The outstanding welcome bonus package, combined with the slew of credits and benefits that offset the card’s annual fee, make the Amex Platinum a must-have for any families looking to travel now or in the near future.
As a travel rewards fanatic, my credit card wallet has gotten fatter and fatter in recent years. Up until 2019, my family and I had paid for summer trips to Norway, Scotland and Portugal, just to name a few, with Amex Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with my Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express® Gold Card and Chase Freedom cards.
It’s not that I’m annual-fee averse – I have four travel cards with annual fees that range from $95 to $550. It’s not that I didn’t think the Platinum wouldn’t offer me any additional value even if I already have two of the most attractive travel cards in the market, either.
It’s just that I was waiting for the right combination of sign-up bonus and benefits to sweeten the deal for me. And to be honest, I was also waiting to be able to travel again after the pandemic put my plans on hold.
Thankfully, my family and I will were fully vaccinated by the time summer started, which meant we’d be able to visit our relatives in Mexico and Spain. The context couldn’t be better, because by the time I decided to apply, the Platinum was offering a welcome bonus that was the perfect fit for me.
The great news, if you’re also considering adding the Amex Platinum to your wallet, is the card has gone through a thorough upgrade recently that makes it even more attractive for travelers than before. And even though its annual fee is a bit more expensive now – $695 from the previous $550 – the outstanding array of credits and benefits that offers the Amex Platinum more than offset its cost.
Amex Platinum welcome bonus and ongoing perks
Here is what the card was offering to first-time cardholders when I applied in March:
- 75,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first six months
- 10X points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $15,000 in combined purchases) in first six months
And here’s the new welcome offer Amex Platinum is currently offering first-time cardholders:
- 100,000 points if you spend $6,000 in first six months
- 10X points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases) in first six months
In addition, Amex Platinum offers these benefits on an ongoing basis
- Priority Pass Select membership
- $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck credit every four years
- $179 CLEAR Credits
- Up to $200 in Uber credit
- $200 airline fee credit
- $200 hotel credit on eligible stays with The Hotel Collection or Fine Hotels + Resorts
- Up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit (enrollment required)
- $240 Digital Entertainment credit (up to $20 in statement credits each month on eligible purchases at Peacock, Audible, Sirius XM and The New York Times; enrollment required)
- $300 Equinox credit (up to $25 per month on eligible Equinox membership fees)
How I’m using my Amex Platinum card to rack up points
Given my spending patterns and the prospect of resuming travel in the summer, I didn’t think twice about the new bonus and jumped at the opportunity to add the Amex Platinum to my wallet. Once I got approved and started using the card, it quickly became one of my favorites.
Here’s how I’ve been using my Amex Platinum to rack up Membership Rewards points, redeem them for summer travel and save a few extra bucks along the way.
When I signed up, Amex Platinum was offering 10 points per dollar spent on U.S. grocery stores for the first six months on up to $15,000 in purchases. As the father of two hungry teenagers, this was a huge incentive to apply for the card. Our trips to HEB, Trader Joe’s and Central Market are constant, so currently and through the end of September I’m making sure to pay every grocery errand with my Amex Platinum.
Buying gift cards to maximize Amex Platinum’s welcome bonus
With that in mind, in the past few weeks I’ve been buying all kinds of gift cards at the grocery store with my Amex Platinum:
- Amazon: Even though I have the Amazon Prime Signature Visa card* that gives me 5% on Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases, buying Amazon.com gift cards at Whole Foods effectively doubles my rewards rate on Amazon.com purchases.
- Sling TV: This is one of our favorite streaming services to watch La Liga, Spain’s soccer league. Our subscription runs $10 per month, so I bought a gift card to pay for a few months’ worth of service – effectively earning 10% back in savings on Sling TV.
- Department and specialty stores: From Nordstrom to T.J. Maxx to REI, buying gift cards to purchase some gifts while I grocery shop has enabled me to earn 10% back on purchases that would have otherwise given me 1.5% back using my Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Other gift cards I’ve bought at the grocery store using my Amex Platinum include P. Terry’s (Austin’s best burger spot) and Apple.
Gas limited-time offer
I usually fill up my tank at Costco to take advantage of the 4% cash back on gas (on the first $7,000 in purchases, then 1%) offered by my Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi. These days, however, I’m filling at the Valero station close to home to take advantage of the 10X points per dollar spent on gas offered by my Amex Platinum.
And just so I can maximize this category bonus while it lasts, I am volunteering to fill up my wife’s and kids’ tanks, too – family win-win all around!
Restaurants and ‘Shop Small’ limited-time offer
The card is no longer offering either bonus. Instead, you now earn 10 Membership Rewards points per dollar at restaurants and when you Shop Small in the U.S. using your Amex Platinum. Now that my family and so many of our friends are vaccinated, dining out has gladly become one of our favorite weekend activities once again.
