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July 29, 2020
Money

It's really hard to match the benefits of the American Express Platinum — which, like that of other travel rewards cards, are most valuable to frequent travelers. But if you're grounded these days due to travel restrictions and concerns surrounding COVID-19, is this card still worth its annual fee?

While the American Express Platinum is loaded with perks and benefits, its big drawback is the BIG annual fee: $550. Yet many of this card's benefits aren't limited to travel; they come in the form of statement credits, which can be used in many different ways and can largely offset the annual fee.

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To calculate whether it's worth paying the $550 annual fee, you'll want to add up how much of all the statement credits are worth.

Valuable New Statement Credits Added During COVID

In response to the COVID crisis, Amex has supplemented the card with two new statement credits you can utilize without traveling. Until the end of 2020, Platinum cardholders will receive up to $20 per month in credit towards select U.S. streaming subscriptions, and another $20 per month on wireless phone service charges made directly with U.S. wireless providers. So if you started fully utilizing both of these credits in August, you'd realize $200 in savings this year alone.

More Amex Platinum Statement Credits

The Platinum card offers a $200 airline fee credit for incidental fees such as those checked bags, in-flight purchases and change fees. If you aren't traveling this year, this credit might not be of much use. But you could potentially use it for a change fee if you're forced to move a flight, or for numerous other fees if you do end up traveling before the end of the year. You can receive the $200 annual credit again in 2021, so its total value in your first year of card membership could be up to $400.

The American Express Platinum offers $200 in annual Uber Cash credits, which can also be used for Uber Eats orders. (You receive $15 in Uber Cash for rides or Eats orders in the U.S. every month, plus a bonus $20 in December, for a total of $200 over 12 months.)

Cardholders can also receive up to a $100 a credit towards the application fees of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry(which includes PreCheck). A Global Entry application costs $100 and PreCheck is $85, and both memberships are valid for five years. If you're already a member of one of these programs, you can still utilize the credit for a friend, family member or colleague.

Finally, there's also $100 in annual credits (offered as $50 semi-annually) towards Saks Fifth Avenue or saks.com purchases.

Totaling It All up

If you were to utilize all of the above statement credits in the next 12 months, you could realize $1,000 worth of savings, which makes up for the $550 annual fee and gives you an additional $450 in credits. In fact, you would still come out ahead even if you weren't able to utilize the $200 in air travel fee credits this year, the $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and didn't value the Saks credit at the full $100.

Other Card Rewards and Benefits

This card is loaded mostly with travel benefits, including elite status with Hilton and Marriott hotels, and access to the airport lounges for Delta, Priority Pass and American Express's own Centurion lounges. However, most of these lounges are now closed and it's uncertain when they will all reopen.

The Amex Platinum card includes trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage, which specifically covers losses incurred by you, your family members and other traveling companions due to a quarantine imposed by a physician for health reasons. Shopping benefits include return protection, purchase protection and extended warranty coverage.

This is all in addition to the 5x points you earn on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, and on air travel booked from the airline or through Amex Travel. You earn one point per dollar spent elsewhere. These American Express Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise and travel reservations, or transferred to frequent flyer miles.

Downsides to the American Express Platinum

This is a great card, but it's not perfect. First, you have to understand how to get at least $550 in annual benefits in order to justify the expense. It also isn't technically a credit card, it's a charge card. So you're expected to pay your entire statement balance each month. Nevertheless, Amex does allow you to extend payment on individual purchases using its optional Pay Over Time feature. Those who may need to carry a balance are best off finding a card with the lowest possible interest rate, which won't be a rewards card.

Bottom Line: Is the Amex Platinum Card Worth It?

Just because you aren't traveling right now, you shouldn't dismiss the possibility of getting a premium rewards card. With the changes that have been made to offer valuable non-travel benefits, The Platinum Card from American Express can still be good deal.

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