I have been a “proud member of American Express” for close to 30 years, since 1988. I started with a Green card in college, worked my way up to Gold, and ultimately, became a Platinum card holder. Nowadays, despite my longstanding relationship with my Platinum card, it is seldom pulled from my wallet. The reason being, I only earn one American Express Membership Rewards point per $1 when I use it for purchases. Instead, I tend to favor cards that earn bonus points on everyday purchases, such as dining, gas and groceries.
So why do I keep my Platinum card, especially with its hefty $450 annual fee? I will provide my top three reasons. First, that $450 annual fee is not truly $450. Keep reading. You will see why. Second, the card offers unique benefits that lead to savings when we travel. Third, the card provides me with security and confidence when using it for certain purchases.
To start, let’s use some concrete numbers. Every year that you have your Platinum card, you get $200 in statement credits for airline incidental fees (think baggage fees), with an airline of your choice. For a family that travels often, it will not be difficult to rack up $200 in annual baggage fees. Even if you don’t use the credit to pay for bags, you can apply this credit to other airline incidentals like plane food, Direct TV and internet. If you like to (need to) drink when you fly, cheers to Amex, the drinks are on them, up to $200 worth.
In addition, if you use your Platinum card for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, you get a statement credit of $100 or $85 respectively once every 5 years. If you think of this fee as being amortized over these 5 years, that is another $20/$17 that you can deduct from the $450 annual fee.
So now, after accounting for the airline incidental credit and the application fee credits, the $450 fee that we started with, is down to approximately $230. Seems more reasonable right? Let’s keep going…
Moving on to some of the intangible benefits, if you have a Platinum card, you get complimentary airport lounge access to The Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, and Airspace Lounges. In addition, you can enroll in Priority Pass Select, a lounge access program, at no additional cost. There are numerous lounges that you have access to as a Platinum member.
Depending on the type of lounge, the rules differ as to who can enter. For example, with the Centurion and AirSpace Lounges, I am able to bring my entire family into the lounge. If we enter at a time that happens to be meal time, that becomes our “free” breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is expensive to feed a family of five, especially at the airport. Being able to eat in the lounge saves a lot of $$.
Other lounges, like Delta, and some Priority Pass lounges, only grant complimentary access to me. There is a fee (and a costly one at that) for additional members to enter. In these instances, I usually go into the lounge alone. Although I have worked and reworked every scenario in my head, it is not feasible for me to carry five meals out of a lounge. However, rest assured, we are eating plastic wrapped apples, cracker packs and Laughing Cow cheeses well into our trip. Don’t judge, you know you have done it too.
Other intangible benefits come in the form of amenities that you receive when you stay at one of American Express’ Fine Hotels and Resorts. Before I became really good at this “free hotels on points” game, we used to stay at many Fine Hotels and Resorts. If you pay with your American Express Platinum card at one of these properties, you receive complimentary upgrades and amenities. Amenities may include a $100 spa credit, food credit, or free round of golf. In addition, there is a breakfast credit for the grown-ups and I have found that the hotel often extends this benefit to the kids as well. (Um, breakfast for 5- times 7 days = $$$)
Now let’s look at some of the purchase protection benefits the card offers. As the title of this article indicates, “the dog ate my timberlands.” Well, really not mine, but my son, Daniel’s.
Timberlands came back in style with a force over the last few years. At the beginning of this past school year, Daniel’s 7th grade Timberlands were too small for his 8th grade feet (My daughter, Jessie, wears them now). Off to the mall we went to buy Daniel a new pair of boots. $205 and a few thank yous later (Daniel is our most appreciative kid), Daniel proudly wore his new Timberlands to school. Appreciative, yet careless, he left them in the middle of the floor when he took them off.
Cue our dog, Rambo. While we weren’t looking, Rambo chewed though the entire top half of Daniel’s new beloved boot. The boot was ruined. Poor Daniel was back in his unfashionable sneakers the next day and Rambo was “in the doghouse.” As for me, I was on the phone with Amex. After a short pleasant call with a Platinum representative, who couldn’t stop rambling on about her own dog’s mischievous ways, and the completion of a few simple forms, there was a credit for $205 on my Platinum statement, a mere 3 days after the “incident”.
Daniel got new Timberlands and he now tries to remember to put them away every time he takes them off. Unfortunately, he often fails. However, luckily, Rambo seems to have moved on to jumping on our counter to successfully steal food. Twelve turkey burgers later, the Timberlands remain intact.
The ease in which we were able to get this credit was because of the American Express 90 day purchase protection plan. With the plan, purchases are protected against loss, theft or accidental damage (dog damage?) for 90 days from purchase. As you can imagine, this can be an invaluable benefit for those of us with kids that lose and/or break some of the very expensive items that we buy them, at least for 90 days.
Also, because of the Fraud Protection Guarantee, I have faith in Amex and frequently use my card for expensive ticket purchases and advanced activity bookings. Although I have never had a problem with a vendor, I want Amex on my side if I do.
Lastly, say no to that insurance up charge when you rent a car. Generally speaking, Platinum’s insurance coverage is for damage or theft of your rental car. As long as you use your card to reserve and pay for your car, you don’t need the extra insurance.
FYI-This list is by no means all inclusive of Platinum’s benefits and perks. But these are the ones that I think about every time I go to write that $450 check. You can learn a lot more about American Express cards and the Membership Rewards program on my site, The Points Mom.