Is Amex Platinum Worth the Annual Fee?

Do the new perks live up to the new, higher fee?

In a clean, dimly lit room, a man relaxes in a lounge chair and looks at his smartphone screen.

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The Platinum Card from American Express got a 2021 makeover, and it's flashier than ever. It's packed with even more valuable travel and lifestyle perks, but with that comes a boost in cost, too. The annual fee of $550 per year bumped up $145 to $695 per year.

The new services and credits are nice additions to the card, but you might be wondering if they are really worth the extra cost. Let’s sort out whether you can come out ahead with the new Amex Platinum. 

Earning American Express Membership Rewards

Earning rewards points with the Platinum card is as straightforward as ever—and not especially lucrative.

You’ll earn 1 Membership Reward point for every dollar you spend using the card. Plus you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with airlines and 5 points per dollar for airfare and hotel stays booked via American Express Travel. That’s it. 

Other luxury travel cards offer bonus points for spending on dining (including delivery) and on a broader range of travel spending. But with the Amex Platinum card your only opportunity to earn more than the base rate is by spending on airfare, or by booking hotel stays with Amex Travel.

American Express offers a welcome bonus to new cardholders, which changes from time to time and sometimes includes enhanced points-earning opportunities. Currently, Amex’s welcome bonus rewards you with 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 with the card in the first six months of card membership. According to our calculations, each Membership Rewards point is worth 1.11 cents on average, making this bonus worth $1,110. New cardholders will also earn 10 points per dollar spent at restaurants and small businesses listed in Amex's Shop Small directory. This higher earning rate also only lasts for six months, however, and is capped at $25,000 worth of purchases—250,000 Membership Rewards points. 

Amex Platinum Benefits

The Amex Platinum card's real strength lies in the benefits that come with this card. It offers many different types of credits for travel, food, and lifestyle purchases. 

Annual Airline Fee Credit

You can receive a statement credit against incidental airline expenses, such as baggage fees or in-flight food and drink. Ticket upgrades or purchases of airline miles don't count, unfortunately. You don't get this credit automatically; you'll need to preselect one airline, and only one airline, from a list of nine of the largest air carriers in the U.S. You can pick your airline in your account at any time, with the option to change it once a year in January. 

Value: $200

How to Maximize: If you fly on multiple airlines, wait until you know which one you'll be booking for sure. Then, log into your account to choose that airline before you fly so you can make sure to get the credit.

Annual Hotels & Resorts Credits

The Amex Platinum card comes with a statement credit against hotel bookings, but you'll need to meet a few conditions in order to use it. First, the credit is limited to hotels in either The Hotel Collection or Fine Hotels + Resorts portfolios. You'll also need to book them through, instead of booking through a third party or with the hotel directly. Finally, you'll need to prepay for the hotel. You can't wait to settle your bill when you arrive. 

Value: $200

How to Maximize: This benefit resets every January 1, so be sure you use it before the end of the year in which you get your card or you'll lose that value. 

Semi-Annual Saks Fifth Avenue Shopping Credit

You can receive up to $100 in statement credits after shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, either in-person or online. To qualify, you'll need to register. 

Value: $100

How to Maximize: If you don't shop often at Saks Fifth Avenue, make sure to spread out your purchases. That's because this benefit is split: a maximum credit of $50 in the first half of the year, and a max of $50 in the second half of the year. 

Monthly Uber Cash Credits

Each month, you'll be eligible for $15 in credits directly in the Uber app, with $35 showing up in your account in December. You can use these credits to pay for Uber rides or Uber Eats. You'll also be upgraded to Uber VIP status, if it's available in your city. 

Value: $200

How to Maximize: In the Uber app, make sure that you have your card selected as payment, with "Uber Cash" turned on. When you confirm a ride, check to make sure "Uber Cash" appears above the confirmation button, otherwise you won't be able to get the credit. 

