The American Express Centurion lounge in Hong Kong.
American Express
The American Express Centurion lounge in Hong Kong.

Story highlights

The Platinum Card® from American Express is best for jetsetters who travel enough to justify the high price of admission.

The card comes with 100,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 within 6 months of opening the account.

Perks include airport lounge access, airline & Uber credits, hotel elite status and more.

CNN —  

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Our quick take: The Platinum Card® from American Express is the king of luxury rewards travel cards, perfect for demanding travelers who place a high degree of value on perks like lounge access and complimentary elite status.

Pros:

  • Industry-leading 5x earnings on airfare and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Complimentary elite status at Hilton, Marriott and select car rental agencies.
  • More lounge access than you can shake a stick at.
  • Possible to recoup some of the annual fee with included credits.
  • No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).

Cons:

  • Lofty $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
  • Weak earning potential on non-travel spend.
  • Credits require planning and strategy to maximize.
  • $175 to add up to 3 authorized users (see rates and fees).
  • High 15.99% to 22.99% variable APR on eligible charges — pay over time (see rates and fees).

Current welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus points after making $6,000 in purchases within the first six months of opening the account. Plus, earn 10 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. during your first six months of card membership, on up to $25,000 in combined purchases.

Best for: Jetsetters who travel enough — or will soon travel enough — to justify the high cost of the card.

Digging into the Amex Platinum

The Amex Platinum is an icon. It’s a card that’s known by its looks alone. Simple, classic, and loaded with so many features that it nearly requires a PhD in travel rewards to grasp it all. It has been, and remains, the luxury card to beat for demanding travelers.

Related: Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.

It’s also an ideal card for the aspirational traveler, as it provides complimentary elite status in several car rental and hotel programs, as well as access to an array of airline lounges. In other words, those looking to catapult into a life of luxury travel can bypass earning status the hard way, and use this card as a VIP token.

Access lounges like the Plaza Premium Lounge in London Heathrow's Terminal 2 with the Amex Platinum.
American Express
Access lounges like the Plaza Premium Lounge in London Heathrow's Terminal 2 with the Amex Platinum.

But the Amex Platinum is not a card for the occasional traveler. You need to be able to regularly take advantage of all the card has to offer in order to make its sky-high $695 annual fee worth the cost. That means the main trick is figuring out how to utilize all of the perks of the card, so that the lofty annual fee actually seems like a bargain.

Advantages of the Amex Platinum

While the Amex Platinum is loaded with perks, it also earns valuable Membership Rewards points on every purchase you make. Though it has only one bonus category, it’s a great one: 5 points for every dollar you spend on purchasing flights directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (up to $500,000 per year, then 1x), as well as on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.

Membership Rewards points have a multitude of uses, particularly for those who know how to leverage them for high-value redemptions through Amex’s impressive lineup of hotel and airline transfer partners. For example, the welcome bonus alone can net you a week-long stay in many Choice Hotel locations, or a couple of round-trip domestic flights on Delta, since Amex points transfer to both programs (and almost 20 others).

New Amex Platinum cardmembers earn 100,000 bonus points after making $6,000 in purchases within the first six months of opening the account. Those points are worth at least $1,000 if you redeem them via Amex Travel (where they’re worth 1 cent each for airfare), but can become much more valuable if you can put in the time to research award space and utilize the transfer partners.

Also, new card members can earn 10 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S, during your first six months of card membership, on up to $25,000 in combined purchases. That’s a massive number of bonus points on categories that you’re spending a lot of money on right now.

Complimentary elite status

The Amex Platinum is one of the few cards that allows you to shortcut the tedious process of earning elite status in several meaningful programs. And for those who’ve yet to travel with elite hotel or car rental status, it can be difficult to appreciate the concept of a Gold stamp by your name at check-in.

