the card. They mentioned the $200 travel credit and when I said I felt it was still not worth the $300 increase in annual fees, they said fine. That was it — I guess their card is so incredibly popular they did not feel it was worth fighting to keep their current members, especially the ones who complain about a fee increase.

    I did have a bit of an insecurity crisis when I cut up the card, but frankly, it is not worth it. Not at this price!

  • P April 30, 2014, 1:13 pm

    I have had an AMEX Platinum Card for 8 years now. One free night in a suite at the Fairmont in Whistler plus the $100 dining credit wipes out the annual fee. The five nights needed to attain Platinum status in the Fairmont President’s Club are corporate travel for which I get 100% re-imbursed. So for this one benefit alone it is worth the annual fee.

  • John June 3, 2014, 8:28 pm

    I would only sign up for this card for the first year. Here’s why… When signing up you get 50,000 reward points. If I convert those points to British Airways points I can use them for a flight to Tokyo. Last time I went to Tokyo, flights were priced at $1900 for a round trip. It only take 50,000 British Airways points to get me a round trip ticket to Tokyo and back… All I have to pay is the taxes and fees which is around $500. Therefore if I calculate the yearly fee of $700 plus the $500 is taxes and fees, it is still cheaper than the $1900 plane ticket. It saves me $700. I can also use the 50,000 points to upgrade my economy ticket to business class which is usually $4000-$5000, so if the economy ticket is $1900 plus the $700 annual fee, I save $1400 – $2400.

    Anyways…. like i said, I would cancel it after the first year because the other benefits of this card don’t help me at all.

Leave a Comment