The Amex Platinum “Coupon Book” Review [On my mind]

65

American Express has increased the annual fee for consumer Platinum cards from $550 to a whopping $695 per year.  In exchange for the extra $145, they threw in new rebates for prepaid hotels, select digital entertainment services, Equinox, and CLEAR.  Over and over again, readers have lamented that Amex has changed the card into an expensive coupon book.  Is that a fair characterization?

Nothing taken away (sort of)

First let me point out that I had previously published the expectation that the Platinum card’s annual $200 airline incidental fee reimbursement was going away.  It turns out that was wrong.  No benefits have (yet) gone away or decreased.

That said, there are some negative changes on the horizon:

  • Starting February 1, 2023: Centurion Lounge Access will be free only for the cardholder (previously free for cardholder plus 2 guests). New: $50 fee per guest (or $30 per child). Cardmembers who spend at least $75,000 per year on the card will continue to receive complimentary lounge access for two guests.
  • It appears that the value of Investing with Rewards for Schwab Platinum cardholders is going down.  Starting September 1, 2021, it appears that the Invest with Rewards feature will drop from the current 1.25 cents per point to 1.1 cents per point.  Details here.

Summary of Changes

Here’s a summary of the major changes to Platinum cards that have already happened:

  • Platinum consumer card annual fees have increased to $695.  Business Platinum card annual fees remain at $595 for now.
  • Platinum consumer cards have best ever welcome bonuses (details here).
  • Platinum consumer cards have gained the following perks:
    • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back per calendar year towards prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings
    • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Up to $20 per month in total credits for subscriptions to Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times.
    • $300 Equinox Credit: Get $25 per month for select Equinox subscriptions.
  • All Platinum cards (consumer and business) have gained the following perks:
    • CLEAR credit: Get up to $179 per year reimbursed for CLEAR subscriptions.
    • Premium Private Jet Program: 20% off plus one time $500 credit towards Wheels Up Connect or 40% off plus one time $2K towards Wheels Up Core memberships.
  • The Morgan Stanley Annual Engagement Bonus has increased to $695 to match the new annual fee.

Full details about Platinum card features (new and old) can be found here: Amex Platinum Complete Guide.

Are the changes a net positive?

I understand the knee jerk reaction that $695 is way too much to spend on a credit card.  Believe me, I’m right there with you.  But, I felt that way about the $550 annual fee too!  I think that a fair way to look at the changes is to look at only the changes: customers must now pay $145 more than before, but they get a bunch of new perks.  Are those perks worth $145 or more?  In other words, lets assume that the customer had previously decided (for whatever reasons) that the $550 fee was worth paying.  In that case, the only real question is whether the new benefits are worth paying an additional $145 per year.  I understand that the equation may change again in 2023 when Centurion Lounge access rules change, but that’s a calculation for another day.  By then there may be even more changes to account for.

Everyone is going to value these new perks differently.  If you’re already an Equinox customer, for example, the $25 per month credit will be worth about $300 per year straight up.  If you’re not a customer and don’t plan to be, then that perk is worth nothing.

Below is how I personally value each new perk.  I encourage readers to come up with their own value estimates.  I recommend asking yourself: if I could pay separately for a subscription to this thing, how much would I pay?  The answer should never be face value: you would never pay $300 in advance to get $300 in Equinox credits spread out $25 per month, would you? No, that would be silly.  You’d only pay in advance if you could get a substantial discount.

  • $200 Prepaid Hotel Credit: Get $200 back per calendar year towards prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings
    Greg’s estimate: $75
    Reason: I don’t usually like making prepaid hotel bookings. That said, I can think of this as getting a $200 hotel room each year for only $75.  Not bad!  Plus, when booking Fine Hotels & Resorts at a major chain, I’ll still earn hotel points and elite benefits (details here).
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Up to $20 per month in credits for subscriptions to Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, or The New York Times.
    Greg’s estimate: $192
    Reason: We already subscribe to the New York Times digital edition for $17.50 per month, so I figured that I’d be willing to prepay $16 per month ($16 x 12 = $192)
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get $25 per month for select Equinox subscriptions.
    Greg’s estimate: $0
    I don’t subscribe to Equinox, nor do I think I will.
  • CLEAR credit: Get up to $179 per year reimbursed for CLEAR subscriptions.
    Greg’s estimate: $0
    Reason: I like CLEAR, but it is included free with My Delta Diamond status.
  • Premium Private Jet Program: 20% off plus one time $500 credit towards Wheels Up Connect or 40% off plus one time $2K towards Wheels Up Core memberships.
    Greg’s estimate: $0
    Reason: I haven’t had a chance to look into this, but my bet is that the private jet service costs way more than I’m willing to spend.  For those who are interested in booking private jets, though, this could be huge!

As you can see above, the only new perks that I really value are the hotel and digital entertainment credits.  For me, the net changes for one Platinum card are a net win.  In my household, though, we have multiple Platinum cards and I won’t have good uses for the Entertainment Credit for any but the first one.  As a result, the new changes are a net loss for our secondary Platinum cards.

Is it a “coupon book”?

The Platinum card has long attracted me as a great way to get luxury travel benefits.  The card includes elite status with some programs, access to numerous airport lounges, cruise benefits, etc.  With the exception of the Centurion Lounge guest charges coming in 2023, none of that has changed.  What has changed is that they’ve raised the price twice in recent years (not so long ago it was just $450 per year) and they’ve added discounts and rebates to try to make up for it.  That’s what leaves people groaning.  If you don’t feel like the luxury benefits are worth the new annual fee then you’re left having to “redeem these coupons” in order to justify the card’s expense.  Some will easily come out way ahead with the new discounts and rebates because they already pay for these services.  Some will appreciate the changes because they’ll enjoy the new services that are now free to them (or feel free thanks to the rebates).  And some (many?) will find that the card is no longer worth the price.

Bottom Line

For me, the Platinum card changes are a net win, but only for one Platinum card in my household.  Extra Platinum cards beyond the first just have higher fees without much in corresponding extra benefits that I’m likely to take advantage of.  So, when the $695 renewal fees for these cards come around, I’m very likely to cancel.

How about you?  Are the Platinum changes a win or a loss?  Does the Platinum card easily pay for itself or are you finding yourself struggling to figure out how to “redeem these coupons”?  Please comment below.

Email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

65 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments