Credit Card Reviews 2014 (3): American Express Platinum charge card

This is my review of the American Express Platinum charge card.

It is part of my series of articles looking at the major UK loyalty credit cards and discussing whether or not they are worth applying for.  These articles 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.

(EDIT, November 2014 – whilst originally written in April 2014, all of the information in this review is still correct)

Link:  American Express Platinum card official page

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 cards you may have which are issued by Lloyds, TSB, Barclays 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.

Amex Platinum review

What is the sign-up bonus?

30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £2,000 within 90 days.  This is increased to 35,000 Membership Rewards points if I refer you via the Amex ‘refer a friend’ scheme.  Please e-mail me at raffles [at] headforpoints.co.uk if you would like a referral.

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.

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 receive full car hire insurance – with no requirement to pay with your card.

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 Le Club Accorhotels

Other benefits include Eurostar lounge access in London and Paris, whatever your class of travel.  You also receive lounge access when flying with Delta (any guests must pay $29).  There is also an exclusive hotel booking scheme called ‘Fine Hotels & Resorts’ which offers valuable additional benefits on your stays.

What is the annual fee?

£450

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.

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.  With a few exceptions (a handful of hotels are 70,000 points), 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.

You can take a look at the full list of Membership Rewards options here.

How does this compare to a cashback credit card?

The best cashback card on the market which offers a) a MasterCard or Visa, b) no annual fee and c) unlimited cashback is the Asda card, which pays 0.5%.  The best ‘pseudo cashback’ card is 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 and whether you can take advantage of transfer bonuses.

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.

For clarity, you will definitely receive the sign-up bonus even if you already have a BA Amex, SPG Amex, Platinum Cashback Amex or any American Express card issued by Barclays, Lloyds or MBNA.

There is a £40,000 household income requirement.

The Head for Points review verdict:

Score for the sign-up bonus – 9/10, 30,000 Membership Rewards points – or 35,000 if you apply via my refer-a-friend link – is a LOT of airline miles or hotel points.  You would receive 30,000 / 35,000 Avios or Virgin Flying Club miles, for example.  Whether or not the fee represents value for money depends on how many of the card benefits you will use, although you can cancel for a pro-rata fee refund at any point.

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.

(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.)

Why InterContinental Le Grand in Paris is my favourite city hotel in the world
200%, 300% or 400% bonus Miles & More miles on Hilton stays
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, airline miles and hotel points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our emails via the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Colin MacKinnon says:

    Have to say, after a missed luggage connection EDI-LCY-MAD-PTY (Panama) on Boxing Day, I found the Amex insurance not as smooth and ideal as I had expected from other Amex deals.

    Possibly because Amex simply outsource from Day One to AXA. So my £450 a year has to be compared to an AXA policy.

    Concierge has never been any help either. Maybe my requests are a little off-the-wall, such as my response to my luggage being stuck at LCY was: can you get me a flight to LHR and back so as I get tomorrow’s MAD-PTY flight, or can you arrange a courier to pick up my bag at LCY and get it to MAD for 12 noon tomorrow. If it had not been Boxing Day, one of my pals’ secretary’s could have organised that – I was hoping Amex could have done it on a Bank Holiday.

    As it was, and as I expected with Iberia, it then took three more days for the luggage to arrive!

    AXA (Amex) don’t pay for all the international phone calls to track down one’s luggage, don’t pay the USD100 for the taxi to the airport to collect rather than wait an extra day, and don’t make the paperwork easy. (You have to claim off the airline first, except that BA want you to claim within 21 days and we were on a 22+ day holiday)

    The one great thing was CX Gold, shame it has gone because of T5 lounge access.

    • Good to be aware it’s an AXA policy, I too have had problems in the past with them. I value their insurance for medical cover in foreign parts, just in case. But yes we had to pay out first, and then claim back.

    • Thanks for taking the time to post. Fortunately I’ve never had need to use it but assumed the travel insurance would be very comprehensive. Looks like a refund request and a downgrade to gold for me.

    • The medical insurance cover is of little to no benefit to anyone who has a pre-existing medical condition. Although I have never been hospitalised due to my asthma, I would be foolhardy not to take out insurance that covers this possibility, thus most of the other benefits on the Amex insurance will come with my paid-for fully- inclusive travel insurance policy.

      And I am not sure I would take the risk to cover car rentals with the Amex insurance. Like many I tend to glaze over when reading insurance terms and conditions. Is their car insurance relatively cast iron cover when renting through Hertz or Avis?

