The Platinum Card from American Express

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The original aspirational credit card remains a sound pick among premium travel rewards cards.

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The Platinum Card from American Express earns its moniker as a premium travel rewards card, offering huge bonuses and perks tailored for the frequent or international traveler with a hankering for a high-end experience.

Review

The Platinum Card from American Express launched in 1984 as the world’s first platinum card, with an exclusive invitation-only membership and a then-astounding annual fee of $250. Membership is no longer wishful thinking, but available to anyone with a solid credit history and strong financial standing. Today, the card’s upscale reputation has a $550 annual fee to match and a bevy of benefits for those on the go.

Savvy users who can take advantage of extras like free airport lounge access and a yearly $200 air incidentals credit should be able to easily justify the hefty cost of ownership. The card pays a generous 5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on airfare — either through the airline directly or through the card’s travel portal – and 5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible hotels booked through American Express’ travel portal. Uber rides earn 2 points, although you must enroll.

All other spending earns 1 Membership Rewards point per $1, so if airplanes and hotels rarely appear in your plans, this may not be the best card for you.

With close competitor Chase Sapphire Reserve jockeying for first place in the lucrative high-end credit card market, the Platinum AmEx has added a number of incentives to keep card members happy and attract new users, like a $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline, up to $200 for Uber rides annually — credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Members only — a $100 Global Entry fee rebate and free Boingo Wi-Fi access.

The current sign-up bonus offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $5,000 within the first three months of card ownership is worth up to $600 if used to book travel or other select purchases.

Who should own this card

This card is best for big spenders who fly or stay in hotels frequently and can take full advantage of the perks that come with this heavy metal card. You’ll also need excellent credit to be eligible. If this sounds like you, and you’re willing to fork over the annual fee in return for the plush benefits, the Platinum Card from American Express is beckoning.

Advantages
  • The rewards for air travel and hotels are on par with other great airline and hotel credit cards.
  • If you take advantage of the perks, it could be worth more than the $550 annual fee.
  • No foreign transaction fees -- a must for any good travel card. Terms apply.
Disadvantages
  • This card is a charge card, which means you have to pay your bill in full every month.
  • The $200 airline credit is only valid on one qualifying airline of your choice and is good for fee incidentals like luggage and in-flight meals. It cannot be used toward the price of a ticket.
  • Other premium travel cards offer a higher rewards rate on dining than the 1 point per $1 offered by this card.

Fees and APR

  • This card has a $550 annual fee.
  • You’ll pay no foreign transaction fee on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Since this is a charge card, the balance must be paid in full every month and there are no finance charges.
  • Late payments may be subject to a penalty fee of up to $38.
  • See Rates & Fees.

Extras, perks and using points

Hotel perks include:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest status, which comes with perks like more luxurious rooms, late checkout and a bonus of 3 Starpoints for every $1 spent.
  • Hilton Honors Gold status, which includes a fifth night free with every booking and a 25% bonus on all points earned during a stay at any eligible property in the Hilton portfolio.
  • Complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts partner hotels.
  • A $75 credit for a stay of two consecutive nights or more at participating hotels in The Hotel Collection.

You’ll also enjoy complimentary membership in several premium car rental programs, including special upgrades and discounts and provides secondary coverage for eligible vehicles in the case of collision or theft.

Platinum cardholders have access to a free concierge who can help you with requests like show tickets, restaurant reservations or shopping for an occasion. The card also offers access to exclusive events like the Kentucky Derby and the Grand Prix de Monaco.

The card comes with extended warranty protections, return protections and purchase protections.

Points can be redeemed on the American Express website. Log into your account and select “Use Points” and apply toward your choice. There is no fee to redeem your points and partial redemptions are allowed. If you use your points for travel booked through the AmexTravel.con website, your points will take on 50% more value. You have to redeem a minimum of 5,000 points if booking travel. You may also receive a discounted rate on eligible flights booked on Delta when paying the entire fare with your American Express card.

How this card compares

Citi Prestige® Card
Card Details
  • Earn 3 ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at airlines and hotels.
  • Earn 2 ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at restaurants and select entertainment merchants.
  • Earn 1 ThankYou Point for every dollar you spend on all other purchases.
  • Cardmembers with a Citigold® or Global Client relationship will earn an additional 15% in ThankYou Points based on purchases made on your card during that cardmembership year, and those with a Private Bank relationship will earn an additional 25% in ThankYou Points.
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 16.74% to 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. These APRs will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
Annual Fee $450.
Balance Transfers Intro APR

The Citi Prestige Card gives air travel rewards at a rate of 3x points to the Amex Platinum’s 5x points. But it comes with one perk that could make it worth more to you: on hotel stays of four or more nights booked through the Citi concierge, get the fourth night free. For some, this benefit could exceed the cost of card ownership.

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
Card Details
  • Earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points on travel and at restaurants.
  • Earn 1X Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points on all other purchases.
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 16.99% to 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. These APRs will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
Annual Fee $450; each additional card: $75 per year.
Balance Transfers Intro APR

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has one of the most flexible rewards redemptions we’ve seen. And its definition of travel is wider than just air and hotel (think taxis, cruises, campgrounds, etc.) Its distinguishing feature is a 50% increase in the value of your points when you book any travel — air, hotel or otherwise, through the issuer’s portal. This may make it a better option if the Chase travel partners are good for you.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite®
Card Details
  • Earn 3X points per dollar for travel and mobile wallet spend.
  • Earn 1X point per dollar on all other purchases.
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 16.74%. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
Annual Fee $400.
Balance Transfers Intro APR

Another contender in the premium rewards card category is the US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite, which, in addition to its boosted rewards on travel also pays 3x points per $1 on all mobile wallet purchases — something no other card currently offers. This means you could theoretically earn triple points on all your spending with this card. The only catch is you have to be a U.S. Bank customer to apply for the card.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.