I’ve gotten a couple of questions recently about whether the American Express Platinum card is worth getting anymore given the pretty solid lineup of benefits with the considerably less expensive Amex Premier Rewards Gold (PRG) card. And the answer, at it is to often with credit cards (and travel…and frequent flyer programs) is that it depends. High level, I think the decision boils down to 2 questions:
1) Do you care most about maximizing your Membership Rewards points? If so, Premier Rewards Gold will serve you just fine and save you a few hundred bucks on the annual fee.
2) Do you care primarily about great service in every aspect of your life? If so, the Platinum card is more than worth the extra up-front cost.
PRG is an appealing addition to the Amex lineup because of the triple points on airfare spend and double points on gas & groceries. If you purchase $10,000 in airfare annually on the card, you’ll be getting a bonus 20,000 points right there — at a penny a point, you’ve made up the $175 annual fee (waived first year) with that benefit alone. Combine that with the broad point transfer options, and a pretty strong case can be made that it’s at least tied with the Chase Sapphire Preferred as the best everyday card out there.
Given that the Platinum Card doesn’t offer that 3x (or 2x) points bonus, and costs $450/year, it’s not obvious why someone would choose it over the PRG card. But like I said above, if you’re only looking to maximize Membership Rewards points, then yes, PRG is your card.
But the Platinum card has some incomparable benefits for those who care about the most comfortable travel experience day in and day out. The card comes with lounge access for American Airlines (if you’re traveling on them the same day), Delta and US Airways (you can no longer use it to enter Continental’s Presidents Club lounges). Plus, they’ll refund you $200 in airline fees, though many frequent flyers find that they actually don’t have any fees to reimburse (it’s up for debate whether you can get reimbursed for purchasing miles), and the $100 Global Entry Fee. If you were otherwise buying an annual club membership, the club entry and Global Entry fee will make up that $450 annual fee in the first year.
On the service front, many folks swear by the Amex Platinum Concierge for getting restaurant reservations (nice if you’re on a business trip to a city you haven’t visited). The Fine Hotels and Resorts program gets you guaranteed 4pm checkout, upgrade and breakfast at some great properties. Starwood Gold status is provided, though that’s no great shakes (late checkout, usually).
For those buying international business class fares, the International Airline Program offers 2-for-1 business class tickets purchased with the card. This program has reportedly gotten much more user friendly over time — in many cases you no longer need to purchase a full-fare business class ticket to qualify.
Finally, this post discusses the Single Traveler Benefit Amex offers, where you can get 5-15% off international business class tickets. While not a huge amount, 10% a $5,000 ticket once a year will pay for that annual fee.
I think it’s actually a pretty easy decision for most people based on how they travel. For the domestic road warrior, especially where they can purchase airfare on the card, PRG lets you rack up the points quickly and offers a wide range of places to transfer those points. For the international traveler focused on the travel experience, the Platinum Card will make that travel a bit more comfortable, and slightly less expensive, though you’re trading off some Membership Rewards points for that.