      • The insurance summary booklet is very clear and says – in plain English – something like ‘you can ignore all those pushy sales people and decline everything’. Now, of course, there are some things which the Hertz and Avis coverage excludes (chipped windscreens etc) – whether the Amex coverage also covers that is a different question, but the car hire firm also would not cover you.

        • The AmEx insurance covered us for a cracked windscreen in Canada when an idiot overtook us at speed during road rebuilding for the Olympics and for a burst tyre from a pothole in South Africa when a second driver (my brother-in-law) was at the wheel.

          On that score I was well satisfied, especially as tyre damage in SA is not covered by rental companies’ insurance.

      • Lady London says:

        Re car rentals I try to maintain an annual car hire excess policy separately from any car hires. If you choose one that is comprehensive enough that might give you some peace of mind and they are relatively cheap. You can get them for individual rentals although hiring two or three times a year most people would probably find the annual policy a better value. I’m not sure I would fully trust this type of cover on a credit card even though several cards I have had do claim to cover car hires. I’d just worry about conditions of this ‘extra’ turning out to be inadequate, or changing without me noticing.

  2. Never bothered with Accor but perhaps I should – how do I upgrade my account to Platinum with them? can it be done easily online or do I contact Amex?

    • Found the online forms…

    • Found upgrades with Accor to be much better than with IHG (Platinum). Upgraded every time with Novotel, and when i stayed at M Gallery in Phuket was upgraded to a great room made even better with a hot tub on the balcony!

    • The online form is on the americanexpress.co.uk/platinum site

      • Brendan Sweeney says:

        How long does it typically take to get the upgraded status from the hotels? I enrolled start of March but have still not heard or received anything.

        • Czechoslovakia says:

          Ditto. Waiting since Feb. Got an Accor booking coming up in June, would be nice to have by then.

        • scottnothing says:

          For me, Accor and SPG upgrades cleared in less than 2 weeks. Club Carlson took about a week longer (perhaps because I wasn’t already a member).

          Off topic, I have since cancelled the card and my hotel loyalty status has not been impacted.

  3. CapnJack says:

    Be aware that according to the T&C’s the platinum car insurance does NOT cover hires in the Republic of Ireland. The whole rental business there is insane and deserves a post on its own. In summary though you need to take out a separate policy which you can get from a number of online providers at low cost, but the rental company will try VERY hard to convince you that you are still not covered by this (a lie) and need to buy their own super expensive cover (often costs more than the rental fee). If you persist they will put a hold on between 1500 and 2000 euro on your credit card and if you do have an accident they will charge it and leave you to claim that amount back from your 3rd party insurance. Make sure you have cards with sufficient credit on them to cover this or you may end up having a more frugal stay than you planned. Don’t get ripped off, even the major rental firms are at it, albeit less aggressively (in my experience) than the smaller ones. Oh, and don’t forget to take photos of all around the car when you collect it and when you leave it back. Scratches reportedly have a habit of appearing which are of course deducted from your card. The burden of proof is on YOU.

    • I can’t see any exclusion for RoI in the t&cs. What makes you think you aren’t covered, other than aggressive rental agents which isn’t unique?

      • CapnJack says:

        Interestingly I did find this in the T&C’s on the ax website last year, but now it seems to have been sucked into the mulch. I will ask AX for a definitive answer. In the meantime though, check this out:
        http://www.dan-dooley.ie/rentalinfo.php – and these are one of the better ones…

        4.6 Credit Card Insurance Coverage:
        Certain credit cards offer collision damage cover for the driver, however most VISA, Mastercard and American Express card issuing companies in the USA have withdrawn coverage for car rental in the Republic of Ireland. A number of Canadian issued credit cards also offer coverage.
        If the customer wishes to use their credit card to cover collision damage, a current letter of Authorisation from the credit card company must be presented at the time of rental in order to waive the CDI coverage. Client should note that theft insurance may not be included.
        It is the sole responsibility of the customer to determine coverage with their provider and present proof of same upon arrival. If proof of coverage is insufficient, the customer will be charged locally for CDI. No car will be rented without CDI being included in the rental.
        An administration charge of €25/UK£20 per rental applies if the customer opts to decline our Insurance Products. See section 4.1 above for CDI Waiver Deposit required.

