Now that I’m about six months into my tenure as a reporter here at The Points Guy, it seems the word has spread among my friends and family, so to speak. I attended a wedding over Labor Day weekend and found myself fielding numerous questions from friends and loose acquaintances about points, travel and travel credit cards.
While I primarily directed friends to TPG’s travel credit cards page when faced with questions about the latter, I did mention a common observation I’ve made as I’ve deepened my foray into the world of points, miles and travel credit cards: Decisions often come down to cards that are best suited for earning you a lot of points or miles (to eventually take trips with) or cards that enhance your experience on said trips.
It was that very calculation that — initially — led me to look seemingly everywhere but The Platinum Card® from American Express as I considered which card to add next to my wallet.
But if the cliche that “rules are meant to be broken” is true, I can confirm it applies to rules of your own making … because I just celebrated receiving a massive welcome bonus on my new Amex Platinum Card.
SEAN CUDAHY/THE POINTS GUY
What (I thought) I was looking for in a new card
Later this year I’ll reach the five-year mark with my first travel credit card, and it’s a card that’s done wonders for earning me airline miles, saving me money, helping me earn status and — most importantly — easing me into the credit cards world.
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® was my first card when I opened my account in 2017, tapping into a welcome bonus of 60,000 AAdvantage miles after meeting the minimum requirements. The current offer is 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of account opening.
Since your spending on cobranded cards like this one translates into points (or in this case miles) that flow directly into one loyalty program, I found it to be an easy, decision-free way to gain a lot of firsthand knowledge of how earning and redeeming points and miles works.
There was no need, as a points and miles rookie five years ago, to worry about transfer rates or bonuses: The work was largely all done for me.
As most points and miles aficionados would note, though, what I was failing to do — even as my spending on the card gave me a huge lift toward earning AAdvantage Gold status through the revamped Loyalty Points system this year — I wasn’t doing a great job diversifying my points.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
An American Airlines jet sits at the gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). SEAN CUDAHY/THE POINTS GUY
Sure, I could get somewhere for free, but where would I stay?
It was time to add a second card to my wallet.
Since I had an airline cobranded card, one immediate thought I explored was adding a cobranded hotel card to boost my hotel status, translate my spending into hotel points and maintain a simplicity I had enjoyed with an airline cobranded credit card.
The other factor I considered — as anyone considering a new card should — was my spending habits. My wife and I spend a lot at restaurants and grocery stores. For that reason, I considered the American Express® Gold Card, which has lucrative earning rates in those categories.
The Platinum Card was not top of mind as I did my research. After all, despite the allure of that 100,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership, and the 5 points per dollar cardmembers earn for airfare (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year when booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel) and prepaid hotels, you only get 1 point per dollar on other spending.
Plus, there’s that hefty $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
It’s not like I completely wrote the card off, though. I almost found myself justifying why I wasn’t going to apply for it … over and over again.
Finally, I decided, just for the heck of it, to see if I was preapproved for the card.
My mind changed soon after that.
An even loftier welcome bonus began to change my mind
Upon checking for Platinum Card preapproval — a good way to check whether you’re likely to get approved without a hard pull on your credit — I learned that I wouldn’t just be eligible for that 100,000-point welcome bonus: I was targeted through CardMatch for a 150,000-point bonus, after spending $6,000 on the card in the first six months of card membership.
TPG colleagues to whom I mentioned this impressed upon me that this wasn’t an offer I should pass on.
Those 150,000 Amex points are worth $3,000, according to TPG’s points and miles valuations.
It could provide a major lift toward robust travel plans my wife and I have in the works for 2023, including a trip to Italy in March and a fifth anniversary trip to a resort to be determined next summer.
But still, I was a bit hesitant — because of the annual fee and the lack of everyday bonus spending categories.
A deeper dive into the card’s benefits put me on the brink of changing my mind.
Offsetting the hefty annual fee
One of the biggest questions to be considered when opening a credit card with a moderate-to-expensive annual fee is whether you’ll get a return on your membership dues.
For instance, with the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard I already had in my wallet, I pay a $99 annual fee (waived the first year).
