Published in: Credit Cards | Dec. 4, 2018

American Express Platinum Card® Travel Benefits Explained

By:  Lyle Daly

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The American Express Platinum Card® offers a plethora of travel benefits. Find out what they are and how you can use them to their fullest potential.

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I’m a big fan of travel rewards cards, and I’ve pored over the details on just about any that you could name. Throughout that process, I’ve never found another with the sheer number of travel benefits as the American Express Platinum Card®. You could probably fill a textbook just covering its travel perks.

Considering the card’s annual fee costs $550 per year, it’s crucial that you know what kind of features it offers and how you can use them. To help you better understand your American Express Platinum Card’s® travel benefits, I’ll be going over them, from the biggest highlights to the lesser-known items.

Travel credits

The American Express Platinum Card® has the most travel credits of any credit card. You can get up to $400 in credits per year, plus a credit of up to $100 every four years for membership in the Trusted Traveler Program of your choice. Here’s a closer look at what kinds of travel credits the card offers:

$200 annual Uber credit

When you use Uber, your American Express Platinum Card® will cover all or a portion of the bill. If there’s a remaining balance, you can pay that with any card you want, as you’re not required to use your Amex for that.

This may be an annual credit, but American Express issues it monthly, and the amounts break down like this:

  • $15 per month from January to November
  • $35 in December

All you need to do to receive your credit is set up your card as a payment method on your account.

Unused credit doesn’t roll over from month to month. Since the benefit is structured this way, you’ll need to use Uber frequently or your credit will go to waste. On the bright side, this credit also works with Uber Eats, so you can use it for food instead of rides if you prefer.

$200 annual incidental airline fee credit

Your card will cover up to $200 in incidental airline fees per year, but only with one qualifying airline. You can select the airline through your online account or by calling in. American Express lets you change your airline at the beginning of the year from Jan. 1 to Jan. 31.

Airline incidentals don’t include airfare, although there is a loophole to this that I’ve explained below. The following are considered incidentals:

  • Baggage fees, including checked and overweight baggage
  • Ticketing fees, including fees for ticket changes and phone reservations (award ticket fees don’t qualify)
  • Airport lounge fees, including both day passes and annual lounge memberships
  • Fees for flying with pets
  • In-flight purchases through the airline (note that anything provided through a third party, such as in-flight internet, won’t qualify)

The Airline Gift Card Loophole

While this credit technically isn’t supposed to cover airline gift cards, there are numerous reports of cardholders using their credits for exactly that with certain airlines. After purchasing a gift card with your credit, you could then use that gift card to pay for airfare. It’s reported that this works with the following airlines:

  • American Airlines with gift cards up to $100
  • Delta Air Lines with gift cards up to $50
  • Southwest Airlines

You are rolling the dice here, because you’ll be stuck with the bill if your credit doesn’t apply.

Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit

You’ll receive a $100 credit for your Global Entry membership or an $85 credit for your TSA Precheck membership every four years. Membership lasts five years with both programs, so the American Express Platinum Card® allows you to renew your membership up to one year early.

These are each Trusted Traveler Programs, and once you join, you can go through an expedited security screening process. Global Entry covers you when returning to the United States from an international trip, whereas TSA Precheck has expedited pre-flight security lanes at U.S. airports.

Global Entry is by far the better choice. Once you’re in that program, you’re also in the TSA Precheck program, giving you both sets of benefits. If you chose TSA Precheck, you’d only receive the benefits of that program.

Travel rewards and redemptions

With enough spending, you can earn a substantial number of points using your card. It combines a top-tier signup bonus with a high rewards rate, and Membership Rewards points give you a diverse range of redemption opportunities.

60,000 bonus points

The American Express Platinum Card® packs a sizable sign-up bonus of 60,000 points, which you’ll receive after you spend at least $5,000 in the first three months. American Express doesn’t apply the annual fee towards that spending minimum.

How much that sign-up bonus is worth will depend on how you use the points, but it’s easy enough to get at least $0.01 per point for a value of $600. Transferring points to the right airlines for award bookings is where you can get the best values, and over $0.05 per point is possible when you do that.

5 points per $1 on select travel purchases

The following purchases earn 5 points per $1:

  • Flights you book directly with the airline
  • Flights you book using American Express Travel
  • Prepaid hotels you book using American Express Travel

If you spend quite a bit on flights and hotels every year, the American Express Platinum Card® gives you the opportunity to rack up those Membership Rewards points.

All other purchases will earn 1 point per $1.

The American Express Membership Rewards program

All those points you earn with your card are redeemable through the American Express Membership Rewards program, which has a few ways you can use your points. The option that usually gets you the most value for your points is transfers to the program’s travel partners. Here are the current partners (transfer ratios are 1:1 except where otherwise noted):

  • Airlines -- AeroMexico (1:1.6), Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, El Al Israel Airlines (50:1), Emirates, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia Plus, JetBlue (1.25:1), Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic
  • Hotels -- Choice Hotels, Hilton (1:2), Starwood Hotels and Resorts (3:1)

Other ways to redeem points include:

  • Airfare through American Express Travel at $0.01 per point
  • Any other types of travel through American Express Travel at $0.007 per point
  • Cash back at $0.006 per point

Anything under $0.01 per point is a below-average value for points, so the only worthwhile redemption options are transfers and airfare bookings through American Express Travel.

