Just Breathe – Why the Amex Platinum Changes Aren’t That Big a Deal

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American Express Platinum Changes

American Express Platinum Changes – Why Recent News Isn’t That Bad

Many of us were knocked on the mat last week by the long-rumored American Express Platinum changes.  We’ve been expecting the gut punch for months, and it finally arrived.  Despite all of the various angles to the updates, the primary one is big.  The annual fee on all versions of the personal Platinum card rose from $550 to $695.  That new number comes with a huge sticker shock to Joe and Jane Consumer.  Naturally, it’s challenging to set that number aside and then methodically, unemotionally determine the value of the Amex Platinum’s benefits (old and new).  Today, I’m taking a deep breath and considering a fuller picture of the card.  For several reasons, I don’t consider the American Express Platinum changes all that bad.  After I share those, I’ll describe my Amex Platinum future.

American Express Platinum Changes

The New Credits Cannot Be Ignored

In conjunction with increasing the annual fee by $145, Amex is providing several new benefits, including the following primary ones:

  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: $20 monthly credit for Peacock, SiriusXM, New York Times, and Audible purchases.
  • $200 Hotel Credit:  Redeemable for Fine Hotels & Resorts and Hotel Collection bookings through Amex Travel.
  • $179 CLEAR Credit:  Annual statement credit for a CLEAR membership, which offers expedited security screening at select airports and stadiums across the US.
  • $300 Equinox Credit:   $25 monthly credit for purchases of select Equinox Fitness Club monthly memberships or a digital subscription to Equinox+ (the on-demand fitness app).
  • Increased Lounge Access

I, and many of you, won’t use all of these credits, of course.  Indeed, I theorized that banks would continue their trend of everyday rewards.  But the above categories don’t closely match everyday behavior for all of us.  Still, many will use a substantial portion of these benefits.  Sure, the annual fee is going up $145, but we must acknowledge benefits are also increasing, even if they aren’t exactly what we had in mind.  I find some small, easy wins here.

For instance, I value the Digital Entertainment credit at 50%, as we already subscribe to a few of these (granted, at discounted rates).  This credit is wiping out a least $10 monthly on these expenses if (and now, when) we keep them long-term.  Since I’m generally able to find more competitive rates by booking directly with properties, I value the Hotel Credit at $100.  I have no plans to use the CLEAR or Equinox credits.  The increased lounge access doesn’t provide any near-term definite value since we don’t have any ambitious flight plans in the foreseeable future.

Actual Value of New Credits:  $220

Previous Benefits Have Survived

While many are disappointed in the new credits, it’s worth highlighting that the vast majority of previous benefits remain intact.  Here are just a few:

  • $200 Annual Airline Incidental Credit
  • $200 Annual Uber/Uber Eats Credits
  • $100 Annual Saks Fifth Avenue Credits
  • Up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit every 5 years

While the annual airline incidental credit can be tricky to consume, I’ve been able to fully use it for several years without much hassle.  Even better, I get pretty solid value out of it, enough to consider it a 1:1 value.  The Uber credits have decreased our dining expenses, albeit at Uber Eats’ inflated rates; I value that credit at 75%.  I’ve primarily used Saks credits for Christmas and birthday gifts, but I wouldn’t normally pay Saks’ premium rates.  I also value that at 75%.  I don’t need the $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit.

Actual Value of these Preexisting Credits:  $425

A Centurion Lounge Improvement For Many

We must also address Amex devaluing the Centurion Lounge for some with their new policies.  They recently backed off a bit from their original announcement.  Amex has now shared that effective February 2023, a Platinum cardholder may bring up to two guests ages 2-17 into a lounge for $30 per person.  The fee for those over 17 will be $50 per person.  Undoubtedly, this is a net devaluation for those who enjoy bringing guests to Centurion Lounges.

However, for some other Platinum cardholders, myself included, the new lounge policy is an improvement.  Centurion Lounge overcrowding has been an issue for years, and this has degraded what’s an otherwise pleasant experience for many.  I primarily use Centurion Lounges when I’m traveling solo, anyway.  With the new policy, Amex is streamlining entry and (hopefully) addressing overcrowding issues.

Indeed, many out there hold the Platinum card primarily for lounge access.  In essence, those individuals justify the majority or all of their annual fee by holding Centurion Lounge access.  I use these lounges infrequently but enjoy them when I do.

Actual Value for My Current Travel Behavior:  $100

Immediate Impact Is Overwhelmingly Positive

Effective 1 July, existing Platinum cardholders had access to these new benefits in addition to the suite of preexisting ones.  Mark shared how Amex is rolling out the new annual fee for existing cardholders here.  Good news – many of us won’t be subject to the new annual fee for almost a year and a half!  My wife and I collectively hold multiple Platinum card accounts, a few which don’t bill the annual fee until late in the year.  Those accounts will renew in late 2021 at the $550 rate.  We won’t be subject to the increased annual fee until late 2022.  In the meantime, we’re enjoying the suite of new and preexisting benefits with a $550 annual fee.

