*Editor Note: As of May 2020, American Express (like many credit card programs) has changed it’s welcome bonus to a much lesser value due to COVID-19. Since the welcome bonus is lower and perks such as priority pass can’t be enjoyed right now, I would hold off on this card. Hopefully, when things get more back to normal, it will pick up where it left off. I will update as things change.
At the end of last year, I was talking to my friend Barry Choi of moneywehave.com who happens to be a personal finance and travel expert. I was telling him how I was disappointed with my credit cards. I use Visa Home Trust when I travel since it gets rid of the foreign exchange fees. However, it doesn’t;t earn me any points and my basic Visa for at home purchases hasn’t gotten too many perks either. As a frequent traveller, I knew I could do better so I asked Barry what he recommended.
His response: The Amex Platinum Card.
My Response: Doesn’t that have an insanely high annual feel?
His response: $699.
My Response: HAHAHAHA, HELL NO.
His Response: The Amex Platinum card is worth it.
Here’s the thing. I’m cheap. I have no problem spending money on important things but spending that kind of cash just to have the privilege of using an American Express credit card seemed ridiculous.
I also trust Barry. He knows what he’s talking about, he’s a good friend, and he’s a Canadian finance expert. If he said the amex platinum was worth it, he was probably right. So, I listened to what he had to say.
The first thing he did was direct me to his American Express Platinum Review which I read and suggest you do too. Then he emphasized two things. 1) the fee is meaningless if I get more value than that; and 2) with the amount of travel I did, this card was perfect for me. I was still a bit hesitant, but after going through all of the details, I decided to give it a shot.
Getting Value for the Amex Platinum Card
Even though the Amex Platinum Card comes with an annual fee of $699, you also get an annual travel credit of $200 so when you think about it, your annual fee is just $499. That’s still a lot, but it’s a bit more manageable.
I should note that I’m referring to the Amex Platinum Canada Card in this post. U.S. Citizens also have access to a Platinum Card which has an annual fee of US$550 but comes with even more benefits than the Canadian version (which makes me pretty jealous but that’s beside the point.) So, if you are an American reading this review- it’s probably still beneficial just know that you get even more than I do.
On, now back to the Amex Platinum Canada Card. The regular welcome offer is 50,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. However, if you sign up with a referral link, you get 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
For some, that $5000 might sound like a lot of money. Well, it is. However, if you are going to spend it anyway (like I will) then why not. For me, I had a bunch of travel plans set in place with flights to buy and accommodation to book. I racked up over $4000 easy within the first month (thanks in part to the horrifically expensive flight I bought for my brother to meet me in Turkey for his birthday, best sister ever? I think so). I now have 2 months to spend the remainder ($1000) but I can do that anywhere that accepts an American Express card.
To be honest, I have found this a bit limiting. I had hoped that I could use it for all my purchases but there are plenty of places that do not accept American Express. Thankfully, there are a few ways around that. If online shopping doesn’t accept it, I pay via paypal and hook up my amex to my paypal account. If a store doesn’t accept it, I look to see if I can buy a giftcard for that particular store from somewhere that will (ie: Shoppers Drug Mart accepts amex cards and they sell TONS of gift cards). Sure, it requires a bit more work and effort but I want those points so it’s worth it for me to spend a little extra time.
So, how much are those points even worth? At their base value, 60,000 points is equal to $600. But, they can be worth more than $1,000 if you transfer them to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy.
So, how does that work?
The transfer ratio to Aeroplan is 1:1. That means you would get 60,000 Aeroplan points, which are enough for two round-trip tickets to anywhere within the continental U.S. and Canada. With Marriott Bonvoy, the transfer ratio is 1:1.2, so you could potentially have 72,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. When you factor in Marriott’s book 4 nights and get the 5th night free promotions, that’s enough points for 5 nights at a category 3 hotel.
I’ll admit, I have never collected Aeroplan points (though I might start). But, since I’ve recently discovered that I’m pretty fed up with the cheap hostel life, 5 free nights in a decent hotel sounds pretty good. Especially considering that, in some destinations, you can easily spend the cost of that annual fee on two, or even one nights a hotel (remember that fancy cave hotel I splurged on in Santorini?)