Airport lounge access

American Express has put together an impressive roster of airport lounges that you can access with your Platinum Card®. It’s called The American Express Global Lounge Collection, and lounges in this collection are:

  • The Centurion Lounges
  • American Express international lounges
  • Priority Pass Select lounges (you must activate the membership first, which you can do through your account with American Express)
  • Delta Sky Clubs (you must have a Delta boarding pass to access these lounges)
  • Airspace lounges
  • Escape lounges

The lounges with the most coverage are The Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs, which are most common within the United States, and the Priority Pass Select lounges, which are found in some U.S. airports but have better international coverage. American Express international lounges, Airspace lounges, and Escape lounges aren’t nearly as widespread.

Discounts on premium airfare

The International Airline Program helps purchase premium airfare at discounted rates with over 20 participating airlines. In this case, premium airfare refers to tickets in:

  • Premium economy
  • Business class
  • First class

You must call the Platinum Travel Service to take advantage, as this is the only way to find out what the discount offers are and to book them. Bookings can be for one to eight tickets, and each ticket has a $39 service fee.

The process is a little annoying, but there are some great bargains available this way. You’ll earn the 5 points per $1 rewards rate on your purchase, or you can also pay with your points at the $0.01 per point rate.

Complimentary hotel perks

If you spend a lot of time in hotels, then the American Express Platinum Card® can improve your experience considerably. What’s especially helpful is that you get complimentary perks at several different hotels, so you’re not limited to one brand.

Gold status with Hilton and Starwood

You need to go through a quick online enrollment process with each hotel to take advantage of this travel benefit. Hilton Honors Gold status gets you the following:

  • The fifth night free when you book an award stay of at least five nights
  • 80% bonus on the base points that you earn
  • Room upgrades at select Hilton brands when there’s space available

Gold status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program has a more extensive list of benefits, including:

  • 3 Starpoints per $1 spent on all eligible purchases
  • An enhanced room that you receive automatically at check-in when available
  • 4 p.m. late checkout (this is subject to availability at Starwood’s resort and conference center properties)
  • A welcome gift of your choice, such as complimentary in-room internet and a beverage or bonus Starpoints

Benefits at properties in the FINE HOTELS & RESORTS program

Hilton and Starwood aren’t the only hotels where your American Express Platinum Card® can score you some extras. American Express also has its FINE HOTELS & RESORTS program. This features over 1,000 properties, and you get these benefits when you stay at one of them:

  • Complimentary room upgrades when available
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Noon check-in when available
  • Complimentary breakfast for two every day
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • One unique amenity valued at $100 (this varies by property; common options include $100 gift certificates at the property’s restaurant or spa)

If you need a place to stay, it’s worth looking through the FINE HOTEL & RESORTS directory. Those benefits add up, especially the free breakfast, since food costs can compound quickly when you’re on vacation.

Platinum Concierge Service

Much more than just a travel benefit, Platinum Concierge Service is a versatile resource for every cardholder.

It’d be impossible to explain all the ways you can use this service. Consider it like a personal assistant you can call when you need something, whether that’s booking a limo, getting a reservation at a popular restaurant, sending flowers or another gift to someone, or snagging concert tickets. Whatever you need, a Platinum Concierge can probably make it happen.

You can also call Platinum Concierge Service for putting together travel plans, deciding how to use points, or booking travel. They may transfer you to American Express Travel, though, so you won’t always complete this kind of service with a concierge.

You are, of course, responsible for paying the cost of anything your concierge purchases on your behalf, but you can give them a limit on how much you want to spend.

Travel insurance

The American Express Platinum Card® includes these types of travel insurance:

  • Baggage insurance
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Travel accident insurance

To qualify for any insurance, you must use your card for the purchase. This means you won’t qualify for it when you use your points to book an award ticket.

Insurance coverages are one of the few areas where the American Express Platinum Card® is a bit lacking compared to its competition. Other cards offer coverage for trip delays or cancellations, but you won’t have that with your Amex.

No foreign transaction fees

This probably goes without saying, but just in case you were wondering, you won’t pay foreign transaction fees when you use your American Express Platinum Card®.

Summing up how you can use your Amex Platinum®

As you can see, there’s plenty of potential value you can get from the American Express Platinum Card®; you just need to know the many ways you can use it. If you’re someone who travels all the time, your Amex can save you thousands every year. Let’s do a quick recap to cover how you can use your card.

To start, you’ll want to ensure you’re using all its travel credits, so you should:

  • Sign up for Global Entry or renew your membership and use your Amex for the fee.
  • Pick an airline using your online Amex account to ensure that you get your airline incidental credit.
  • Add your Amex as a payment method in Uber so you can use your monthly credit for rides and food.

When you’re booking airfare, remember that you can transfer points to partner airlines, book travel through American Express Travel, or call in and get discounts through the International Airline Program. Don’t forget to check the airports where you’ll be traveling to see what lounges are there.

If you’re planning to stay at a hotel or resort, it’s always worth checking the FINE HOTELS & RESORTS directory, as well as Hilton and Starwood properties, since you’ll have extra benefits at all of those. You can also transfer points to Hilton or Starwood for award bookings.

That covers the major travel benefits that you can expect to use the most. Last but not least, you can contact your Platinum Concierge Service if you have any questions or need their assistance.

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