(EDIT November 2013 – whilst originally published in March, this article is still accurate. In particular, the special 35,000 points referral bonus is still available - please email me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk for a personalised application link.)
This is the 3rd of my series of posts looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether of not they are worth applying for. These posts will be linked to the relevant sections of the ‘Credit Cards Update‘ page. My other UK airline and hotel credit card reviews can be found here.
About the card
The American Express Platinum Charge Card is issued directly by American Express.
The general American Express rule is that you can hold two charge cards and two credit cards at the same time. Gold is the other widely-held charge card, the credit cards include the BA, Starwood SPG, Nectar, Costco and Harrods Amex cards.
Any American Express you may have which are issued by Lloyds TSB or MBNA will not directly impact on whether you are accepted for this card.
Note that the Platinum card is a charge card, not a credit card. You MUST clear your balance in full at the end of each month.
What is the sign-up bonus?
30,000 Membership Rewards points. This is increased to 35,000 Membership Rewards points if you are referred by an existing cardholder.
Membership Rewards points can be converted 1 to 1 into Avios, so you would receive 30,000 or 35,000 Avios points. Click here to see what other reward programmes are Membership Rewards transfer partners.
Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.
Any other benefits?
Substantial benefits – easily the best package of any UK loyalty card.
You receive travel insurance for yourself and your family. You can insure five other people and their families by giving them supplementary cards on your account. Some benefits require you to pay for your trip with an American Express card, but the core medical benefit is automatic.
You will receive one year of Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Gold. This is equivalent to having a BA Silver card, and will get you into British Airways lounges and give you free seat selection when flying BA. Amex has, so far, been rolling over the cards after the first year, but in theory it is a one-off one-year benefit.
(The Cathay Gold card is a ‘secret’ benefit which is not mentioned on the Amex website. This is presumably to avoid annoying British Airways, who are a major Amex partner. However, the Cathay Gold card is absolutely still available to new Platinum applicants.)
You and your main supplementary cardholder will each receive a Priority Pass card. This gets the cardholder plus a guest into 600 airport lounges across the world for free (although none in Heathrow Terminal 5).
You will also receive permanent status in various hotel schemes:
- Gold in Starwood Preferred Guest
- Gold in Club Carlson
- Platinum in LeClub Accorhotels
Other benefits include Eurostar lounge access in London and Paris, whatever your class of travel. You also receive lounge access when flying with American Airlines, Delta and US Airways.
What is the annual fee?
The fee is refundable pro-rata if you choose to cancel. This is part of the terms and conditions of the card, and Amex is known for refunding fees without quibble.
£50 TopCashBack cashback is available, but you cannot receive this if you are referred. It makes more sense to be referred and earn the extra 5,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus instead. Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.
What do I earn per £1 spent on the card?
You receive 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on the card. This is equivalent to 1 Avios per £1 if transferred.
What is a Membership Rewards point worth?
Anything from ‘not a lot’ to ‘a lot’ is the answer!
If you redeem your points for, say, a Tesco gift card then you will receive around 0.4p per point. This is a poor return.
I tend to value airline miles at 0.75p – 1p each (this is conservative) so that is your valuation if you transfer to an airline programme.
Some of the hotel programmes also offer good value. Club Carlson (the Radisson, Park Plaza and Park Inn scheme) transfers at 1:3 from Membership Rewards, for example. Their top hotels only cost 50,000 points per night, so under 17,000 Membership Rewards points. This is easily over 1p per point of value.
There are also occasional transfer bonuses of 20%-30% to various airlines, including British Airways and Virgin Flying Club.
How does this compare to a cashback credit card?
There are currently no cashback cards on the market which offer a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback. The best ‘pseudo cashback’ card is probably the House of Fraser MasterCard, which offers 1% of your spend in House of Fraser gift vouchers.
On this basis, the Platinum card performs OK, depending on how you use your Membership Rewards points.
Other points to note
You will not receive a sign-up bonus if you have held a Platinum, Gold or Green American Express card in the six months before you apply.
There is a £40,000 household income requirement.
The Head for Points Verdict:
Score for the sign-up bonus – 9/10, 35,000 Avios (assuming you are referred) is a lot of miles. Whether or not the fee represents value for money depends on how many of the card benefits you will use.
Score for on-going earning – 5/10 1 point per £1 is not outstanding – the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold performs better, as you receive double points on foreign, travel, supermarket and petrol spending.