Use American Express Platinum cards to access Amex Centurion Lounges as you get back on the road after the pandemic.
American Express
Use American Express Platinum cards to access Amex Centurion Lounges as you get back on the road after the pandemic.
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As airlines return to the skies and hotels reopen, you’re likely thinking about travel again. And if you expect to be hitting the road regularly during the rest of 2021 and into next year, you’ll want to have a stash of flexible travel points ready to go to offset the cost of some of those trips.

If that’s you or your business, you might consider getting a card that can add to your American Express Membership Rewards point balance, and both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express have lucrative welcome offers right now with nice chunks of bonus points.

New personal Amex Platinum card members can currently earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first six months after opening the account. You’ll also earn a whopping 10 points for every dollar you spend on up to $25,000 in combined eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. during your first six months of card membership.

Or, if you’re a small business, you can earn 120,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on the Amex Business Platinum within the first three months of card membership. Based on the point valuations of frequent flyer website The Points Guy, Amex Membership Rewards are worth 2 cents apiece, which makes either bonus worth $2,000 in travel, plus the 10x bonus points on the personal card.

Some people have been seeing even higher offers via referrals from friends and family, and the options vary depending on where you look. So you’ll want to do a little research to make sure you’re getting the best offer available before you apply.

VIP benefits on the Amex Platinum card

American Express just revamped the benefits on the personal Amex Platinum card, adding several new perks but also raising the annual fee to $695 a year (see rates and fees). However, the new benefits include several new annual credits, so if you can use them, you can potentially offset the entire cost of the card each year.

Of course, the reason most people get an Amex Platinum card is for its elite travel benefits. Card members get access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, including the exclusive American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Club lounges (when flying Delta), Priority Pass Select lounges, Escape Lounges and more. Having lounge access while traveling can be an invaluable perk and potentially worth the annual fee alone, depending on how often you fly.

Amex Centurion Lounges provide a place to get away from the crowds when you're traveling.
Amex Centurion Lounges provide a place to get away from the crowds when you're traveling.

Also on the travel luxury side, the Amex Platinum gives you automatic Gold elite status with both Hilton and Marriott. Mid-tier status at these two brands can be quite significant, as you can receive perks such as free upgrades, late checkout and complimentary breakfast at participating properties. If you travel often, but not enough to earn status the hard way, this can definitely pay off.

Related: Travel with luxury perks using the American Express Platinum card.

When it comes to credits, the Amex Platinum still has all the ones it had before, including up to $200 in annual airline fee credits. At the beginning of each calendar year — or shortly after becoming a new card member — you’ll select an airline to serve as your qualifying airline for the year. You’ll then earn up to $200 in statement credits each calendar year for incidental fees with that airline. This credit can be used toward many fees, such as checked bags, change fees and inflight Wi-Fi, to name just a few.

The Amex Platinum also comes with up to $200 in annual Uber credits, which are doled out in $15 monthly increments (with a higher $35 in December) and can be used on Uber Eats orders as well as Uber rides. That makes it an easy-to-use perk even if you aren’t back on the road just yet since you can use them from home.

Speaking of being at home, the newly-added Amex Platinum perks include several credits specifically designed to be used when you’re not traveling. They include up to $300 in annual Equinox credits that can help offset the cost of a gym membership or for the Equinox+ app, and up to $240 in annual digital entertainment credits that are portioned out in $20 monthly increments, which can be used to pay for subscriptions to The New York Times, Peacock, SiriusXM or Audible.

Plus, you’ll still get up to $100 in statement credits each year with the Amex Platinum for purchases made at Saks Fifth Avenue. These Saks credits are split in two, with up to $50 available between January and June, and up to $50 between July and December.

Back on the travel front, the new Amex Platinum perks include an annual $179 statement credit for a Clear membership, which offers expedited security screening at select airports and stadiums across the country. And there’s also a $200 annual statement credit for prepaid bookings at Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties made through American Express Travel.

