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The Platinum Card® from American Express has long been a leader when it comes to travel credit cards with luxury benefits. But over the last year, as card members were grounded by the pandemic, Amex found success cycling in temporary “at-home” perks to keep members engaged with their cards even while their travel benefits were unavailable to them.
Now, with travel resuming and planes back in the air, the issuer has announced the addition of several new permanent travel and retail benefits for the card. However, these new perks come with a significantly higher annual fee that may make consumers think twice, especially if the new benefits are of limited use to them depending on their buying habits and geographical location.
The Amex Platinum card already has a robust suite of elite VIP benefits, all of which remain in place. But in addition, starting July 1, the following new credits and discounts will be available to both new and existing card members:
- An annual $200 statement credit for prepaid bookings at Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties made through American Express Travel.
- An annual $179 statement credit for a Clear membership. Clear offers expedited security screening at select airports and stadiums across the country.
- Up to $240 in annual statement credits on eligible purchases or subscriptions with Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM or The New York Times. These credits are available in portions of up to $20 each month throughout the year.
- Up to $300 in annual statement credits on purchases of select Equinox Fitness Club monthly memberships or a digital subscription to the Equinox+ app. These credits are available in portions of up to $25 each month.
- A 20% discount on a Wheels Up Connect private jet membership (regular price $2,995) and a 40% discount on a Wheels Up Core membership (regular price $17,500). Card members will also get a $500 or $2,000 credit added to their Wheels Up account to use toward their initial flight within the first year depending on the selected Wheels Up membership.
In addition, card members will have access to the new Global Dining Access program by Resy, which will offer exclusive reservations at some of the world’s top restaurants, along with access to premium events and other perks like priority notify and VIP status.
The Amex airport lounge portfolio also continues to expand. The issuer’s Global Lounge Collection already includes access to Escape Lounges across the US, but the lounges will be updated and newly co-branded as Centurion Studio partners. Also, American Express International Lounge locations in spots like Mexico City and Sydney, Australia, will be converted into Centurion Lounges.
The new Amex Centurion Lounge at New York’s LaGuardia airport is one of over 40 lounges worldwide that will be branded with the Centurion name.
Finally, an existing lounge partnership is being made permanent. Amex Platinum card members will have access to select Lufthansa lounges around the world, including Business Lounges when flying Lufthansa, Swiss or Austrian Airlines in any class, and Lufthansa Senator Lounges when flying in business class on Lufthansa, Swiss or Austrian Airlines.
These new perks, credits and discounts are accompanied by a new higher annual fee on the Amex Platinum. Starting July 1, 2021, the card will have an annual fee of $695, up from the previous $550 (see rates and fees). For card members who opened their accounts prior to July 1, 2021, the new annual fee will take effect on your annual renewal date on or after January 1, 2022.
While this makes the annual fee on the personal Amex Platinum card $100 higher than the $595 annual fee of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (see rates and fees), the business version of the card isn’t getting all these new benefits. However, Business Platinum card members will get the annual $179 Clear credit, discounts toward a Wheels Up membership, access to the Global Dining Access program by Resy and, of course, access to the expanded Centurion Lounge network.
You’ll need to be able to take advantage of at least one of these new Amex Platinum perks in order to make the higher annual fee worth the cost.
Frankly, several of these newly-added perks will appeal only to a narrow audience. For instance, if you’re already a member of an Equinox club, or if having access to the Equinox+ app appeals to you, then you’ll find the up to $300 in new Equinox credits enticing. But if you don’t have an Equinox near you and the app isn’t part of your workout routine, you’re not going to get any benefit from this new perk.
Similarly, the up to $240 in digital entertainment credits are only available for use with four Amex partners: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM and The New York Times. If you don’t want or need a membership with any of these four services, you won’t find any use for those new monthly credits.
Of broader interest are the new $200 in prepaid hotel credits and the $179 in annual Clear credits. The latter will fully cover an annual Clear membership, and can even cover the cost of adding a friend or family member if you’re able to get preferred Clear pricing by being a Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus member. Clear provides expedited access through TSA security checkpoints where it’s available, and can even be stacked on top of your existing TSA PreCheck membershp, so you can move through security even faster.
And while booking a prepaid hotel typically means less flexibility since these types of reservations are usually non-refundable and non-changeable, if you’re certain you can commit to your booking, a $200 discount is a nice savings, though you may be limited as to which properties are eligible through the two Amex programs.
Overall, when you combine these new perks with the existing Amex Platinum benefits — especially the up to $200 in annual airline fee credits and the up to $200 in annual Uber credits — it’s certainly possible to see a path where the $695 annual fee is worth the cost, particularly if you find yourself in airport lounges on a regular basis. But you’ll need to sit down and do the math to see if it makes sense for you.
Looking for a new travel credit card? Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the best travel credit cards of 2021.