What It's Really Like Owning The Platinum Card® from American Express

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  • There are a lot of credits, which is both a pro and a con. They take effort to maximize and track -- you have to be really organized -- but I've gotten a lot of value already.
  • This isn't an everyday card; I don't keep it in my wallet.
  • I'm bummed about the lounge perks being limited next year, but I still get my money's worth even without that perk.

Have spreadsheet, will travel.

There are a lot of opinions out there on the The Platinum Card® from American Express. Some folks think it's the best travel rewards card ever created. Others think it's a "coupon book" masquerading as a rewards card. And still others think it's overpriced junk not worth the application.

As a cardholder myself, my opinion lies somewhere in the middle. I'm glad I applied for the card. I intend to keep it for at least another year. But it's definitely not the most laid-back card in my collection.

No, like many pretty things, The Platinum Card® from American Express, with its $695 annual fee (rates and fees), is very high-maintenance. However, if you're willing to put in the work -- and your shopping habits happen to line up with the card's offerings -- it can provide a lot of value.

Yes, it's a "coupon book" -- and that's OK

Alright, so one of the biggest negatives in any discussion of the card is that it's become a bit of a "coupon book" over the last few years. What do people mean by that? Essentially, the card has a list of various statement credits (read: rebates) you can earn for specific types of spending. (Terms apply.) This includes:

  • Entertainment credits
  • Uber credits
  • Airline fee credits
  • Walmart+ credits
  • Hotel credits
  • Equinox credits
  • Saks Fifth Avenue credits
  • Clear credits

Most of the credits require some kind of enrollment (though you typically only have to do this once). Some of them reset monthly, some are annual, some reset with the calendar, others with your card anniversary…it's a lot to keep track of.

And if you don't already spend in these areas, the credits aren't exactly useful. For example, Equinox is a very fancy-pants gym that doesn't have any locations within 300 miles of me. So no, I don't use that credit. At all. It may as well not exist. (They are changing this from a monthly credit to an annual one next year -- and I still won't have an occasion to use it.)

All that being said, despite the extra effort and some of the credits being absolutely useless, I really don't mind the card's "coupon book" style. It lets me pick and choose the credits to use, and I don't need to use them all to get value from them.

Would I trade some of the credits for a lower annual fee? Of course. But I wouldn't want them to get rid of all of the credits. When all is said I done, I should come out ahead by a significant margin, in part thanks to those credits. And that's without including less tangible value, like lounge access and FHR perks. (Terms apply.)

You need to be organized

The key to making the most of The Platinum Card® from American Express is to be organized about it. You need to keep track of which credits you've used and which you haven't. This can get tricky at times, especially for the monthly credits, so I use a spreadsheet that gets updated every other month.

All of the credits post automatically when you make an eligible purchase. But, as with anything else, you need to keep an eye on them. Sometimes my monthly credits post the next day -- sometimes it takes weeks. (The terms and conditions say it can take up to eight weeks.)

Once a quarter, I scroll through my transactions to make sure everything credited correctly. Overall, the majority of credits post within days. I've had two credits that posted near the eight-week mark. I've only had one that didn't post at all. An online chat with a customer service representative can solve issues with credits not posting.

The annual and semi-annual credits are both easier and harder. You don't need to check them every month, but you do need to remember they, you know, exist. I set reminders in my phone calendar to ensure I'm not leaving any credits behind.

This isn't a wallet card (unless you're traveling)

If it seems like I'm focusing a lot on the credits for what is, ostensibly, a rewards credit card -- you're right, I am. But that's because The Platinum Card® from American Express is not an everyday rewards card.

On a day-to-day basis, I don't keep this card in my wallet. (For one thing, it's heavy!) I'm not using it at the grocery store, or for take-out, or even most retail purchases. There are really only three occasions I use The Platinum Card® from American Express to make a purchase:

  1. If I'm going to earn a statement credit
  2. If I'm booking a flight with the airline and/or booking through Amex Travel
  3. If I'm buying something expensive and want the purchase protection

Outside of these situations, I have cards with higher rewards rates that will provide a much better return on the purchase.

The only time I put this card in my wallet is when I'm traveling. Granted, I haven't done a lot of that this year. But we've managed to put several of the card's credits to good use in the few trips we've made. And we have more travel already planned for next year.

I do have to say, I'm disappointed that I'll be losing airport lounge guest passes next year. Lounge access (terms apply) was certainly a very enticing aspect of getting the card. And I think it's kind of steep to pay $175 a year to add an authorized user. If we end up traveling a lot next year, though, it could be worth it.

Even without that perk, I'm still getting enough value from The Platinum Card® from American Express that I only cringe a little thinking about my upcoming annual fee. This card isn't for everyone -- by a long shot -- but I've been happy with it so far.

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