If I were to apply for the card now, I’d be excited to take advantage of this bonus, as the Amex Platinum has become one of the best cards for restaurants at the moment – at least for first-time cardholders and for the first six months of card membership.
And if you’re wondering where you could “Shop Small” to maximize that other 10X bonus, Amex has a convenient interactive map where you can find participant businesses in your area. You’ll be surprised at the wide selection you might find depending on where you live.
Redeeming my Membership Rewards points and perks
If your family is like mine, you’ve found yourself ordering takeout more than you regularly would in pre-pandemic times. The truth is, at the end of the day, especially on Fridays, no one at home feels like cooking.
The good news is that the Uber credits offered by my Amex Platinum ($15 every month, plus an additional $20 in December) and my Amex Gold ($10 per month) are helping me offset some of those indulging meals.
Plus, the complimentary Uber Eats Pass offered by my Amex cards for 12 months saves me 5% off restaurant orders of more than $15 and delivery fees in many stores. An Uber Eats Pass membership runs $119 per year, so the savings just pile up.
Saks Fifth Avenue credit
Unless you’re a regular Saks fan, you might think you wouldn’t be able to maximize the $100 credit offered by the Amex Platinum. In my case, I found that Saks offers some skincare or grooming brands we use regularly at home, including Clinique and Jack Black.
Plus, Saks currently offers 2% cash back on Rakuten, so I effectively earned 3% back (1X point per dollar from my Amex Platinum, plus an additional 2% cash back from Rakuten) on my Saks skincare purchase of $60 a few weeks ago. Days later, the $50 bi-annual credit appeared on my Amex Platinum account. From July through December, I’ll be able to redeem the second bi-annual $50 credit on purchases at Saks.
Global Entry credit
I already had Global Entry thanks to the credit on my Chase Sapphire Reserve, but my wife didn’t. With the prospect of resuming travel overseas in the summer, we thought it was the right time for her to apply for Global Entry, too – and by paying for her application with my Amex Platinum, the $100 application fee was reimbursed to my account a couple of days later.
See related: Best credit cards for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
Now that so many people are back on the road – and in the skies – long lines to go through security are back at many airports across the country. Before the pandemic, I didn’t consider applying for Clear because I already had TSA PreCheck – and because the service is not cheap. However, now that my Amex Platinum will give me a $179 statement credit for an annual membership to CLEAR, I will start using the service – and zip through security at the always-crowded Austin, Texas, airport even faster.
Airline fee credit
As soon as I got approved for the Amex Platinum, one of the first things I did was to select Delta as my Amex airline fee credit choice as I knew that would be one of the airlines my family and I would fly during the summer.
I bought tickets on Delta (more on that below) using miles selecting a main cabin fare but without choosing seats. Once the booking was confirmed, I went in and selected preferred seats for the whole trip, paying with my Amex Platinum card. A few days later, a $200 airline free credit was posted to my account.
Transferring points to Delta Air Lines
Every Amex Membership Rewards fan knows that the secret to maximizing points for travel is to transfer them to one of 21 Amex travel partners. In the past, I’ve transferred Amex points to Delta and JetBlue to redeem them for domestic flights at a great value.
More recently, however, I transferred some points on my Amex Platinum account to Delta and combined them with the welcome bonus miles I earned last year when I got approved for the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express card just days before the pandemic hit.
Delta flights are not necessarily cheap, especially on transcontinental summer routes. But I was able to land a great Austin-to-Madrid round trip for late May via JFK for 116,000 miles. A second ticket, on the same route and fare, set me back $1,374 in cash. That means I was able to redeem SkyMiles transferred from my Amex Platinum card at a value of 1.2 cents per mile.
Transferring points to Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors
Over the years, I’ve learned that one of the best ways to maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points is by booking hotel stays across Europe directly on Chase’s travel portal, taking advantage of the 50% bonus offered by my Chase Sapphire Reserve. Chase’s selection is impressive, especially because they offer affordable rates on great hotels that are usually not part of the big chains.
While Marriott’s and Hilton’s European selections are not as wide, if you explore your options carefully you can find some great spots at good redemption values, especially now that summer travel in the old continent is not as high in demand as it was before the pandemic. So, as I was planning a trip around Spain with my family in the summer, that’s exactly what I did.
After some digging, I was able to book a night at the DoubleTree by Hilton Madrid-Prado for 36,000 Hilton Honors points – that’s roughly 13,000 Membership Rewards points. That hotel night runs around $154 in cash, so I was able to redeem points earned on my Amex Platinum also at a value of 1.2 cents per point.
See related: Hilton Honors rewards program guide
It took me a while to apply for the Amex Platinum, but now that travel is back on my agenda and the card’s offer greatly aligns with my family’s spending habits, it has quickly become one of my favorite cards. The current sign-up bonus package, combined with the many credits and benefits that offset the card’s annual fee, make the Amex Platinum a must-have for any families looking to travel now or in the near future.
* All information about the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This card is not currently available through CreditCards.com.