The American Express Platinum Card is one of the top cards in the industry for frequent travelers who value airport lounge access, hotel status and other perks. It can also be great for those who spend heavily in airfare and love Amex’s transfer partners. Both the personal and business versions have nearly identical earning structures, redemption options, and perks.

However, most people should NOT get the Platinum Card. It has one of the worst earning structures in the industry and an expensive sign-up bonus for an annual fee of $550 (NOT waived the first year). Plus, many of its benefits are cumbersome and hard to use by design.

 

Earning

The Platinum Card has a very limited earning structure. It earns 5x Membership Rewards (MR) points on airfare booked directly with the airline and travel through amextravel.com. The personal version of the Platinum Card gives you more flexibility with booking flights than its business counterpart. However, the earning structure stops at the 5x categories because the Platinum card earns only one point per dollar on non-bonus spend.

I wish that Amex would add at least one more bonus category to the Platinum Card so that its a viable earner. But I doubt that will happen because Amex wants you to have multiple MR point-earning cards and pay more annual fees.

The American Express Platinum Card also comes with a public sign-up bonus worth 60,000 MR points. You can be earn those points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. This bonus is probably the best part about the Platinum Card aside from its perks.

 

Burning

Earning points is fantastic, but points earned are useless if you cannot redeem them for anything of value. Amex has multiple options for redemption:

Transfer Partners

American Express’ transfer partners are this card’s most valuable redemption option. They are the reason why points and miles enthusiasts love the Membership Rewards family of credit cards so much. Amex transfers points at a 1 MR to 1 partner currency ratio unless otherwise noted.

Hotels
  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton (1 MR = 2 Hilton Honors Points)
  • Marriott
Airlines
  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromexico (5 MR = 8 Premier Points)
  • Air Canada
  • Air Italia Millemiglia
  • Asia Miles / Cathay Pacific
  • Avianca Lifemiles
  • British Airways
  • Delta Airlines
  • El Al Israel Airlines (50 MR = 1 Matmid Point)
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue (5 MR = 4 TrueBlue Points)
  • KLM Flying Blue / Air France
  • Nippon Airways
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Your mileage may vary for each partner. But for most partners, you should be able to easily redeem your points for at least 1.5 cents per point (CPP).

Other Options

Amextravel.com is Amex’s travel website that can be used to book hotels and flights. If you use their website and use points to pay for your flight, Amex will give you back 25% of the points paid for future use.

Gift cards, merchandise, and statement credits are not recommended. You will earn less than 1 CPP using these options. If cash back or gift cards are what you want, this card is probably not for you.

 

Platinum Card Flavors

The Platinum Card is unique in that it comes in three other “flavors” for partnering financial institutions: Charles Schwab, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley. All flavors have the same earning structure and redemption options. But each one has subtle differences in benefits or fees.

All flavors of the Platinum Card (including the regular one) are subject to Amex’s Once Per Lifetime Rule. This rule states that you can only receive a sign-up bonus on any card once. However, bonuses for each flavor counts separately.

Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab Platinum Card is unique because it lets you redeem MR points for 1.25 CPP into your Schwab account. This is by far the best way to get cash back for MR points. Some people combine this redemption option with the earning structures of cards like the Amex Gold and Blue Business Preferred. Such combos increase the face value of MR points by 25% on all cards.

Cardholders must have a Schwab account to keep this card. But doing so might pay off in dividends as funds must go into the Schwab account. The value of the redeemed points could be life-changing if you play your cards right (pun intended) with investing.

Other Flavors

The Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley flavors are almost identical to the regular Platinum Card. The only difference is that cardholders will receive a bonus after spending $100,000 within a cardholder year.

To be exact, the Goldman Sachs bonus is worth 40,000 MR points and the Morgan Stanley bonus is worth $500 in cash. Cardholders must have a Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley account to get and keep their card.

 

Similar Cards

Try one of these alternatives if the Platinum Card is not for you :

American Express Gold Card

The American Express Gold Card is suited more for foodies than globetrotters. That’s because it earns 4x MR points on Dining worldwide and at Grocery Stores stateside. The 4x points have a limit of $25,000 per year, meaning that you can earn up to 200,000 MR points between both categories. It also earns 3x points at amextravel.com and one point per dollar on non-bonus spend.

The Gold Card has an annual fee of $250 (NOT waived the first year). But this fee is offset by a $100 airline travel credit like the one offered with the Platinum Card. Also offsetting the fee is $120 in hard to use restaurant credits. These credits are offered at $10 per month and can really only be used for tipping.

Nonetheless, the Gold Card is the best alternative for those who want to earn MR points quickly. It’s also the better card for travelers who do not want or cannot use the Platinum Card’s perks.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Sapphire Reserve is Chase’s response to the Platinum Card. And it’s the better card for most travelers. It has an annual fee of $550 (NOT waived the first year), which is the same as the Platinum Card. Plus, the fee is mostly offset by a $300 annual general travel credit.

Furthermore, the Sapphire Reserve earns 3x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on Dining and Travel and only one on non-bonus spend. Chase’s two bonus categories are very loosely defined and more inclusive than the Platinum Card’s earning structure. The Reserve also offers a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 UR points. It can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is better than the Platinum Card for most travelers. I personally have the Reserve over the Platinum Card because it has a better earning structure and more useful benefits for me.

Citi Prestige

Citi’s premium card is a solid alternative for international travelers who like Citi’s partners. It earns 5x Thank You (TY) points on Dining and Airfare. You will also earn 3x TY points on Cruises and Hotels. All other purchases earn only one point.

The Citi Prestige has a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 TY points. It can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

This card is one of the best for lengthy hotel stays because of its famous Fourth Night Free benefit. But unlike the Platinum Card, the Prestige does not give you any hotel status. Instead, you will receive a $250 General Travel credit like the one from the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The Citi Prestige is the better card for general travel and dining expenses. But the Platinum Card wins for Airfare purchases and perks.

 

Final Draw

The Platinum Card from American Express is a great card for frequent travelers who can use its perks. The benefits are so valuable that any version of the Platinum Card could be a keeper for frequent travelers. However, most people should NOT get the Platinum Card. That’s because its earning structure purposely leaves much to be desired and its perks are cumbersome and hard to use.

 

Apply Today: The Platinum Card from American Express