I got the Amex Platinum card 2 yrs ago when the 40k sign-up bonus for MR points was in effect. For me at the time, the greatest benefit was the Centurion Lounge access. These are Amex only lounges that allow anyone who has a same-day boarding pass to enter and have hot food and/or alcohol, as well as free wifi and better seats than your average airport waiting area. I have a family of 5 (wife and 3 kids) and we had a family wedding in SFO that I had to attend. Up until recently, the whole family could get in with one admission. Amex has since limited the benefit to 2 companions + the cardholder. I find it ironic, as all the Centurion lounges I have been in (SFO, LAS and Houston) have family rooms that were never used except for when I used them. My first year, either my family or I used the Centurion lounge 6 times (which is ‘valued’ at $300 since it’s $50 an entrance).
I still think the lounge access is the best value, as you can use the lounge at your arrival or departure airport, depending on your travels. I tend to use the Las Vegas lounge the most, as I am on East Coast person and tend to take early morning flights for travel. I can eat a quick snack on arrival, or breakfast before leaving. There’s never been an overcrowding issue that I’ve had with those times.
A secondary reason why I decided to get the Amex Platinum was the hotel status match – you get SPG Gold status and Hilton Gold status. With the Marriot/SPG merger, this means you also have Marriot Gold status as well. We tend to drive to visit my family in Texas at least 1-2 times a year and have found a few hotels that give upgrades or late checkouts, which make the 20+ hr drive each way a little more bearable.
One final aspect I have used is the National Rental Car Executive status. If car rental rates are reasonable (always double checking, like Adam does) – this gets you access to the Executive line – no need to go to a kiosk, just grab a car and go. The last trip I made to FLL – there were so many cars, we got to get an executive elite car (Chevy Impala with Sirius, nav, leather, etc) for the price of a midsize car.
The Amex Platinum offers two types of annual credits: a $200 airline credit with certain airlines to be used on incidentals, upgrades, fees, and most importantly: gift cards. I had used it for United Airlines, but they got wise to people buying gift cards for themselves so they took that out of the system. I now have chosen Southwest. The second credit is a monthly uber credit ($15/month) with the exception of December, which is $35 for the month. I don’t tend to use these too often, as I’m not one to rideshare often. I did get about $60 in credit last year, as my last Vegas trip overlapped Nov and Dec.
Two other benefits of the Platinum card – the first is the Fine Hotels & Resorts program. For low rollers like you and I, it offers a chance to stay at a few of the nicer properties in Las Vegas (and worldwide). For example, in Las Vegas, their properties include Bellagio, Wynn, Palazzo, Cosmopolitan, Mandarin Oriental, and a few others.
By booking with Amex Platinum (which is prepaid, obviously so no comps for those true gamblers) you get an early check-in, 4pm checkout, daily breakfast, a potential room upgrade, and usually a $100 credit for either the spa or a further food credit.
None of this comes cheap, at $550 a yr. But when you factor a $200 hotel credit, some Lounge visits, and some uber credits used every year, it’s “costing” me no more than any other premium travel card.
The last benefit ties into Membership Rewards. Membership Rewards is Amex’s version of points.The platinum card earns 1 point for every dollar spent. I believe this is to compensate for the other benefits I have spoken of previously. However, to compete with Chase, they recently offered 5 points per dollar for airfare booked through their travel website or via an airline’s website and paid with the platinum card. They do also 5x on hotels, but those are only through the Amex Travel website.
As with most programs, the biggest bang for the buck is the ability to transfer to airline partners. Right now MR points are transferrable to Delta, Jet Blue, Air Canada, All Nippon Airlines (ANA), British Airways, to name a few. They also allow hotel transfers to Choice Hotels, Hilton, and SPG.
In my own experience, I have transferred points for Hilton Redemptions easily. They recently changed the redemption rate so that 1000 MR points = 2000 Hilton points. Those who play the points game say it’s not a great deal, but I like to use my points whenever I can.
You can also apply points to travel charges thru Amex at a 1% redemption for airfare, or typically a .75% redemption for hotels.
I have recently added the Amex everyday preferred card to my MR arsenal. This card earns 3 MR points for groceries, 2 MR for gas, and 1 MR point for everything else. However, if you make at least 30 purchases a month, then a 50% bonus is added to your account based on your spending. Note the 3 MR points for groceries are only on the first 6k of spending a year.
Bill (@toastcmu) is a father of 3, who got into the points game a number of years ago just as a way to get some cheap flights. Now, he tries to get the best value for him and his family by using a few of the major programs (Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards). He and his wife love visiting Las Vegas, and Hawaii.