American Express Platinum: Keep or Cancel in 2022?

Thanks for joining me for episode 61: American Express Platinum – Keep or Cancel in 2022? I’ll discuss whether it makes sense to pay a second year or beyond annual fee for American Express personal Platinum cards in 2022.

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Rough Transcript:

You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost through credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals!

Thanks for joining me for episode 61: American Express Platinum – Keep or Cancel in 2022? I’ll discuss whether it makes sense to pay a second year or beyond annual fee for American Express personal Platinum cards in 2022 & come to the conclusion that the answer is probably no for most people.

Happy Holidays! If you’re like me, you’ve checked statements on your American Express credit cards this week, and you were charged a $550 annual fee or, as Amex calls it, a renewal membership fee. So far, after two phone calls to Amex, I was given no retention offer or bonus for keeping the card, so now the situation is even more of a math problem with a question: are the benefits of the Platinum card outweighing a $550 fee, and what is the opportunity cost of, as I will later explore, downgrading to another personal Gold card and potentially later getting an upgrade offer from Gold to Platinum.

One compelling benefit of personal Platinum American Express cards is Centurion Lounge access. I look forward to visiting Amex Centurion lounges, especially when departing my nearby airport, PHL, and when leaving Vegas. It’s nice to save money and time on food prep or a meal while away from home! I would value a lounge visit at around $20 and even more when I can bring in a guest, although bringing a guest is rare for me. Maybe you, listener, get more value from lounge access because you travel with others. Of course, lounge access benefits more frequent travelers, so one or two visits a year won’t bring much overall value. 

However, Amex lounge access exists on many cards – not just the personal Platinum card. Delta Reserve cards, both personal and business, provide Centurion Lounge access. I got my Delta Reserve Business card with a high welcome bonus in April of 2021. Since I’ll have the Delta Reserve Business card until, at the very least, May of 2022, the value of lounge access from Personal Platinum is essentially zero as long as I hold the Delta Reserve Business card…and I’ll likely keep Delta Reserve Business for another year especially if I get another retention offer and especially if I’ll be close to gaining a high level of Delta status for 2023. 

At this point, I’m keeping to a plan of getting only business credit cards to get back in with Chase cards, and I’ve already had most business credit cards with Amex, so Delta Reserve likely stays in my wallet. I also have the Morgan Stanley Platinum, which allows me to cash out Membership Rewards points. Morgan Stanley Platinum seems more of a keeper than a regular vanilla Platinum card because of the cashout option and a free authorized user card. 

Additionally, Amex Business Platinum gives lounge access, but Business Platinum cards likely won’t be keepers for most people. Charles Schwab Platinum also gives lounge access and a better cashout option than Morgan Stanley, but no free authorized user card. If you, listener, have only one Platinum card and no Delta Reserve cards, you might value keeping your Platinum card, but as hosts of the wonderful Milenomics podcast say, the answer is more credit cards.

The American Express personal Platinum card also gives a $200 airline incidental credit once per calendar year. The timing on this is really interesting considering my annual fee posted in late December because I can use the credit at the beginning of January, have the $200 credit post, and then downgrade to a Gold Card, which I will talk about later in this episode. If I determined that the $550 fee was worthwhile, I shouldn’t consider the 200 airline incidental in this equation because I could use it at the beginning of January. If your annual fee is later in the year, adjust accordingly, but it seems that you should have already used the $200 credit no matter what. 

Personally, I don’t wait to use the credits gradually for something like seat upgrades or award booking taxes or fees. I automatically would get seat upgrades with Delta, which would be my preferred airline, so I won’t have to pay and very likely wouldn’t anyway when I could just use the airline incidental credits for travel bank credits with United Airlines and take more trips. I also prefer booking flights with my Altitude Reserve credit card to get trip insurance protections and use my real-time mobile rewards to pay for booking taxes and fees.

I must admit that it would be tedious to keep track of small charges for award booking taxes and fees, and I probably wouldn’t be able to use all of my airline incidental credits, just $10 or so at a time. I suppose some listeners may value seat upgrades and would more efficiently use the credits, say, at around $60 or more for a one-way trip, but one can still use airline incidental credits before a Platinum annual fee is due. I must, then, value the credits at zero for purposes of evaluating whether the annual fee is worth paying.

The personal Platinum card also gives $200 a year in Uber credits for Uber rides or Uber Eats. Sadly, this benefit is divided into increments of $15 a month and $35 in December. Many listeners may find themselves overpaying the credits multiple times just to use the benefit, so it may be considered a discount in many cases. Personally, I find the most value in using these credits for rides rather than what often could be inflated food prices.

Since I’m often traveling, I primarily use these credits for Uber rides but otherwise will save these credits for food deliveries while staying at hotels away from home. However, these Uber credits also exist on personal Gold cards and, as I mentioned, Platinum can be downgraded to Gold, so we’re getting only $80 more per year versus the personal Gold card (personal Gold gives $10 a month, so 200-120 is 80, America loves math). 

