The Platinum Card® from American Express ($450 or $475 Mercedes Benz version with a better points bonus) has caught a bit of heat over the last couple of years. It started with the loss of the Continental lounges in the merger with United, hit a fever pitch as American and US Airways lounges dropped out, and then there was the crescendo when Delta announced Sky Club access changes for those who enter via a credit card relationship. There were other things along the way like the loss of Membership Rewards transfer partners like Continental and Southwest. All of these things combined led many travelers to question the value of the card, and some dropped it for other options. Yet here I am, with the Platinum card still occupying the top slot in my travel wallet, and I’m still calling it “the one in the one-two punch for travelers.” I think that is most true for Delta flyers like myself, but it’s still possible to piece together some real value and make the card pay for itself for others too. For me, the primary benefits of the card are:

  • Access to Delta Sky Clubs (MrsMJ has her own Platinum Card for this as well)
  • Priority Pass Select membership (the additional cardholder gets this too)
  • Access to American Express Centurion lounges (Currently DFW and LAS, with SFO, MIA and LGA coming soon)
  • Airspace Lounge access (BWI, CLE, and JFK)
  • The $200 annual airline fee credit
  • Reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee ($100 or $85, every 5 years)
  • Cruise Privileges Program

Now, these are not the only benefits, they’re just the most valuable to me and MrsMJ in our travels. Of course, there’s Starwood Gold status, elite rental car memberships with Avis, Hertz, and National. There’s also the Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program that I do not personally use often, but know many really leverage that for maximum benefit. For MrsMJ and me, we are looking at annual fees of $450 plus $175 for the additional card, a total of $625. For us, considering that I would buy a Delta Sky Club Executive membership otherwise, the Sky Club access makes the Platinum Card worth the fee all by itself. Backing out $200 for the airline fee credit, and another $200 or so annually in value from Cruise Privileges, I’m looking at $225 per year, well worth it for us….and that’s not even counting reimbursement for Global Entry every 5 years.

In all cases, you need to do your own math, and figure out what works best for you. If you don’t travel enough to justify a lounge membership or take advantage of the card’s great benefits, you’ll be better off shopping for a less expensive card. While the Platinum card is a great one for travel benefits, it’s rarely the best for everyday spend and that’s why I refer to it as just part of a one-two punch for travelers. The Platinum card combined with another card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card®, or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® (I carry both) work together for benefits and earning valuable rewards points for your spend. For me, the Platinum card along with my Sapphire Preferred and Arrival+ are the perfect one-two (three?) punch for maximum travel benefits and rewards. YMMV.

-MJ, July 18, 2014