Is American Express Platinum worth the £450 fee?

(EDIT, February 2015:  There is a full review of the American Express Platinum card on the site – please click here to read it.  As a Head for Points reader, you can receive a higher sign-up bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points, compared to the standard 30,000 points!  Full details are in the review.)

Yesterday I wrote a post, triggered by our current holiday, on the best credit card to use to pay our hotel bill.

Today I am writing about a similar dilemma, also triggered in part by the holiday – is my American Express Platinum card worth the £450 fee?

It is important to say upfront that there is no wrong or right answer to that question. It depends on your circumstances – for a lot of people, even the idea of paying £450 a year for a card is crazy. The fee was £300 until July, when it was bumped up by 50%. And, uniquely, Amex actually reduced the benefits instead of improving them!

My first renewal at £450 is due in February. Let me explain my thought process about the various benefits and how I value them.

The official Amex Platinum web page which covers the card and summarises some of the benefits is here.

Special hotel offers

I am starting here as I am currently spending 8 nights in the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel in Dubai, booked on an exclusive Amex ‘stay 4, pay 3’ (or ‘stay 8, pay 6’ in our case) deal. This offer was unique to Amex Platinum and Centurion cardholders. The two free nights are worth £1,000, and we also get free breakfast which is worth at least £500 between us over 8 nights (and there is nowhere else to go for brekky – we are out at the very tip of The Palm!).

Since I booked, a 15% discount code has appeared which I could have used instead. However, the hotel had actually raised its prices for this week by the time that code appeared, so the Amex package we booked would still have been considerably cheaper.

Travel insurance

This used to be gold-plated. Since July, it is far from it. An age limit of 70 (not an issue for us), strict issues around pre-existing conditions (not an issue for us) and a requirement you pay for your flights and hotel on an Amex (is an issue). However, we can work around these issues and it saves at least £150 annually for us.

Starwood Gold / Club Carlson Gold / Accor Platinum / Hertz and Avis status

Minimal value to me. I will do 1 six-night Starwood stay next year where the Gold will provide some value – let’s say £50, perhaps £300 over 6 nights if I get a decent upgrade. The others I got no value from this year, and I don’t even use the car rental status. My wife does get some benefit from them on work trips – the holder of the main supplementary card can also have the hotel status cards.

(That said, I had to queue for 45 minutes in Avis in Cape Town in January which I would have avoided had I got Avis Preferred. This was the first time I was ever stuck in a really big rental queue.)

Fine Hotels & Resorts, Fine Dining, Taste of Platinum, Amex events

I went to the Berry Bros wine tasting night which I would value at £50. We also used Taste of Platinum to book a restaurant for us, which got us 2 free cocktails worth probably £25 – this saved real money as we had no aperifits otherwise.

I got 3 x £25 Harvey Nichols gift cards by using my Platinum card, my wifes supplementary card and my Mum’s supplementary card (she has one to get free travel insurance) during the Foursquare promo this month.

Amex Platinum

Access to Delta lounges / Priority Pass lounge access / Eurostar lounge access

I never use the Delta Air Lines benefit or the Priority Pass since I usually travel BA in business. My wife has had the odd Priority Pass usage via her job.  Neither of us has used Eurostar this year although getting access to the London and Paris lounges is a real perk.

Free British Airways Premium Plus Amex

I am grandfathered this deal, which means I don’t pay the £150 fee on my BA Amex. This is a £150 saving since I would definitely pay for the card if I had to.

So ….

Overall, I reckon Amex Platinum has got me around £1,500 of value this year – an excellent return on the £300 fee.

Of course, the main chunk of this was the saving on our holiday hotel this week. Next year, I will be spending £450 and getting back a lot less (unless we head back to the Middle East on the same deal as we are on next week). However, it will still be north of £450 of value.

For us, then, American Express Platinum still seems to make sense. For you the answer may be different.

Starwood releases first details of its Spring promotion
Bits and pieces for Wednesday (cheap Avios via Tesco, free Accor status, Marriott lifetime status)
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  1. Like you have grandfather rights to free BA Amex. I have used the lounges and now get 4 people in on two cards so a decent deal. For me however the insurance is the selling point. The new conditions are a pain but I had 3 substantial claims in 9 months, volcano disruption ( 5 nights in SFO) missing bags for a family of 4 for 48 hours and snow disruptIon in Europe. All were settled in less than 7 days….in full. I have yet to find better cover anywhere…..but open to suggestions.

  2. Britbronco says:

    I have got the most value from two benefits hardly mentioned above.
    Firstly the car rental insurance, not having to pay for CDW can be a big saving.
    Secondly the weekend 2-4-1 gold benefit with club carlson also saved me hundreds.
    However you really have to travel a lot to get value from the card.

  3. Britbronco22 says:

    Raffles, I’m also curious about the Hotel deal you got from Amex. How did you become aware of this deal? Would you earn points and get status benefits through booking this way?

    • It is an exclusive Jumeirah and Amex Plat deal. Has run for at least 2 years, current version expires 31 March 2013 but may well roll over again. This is totally separate to their FHR offering.

