AmEx Platinum increasing annual fee to $550 — still worth it?

American Express has been making incremental changes to its Platinum card since late 2016. But now it’s making a big leap — with a higher annual fee and new benefits (including credits toward Uber rides).

Whether that’s a big leap forward or back depends on how effectively you use the new benefits. Have an opinion? Join our forum discussion on the changes.

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Increased annual fee: $550

  • For new applicants: The new annual fee took hold on March 30, 2017.
  • For existing cardmembers: The new annual fee will take effect on your annual renewal date or after Sept. 1, 2017.

After years of holding steady, the Platinum’s $450 annual fee has gone up to $550. This applies only to the personal version of the card and the other co-branded versions of the personal card (the Mercedes-Benz and Amerprise versions, for example). No changes have been announced yet for the Business Platinum card’s annual fee.

That makes it the highest annual fee among its main competitors — other premium personal cards like the Citi Prestige card ($450) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450).

New benefits

The raised annual fee will accompany new benefits. Some have tangible monetary value; others have a less measurable, nice-to-have air about them:

  • Credits for Uber rides: American Express is advertising this benefit as a “$200 annual credit,” but it doesn’t function like a traditional use-it-by-the-end-of-the-year annual credit. Instead, according to an American Express press release, you’ll get $15 in Uber credits each month and $35 in December when you link your Platinum as your Uber payment method. Each credit will expire at the end of the month it’s issued.
  • 5X rewards at hotels: This is in addition to the 5X on airfares American Express added in late-2016. However, the new 5X rewards on hotels applies only to hotels booked via Amextravel.com. These bonus rewards have no cap.
  • Complimentary Gold Cards Previously, if you wanted to add additional Gold Cards to your Platinum Card account, you needed to pay a fee. Now, you’ll be able to add additional Gold Card members for no fee, and those cards themselves will carry no annual fee. These additional cardmembers will also have access to some of the main accountholder’s benefits (see terms for details). Plus, these additional members will also earn 5X rewards on eligible airfare and hotel purchases (on behalf of the main accountholder).
  • Global dining collection: This is a new benefit that gives you access to reserved seating at popular restaurants and exclusive access to private events, like pop-up restaurants from famous chefs.
  • Metal card: The card will have a new design and will be made of metal.


In addition to these changes, existing benefits will also be improving in coming years. For example, the Platinum Card gives you access to various lounge programs, including the Centurion Lounge program, which is growing (new locations in Hong Kong and Philadelphia are scheduled to open in 2017).

Still worth it?

A $100 annual-fee increase is a big jump and requires a re-assessment of the card’s value to you. Only you can make these calculations, but thinking about the following points may help:

Will you use the Uber benefit: The Uber benefit can be worth up to $200 annually, which would more than counter-balance the increased annual fee. However: this benefit is divided up into chunks over the year ($15 per month and $35 in December). If you fail to use a monthly credit, you’ve forfeited some of that credit (since it won’t carry over month to month). If you prefer other rideshare services (like Lyft), you’ll need to switch to Uber for some rides. If you prefer to use other cards that get you rewards or discounts on Uber rides, you’ll need to switch to your Platinum for $15 worth of rides per month.

And, if you live in a city that Uber doesn’t service (Austin, for example), this perk will benefit you only when you visit other cities.

If you use Uber frequently, however, this benefit will provide $200 in additional value per year.

5x rewards at hotels: This benefit has huge potential, but a big restriction — you must book via Amextravel.com. If you prefer to book on travel-aggregation sites or via the hotel directly, you won’t get these extra rewards.

Other benefits (complimentary Gold cards, dining collection, etc.): For some, these may be valuable benefits. For others, they’re just filler benefits that seem cool — but that you’ll never use. Unless you you live in a large city that would have frequent pop-up restaurant events (and are thrilled at the prospect of attending), for example, these extraneous benefits probably shouldn’t make or break your decision to keep the card.

What similar cards offer: The decision to keep or get a card should rest not only with a close look at the card itself — but with a close look at the competition. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige, for example, now have lower annual fees than the American Express Platinum. The Platinum still reigns as the leader in lounge access. But if that’s not important to you, consider, the fact that the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a more flexible travel credit. Technically, with the addition of the Uber credit, the Platinum now has an industry-leading travel credit of $400 (the new $200 in Uber credits plus the existing $200 in general travel credits). However, these credits are more restrictive than the Reserve’s $300 credit, which is rewarded automatically via statement credit whenever you buy something travel-related (including rideshare rides). Rack up $100 in Uber rides over one weekend? That would exhaust the Platinum’s $15 monthly allowance, but the Reserve would give you a credit for all of that (assuming you still have some of your $300 annual credit left).

The Prestige, meanwhile, has a popular fourth-night-free benefit, good for any hotel.

As for rewards, the Prestige and Reserve, although they reward fewer bonus points for air travel and hotels than the Platinum’s 5X, don’t require you to book via their travel portal.

The bottom line

The Platinum card still packs a potentially extraordinary value for luxury travelers. But a cost increase for any product should prompt you to re-evaluate wither it’s still a good fit.


 
Comments
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I’ll stick with my Sapphire Reserve

After increasing annual fee to $550 — still AmEx Platinum is the best one for customers.