American Express Platinum Changes

Hobbyists Obtain Better Value

Amex has put more responsibility and work on Platinum cardholders to maximize the value and benefits of the card.  But hello, that’s what many Miles to Memories readers and other hobbyists enjoy!  Yes, the Amex Platinum card has become an overwhelmingly expensive, unworthy proposition to the general public.  For family, friends, or anyone else, I most likely won’t recommend the Platinum card.  But as avid travel, points, and miles fans, we jump at the challenge to squeeze the most possible value out of any one card and neutralize the annual fee.  Many will give up on the Platinum card due to these changes, but I believe a large portion will stick around.  Indeed, Amex certainly seems optimistic about customers’ loyalty to the Platinum card.

Wild Card – A Possible Retention Offer

Many of us infrequently pay (or simply refuse) high annual fees.  Before closing a card, we’ll query banks for any retention offers available in return for keeping the card open.  We may not be successful in receiving bonus points or annual fees waived all the time, but we still routinely come out on top enough.  Like the other big banks, Amex has been quite liberal in providing retention offers, in my experience.  I’m intrigued to see how they’ll handle longtime Platinum cardholders like my wife and me.

I’m not banking on a retention offer (pun intended), but I’ll surely remember that one is a possibility.  Even a moderate retention offer, perhaps a credit offsetting the annual fee increase, will be possible.  Or maybe it’ll be bonus Membership Rewards points for keeping the card open.  Regardless, a retention offer can render the annual fee increase moot.  Again, I won’t count on a retention offer, but I know obtaining one is a possible contingency.

This Stuff Happens

I recently shared my thoughts on how everything is always devaluing and methods for protecting ourselves.  We must fully realize devaluations and annual fee increases are bound to happen periodically and the importance of thoughtfully addressing our long term plans.  Sure, Amex increased the Platinum annual fee, but so has Chase with the Sapphire Reserve and Citi with the Prestige.  In those cases, they either rolled out a few minor benefits or devalued them.  I certainly can’t ignore these most recent Amex Platinum changes.  However, Amex’s actions are no worse than what any other major bank has done with their ultra-premium flagship card, in my view.

So, this stuff happens.  That doesn’t mean anyone should keep the card.  Are we?

American Express Platinum Changes

American Express Platinum Changes and Our Future with the Cards

The wife and I each have multiple versions of Platinum cards – specifically, we each hold Amex Platinum Card for Schwab and the “regular” Platinum accounts.  Outside of obtaining amazing retention offers (which we doubt), we plan to close each of our regular Platinum accounts.  For us, the Schwab Platinum takes priority since it has all of the normal Platinum benefits plus the cashout option of the soon to be 1.1 cent per point rate (currently 1.25 cent per point).  With the cashout benefit devaluing on September 1st, do we plan to keep our Schwab Platinum cards?  Yes, for the following reasons:

  • We value the above fixed benefits at $745.  This is $50 more than the increased annual fee of $695.
  • In future years, we’ll be using Centurion Lounges more, further increasing the value of that benefit for our travel behavior.
  • With more experience, I’ll become more skilled at using Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program.  Consequently, I’m confident we’ll obtain more value out of the hotel credit in the future.
  • The ability to immediately cash out Membership Rewards, even at 1.1 cent per point, is invaluable to us.  Given our ability to quickly earn these points at scale, keeping this redemption option around for our situation makes the most sense.  How, when, and the quantity we cash out may change – I look forward to describing our updated Amex redemption strategy in the future.

The above assumes nothing else is changing with Amex.  Once the annual fees hit late in 2021 and 2022, we’ll revalidate our positions at that point.  And, of course, we’ll always attempt to obtain retention offers.

American Express Platinum Changes – Conclusion

The new Platinum card moniker of “coupon book” has caught on with many.  Whatever people call the card, it’s still worth it to me.  Some are sharing how they’re done with the Platinum card, but how many of those people have actually closed (or will close) their accounts?  Talking is one thing, doing is another.  As with any card, I encourage you to check your emotions at the door prior to deliberately analyzing whether a card is worth keeping or closing.  Specifically, review each benefit and assign a unique value you will obtain from it.  Maybe your initial belief is validated, but you could also be surprised.  How has your relationship with the Platinum card evolved (or not) since the Amex Platinum changes were announced?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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25 COMMENTS

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Benjy,
    Your assessment of the monetary perks seems fair and well thought out; however, in the final bullet of your justifications to keep the Schwab card you state, “The ability to immediately cash out Membership Rewards, even at 1.1 cent per point, is invaluable to us.” In this case, it would appear that the cash-out benefit, by definition, trumps all other considerations regardless of cost. Assuming that’s not the case, what would you be willing to sacrifice in order to keep that benefit? If your analysis of the monetary perks came out $100 less than the new AF instead of $50 to the better, would you still keep the card? How about $200 less?… Rhetorical questions, but necessary to be considered for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

    • sk9879,
      A natural query! My exact valuation on the Schwab benefit is highly dependent on the specific volume that I can earn and how I redeem (Schwab, travel partners, etc). The volume I earn changes, and as I mentioned in the article, I’m currently reassessing my exact redemption strategy. For those reasons, I’m not attaching an exact value to the Schwab benefit currently. No doubt, the spirit of your statement rings true, and the exact value of Schwab redemption becomes even more integral if/when my total value of the other benefits falls below the annual fee.

