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Any time you’re applying for a card with an annual of $450 plus, you want to be sure that you’re making a smart decision and that the benefits that you’ll receive from your card will be worth it. The American Express Platinum Card is all about the benefits, meaning that you don’t get the Platinum card for its point earning potential — you get it for the lounge access, hotel status, etc. Here are some things to consider if you’re wondering if you should apply for the Platinum Card.
Do you value lounges?
The first thing to consider is whether not you value airport lounge access. The reason is that this is the primary benefit of the Platinum Card and if you don’t care for spending time in airport lounges, the value you place on this benefit (and the card in general) will be greatly diminished.
What’s so great about airport lounges?
There are several benefits to having access to lounges from a card like the Platinum Card.
For one, you get to escape the busy terminal waiting areas and relax in a nicer area with comfy seating, power outlets, free wifi, etc. You are usually given complimentary snacks or meals, drinks (alcoholic drinks are often included), and other items, such as magazines or newspapers. Some lounges have showers, play areas for children, and even areas for you to relax and take a nap. In short, airport lounges allow you to travel much more comfortably.
One often undiscussed benefit to lounges is that they also make your planning easier because layovers in a nice lounge can actually be enjoyable. Thus, you may have more options to choose from when putting your itinerary together.
Ultimately, I recommend people to just try out a (good) lounge and see how they like it before they decide on how they value the “lounge experience” but from my experience most people come to love them.
So once you’ve decided that you’re a lounge person (or at least open to being a lounge person), you want to take a look at the specific lounge benefits offered by the Platinum Card.
Lounge Access offered by the Platinum Card
There are three different type of lounge access offered by the Platinum Card.
With the Platinum, you get “Prestige” level access to lounges from Priority Pass. This is a benefit worth $400 and will get you access to over 850 airport lounges worldwide, so if you’re planning on doing international travel, chances are you’ll come across an airport with a lounge for Priority Pass members.
Most of the Priority Pass lounges provide complimentary alcohol, refreshments and/or meals, free wifi, comfortable and quiet spaces to relax, a selection of magazines, power outlets, and some even have showers, spa, and bed facilities.
With the Platinum Card, you get access to American Express Centurion Lounges for yourself and two guests or immediate family members. Centurion lounges are among the best lounges that you’ll find at U.S. airports. They currently have locations at SFO, SEA, LAS, LGA, MIA, DFW and the freshly opened one in Houston (IAH).
Delta SkyClub lounges
You also get access to Delta Sky Club lounges but you will need to be flying with Delta that day in order to gain access.
How often would you utilize lounge benefits?
Once you’ve determined that you value lounge access offered by the Platinum Card, you have to determine how often you would take advantage of the lounge access. This will be an easy way to find out if the lounge benefits alone will make the Platinum worth applying for.
If you only fly one or two times a year, you’d probably be better of just purchasing one-time passes or looking into a card like the United MileagePlus Explorer card to get you one-time access into a United Club lounge.
If you take about 3 to 5 trips a year (6 to 10 potential lounge visits), you will probably get your money’s worth out of the Platinum Card by spending time in airport lounges but you might want to check to see if the airports you’ll likely frequent have Priority Pass lounges by using this search tool.
If you don’t think you will be using lounges
If you consider your travel plans and airports that you’ll be using and find that you probably won’t be utilizing the lounge access benefit with Priority Pass lounges, Centurion Lounges, or Delta SkyClub Lounges, you shouldn’t ditch your plans to apply for the Platinum immediately.
That’s because if you catch the Platinum card with a 75,000 or 100,000 Membership Rewards offer, it might still be worth it to apply. Such an offer could easily provide you with over $2,000 in value (not counting the value from the lounges). That’s why some people will even apply for two American Express Platinum Cards, because with the $200 airline credits factored in, you can essentially turn $250 into over $2,000 worth of travel currency with one card. At that point, it’s not about the benefits, it’s all about the value of the sign-up bonus.
Thus, if you don’t think lounge access is a benefit that makes the Platinum Card valuable to you, then you should still consider the value that might be earned with the sign-up bonuses (not to mention other benefits.)
If you do think you will be using lounges
So now let’s assume that you do think you will be getting your money’s worth by visiting lounges, does that mean you should just apply for the American Express Platinum Card? No. Before you decide to apply, you should consider alternatives for getting you lounge access.
You should weigh your other options and consider other credit cards that offer lounge access. Unless you’re thinking about going with a co-branded card for a specific airline like United, American Airlines, or Delta, the most competitive card will likely be the Citi Prestige.
You’ll need to make the call of which card you’d prefer (unless you’re thinking about going with both). You can read up on my comparison of the American Express Platinum Card versus the Citi Prestige here.
It’s really hard to go with the Platinum Card over the Citi Prestige considering that the Prestige offers the following benefits for the same annual fee of $450:
- $250 airline credit that can be used even for tickets
- 3x on airfare and hotels, and 2X on dining and entertainment
- Fourth night free when booking hotels
- Allows two guests to visit Priority Pass lounges for free
- Admirals Club access to the primary cardholder when flying on American Airlines.
- Allows you to add each authorized user for $50.
Compare the difference in these benefits offered by the Platinum:
- $200 airline credit that is meant to be utilized for fees and incidentals (although there are ways around this)
- No bonus category points
- Gold HHonors and SPG status
- No free guests with your Priority Pass and you must pay $27 per guest
- Access to Centurion Lounges with free access for up to two guests
- Add up to three authorized users for $175 total
- Free Boingo Wifi subscription
- Access to Amex Offers
I’ve enjoyed the complimentary Gold status with Hilton as I’ve been upgraded to better rooms during my last 3 stays as a result of it; however, in a straight comparison, the benefits of the Citi Prestige stretch further and are simply more valuable, especially if you take advantage of the 4th night free benefit.
So should you apply?
I think that the main reason to go with the Platinum Card over the Prestige is for the high bonuses that are offered. The 100,000 Membership Rewards offer (or even 75,000) that roll out would definitely make me consider taking the Platinum Card over the Prestige, especially if I were likely to visit airports with Centurion Lounges and valued Gold status with Hilton and SPG. If I had to choose between the standard 50K Prestige offer and the 100K Platinum offer, I think I’d go with the Platinum but otherwise, I think I’d lean more towards the Prestige.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.