A recent addition to Personal Platinum cards, a one-time yearly $200 statement credit for booking with American Express’ Fine Hotels and Resorts program, is interesting, especially if you’re booking properties in Las Vegas, including the new Resorts World Conrad Hilton hotel. I booked an upcoming stay at around $270 before the $200 statement credit. FHR benefits will also give me a $150 food credit which some may consider making the stay negative cost, especially if the property waives some taxes and fees baked into the $270 price because I have Hilton Diamond status.

However, like the airline incidental credits, one can use the FHR credit early in the year. In January, I can book a future stay, wait for the $200 statement credit to post, then downgrade Platinum to Gold. I must, then, value the credits at zero for purposes of evaluating whether the annual fee is worth paying.

Next, another recent benefit added to American Express Platinum cards is a $240 digital entertainment credit usable for Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. I imagine that many listeners’ valuations of these credits will significantly vary. Personally, I wouldn’t find myself reading The New York Times, listening to SiriusXM, or watching Peacock, even if the services were free apart from Amex.

Audible is interesting, though, but even then, I follow so much content on YouTube and through podcasts, so I don’t greatly value Audible credits. Maybe if you deem paying $20 for a digital book, for example, to be valuable, you’ll get the total $240 value from personal Platinum. Still, you run into opportunity cost because of benefits from having another personal Gold Card I’ll talk about later.

Other benefits, including WalMart+ membership, SoulCycle, and Equinox credits will probably have zero value for most listeners. WalMart+, though, is interesting to me as a product reseller because they sometimes offer early access deals limited to WalMart+ members. I can’t, though, make a case for SoulCycle or Equinox, especially since I lack a local Equinox gym. Amex Platinum also gives various hotel and rental car statuses, but I imagine that most listeners will already have these statuses through other credit cards.

Amex Platinum cards also give a $179/yr statement credit for Clear membership that can help you faster pass through security at airports, even faster than TSA Precheck. Many listeners, though, might not have Clear at their local airport or may find short lines for TSA Precheck, so they might not highly value Clear membership. Again, there is also opportunity cost when considering the downgrade to the personal Gold Card…and let’s talk about that downgrade option.

For me, and hopefully for you, the idea of having multiple American Express Gold Cards is fantastic mainly because of the 4x points on up to $25,000 of spending per calendar year at qualifying U.S. supermarkets. I spend way more than 25k per calendar at grocery stores, mainly buying gift cards with great promotions that allow me to pay zero dollars for gas and almost nothing for groceries. Rather than getting just 2% after yearly bonuses spending is maxed, another Gold card giving 4x or 2x more would give $500 more per year cashing out points at one cent per point with Morgan Stanley. Obviously, more value would be had if using points for travel or cashing out with Schwab.

Amex personal Gold has a $250 annual fee, but this is mostly negated with Uber credits and also with a $10/month dining credit that I personally mostly use at Cheesecake Factory in-person or through Grubhub when I’m not near a Cheesecake Factory. After downgrading to Gold, one may, perhaps a year later, get an upgrade offer to return to personal Platinum and would really hit a home run if the retention offer were on par with the Platinum annual fee, and one would be able to double or triple-dip into credits including Fine Hotels and Resorts and airline incidentals.

Suppose you’re geographically unlucky, meaning no local or somewhat local awesome grocery stores heavily discounting your gas or grocery charges. In that case, Amex Gold isn’t as appealing, but downgrading from Platinum to Gold would likely be preferable to outright canceling Platinum. Canceling Platinum, especially after just one year, may land you into some sort of penalty box with Amex and also likely reduce credit metrics, including average age of accounts. There are some cases for canceling cards, especially Business Gold and Business Platinum that don’t have appealing downgrade paths. Still, with a good downgrade path – personal Platinum to Gold – a downgrade is preferred to a cancel.

However, don’t downgrade to personal Gold if you haven’t yet had a personal Gold because you won’t be eligible for a future personal Gold Card welcome bonus. Simply get Gold Card first! Maybe you’re first waiting for other cards or wanting to stay under Chase’s 5/24 rule, but Gold Card should absolutely be worth a 5/24 slot, especially if you are a heavy grocery spender. If you get a Platinum Card retention offer, perhaps take it and wait until later to downgrade. If no Platinum retention offer, you’re in quite a pickle and might just end up canceling.

Wrapping things up, it seems difficult to argue for keeping American Express Platinum for longer than a year, especially if you don’t get a retention offer and if you have other American Express cards giving benefits identical or similar to personal Platinum. Downgrading Platinum to Gold after one year is appealing to heavy grocery spenders, and its additional 4x capacity likely outweighs Platinum benefits. As always, your mileage may vary. If you have a compelling case for keeping American Express Platinum for the long run, do let me know!

Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for future episodes.

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