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Credit Card Review: Platinum American Express (AXP, UAL)

Author: Jacob Harris

There are lots of luxury rewards cards, but the biggest name in the game is the American Express Platinum. If you are looking for the gold standard for frequent travelers, big spenders and wallet-held status symbols, this is it.

American Express (AXP) had to make several revisions to its Platinum line after United (UAL) and Southwest (LUV) moved their rewards programs to Chase (JPM), and American Airlines (AAL) stopped offering free access to Platinum members. Even with these changes, the extensive benefits offered through this card are still top of the line and worthwhile for anyone willing to shell out a hefty annual fee.

Rewards and Benefits

The standard signup bonus for an American Express card is 25,000 reward points if you pass a specific charge threshold (normally $2,000 over the first three months). With the Platinum AmEx, the bonus is 40,000 rewards points for $3,000 of spending over the initial three months.

On rare occasions, some new cardholders are targeted for a 100,000 point signup bonus. Look for a targeted offer, and go after it if you get the chance.

Similar to the AmEx Premier Rewards Gold card, Platinum cardholders receive $200 per year in airline credit. You have to specify which airline to get the credit with, so make sure you have a favorite in mind. This credit re-ups every calendar year that you hold the card.

The most popular benefit of the Platinum card is its exclusive lounge service. There are several kinds of lounge access: Delta (DAL) lounges (only available if you fly Delta on the same day), Priority Pass Lounges (there are more than 650 worldwide in over 300 cities) and Centurion lounges in Las Vegas McCarran and Dallas/Fort Worth.

An extremely underrated perk of the Platinum card is that it can get you through the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) immigration services faster. The Platinum Global Entry program means you don't need to stand in long TSA lines.

Of course, American Express offers one of the best concierge services in the world. Use this to shop for exclusive gifts, make reservations, get around a city or help with travel headaches. Other benefits include no foreign transaction fees, warranty extensions and rental insurance.

The Fine Print

For all of its bells and whistles, concierge services, and sleek look, the most notorious feature of the American Express Platinum program is the $450 annual fee. Unlike many other high-fee luxury cards, AmEx doesn't waive the first year, either.

This card simply isn't for everyone. It takes a top-flight credit history for approval, and you need to travel and spend a lot of money to take full advantage of the rewards program. It's also a charge card, so you have to pay off your full balance each month. There are terms and restrictions on many benefits, all of which change periodically.

Main Competitors

There is one major competitor to the American Express Platinum card: the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. The Sapphire is the less expensive and less luxurious option, but it is designed for a much broader audience.

Sapphire has a zero-dollar initial annual fee and a $95 fee every year after that. This is much cheaper than the $450 fee for the Platinum, making it the better choice for smaller travel budgets.

A less well-known competitor card is the Citi Prestige Card. This card has the same annual fees as the Platinum and slightly different travel perks.

Who Should Get It

Consider the American Express Platinum card if you are a frequent traveler with a huge travel budget and a very good credit score. This is a card designed for those who enjoy traveling in style, but it is really too expensive for use by anyone with different credit needs.

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