By having the Amex Platinum, you receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status and Hilton Honors Gold elite status. On the car rental side, you’re automatically eligible for Avis Preferred status, National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards privileges.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards privileges with the Amex Platinum card include discounts and upgrades.
Hertz
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards privileges with the Amex Platinum card include discounts and upgrades.

While these are mostly the mid-level elite status levels in these programs and not the top-tiers, they can still make a stark difference. Perks like free upgrades, late check-out, early check-in and complimentary breakfast are common inclusions. A room upgrade for a single stay could easily be worth hundreds of dollars, while elite car rental status can lead to paying a midsize rate and snagging any available car in the elite aisle — vehicles like a minivan or SUV, which can easily cost double if selected outright during booking.

Usually, in order to earn elite status, you’re required to stay a certain number of nights (or rent a car for a certain number of days) while spending enough cash to obtain elite status. Worse still, you’re not able to enjoy the status you’re striving for until you earn it, making the road to elite status one normally defined by a lack of frills.

So if you’ve taken a new job that requires a lot of traveling, or if you’re retiring soon and looking to travel more, or if you’re eying a sabbatical that will allow you to fit more travel into your schedule, all of that free elite status can potentially make your journeys a lot more comfortable.

Airport lounge access

Then, there’s airline lounge access. The Platinum Card features American Express’ Global Lounge Collection, unlocking access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries (and counting). That includes the highly-popular Centurion Lounges and International American Express lounges, as well as partner networks like Delta Sky Clubs and Priority Pass Select lounges.

The Amex Platinum is one of only three personal cards — the others being the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and the invite-only American Express Centurion Card — that gets you into Delta’s global network of Sky Club lounges. An individual membership to the Sky Club costs $545 annually, so if Sky Club access is paramount to you, you may be better off holding this card for an extra $150 per year and leveraging its other perks instead of buying Sky Club access from Delta.

Use your Platinum Card to visit the Delta Sky Club in Atlanta's Terminal B.
Delta Air Lines
Use your Platinum Card to visit the Delta Sky Club in Atlanta's Terminal B.

Wondering what all the lounge fuss is about? Lounges provide quieter spaces and cleaner restrooms as compared to the general airport terminal, as well as an assortment of free food and drink options (yes, alcoholic ones as well) and fast Wi-Fi. If you travel regularly, being able to duck into a lounge during a connection can be the difference between a manageable travel day and one full of noise and chaos.

Credits galore

For those who lean on ride-sharing at least once or twice a month, you’ll find good use for the Amex Platinum’s up to $15 in Uber Cash credits for U.S. rides or Uber Eats orders each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That’s up to $200 annually if you’re able to take advantage of the credit every month, and you’ll also be gifted Uber VIP Status for just having the card.

Also, at the start of each year, you can select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees — such as checked bags and in-flight refreshments — that are charged by that airline to your Amex Platinum when you travel.

You’ll also receive up to $100 in statement credits for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, both of which make your travels a lot more efficient. You’ll want to apply for the former if possible, however, as Global Entry membership includes TSA PreCheck.

Oh, and did we mention Saks? You’ll receive up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue or saks.com on your Platinum Card. That includes up to $50 in statement credits from January through June, and up to $50 in statement credits from July through December.

If you have to ask, it’s probably covered

The Amex Platinum hosts a slew of travel and protection coverages. For starters, the card offers one year of extended warranty on products you buy that have their own manufacturer warranties, and 90 days of purchase protection, for purchases that are lost, stolen or damaged after you buy them.

Amex also recently added several travel-related features to the Platinum, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance up to $10,000 per trip and trip delay insurance up to $500 per trip. Car rentals paid for with the card receive car rental loss and damage insurance, and if you’re traveling more than 100 miles from home, you may be eligible for 24/7 emergency assistance and coordination services. The card also has no foreign transaction fees, which frankly you’d expect from a premium card.

The American Express Platinum card can cover your expenses when your flight is canceled.
iStock
The American Express Platinum card can cover your expenses when your flight is canceled.

