SunTrust Platinum Elite Credit Card review

Our rating

3 stars3/5

See explanation of our ratings system

See breakdown of this card’s rating

A regional bank has just joined the premium-card party. Via Reddit, some consumers are being targeted with an offer for the new SunTrust Platinum Elite MasterCard ($325 annual fee).

Like more familiar premium cards, such as the Platinum Card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner), the Citi Prestige card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the SunTrust Platinum Elite will charge a relatively high annual fee for what it considers superior benefits.

Our review will help you decide if it’s worth applying for (if you’re eligible).

Have thoughts and opinions about this card? Join our forum discussion.

Who can apply for the SunTrust Platinum Elite?

SunTrust is regional, so if you go straight to its site and try to apply for the card, you’ll be met with a dropdown of a short-list of eligible states.

Suntrust applicable states

Several Reddit users have pointed out that, if you don’t live in any of these states but have another banking relationship with SunTrust (like a mortgage or checking account), you can log in and apply for the card that way.

Language in mailed offers make it appear as if the offer is targeted, but some who have received it report that there’s no promo code. Plus, the application page allows you to select “No” for “Do you have a promo or reservation code?” and continue on to the application’s personal information section.

Rewards

For eligible applicants, the card is offering a sign-up bonus of a $500 statement credit after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Beyond that, your spending on the card will earn you points in SunTrust’s rewards program:

  • 3X points per dollar on travel and dining
  • 2X points on entertainment (amusement parks and sporting events, for example)
  • 1X points on all other qualifying purchases

These earnings rates are a hybrid of the Citi Prestige (3X on air travel/hotels, 2X dining/entertainment) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3X on travel and dining).

Plus, if you have another account with SunTrust, you get a relationship bonus (up to 50 percent) when you redeem into a SunTrust deposit account.

Redemption options

SunTrust’s rewards portal allows you to redeem for merchandise, cash back, travel and some online purchases. The public-facing site doesn’t include any information about the value of your points, but Maximizing Money has a run-down of point value for cash and gift cards. It’s a tiered redemption system, so your points are worth more, the more you redeem. Low-point redemptions yield a value of less than 1 cent per point.

As for travel, round-trip tickets start at “as few as” 25,000 SunPoints, according to SunTrust’s rewards manual.

Other perks

Unlike cards that come with a set suite of benefits, the SunTrust Platinum Elite card lets you choose three benefits out of a list, which includes:

  • $200 annual flight-incidentals credit (for things like Wi-Fi, drinks and seats with extra leg room). Must be redeemed in $25 increments.
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement (via statement credit).
  • Savings at Park ‘N Fly airport parking
  • 2 complimentary passes each year to Priority Pass Lounges. Plus purchase additional passes at a discount ($27 per visit)
  • Travel emergency coverage
  • Up to $50 in dining credits. Charge at least $100 to your card at a restaurant, and get $25 back via statement credit (2X per year)
  • Insider winery experiences in California and New York
  • 15 percent discount on Spafinder Wellness 365 gift cards
  • 10 percent off certain attractions/entertainment in SunTrust’s portfolio
  • Special access at PGA Tour events, tee times at golf courses and $25 statement credit for eligible purchases at PGA TOUR Superstores

This customization is unique and something major banks’ cards don’t generally allow. But remember—you only get to pick three. Other cards may offer more than three of these perks as part of their standard benefits suite.

Does this card compete with other elite cards?

We compared this card to its competitors (which we consider to be the American Express Platinum card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Citi Prestige) in the following areas:

Annual fee

Can it compete? YES

At $325 per year, this card sneaks in below its premium-card competitors, which all charge more than $400 per year. However, the real question is whether the benefits justify the annual fee, which we’ll get into below.

Rewards

Can it compete? YES

The card offers rewards on par with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige and, arguably, better than the American Express Platinum. The card is targeting those who travel and dine out frequently, and, at 3X per dollar, those points will add up if you spend a lot in those bonus categories. Entertainment is a good bonus-point option to have as well, especially if you take your family to theme parks and visit museums during your travels.

And don’t forget SunTrust’s relationship bonus if you have other accounts. That’s not something you get from many other premium cars with big banks.

Redemption

Can it compete? NO

SunTrust’s redemption program isn’t that robust, and some options for cash back and possibly travel require you to cash in points for less than 1 cent each, which is not competitive when you’re playing against the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program.

American Express’s Membership Rewards Program and Citi’s ThankYou program don’t exactly have stellar cash-back redemption values either, but they (as well as Chase) do have partnerships with airlines and hotels and allow you to transfer your points directly into those programs, a great way to help your point value soar above 1 cent per point if you transfer wisely.

Speaking of which …

SunTrust’s program doesn’t have any transfer partnerships. That’s a demerit for a card that costs more than $300 a year, when your competitors have transfer options.

Benefits

Can it compete? MAYBE

On one hand, the customization aspect is unique – you get to choose any three benefits. And some of those benefits themselves are unique. If winery perks, PGA privileges and attraction discounts excite you, so should this card.

On the other hand, this card makes you chose only three benefits. To make up for the annual fee, you’ll probably need to select the highest-cash-value benefits. That $200 airline incidentals credit, for example, those $50 dining credit and TSA PreCheck/Global Entry reimbursement, leaving no room for the fun perks (like the spa discounts).

And, while we are on the subject of perks, two of its heaviest-hitting perks (the airline incidentals credit and the lounge access) aren’t as attractive as similar benefits offered on competing cards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, lets you use its annual $300 travel credit on any travel expense, not just things like in-flight dining and Internet. Plus, Chase redeems this credit for you automatically, in any amount. With the SunTrust Platinum Elite, you must redeem in $25 increments. As for lounge access, two free day passes a year doesn’t stack up to the unlimited complimentary access that the American Express Platinum offers at several international lounge networks.

Yes, the SunTrust Platinum Elite costs more than $100 less per year than other premium cards – but you have to think about how much you get in return, via its benefits. And we think those fall a little short.

Why we gave it 3 out of 5 stars

This card was rated based on our requirements for flexible rewards program cards, as its primary advertised mode of redemption is flexible “points” that can be used toward a variety of things – from cash back to merchandise to travel.

The Platinum Elite card picks up stars for its generous bonus categories, sign-up bonus and relationship bonuses. It lost some for its inconsistent redemption value and the effort required to justify the annual fee past Year 1.

Full starRewards-earning rate: To earn this star, an annual-fee card must earn at least 1X on all spending and at least 2X in at least two bonus categories. This card meets that requirement by offering bonus categories that earn 2X and 3X rewards.
Empty starRewards value: This card doesn’t meet the requirements for this star, as redemptions aren’t guaranteed to give you a value of 1 cent per point.
half starUnique perks: This card offers some unique perks (spa discounts, attraction discounts, PGA goodies) that other card don’t. But we rewarded only have a star because cardholders can select only three special benefits.
half starFair annual fee: This card offers a fee lower than similar premium cards on the market. But, to make the perks equal to the annual fee each year, you have to select a very specific configuration of high-dollar-value perks. And even then, you may not make back the annual fee. So we rewarded half a star in this category.
Full starBonus opportunities: The card earns this star for a rather high introductory bonus (worth $500) and for offering lucrative relationship bonuses for customers with existing accounts with the bank.

Updated Nov. 10, 2016

 
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