Access the United Club at Raleigh-Durham with cards that are less expensive than the Amex Platinum.
United Airlines
Access the United Club at Raleigh-Durham with cards that are less expensive than the Amex Platinum.
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The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the top cards around when it comes to being treated like a VIP. The card allows members to travel in comfort with airport lounge access, hotel status, Uber statement credits and much more. And with even more benefits recently added to the card, card members can feel even more like an elite.

But these changes also impacted the annual fee. As of July 1, 2021, the Amex Platinum card carries a $695 annual fee — up from the previous $550 fee (see rates and fees). Although existing cardholders won’t see a fee increase until their annual renewal date on or after January 1, 2022, many travelers are wondering if paying almost $700 for a single card is worth it.

If the answer is “no” but you still want a luxury credit card in your pocket for your travel needs, fortunately, there are a number of other high-end credit cards that offer benefits similar to the Amex Platinum, but at a lower (though still not inexpensive) cost. So, if you’re in the market for a new luxury credit card, here are some alternative options that might serve you better from a cost/benefit standpoint.

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is Chase’s version of a luxury credit card, but instead of earning Membership Rewards points — as you do with the Amex Platinum — you’re earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points. With both programs, you can redeem your points through the issuer’s travel portal or, if you have flexibility in your schedule, transfer points to many travel partners for potentially more value.

Like the Amex Platinum, the Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers an annual travel credit, but it’s significantly easier to use than the Platinum’s airline fee credit, which only applies to incidental airline purchases. Sapphire Reserve card holders get a $300 travel credit each year that can be used toward any travel purchase, including hotels, airfare, cruises, car rentals, taxis and more. And through 2021, gas station and grocery store purchases also count toward this credit.

Related: Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve also comes with a Priority Pass™ Select airport membership, which provides access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide. Not only is this the same Priority Pass membership that comes with the Amex Platinum, but it’s actually slightly better, as Amex Platinum card members don’t have access to Priority Pass restaurants, while Sapphire Reserve card holders do.

You’ll also get superb travel insurance when using the Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for your trips, including trip interruption and cancellation insurance, trip delay reimbursement protection (if your trip is delayed by six hours or more or requires an overnight stay), primary auto rental collision damage insurance, baggage delay insurance, roadside assistance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance, travel accident insurance, emergency evacuation and transportation and emergency medical and dental coverage.

And in 2021, Chase Sapphire Reserve card holders also get up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases, and up to $120 in statement credits on eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Memberships. You’ll also earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on both dining and travel (after your $300 annual travel credit is applied).

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve costs $550 annually, it’s fairly easy to get $300 of that back with everyday travel purchases throughout the year. That effectively brings the fee down to $250 — a more reasonable amount to pay for a card that comes with VIP benefits — and you can drive that down even further if you can take advantage of the DoorDash and Peloton credits.

Explore whether the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth the annual fee.
Learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

2. United Club℠ Infinite Card

If you’re a committed United Airlines flyer, the United Club Infinite Card is a great option for a luxury travel experience. Although the card comes with a $525 annual fee, that’s $170 less than the cost of the Amex Platinum card.

With the United Club Infinite Card, you’ll receive a United Club lounge membership, which even allows you to bring two guests or one another adult and all dependent children under 21 into the clubs with you to eat, drink and relax before your flight. The one caveat is you must be flying on United or a partner airline in order to access the lounge that day.

Related: Get more United frequent flyer miles with these credit card offers.

Access United Clubs like the one at Chicago's O'Hare airport with the United Club Infinite Card.
United Airlines
Access United Clubs like the one at Chicago's O'Hare airport with the United Club Infinite Card.

The United Club Infinite Card also offers up to a $100 fee reimbursement when applying for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, up to two free checked bags per person for the card holder and one other person on the same reservation on United-operated flights and Premier Access travel services, which gives you access to designated airport check-in lines, exclusive security lines (where available), priority boarding and priority baggage handling after your flight lands.

United Club Infinite Card holders also earn 4 miles for every dollar spent on United purchases, including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges. You’ll also earn 2 miles per dollar on dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services and all other travel, and 1 mile per dollar on all your other purchases with the card.

Read CNN Underscored’s list of the best credit cards for flying United Airlines.
Learn more and apply for the United Club Infinite Card.

3. Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Now, if you’re a Delta flyer, you might prefer the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card. Similar to the United Club Infinite Card, you’ll also receive lounge access (in this case, to Delta Sky Clubs), a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement and waived baggage fees.

Even better, with the Delta Reserve Amex, you’ll receive access to the exclusive Amex Centurion Lounges when you’re flying on Delta. That’s a great perk to have on a card that costs less than the Amex Platinum, and depending on where you’re typically flying to and from, it could make for a major cost savings.

With the Delta Reserve Amex, you’ll also receive a free checked bag on all Delta-operated flights for you and up to eight companions booked on the same reservation, and access to complimentary upgrades on Delta flights — two benefits you don’t receive with the Amex Platinum card.

Related: Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card.

Get a free checked bag and complimentary upgrades on Delta flights with the Delta Reserve card.
American Express
Get a free checked bag and complimentary upgrades on Delta flights with the Delta Reserve card.

And while the Delta Reserve Amex charges a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), starting with the second year you have the card, you’ll receive an annual companion certificate that you can use for domestic First Class or Main Cabin 1 tickets. This benefit alone can easily help offset the card’s annual fee, all while making your travel experience that much better.

Amex also recently added cell phone protection to the Delta Reserve Amex. If you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the Delta Reserve, you can be reimbursed up to $800 if your phone is lost or stolen, up to two claims per year. This is the same coverage you get with the Amex Platinum, but with a lower annual fee.

These are our favorite credit cards for Delta flyers in 2021.
Learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card.

4. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

If you’re looking for a hotel-specific credit card, then the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is one of the best out there when it comes to benefits. With a significantly lower $450 annual fee when compared to the Amex Platinum, the benefits can easily outweigh the cost.

One of the best perks of the Hilton Aspire card is automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status — Hilton’s top-tier elite status level. This gives you space-available upgrades, lounge access, daily food and beverage credit at US hotels (or continental breakfast at non-US hotels) as well as your fifth night free on award stays. While the Amex Platinum also grants you automatic Hilton elite status, it’s just mid-tier Gold status, not top-tier Diamond.

Related: Increase your Hilton points balance with these credit card offers.

You'll have top-tier elite status with the Hilton Aspire card when you visit spots like the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport hotel.
Hilton Hotels
You'll have top-tier elite status with the Hilton Aspire card when you visit spots like the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport hotel.

The Hilton Aspire card also comes with up to $250 in annual Hilton resort statement credits and up to $250 in airline fee credits each year. These credits alone can easily put you well ahead of the cost of the card’s annual fee. Plus, you’ll get a free weekend night certificate each year starting with the second year you have the card, further increasing the card’s value.

And even though this is a hotel-focused credit card, you’ll also receive a Priority Pass™ Select airport lounge membership with unlimited visits that matches the one on the Amex Platinum, and even the same cell phone protection coverage as the Platinum (enrollment is required before you can use the Priority Pass).

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by CNN. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is not currently available through CNN.

Check out our favorite credit cards to use at Hilton hotels in 2021.
Learn more about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

5. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

For another option when it comes to luxury hotel credit cards, you can also consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, especially if you’re loyal to the Marriott brand.

With a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), you’ll receive up to $300 in Marriott credits each year and, starting with your second year you have the card, a free night award that can be used at any Marriott property worth up to 50,000 points. These two yearly benefits alone can help completely offset the annual fee if you can take advantage of both of them.

Related: Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Marriott Brilliant American Express card.

You can get Marriott elite status for much less than the Amex Platinum when you have the Marriott Brilliant Amex card.
iStock
You can get Marriott elite status for much less than the Amex Platinum when you have the Marriott Brilliant Amex card.

With the Marriott Brilliant card, you’ll also receive complimentary Marriott Gold elite status — the same status as you get with the Amex Platinum card. Although this isn’t Marriott’s top-tier status, you’ll still receive 25% bonus points on stays, a late 2 p.m. checkout when available and enhanced room upgrades. And if you’re trying to earn Marriott’s Platinum elite status, card members get 15 elite night credits each calendar year to get you a little bit closer.

Finally, similar to the Amex Platinum card, you’ll receive a Priority Pass select airport lounge membership (enrollment required), up to $100 in credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and cell phone protection.

Explore our list of the best Marriott credit cards for 2021.
Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card.

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

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