      There was a glossy brochure on it slipped inside Departures magazine earlier this year. That is the only advertising for it I have seen.

      Basically it is 443 or 342 based off Best Available Rate, plus free breakfast (would be £25 per adult here, and where we are there is nowhere else to go!), upgrade if available at check-in plus extra amenity – $275 spa credit for us. Rate is fully cancellable.

      It should be OK for Sirius points but Jumeirah can be troublesome on this, I will see what posts. Sirius points are worth 7 per cent of your spend by my calculations if redeemed for meals in their London hotels, so I hope it does go through.

  4. Raffles I am also interested how you came about the Amex hotel deal as per Britbronco22 comment above.

  5. Hilton Gold no longer seems to be a benefit!

    • Weird. It has gone from the Plat members website, but if you click Enrol Now for, say, Carlson then the form it brings up DOES still have Hilton on it.

      • I completed the form several times in the last few months and I’ve heard nothing. Eventually I just cancelled the card.

  6. Mr Bridge says:

    How does the grandfather rights work an the ba amex?
    iused to have another amex card which i hgot the fee waived beacuse i had amex plat

    • Amex Plat holders used to get their BA Amex for free, saving £150. They stopped this for new Plats about 5 years ago, but it continues for those of us who had already claimed it

      • i have had my play since 99, so i will email them see what they say

        • Amex have just replied, they say that they do not waive the fee any more, so in Feb its bye bye amex plat after 14 years. I can see no real reason to keep it.
          I was hoping raffles would write this article, because i could not see why i should stump up the £450 +£150 for 2 cards.
          The ba pp card still offers some insurance £200 for flight dealy£750baggae dealy( when booked on card). travel accident and hijack. So i will just find a new annual travel insurance, probably with amex!!!

        • ‘… i will just find a new annual travel insurance, probably with amex!!!’

          Good luck with that! It depends on many variables, of course. When I did the exercise last year, AmEx couldn’t/wouldn’t sell me the medical part of travel insurance on its own, no matter that we still had quite a bit of other cover with the plat card. The result was the policy they quoted for was expensive.

          If AmEx would offer top up medical cover for a fee, that could be part of the answer alongside 0% f/x surcharge for foreign transactions. But they seem to be applying a common party line, so it looks like goodbye next year.

  7. how does the cathy card benifit you in ba econ, is for lounge accses?

  8. Yes, Cathay Gold gives almost all the benefits of BA Silver when flying BA – lounge access and free seat selection included. The only thing you do not get, that a BA Silver would get, is a bigger luggage allowance and fast track security access at Heathrow.

    • gagravarr says:

      You also don’t get the bonus avios that silver gets. However, not sure about the lack of fast track security at Heathrow – I’ve certainly managed to use fast track with my CX Gold card. That said, the last few times fast track has been slower…!

  9. Thanks for a great summary. Like you, my plat is up for renewal, in March in my case and I have been considering alternatives.

    Until now, the AmEx Plat has been a no-brainer for us. The comprehensive coverage and offers to date have been unbeatable. We have benefited from excellent insurance (2 small medical claims in South Africa and the USA, settled quickly) and car rental benefit (one claim for a cracked windscreen in Canada, paid promptly). Priority Pass for two has been a useful benefit, except at LHR T5.

    It’s all changed. The medical cover is no longer offered for us. As you noted, foreign expenditure is not covered for travel insurance except with AmEx’s 3% f/x surcharge. (Their 2.99% works out at a difference of £1 in £300, so it’s 3%!)

    Before deciding whether to continue with the plat, I checked our benefits for the past year. No medical or travel claims. No PP lounge visits – we travelled biz or higher or used our BA cards. Yes, car rental cover in the USA but the rates we had in South Africa included cover anyway. No Eurostar. We haven’t used high end hotels with nebulous benefits, partly because they didn’t exist where we have been over the past year.

    I’ve been comparing benefits with fee-payable bank accounts. There’s no card or account with the same benefits, but some of the accounts compare well.

    The NatWest/RBS Black Account looks good, with excellent medical and travel cover with no upper age limit. When I checked earlier this year, they would have covered our pre-existing conditions with no surcharge. They have a good lounge programme, similar to PP except in the USA. They offer Green Flag car breakdown cover in Western Europe including the UK and other bits and pieces, all for £288 p.a. (£12 per month).

    Then I checked the Co-operative Bank’s Privilege Premier current account. This has similar insurance with cover to age 79, RAC breakdown cover in Western Europe including the UK, and Priority Pass lounge access with four – count them, four – lounge passes p.a., chargeable beyond that. This account costs £156 p.a. (£13 per month). When I called them, they would have covered our pre-existing conditions with no surcharge.

    I called AmEx yesterday and discussed the devalued plat. Our conversation was pretty much a waste of time. I won’t bother you with the detail except to say that CX MP gold is definitely just for one year, the third time I have been told this by AmEx. The lady expressed surprise that my CX card had been renewed and credited CX, as AmEx hadn’t paid for it.