As with many other American Express cards, you’ll also get extended warranty, purchase protection, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, car rental loss and damage insurance and now even cell phone insurance. Using a credit card with baked-in insurance like this one can help you out and save you money in the unfortunate event of damage/loss or travel issues.

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

Different credits and a lower annual fee on the Amex Business Platinum

The Amex Business Platinum has all the same lounge access and elite status benefits as the personal version of the card, but not as many annual credits and a lower $595 annual fee (see rates and fees), so it could be a better choice depending on your needs and spending habits. Note that the annual fee on the Business Platinum is increasing to $695 if the application is received on or after Jan. 13, 2022.

With the Business Platinum, you’ll earn 5 points for every dollar you spend on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases and a 50% bonus on purchases of $5,000 or more for up to 1 million additional points per calendar year. Since The Points Guy values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, this means purchases that earn 5x points can net you a 10% return, and non-bonus purchases earn a 2% to 3% return, depending on the price point.

You’ll get the same annual airline fee credits with the Business Platinum as you do with the personal version of the card, and you can get the new annual $179 Clear membership credit as well. But instead of the Saks Fifth Avenue credit, you’ll earn up to up to $400 in annual statement credits for U.S. purchases at Dell (split up into two halves of the year, like the Saks credit).

Get up to $200 in credits annually for U.S. purchases at Dell.com with the Amex Business Platinum card.
Dell.com
Get up to $200 in credits annually for U.S. purchases at Dell.com with the Amex Business Platinum card.

These credits are good for orders placed on Dell’s website, which carries many more items than you might initially think. From printers to speaker systems, this could be a great way to buy items for a home office if you expect to continue working from home for part of the week even after offices reopen around the country.

You won’t get either the Equinox or digital entertainment credits with the Business Platinum card, but you do get a 35% rebate when you redeem your points for flights on your selected airline booked via amextravel.com, or for first or business class flights on any airline booked that way. That can be an easy way to redeem your Amex points without having to worry about award availability or transferring them to other airline or hotel programs.

Comparing the Amex Platinum against our benchmark credit card

CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, earns a fixed 2% cash back — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% as you pay it off. If you prefer straight cash back, then this card has a better return on purchases outside of the bonus categories. But if you prefer to use your points toward travel, the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cards provide a better return.

Additionally, the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum card benefits are significantly better than what you’ll find with the Citi Double Cash, although they come at quite a premium. If you think you’ll travel often once business travel picks up again, then all the credits and benefits of the Platinum cards can pay off well. On the flip side, if you’re not a road warrior and prefer cash back in your pocket, you’ll find the Citi Double Cash to be more advantageous.

Related: Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Citi Double Cash credit card.

Also, remember that business credit cards are not solely for large corporations. Mom-and-pop shops, small startups and even side jobs are often eligible for business credit cards as well. You might not even realize you already have a business when in fact you do. Selling products through eBay, being a ride-share driver or buying and selling real estate all may be activities that categorize you as a sole proprietor.

Selling items on eBay may qualify you as a small business and make you eligible for business credit cards.
iStock
Selling items on eBay may qualify you as a small business and make you eligible for business credit cards.

If you fall into this bucket, you can legitimately apply for the Amex Business Platinum — or most other business cards — using your social security number instead of an Employer Identification Number. Even if you’re just getting started in your new side hustle, you can apply as well — just be honest about your business and personal income on the application.

Is an Amex Platinum card right for you?

There’s no way to sugarcoat it — the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cards are pricey. But they have significantly more benefits then you’ll see with many other cards. If the airline credits, lounge access and complimentary elite status are valuable to you, then these cards will pay for themselves. If you travel more for leisure, your business might find a better return with a less-expensive card, such as the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

But with strong welcome offers and a lot of travel perks, getting either an Amex Platinum or Amex Business Platinum card is an easy way to increase your points balance and travel like a VIP with a single card.

Learn more about The Platinum Card from American Express.
Learn more about The Business Platinum Card from American Express.

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

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