However, in 2022 I spent enough on the card to earn a $125 certificate on American Airlines that I used to offset a ticket and earned some 40,000 AAdvantage miles through my spending on the card — which TPG values at more than $700. I also checked a bag on three or four occasions that year, which alone would have offset the fees.
The calculation is a bit more complex when talking about the Amex Platinum’s $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
But as I did my research, I found you really can offset the fee if you tap into the card’s benefits.
The up to $200 hotel statement credit each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts is a huge factor in offsetting the cost — it’s a given I’ll make use of that. Enrollment is required.
That effectively brings the financial hit I take for the annual fee down to $495.
Then there’s the Uber Cash — up to $15 monthly, plus a bonus of $20 in December. I definitely already spent at least $15 per month on Uber, and am likely to incur additional Uber charges in December between holiday gatherings and travel or Uber Eats purchases. That’s another $200 offset. Enrollment is required.
You get up to $200 annually in Uber credits as a card benefit with the Amex Platinum. D3SIGN/GETTY IMAGES
We’ve now effectively taken the annual fee down to a $295 hit.
There’s also up to $20 per month in statement credits for digital entertainment — things like the Disney/Hulu/ESPN+ bundle, SiriusXM accounts, a subscription to The New York Times and the like. With all of the above, I’m certain to maximize that benefit, for $240 in savings.
That brings your financial hit from the annual fee to $55.
There’s another up to $200 in airline fee credits you can tap into (not for airfare, but for ancillary fees like checked bags — helpful if I fly on an airline other than American, where I won’t enjoy free checked bags) and up to a $100 statement credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, which is handy since my membership will be up for renewal in 2023.
I can also get up to $189 in statement credits to offset the annual cost of a Clear membership when using the card, which I didn’t factor into the calculation of my actual “savings” since I hadn’t yet enrolled in the program that expedites your airport security screening even more than TSA PreCheck. However, I certainly will now and it should make my travels more comfortable. Enrollment is required
So, too, does the card’s complimentary access to Centurion lounges and Priority Pass lounges worldwide. I’ve already made use of my new access at a handful of lounges, including enjoying a free traditional English breakfast while visiting the Gateway lounge at London Gatwick Airport (LGW) during my recent trip to the United Kingdom.
You can really calculate the cost-benefit of the card as you travel, too. For instance, thanks to my Marriott Bonvoy Gold status, I got a $30 food and beverage credit during my stay at the Moxy Times Square in New York City.
A room at the Moxy Times Square in New York. SEAN CUDAHY/THE POINTS GUY
By earning Gold status in both hotels’ loyalty programs earlier, too, I’ll in turn earn more points when staying at Marriott and Hilton properties, thus creating additional value I can put toward a future trip.
If truly maximized, you can, in fact, offset that annual fee, even if it does appear a bit intimidating at first.
Crafting a larger strategy
Part of my decision to apply for the Amex Platinum Card had to do with a larger points and miles strategy my wife and I ended up crafting as part of this process.
After all, while the incredibly lucrative welcome bonus is a huge benefit, I still won’t be maximizing the large amount of spending we do at restaurants and grocery stores to the greatest extent possible with the Amex Platinum, compared to other cards that reward those categories at 2, 3 or 4 points per dollar.
That’s where my wife comes in. While I now have two cards in my wallet, she has yet to add one. After focusing on enhancing our travel experiences with the Amex Platinum (while also offsetting some of our other expenses), we’ll likely prioritize maximum dining and grocery earnings with her future card — preferably with a much lower annual fee.
Ultimately, my decision to go with the Amex Platinum came down to a combination of this larger points, miles and spending strategy we crafted, in concert with the Platinum Card benefits and — of course — that 150,000-point targeted welcome offer with CardMatch.
Going into 2023, we’re now considering riding that bonus all the way to the Maldives next summer for our fifth anniversary, while knowing we’ll likely move forward with a combination of three cards between us that will both enhance our travels and accelerate our earning of points and miles for future trips down the road.
While I wasn’t initially planning on applying for the Amex Platinum Card, I definitely wasn’t regretting my change of heart when I received the 150,000-point welcome bonus a few months after opening my account and meeting the spend requirement.
That, combined with the many ways the card’s benefits can help you offset some of your expenses, makes it a highly useful card for my spending and travel habits.
Featured photo by Ibrahim Asad/Getty Images.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.