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Application Fee Credit

Get reimbursed for the cost to skip the line at airport security. To earn the credit, charge the application fee for either the Global Entry program or the TSA PreCheck program to your card account. You'll be eligible for another credit again in 4.5 years (for TSA PreCheck) or four years (for Global Entry). 

Value: $100 if you opt for Global Entry, or $85 if you opt for TSA PreCheck. 

How to Maximize: Don't wait to sign up for this perk. It can take six months to process a Global Entry application.

Annual CLEAR Credit

You've heard of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. The CLEAR program is similar, but it's available in non-airport locations too, notably sports arenas and stadiums.

Value: $179

How to Maximize: You'll need to complete your registration at any airport with a CLEAR location, and they're not at every airport. If you can't easily get to one, try booking your next flight with a layover and give yourself enough time to exit security and re-enter through the CLEAR lane to complete your enrollment.

Digital Entertainment Credit

Digital entertainment options have blossomed in recent years—and so have subscription fees.  With this benefit, you'll get statement credits of up to $20 per month for subscriptions you pay for with the card to four different digital media services: The New York Times, Audible, SiriusXM, or Peacock streaming TV. 

Value: $240

How to Maximize: Some of the services will be more expensive, such as SiriusXM's normal Platinum membership ($21.99/month). Stay under this $20/month limit if you want it to be totally free.

Equinox Credit

This benefit provides $25 per month in statement credits for in-person Equinox fitness clubs, or the Equinox+ app. Heads up that this won't cover the full cost of either subscription, however. The Equinox+ app alone is $40 per month. Still, if you enjoy using Equinox, you can trim the bill to a more manageable size. 

Value: $300

How to Maximize: You'll need to sign up through the benefits section of your Amex account, or through Equinox’s special link. If you're signing up for in-person club membership, you can do that at the front desk. If you sign up otherwise (such as through the Apple Itunes store), you won't get the statement credits. 

Airport Lounge Access

Many luxury travel cards offer lounge access through the Priority Pass program. American Express offers you that (you’ll need to enroll), but Platinum takes it a step further by offering even more lounges. For example, you're eligible to use the plush American Express Centurion lounges—which you won't find in the Priority Pass network.

Value: $429 for an equivalent Priority Pass membership.

How to Maximize: Look up which lounges are available to you in any airports you're visiting beforehand. That way you'll be prepared ahead of time with entry restrictions and backup meal plans, if you need them.

Platinum cardholders also have access to Delta Air Lines’ collection of Sky Club lounges as well as those from Airspace lounges, Escape lounges, Lufthansa, and others in the Amex Global Lounge Collection. 

Other Amex Platinum Perks

You can recoup the entire cost of the annual fee on the Amex Platinum (and then some) with just the perks above. But if you need more options, here are plenty of perks to help justify the annual fee:

  • Discounts on international airfare through
  • Platinum concierge and travel planning service
  • Premium Global Assist hotline
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status
  • Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Choice of premium status with Avis, Hertz, or National Car Rentals
  • Car rental damage waiver (secondary to your own car insurance)
  • Trip delay and cancellation insurance
  • Exclusive dining events through Resy Global Dining Access program
  • Return protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranties
  • Cellphone protection
  • Up to 40% discount on Wheels Up private jet membership and up to $2,000 in initial credits

Is It Worth the Fee?

Whether you personally can come out ahead with the Platinum Card from American Express largely rests on one question: Would you have paid for these perks and benefits anyway? For luxury travelers, the answer is likely “yes.” In that case, this card can help you cut those costs while it introduces you to additional luxe travel experiences. 

But in the same way that retail sale purchases aren’t really “savings” if you wouldn't have made those purchases normally, the Platinum card can be an expensive distraction from your financial goals. If that’s you, a more down-to-earth travel or cash-back rewards card might be more your style.

Article Sources

  1. American Express. "The Platinum Card."

  2. CLEAR. "How It Works."