Whether you need assistance making arrangements for a special dinner, tickets to a sought-after event, or finding just the right gift, there’s the Platinum Card Concierge. This 24/7 phone line has been known to make the impossible happen for Platinum cardholders.

It’s also worth mentioning that many event pre-sales — particularly concerts and sporting events — offer early purchase access to American Express cardholders. If entertainment is your thing, and sitting in the nosebleeds is a pet peeve, this perk can be quite valuable. Just be ready to pay a pretty penny for it — the Amex Platinum provides access to these events, but not complimentary tickets.

Disadvantages of the Amex Platinum

To extract a sufficient amount of value from the Platinum Card — enough to cover the $695 annual fee — you must be a regular traveler. Complimentary hotel status and top-notch airline lounge access won’t do you much good if you don’t routinely hit the road. So, if your travel schedule slows down, will the amount of value you get from the card.

You’d also think that for the price, the Amex Platinum would be a great card to have in your wallet all the time, even when you’re not traveling. But that’s surprisingly not the case. Since the 5x bonus category is reserved for only two things — flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (up to $500,000 per year, then 1x points), and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com — that means on all other purchases, you’ll earn just 1 point for every dollar you spend. You can do better with other cards, including our benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card.

Speaking of points, while Membership Rewards points are extremely valuable for people who understand how to work the transfer partners, folks less interested in the complexity of transferring points only get 1 cent per point when you redeem them directly for airfare via Amex Travel, and less than 1 cent per point when redeeming for hotel rooms. While using your points this way — or opting to exchange them to pay down a statement, snap up a gift card, or pay for your tab on Amazon — is simple, it’s far from the greatest of deals.

Credits and protections aren’t perfect

The credits on the Amex Platinum can also be difficult to use. The airline fee credit only applies to one selected airline each year, and even then only to specific fees on that airline. The Uber credits can’t be used all at once — they’re spread across all 12 months in a year at $15 a pop — and the Saks credits are $50 biannually. All this Amex sleight-of-hand requires you to set reminders and be strategic about how and when you spend.

You'll need to plan ahead to take advantage of the Amex Platinum's entire $200 in Uber credits each year.
Uber
You'll need to plan ahead to take advantage of the Amex Platinum's entire $200 in Uber credits each year.

The Amex Platinum also added cell phone protection as of April 1, 2021, which is a welcome development. If you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card and your phone is stolen or damaged, you can reimbursed for up to $800 per claim, with a $50 deductible, up to 2 claims per 12-month period.

While we’re happy to finally see this protection come to fruition, you can receive comparable coverage on other credit cards with significantly less annual fees, such as the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex, the high-end Citi Prestige® Card ($495 annual fee) and the mid-range IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card ($89 annual fee), just to name a few.

Related: Protect your cell phone from theft or damage with these credit cards.

On the topic of coverages, when it comes to the Amex Platinum travel protection, car rental coverage is secondary, meaning if you have an accident with your rental card, you’ll first need to file a claim on your own personal auto rental policy before submitting any excess to Amex.

Lastly, it’s expensive to add your partner, spouse, children or significant other to your Amex Platinum account. On top of the $695 annual fee, American Express requires an additional $175 for up to 3 authorized users. This becomes a slightly better deal for those adding more than one person, since the fee is the same whether you add one person or three. Plus, each authorized user gains lounge access, so if you routinely travel as a family of four, the $175 may be worth it for smoother days at the airport.

Stacking up the American Express Platinum against our benchmark

CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi® Double Cash Card card as our “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, it means we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.

Here’s how the Amex Platinum scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark. Red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark, and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.