  4. Amex Plat used to be the no-brainer of cards, one to take on travels knowing that just about eveything was covered. We made 2x car rental claims and 2x small medical claims. All were handled speedily and efficiently.

    However, recent changes have made the card one to check the T+Cs carefully. Raffles mentioned that some cover requires purchases to have been ade with an AmEx card and there are others.

    Medical insurance cover has changed considerably. There’s an absolute cutoff at age 70 – not affecting most HfPers directly, perhaps, but important if parents are to be covered, as was once the case up to age 79 with the plat. Also, the existing conditions cover is complicated, and one reading of the T+Cs suggests ANY contact with a GP in the past could reduce cover.

    Benefits can chop and change. At least AmEx/Cathay Pacific announced the end of Marco Polo Gold in advance. That was not the case with Hilton Honors Gold which disappeared overnight with no advance notice. Yet Starwood Gold seems to go on for ever. Best not to regard certain benefits as permanent.

    I cancelled my plat after almost 20 years. I’m surprised that I don’t miss it. I haven’t needed PP lounges since, partly because I’ve been travelling J or F or use BA lounges for my Y flights. I have travel insurance and lounge access with a packaged bank account. Oh yes, I use other cards for miles and points, invariably at a better rate than 1/£.

  5. Just a couple of comments on an otherwise excellent article. Firstly I would suggest Amex would consider a major benefit of the card their “Platinum Concierge” service, not mentioned as a benefit in the article. Although I understand the discussion in these comments over the value and experiences. I tried to get priority Amex tickets for Las Vegas concerts through Platinum Concierge, their service was excellent but I still found equivalent seats cheaper elsewhere.

    Secondly, is the complimentary “Loved” status at the Small Leading Hotels of the world. A status I have used to match for similar boutique hotel programme statuses. Also Platinum offers discounts or upgrades on a number of hotels through the Platinum hotel collection.

  6. Jeremy I says:

    Slightly off topic and hopefully not a stupid question, but is one potential use of membership reward points that you build up a stash and then “pounce” to buy a sweet spot flight with any of the various programmes? Or do you need to have been a member of the airline programme for a certain number of days etc? My thought , as a relatively disloyal customer, is to build up a stash and then spend when the right redemption comes along?

    if this is so, what are the sweetest ex-UK spots amongst the 10 or so airline partners?

    • Yes, basically – especially if your travel plans are fluid. Any ‘sweet spots’ depend on where you want to go – for eg, if booking a BA redemption without a 2-4-1, Cathay Pacific may charge more (or fewer) miles to your destination from London based on their reward chart vs the BA chart. Availability is also an issue.

      To speed up transfers, you can link your airline accounts to Amex without having to do a transfer – either ring or do a dummy redemption on the MR website.

      Transfers to Virgin Atlantic and Delta, for eg, are INSTANT if your accounts are already linked. You can see if Virgin has a seat and, if they do, have the miles in your Virgin account within 2 minutes to book it.

  7. Jeremy I says:

    p.s. can two membership award accounts transfer into the same airline account, regardless of which name it is in?

    the idea, here, would be to build up a stash of around 60k MR points with minimum fuss effectively in one account

    • Depends on the airline. I have transferred to Club Carlson and Nectar accounts held in a different name before, but with airlines it is trickier.

      Doesn’t matter with BA of course as you could form a household account with the other person.

  8. How long does it take to get the status with the hotels? Waiting nearly 3 weeks now.

    • I opened my account mid-February and received my Accor card 2 weeks ago. The Club Carlson Gold was an online registartion (I think). I have used the Accor twice and the Club Carlson once. I don’t think that I have yet heard from Starwood.

      • Club Carlson and SPG managed my upgrade in approx 7-14 days and is an online process, i could check the upgraded status on Award Wallet. no phisical cards were posted (one of them told me i specifically need to ask for it if I want but they do not send it by default).
        I applied to Accor just a few days ago so can not comment on that.

        • FormalHall says:

          Any way to expedite the process with Starwood? It has been a month without being upgraded to gold, even though I know my details are correct as it is the same account as my SPG Amex. Amex customer service says it can take 6-8 weeks, which I find excessive when I have upcoming stays.

          • 6-8 weeks is rubbish – they certainly used to be able to call SPG direct and upgrade it there and then if there were issues. I’d suggest phoning again and speaking to a different agent!

  9. I hadn’t realised that some of the travel insurance benefits required the travel to be booked using the card. Thanks for the info – means I need to take out proper travel insurance.

    Now that I’ve just received an extension from Marco Polo – I think it’s time that I cancelled my card.

    • needroos says:

      How did you get an extension from MP?

      • They seem to be randomly sending it out – I received a card extended to Mar 15 – don’t need it due to BA status, wish they’d offered the same to my parents!

        • I got the same extension and it’s very welcome, now I can put off TP/EQM running for a while longer!

  10. you can use any AMEX issued cards to be covered by the insurance policy wit your PLAT.

  11. Matthew Felgate says:

    How quickly do the points post..? Could I do the qualified spending and cancel the card within the first month..?

    • Yes, if the card is set up correctly the points post alongside the transaction that takes you above the spend target. They still seem to refund the lot even if it is nearly two months.

      I have NEVER, EVER heard of anyone complaining that Amex did not refund as much as they were expecting.

  12. James Hartman says:

    Can anyone tell me where it says in black and white that you are covered by the PLAT travel insurance even you book / use any AMEX issued card. I’ve been having a look through the insurance documentation I received with my Platinum charge card, and keep coming across the words ‘purchased using the card’, which I always thought referred to the Platinum card only.

    I also have a BA Premium Plus card, so does this mean that a trip I book on my BA card is covered under my PLAT travel insurance? Where does it say this for sure?

    • If you read the definition of ‘Account’ and ‘Card’ you will find that any Amex-issued card is valid for the portions of the cover that so require it – they just want to make sure they get their cut by way of transaction and forex fees, they don’t mind which card you use to do it! Thankfully in this respect the ICC cards are still better, with no card restriction and still with the higher age limit (but no sign up bonus and much more involved procedures for signing up).

    • You need to look in the definitions at the start of the document, it says something like “the card” – “any UK issued personal American Express card”.

  13. gadgetcakes says:

    Is it possible to transfer reward points to someone else? Or to someone else’s avios (I.e. not same name or address?)

    • it was possible, apparently this has been terminated. you can search on the blog, Raffles quoted the deadline for this but I reckon this is no longer possible with AMEX.

    • No (you could until March this year) and No. Although, of course, you could join a BA household account with the cardholder which would allow you to benefit from the Avios even though they were in their account.

  14. On the point of insurance benefits being restricted to trips booked using Amex, I can elaborate further to show how this has devalued the Amex Plat considerably.

    Back in January I booked several trips with Avios using the Reward Flight Saver sale when the RFS taxes were £1 per person. If I’d booked these with an Amex, BA would have added £4.50 to each person’s fare. I used a debit card, naturally, as indeed I usually do then the fare is below £200 or so. At £195.50 then using a BA Premium Plus Amex on a BA ticket gets me 600 Avios back so the £4.50 fee buys Avios at about 0.75p each.

    Over the course of a year, these extra credit card fees can easily add up to well over the cost of a decent stand-alone travel insurance policy.

    • Agree it’s annoying having to use an Amex-issued card to get the full benefits, but there are no additional card fees on RFS tickets, they’re bundled into the RFS cost (that included the £1 promo fares)

      • Agreed, I booked some RFS tickets in the Avios January sale on my BA Amex and there was no credit card fee, £1 per ticket as expected.

        I double checked this as i wanted to ensure i had used an Amex card for the booking and hence the Plat travel insurance.

  15. If I cancel my Platinum Amex, do I lose Priority Pass benefits? Now my Marco Polo card has arrived and I’ve almost hit the spend requirements, it’s a toss up as to whether I keep it until I’ve been away in May or not.

  16. how long does it take for status on club carlson take to change to gold? I clicked through their email but my account still shows as “red”

    • CapnJack says:

      My CC upgrade took about one week, then I got a confirmation letter followed by the gold card a few days later.

  17. What’s the story with Priority pass received through Amex Platinum? I use it so rarely that I only just noticed I never received a new card when my previous one expired so I just contacted them for a replacement and when asked about guest policy (someone told me you can now take a guest in for free?) she told me that I get 2 free entries which I can use for myself or/and guests, and when I queried I understood from her that one only gets 2 free entries a year now with the card!
    Is this correct? the PP card through Amex used to give you full membership i.e unlimited lounge access so when did this change?

    • That just sounds like they’ve got confused with the lounge card that comes with the Amex Gold. The PP with Amex Plat is still unlimited entries for cardholder+guest (with both you and your additional cardholder being eligible for PP cards).