Planning a birthday party in another country can be as daunting as it is exciting. But did you know that a credit card company can make birthday planning a piece of cake? That’s what I learned when I used the American Express Platinum Card® Concierge for the first time.

My friends and I were headed to Mexico City, and one of the big events of the trip was a friend’s birthday celebration. I knew our group would want some key things:

  • A fun venue with good music and live entertainment
  • Easy access to public transit or rideshare
  • Local tips for how to celebrate our friend’s day as well as our first time in the city

I tried to research options but ran into some barriers: I didn’t know the local market and making high-cost international calls to local restaurants was impractical. That’s when I discovered the Platinum Card Concierge, a service offered to cardholders with certain premium American Express cards.

One call with a member of the concierge team, plus a couple days to wait for their research, and my group had a birthday dinner reservation confirmed. Here’s how it works.

What is the Amex Concierge service?

Concierge is a service that can help you with life’s basics and more. Need to send flowers to a loved one? Concierge can help. Getting concert tickets ordered? Concierge. The concierge team can also book reservations at some of the most highly sought-after restaurants around the world.

For eligible American Express cardholders, you can call 1-800-525-3355 or the number on the back of your card to connect with a concierge team member. In my case, I have The Platinum Card® from American Express, so a quick call to their team instantly connected me with a representative from the service.

How Amex Concierge helped find a party venue

Since I needed help researching and contacting restaurants in Mexico City, I prepared a list of requests ahead of the call. My main request was for a dinner reservation, but it wasn’t that simple. I wanted the birthday dinner to feel special, unique and truly local.

I called about a month before the trip to give the concierge team plenty of time to snag a reservation. The agent took the time to understand the needs of our group to make sure they could fulfill the request.

With the information I provided, the concierge team began their research. From my perspective, they seemed to go above and beyond — they considered restaurant options they’ve collected over the years, scoured reviews and made calls to find spots that could accommodate our group at our desired time. What’s nice about the service is that the concierge team can do the online digging you might do yourself and pair it with their internal knowledge and local expertise.

Amex Concierge’s answer

A couple days later, the agent followed up by email, providing me with their recommendations for where we could book the dinner. A quick reply later and we had a confirmed reservation at Porfirio’s in the upscale Polanco neighborhood.

On the day of the dinner, we were treated to a truly unforgettable experience. The restaurant had an exciting atmosphere — music, sparklers, cheers and all. The food was outstanding, the service was impeccable and the atmosphere was perfect for our celebration. Our group got to enjoy a birthday party in a cosmopolitan city at a restaurant that went the extra mile to celebrate our friend. Best of all, they surprised our friend with a local song and cake to top off an amazing birthday dinner!

What to know if you want to use Amex Concierge

The service is an included benefit

Amex Concierge is an included benefit of eligible American Express cards. All the cards that offer the service have annual fees, but there’s no additional charge for using the concierge service. You’ll only need to pay for any items, tickets or services you ask them to book on your behalf.

Give them enough time to help you

In my experience, the Concierge team is professional and eager to help, but it’s important to set them up for success. Outside of immediate purchase requests (e.g., concert tickets), it typically takes their team at least a couple days during busy times to fulfill your requests.

In my case, I called them a month before the trip to give them ample time to research. The extra time also improved the chances of snagging a restaurant reservation during our desired day and time (a Saturday during the dinner rush). The concierge team works best with lots of prep time. If you call them expecting a same-day reservation at a top restaurant, you may be disappointed.

Amex Concierge can’t do everything

Concierge is best used for securing dinner reservations, helping to order gifts such as flowers and buying tickets to events. While they may be able to offer additional services based on your request, there’s no guarantee.

They can keep a secret

When you make a request to the concierge team, they don’t share it with anyone else. This is especially helpful if you have authorized users on your card because you can order gifts for them that stay under wraps.

Confirm their hours

At the time of writing, Amex Concierge is available by phone daily between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. EDT. Be sure to confirm their current hours before you call, or you may be asked to try again later.

Credit cards that include Amex Concierge

If you’re looking to try Amex Concierge, you’ll need to have a premium American Express card. These include the Amex platinum cards, as well as some premium co-branded cards. All these cards carry hefty annual fees, but the benefits and perks offer amazing value if you use them. Here are the Amex cards that come with access to Amex concierge:

Keep in mind, there are other credit cards that offer concierge services, too.

The bottom line

The Amex Concierge service enhanced our group’s time in Mexico City and made my friend’s birthday celebration all the more special. The concierge team helped us find a great restaurant, and they went the extra mile to help ensure my friend had a wonderful birthday. The convenience and personalized service made my experience with Amex Concierge truly worthwhile.

* All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.