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By Jason Steele
February 11, 2021
Money

Editorial Note: The content in this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. This article was accurate at time of publishing and terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is an amazing travel rewards credit card, and to a frequent traveler like me its valuable benefits have always been worth paying its $550 annual fee. However, I’m not planning traveling much this year, and that large annual fee seems a lot harder to justify. So I decided to take a close look at the actual value that I would get from these benefits this year, and I was surprised to realize that this card was worth keeping.

The key benefits that the Platinum Card offers:

Just because something is “valued” at $100 or $200, it might not actually be worth that to you. So before I decided that I would fork over another $550 in annual fees, I took a closer look at these benefits, and came to my own decisions about how much each benefit was worth.

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$200 in Uber Cash

The benefit: When you load your American Express Platinum Card into your Uber account, you’ll automatically receive $200 in annual Uber Cash that you can use for Uber rides or Uber Eats pickup or delivery. You get $15 per month, and an additional $20 in the Month of December. But if you don’t use your credit by the end of the month, it disappears.

What it’s worth: This is the easiest benefit to use as it’s triggered automatically every time I make a purchase through Uber. And even though I haven’t taken an Uber ride since March, I order often enough from Uber Eats that I don’t think any of my monthly credits will ever go to waste. So I’ll value this benefit at the full $200.

$200 annual airline fee credit

The benefit: This credit is given for the first $200 of airline incidental fees paid. What’s an incidental fee? It’s nearly anything such as airfare or an upgrade to a higher class of service. This includes change fees, baggage fees, inflight food and beverage charges and fees for seat selection (within the same class of service).

What it’s worth: Even with a very reduced travel schedule this year, I have some confidence that I’ll be able to use most, if not all of this credit. For example, I might plan a trip later this year, and then incur fees if I have to change it. Or, if I purchase a trip later this year for travel in 2022, I could use the credit to pay for seat selection fees. But just to be conservative, I’ll value this benefit at just $150.

$100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit

The benefit: American Express Platinum cardholders get $50 towards your first Saks Fifth Avenue or Saks.com purchase up until June 30th, and another $50 for any purchase made from July 1st until the end of the year.

What it’s worth: I normally don’t shop at Saks that much, but I’m more than happy to order something from them online. But since the the items on sale are likely to cost more than I would normally spend, I’ll value this credit at just $75 instead of its full $100 in value.

$100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

The benefit: This benefit gives you up to $100 towards the application or renewal fee for either of these expedited airport screening programs. But since these programs last for five years until renewal, this credit is only given once every four years. However, every additional cardholder you add is eligible for the same credit.

What it’s worth: My wife (who is an authorized cardholder on my account) and I use this credit every four years, so it’s worth $25 per year for each of us, for total of $50 in value this year.

Airport lounge access

The benefit: Platinum cardholders receive complimentary access to the American Express Centurion lounges as well as the Priority Pass Select lounges and restaurants. When you visit an eligible airport restaurant in this program, you get a credit for $28 per person, for yourself and up to three guests.

What it’s worth: Although it was announced over three years ago, American Express just recently finished constructing its Centurion Lounge at my home airport in Denver (In contrast, it took just over a year to build the Empire State Building). But with a minimal travel schedule, I won’t count on using this benefit at all in 2021, so I can’t give it any true value this year.

5x points on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel

The benefit: This card offers the ability to earn 5X bonus points, which can be very valuable for frequent travelers who charge their tickets and rooms to their own card. Flights must be booked directly with the airline or on AmexTravel.com, up to $500,000 in purchases per year.

What it’s worth: I have other credit cards that offer me 3x points on travel, so keeping this card is only worth an additional 2x points to me. If I plan on spending $1,000 on travel (probably later in the year for travel in 2022), then perhaps I’ll earn 5,000 total points, which is just an additional 2,000 points more than what I would have earned without this card. That’s worth about $25 in value.

Elite status

The benefit: Platinum cardholders can receive Gold status with Marriott and Hilton (after enrollment), as well as car rental privileges through the National Emerald Club Executive program. This will get you free upgrades to your hotel room and rental cars (when available).

What it’s worth: This is a “nice to have” perk that I really can’t place any true out-of-pocket value on. It’s not like I would have paid any more to upgrade my room or car, but I’m happy to receive those perks when offered.

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Is the American Express Platinum worth it?

In the end, I valued all of these travel benefits at $500, which is nearly as much as the card’s $550 annual fee. And since $50 is far less than the cost of most travel reward cards, I can’t justify breaking up with my American Express Platinum card this year over such a minor cost.

For others who don’t value these benefits as much as I do, it may make sense to move on from their Platinum card and focus on cards better suited towards earning cash back or paying off debt. For example, if you don’t see yourself traveling nearly as much as you used to, or if you aren’t able to get nearly as much value from these benefits as I think I will be able to.

But for me, I’ll give this card another year with the hope and expectation that these benefits will be much more valuable when it’s safe for me to resume traveling regularly.

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