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Is American Express Platinum worth the £450 fee?

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(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.

Comments (39)

  • Roger says:

    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.

  • mec72 says:

    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.

    • Raffles says:

      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.

  • 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.

  • pauldb says:

    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.

    • Mr Bridge says:

      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?

      • Raffles says:

        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!)

      • Raffles says:

        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).

        • Mr Bridge says:

          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??

          • pauldb says:

            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).

          • Raffles says:

            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!

          • pauldb says:

            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!

          • Mr Bridge says:

            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?

          • Raffles says:

            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.

  • Tom says:

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

    • Raffles says:

      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.

  • Tom says:

    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..!

  • Mr Bridge says:

    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

  • Zoe says:

    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.