KEY DETAILS
Citi Double Cash Card Platinum Card from American Express
Card type Mastercard American Express
Welcome bonus None 100,000 points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months after opening the account
REWARDS
Earning rate 2% on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off) 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly and through Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per year, then 1x point), 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Redemption value 1 cent (cash back) Up to 1 cent per point when bookingthrough American Express Travel 2.0 cents per point for transfers*
Ease of basic redemptions Easy Easy
Advanced redemption options Can convert cash back to ThankYou points that transfer to 16 airline partners if you also have the Citi Premier℠ or Citi Prestige® Yes, transfer to 21 airline and hotel partners
Quality of advanced redemptions Good Great
FEES
Annual fee $0 $695
Foreign transaction fee 3% 0%
BENEFITS AND PROTECTIONS
Travel perks None Up to $200 in annual airline credits, Up to $200 in annual Uber credits,Access to Centurion Lounges, Access to Delta Sky Clubs (when flying Delta), Access to Priority Pass lounges (not restaurants), Gold elite status at Marriott and Hilton, Preferred status at Hertz, Avis and National, Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
Purchase protections None Purchase Protection, Return Protection, Extended Warranty
Travel protections None Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Secondary Auto Coverage, Trip Delay Reimbursement, Lost Baggage Insurance
Other perks None Up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits,Amex Concierge
INTEREST RATES ON PURCHASES AND BALANCE TRANSFERS
Introductory purchase interest rate None None
Introductory purchase interest length N/A N/A
Standard purchase interest rate 13.99%-23.99% variable 15.99% to 22.99% variable (pay over time)
Introductory balance transfer rate 0% None
Introductory balance transfer length 18 months N/A
Introductory balance transfer fee 3% or $5, whichever is greater N/A
* Based on point valuations calculated by CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy.

When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. For each criterion, we indicate whether the card is better or worse than our benchmark card, and in what way it differs. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.

Other cards similar to the Amex Platinum

When it comes to high-end travel cards, there are really only two others that can rival the Amex Platinum.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a more flexible bonus earning rate, fetching 3 points for every dollar you spend on all travel and dining (although you’ll earn even more points on select purchases if made through Ultimate Rewards) , with gas stations being the notable exception. Chase’s list of transfer partners is stout, and its customer service line is a cut above the rest.

However, the Sapphire Reserve doesn’t include nearly as many options for lounge access (no Delta Sky Club and no Centurion Lounge). The Chase Sapphire Reserve also recently increased its annual fee to $550, but it’s still cheaper than the Amex Platinum. With all that said, the CSR includes a $300 annual travel credit that’s easy to use, requiring no hoop-jumping like the Amex Platinum’s credits.

Then there’s the Citi Prestige. While this card was once easily worth its $495 annual fee, a series of devaluations have made it tough to recommend. Its Fourth Night Free benefit — a signature offering that once made the card worthwhile for those planning luxurious stays throughout the year — has been hamstrung and capped at just two uses per year. The annual travel credit of up to $250 and included cell phone protection are nice, but neither do much to unseat the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Should you get the Amex Platinum?

The American Express Platinum card is a great option for regular travelers looking for VIP perks.
American Express/iStock
The American Express Platinum card is a great option for regular travelers looking for VIP perks.

With a 100,000-point welcome bonus and 10x points at select categories, industry-leading 5x earnings on airfare and prepaid hotels and a long line of luxury perks, the Amex Platinum reigns supreme in the land of premium travel cards.

As we’ve noted, the Platinum Card only makes sense for regular travelers — if you’re on the road once or twice a year, this card probably isn’t for you. But road warriors and those looking to commit to more travel will reap significant benefits, as the complimentary Gold status with Hilton and Marriott enable those who have never stepped foot in a hotel to be welcomed as a Gold elite on their very first stay. The same is true for included status with Avis, Hertz and National on the rental car front, as well as Uber VIP status for ridesharing.

Put simply, the Amex Platinum makes you a VIP, and with a little work, you can make it pay for itself. With up to $200 in airline credits each year, up to $200 in Uber Cash credits annually, up to $100 in annual Saks credits and an array of excellent transfer partners, it’s an ideal card for those willing to spend time on optimizing its benefits.

Learn more about The Platinum Card from American Express.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2021.