With the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card the premium credit card space, once ruled by the American Express Platinum card, has become even more competitive. Several years ago, the Platinum card from American Express had some incredible benefits that justified the $450 annual fee, buy today the cards benefits are lackluster at best. I personally carry the card and continue to wonder if it is worth having the card in my wallet.
The American Express Platinum card earns Membership Rewards points which are extremely valuable. Points can be used when shopping with Amazon.com, redeemed with Uber, used at McDonalds, redeemed for merchandise, or redeemed for travel through American Express. In my opinion, these are terrible options to use points and often you receive less than $0.01 per point in value. In general, Membership Rewards points are best used when transferred directly to Airline/Hotel loyalty programs and often, when transferred, cardholders can get up to a 50% bonus.
The American Express Pltinum card only earns 1 membership reward point per dollar spent on ALL purchases. There are no multipliers for Travel or Dining like the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. If you are swiping your card at a non-bonus merchant, the Platinum Card may be a solid option, but I try to still use my Sapphire Reserve because Ultimate Rewards points are just as valuable to me.
Prior to March 2014, the Platinum card granted cardholders to Priority Pass lounges, American Airlines Admirals Clubs, US Airways Lounges, and Delta Skyclubs. Today, the card only allows the cardholder access to the Delta Skyclub when presenting a valid same-day Delta Airlines boarding pass. The card still offers Priority Pass membership, but the guest privileges are stingy compared to the Citi Prestige or Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The Platinum card does come with Centurion Lounge access when traveling on any airline. The Centurion Lounges offer much better food, premium alcohol, and usually complimentary massages. They are truly fantastic louges, but from my experience are often overcrowded thanks to a very generous guest policy.
All in all, Lounge access in 2016 is much more resticted than it once was. Unless you frequently fly with Delta Airlines or through an airport with a Centurion lounge (list found here) I do not think the American Express Platinum card is a great card for lounge access.
Of all the premium travel rewards card that offer an annual travel credit, the Platinum card is unfortunately the worst. Not only is $200 travel credit $50 less than the Citi Prestige and $100 less than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it is also the hardest to redeem. The credit is only valid for purchases made directly with your airline of choice, which you must designate at the start of each year. The credit is not valid for airfare directly, but many, myself included, have been able to purchase gift cards.
The travel credit makes the effective annual fee just $250, but that is still more than the Citi Prestige ($200) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($150).
Global Entry / TSA Precheck
Most premium credit cards offer a statement credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees, $100 and $85 respectively. Again, this statement credit helps offset the annual fee, but is nothing above and beyond what any other premium credit card offers.
American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
The Fine Hotel and Resorts program from American Express is basically their own travel agency. Platinum and Centurion cardholders have access to the program and can often receive 3rd or 4th nights free when booking through the portal. If you often stay in expensive hotels around the world, the Fine Hotels and Resorts program may just be enough to convince you to hold the American Express Platinum card, but keep in mind the Citi Prestige also offers a 4th night free program which is much easier to use.
I personally do not use the Fine Hotels and Resorts program at the moment, so please check out FHRNews.com for a great tutorial about the Fine Hotels and Resorts Benefits.
Overall, it is clear that the Platinum Card from American Express is not the absolute best travel rewards credit card that it once was, but I still find value in the Delta Skyclub and Centurion lounge access. I go back and forth with this card, but for the time being I will continue to pay for the card even though I rarely use it. I would love to see American Express expand the point earning potential of this card by offering bonus multiples for travel and dining, but I do not see this happening anytime soon. If I continue to fly with Delta Airlines, I will continue to hold the card, but if not I will consider downgrading to the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card for a lower annual fee and better points earning potential.