    Having qualified for the NatWest Black account, I opened a NatWest account prior to converting it to a Black Account when the time comes. I’m looking seriously at the Co-op account though. For the time being, our ‘free’ travel/medical insurance in Europe as Nationwide FlexAccount holders is extended to worldwide cover including the USA for £20 plus £80 for pre-existing conditions, so at least we are covered while we ponder.

    It means we will have to cough up £150 for our BA PP if we continue with that, which we probably will, and check coverage when we rent a car, but if that’s what AmEx wants, so shall it be. After 19 years, too.

  10. I don’t think 3 x £25 at Harvey Nichols is a real benefit exclusive to this card — you would get it with the free BA or MBNA Amex as well.

    • Agree, but the ability to have five (I think) free supplementary cards with the Plat means you can certainly make the most of the Foursquare offers.

    • It is to the extent that I got 7 HN £25ers whilst I would only have got 4 with my BA And Lloyds Amex’s. I purposely did not count any value from Amex promotions you can access with any Amex card unless, like Foursquare, they are possible once per card.

  11. I think you undervalue the hotel status a bit – it unlocks some decent offers if you dig a bit. E.g. Carlson Gold lets you use a pretty decent 2-for-1 or 4-for-2 offer.

    Avis have also bulked up their loyalty scheme – status now gets you upgrades to higher categories etc.

  12. Why don’t you just refer your wife after 10 months. Then your next £450 (plus 2 couple of months fee overlap) gets you 77k MRs and the rest is a bonus. It’s the easiest Avios decision of the year for me.

    • does that actually work?? what is the relevance of the 10 months you mention. And dopes it work if you hold a ba amex, ithought if you did you can not get the 77k reward?

      • The point is that, if you are thinking of cancelling Amex Plat because the benefits are no longer worth it, you have an alternative.

        Near the end of your membership year (say 2 months before, but actually 1 month is OK), refer your wife for Amex Plat.

        You can then let your own Plat card lapse. For the next 10 to 11 months (less than 12 because for a few weeks both cards are active) – as long as you get yourself a free supplementary card on your wifes new Amex – you can continue to receive the Plat benefits.

        Yes, you have paid £450, but that is easily outweighed by the 77,000 points you get between you. 25k for you for referring your wife, and 52k for being referred.

        Then, when your wifes first year is nearlyup, you can cancel her card and walk away from Plat entirely. (Or refer an adult child of yours if you have one, etc!)

      • Re your BA Amex point. There is now a body of evidence, including tweets from Amex and from people I have referred, that you WILL get the Amex Plat bonus if you have the BA Amex.

        I intend to do a longer post on this after Christmas, but basically I think people can now ignore what Amex has written on their own website (and which is contracted anyway elsewhere on their site).

        • i assume it still works if your partner already has a supplementry card on your account, but not an account of their own?

          Can the reverse be done annaully??

        • Yes & yes. Supp cards are irrelevant to this, only that your partner has no MR account in their own name for 6 months before they are referred (or re-referred). I am into my 3rd iteration of this back-and-forth (4th if I count my original Gold card).

        • Really? Amex has let you and your wife continually open Plat cards each year?! I am impressed! I feel guilty if I re-apply for a card less than 2 years after cancelling it!

        • We’ve gone Gold(me), Plat(wife), Plat(me), Plat(wife) so technically only my wife has reapplied for the same card so far (canx Nov11, reapplied Sep12). I thought everyone did this! I don’t feel too guilty as I hold the cards for a full year and have never taken a partial refund on any Amex (think the 3 month churn is more abusive!). It’s hard to feel guilty taking out a £450 fee card and when I do cancel, saying my wife has the card so I don’t value the benefits is hard for them to counter!

        • how quick are the MR rewards added, is it as soon as the 2k spend has been reached? like the bas card, and are the referes points added at the same date?

        • The referrers points go on as soon as the card is approved – so they appear before the card even arrives! The referees points go on at the same time as the purchase that takes you over £2000 of spend, excluding the fee, post to your account.

  13. I wasn’t aware of the BA Premium Plus that something that available to all Platinum holders?

    • It was …. but no longer. They stopped it about 5 years ago, but those of us like me who already claimed it for free have been allowed to keep it.

  14. Dang. Deciding whether to keep my Amex Plat and that might have swung it! One of the main benefits for me is the Priority Pass but thinking of taking up the Diners Club card for lounge access with a much cheaper annual fee!

    I can keep the various statuses with hotel chains if I cancel, and always take out a new one in future for more bonuses..!

  15. I am booking a flight with cathy P for Oct, business class, to bali: should i use my ba exec card or cathy p gold card(if i keep the plat amex), this will be 1st time flying with cathy p, so the points may go to waste, how can i get the best of this flights

  16. OH has recently churned a Plat Amex applied Oct done the spend, referred me and cancelled. I guess it’s too soon for him to apply for a BA Amex which we will want soon to generate 241’s. Could he do SPG amex now or should he just wait a few months? My preference would be BA Amex as I would like to book using 241 for summer 2014.