Unlimited Airport Lounge Access
One of the biggest benefits of the American Express Platinum Card is the unlimited lounge access you get. While I have no problem slumming it in the common area, I’ll admit I was curious. So I did a bit of research on these fancy lounges.
Unsurprisingly, most lounges have more comfortable seating. They also offer free drinks and snacks, free WIFI, and some even offer showers. Paying a membership fee and then US$32 each visit likely wouldn’t be worth it, but with an unlimited pass? Yes, I’d check that out.
Last year I took about 20 flights, if not more. If you look at the Priority Pass website, a membership with 10 free visits is US$299 (or about CAD$390), while an unlimited pass is US$429 (CAD$560ish- which is more than the annual fee of the card once you take of the $200 travel credit).
Even though I haven’t experienced lounges yet, I do admit that there have been times where I’ve been at the airport when I wished I had access to a nice, quiet space to work. This is especially true with longer layovers or when I need to check out of my accommodations but still have quite a few hours before my flight takes off.
Normally, I hope that my accommodation will keep my bag so I can wander around for a few hours before going to the airport or I go to the airport early. Now, worrying about finding a way to spend my time isn’t a concern as I can use the airport lounge as a workspace. Plus, I can get free food and drinks! Which, let’s be honest, for those of us who know how high the airport restaurant prices are, and how gross airplane food can be, this is actually pretty exciting.
I’m All About the Travel Experiences
Even though I like to keep costs down when I travel, I’ve never thought twice about spending money on experiences. I’ve gone swimming with whales in Tonga, I’ve taken a hot air balloon ride over Luxor when in Egypt, I’ve camped under the stars in the Sahara Desert, and I even stayed at a castle in Ireland. These were all incredible experiences that were worth every penny.
Some people may not think lounge access is on the same level as those adventures. To be honest, I’m not sure how much I’ll enjoy lounges, but I’m on the road enough to know that there are times where I just want to be more comfortable. I already spend enough time in airports as it is so I might as well enjoy myself. Especially if that comfort comes with easy internet access. After all, I do work online to pay my bills.
The American Express Platinum Card also comes with a few additional benefits that had me interested. The travel insurance included is quite comprehensive. I always purchase travel insurance separately because I tend to travel for long periods of time (I recommend SafetyWing for this), but if I do travel for shorter stints, this will definitely save me money. Especially since turning 30 my insurance costs have gone up quite substantially (Not impressed. I’m 30 guys, not 90!).
I also now get hotel status upgrades at a few major brands including Marriott and Hilton. Admittedly, my past travel experience has been a lot of hostels but recent hostel life frustrations made this especially appealing right now.
If I Decide I Don’t Like it, I’ll Cancel
Based on the actual value I’m getting from the included benefits and welcome bonus, it’s clear to me that I’ll be getting more than $699 in value for the first year, which definitely means that the Amex Platinum card is worth it. That being said, my plan right now is to try out this card for few months to see if I’ll actually enjoy all of the benefits. If I find that it’s making my travels better, I’ll keep the card (after all, I still earn points when using it and given how much I travel, I can rack up those points pretty quickly).
However, if I don’t like it or if I don’t think it’s worth the annual cost, I’ll cancel it around the 11-month mark. Since my anniversary wouldn’t have come up yet, I won’t have to pay the annual fee again. So, basically, I’m testing out this card for a year.
I know that some people are hesitant to cancel credit cards, but it’s not like I’m going to be doing this with a new credit card every few months. I have a really good credit score right now and I see the Amex Platinum Card as a new service that I’m testing out. If I’m not happy with the service, I’ll drop it.
So, is Amex Platinum Card is Worth it?
If you’re a frequent traveller like me, it’s then it might be worth considering getting the American Express Platinum Card. Yes, the annual fee is high, but there are a lot of benefits for travellers. Remember, when you use an Amex Platinum referral link, you get an extra 10,000 points when you meet the minimum spend requirement.