  2. I am one of those who value the Platinum card mostly for the airport lounge access, and it will still be worth it for my wife and I to have that access, even at the higher annual fee. Hopefully the higher fee and the access changes will solve the crowding problem in the lounges. But the new credits are pretty “meh” to me:

    After teasing us with a monthly COVID streaming credit that was broadly usable, the weak list of eligible services offered with this credit is a little embarrassing. I pay for Hulu, Netflix, AppleTV, Spotify, and sometimes others. But Peacock? Never. I cancelled SiriusXM ten years ago. (I like to create my own playlists, and skip songs I don’t like.) The New York times is begging be to subscribe for $1 per week. They can’t give it away. Maybe Audible would be interesting if I was still commuting 90 minutes each way. But COVID ended that. (Value this at $0).

    I’ll find a way to use the $200 hotel credit, for a nice one-night stay somewhere. But FHR hotels are too pricey for me normally. Truth is I’ll probably have to book a $300 room to use my $200 credit. (Call it $100 in value).

    I’ll probably sign up for CLEAR, since it will be free for my wife and I. Global Entry w/ TSA pre-check is generally fine, but it will interesting to try it out as a novelty, and I’m sure it will save us a few minutes once in a while. But I don’t value this highly. ($50).

    The Equinox credit has no value for me. ($0).

    So, for me, the fee goes up $145 late next year, and I see increased value of maybe $150 annually. Basically a wash. I’ll keep the card for the lounge access, the Gold Hilton and Marriott status, the Executive status at National Car Rental, and 5X points on airfare. Add in 3X points on my Green card for essentially all other travel expenses, and I’m good to go!

    • Earl,
      I get your line of thinking. I feel very “meh” too. It’s a fee increase with a few more mediocre benefits, but I still come out ahead.

  3. I was actually hoping they raised the AF to something like $1250 to get rid of all the riff raff! Either you value a premium Amex card or your don’t. Too many cheap people on here that can only afford a high end card if it “pays for itself”. I have a stock portfolio to handle that! While I like the benefits and do take advantage of them the non-monetary benefits are the primary reason I have had the Amex Platinum for so long and plan to keep it until I’m planted in the ground.

    • I can never tell if this is a bit and the dude is just completely dedicated to it (which would be amazing) or if it’s a sad sack cry for help or something… Either way, you stay classy AC.

  4. I guess I’m just an out of touch retired 1%er but is a $145 annual fee increase that much to people? That is a rounding error in a gambling weekend or own decent meal w my wife.

    Also for those that don’t see value in the entertainment credit – do you REALLY not have SiriusXM? I’ve had satellite radio for 20 years and couldn’t live without it (of coyotes I also a guy that has cable w all the premium channels plus 8 different streaming services so I like my options). In my case changing billing for SiriusXM in 3 cars to my Amex Playinum card gave me an immediate $240 annual benefit.

    For those complaining – just cancel it since it probably wasn’t a card meant for you in the first place.

        • I appreciate the suggestion in the spirit that its offered, but not everybody has the same tastes in entertainment and there is precious little there that interests me. I’m much happier deciding what to listen to then to be restricted to XM’s channels.

          And back to the subject, perhaps if I still had my Amex I would sign up, but my point is that I don’t want my purchasing habits to be dictated by Amex’s marketing department. Without Amex I don’t need to “take advantage” of their offers, and don’t need to feel like I’m getting bad value because I buy only what I want to buy, when I want to buy it, and from whom I want to buy it. I don’t clip coupons, I don’t collect Green Stamps, and I don’t have to give a fig about what I’m going to have to buy at Saks.

  5. Here is how much I value the benefits

    $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: $0. I never had any of the 4 and never will need one.
    $200 Hotel Credit: $100. As Hotel Collection requires prepaid 2 night plus
    $179 CLEAR Credit: $0. Don’t need one.
    $300 Equinox Credit: $0. What the heck is this?
    $200 Annual Airline Incidental Credit – $100
    $200 Annual Uber/Uber Eats Credits – $100
    $100 Annual Saks Fifth Avenue Credits – $25
    Up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit every 5 years – $20/Year
    Increased Lounge Access – $50

    I can barely get $395 if I do everything right after spending $695. Who wants to spend $695 initially to get less than $400. I can invest and easily get 15% to 20%. If I’m not outright getting $1000 its useless to me.

      • The hope for the free upgrade and late checkout on FHR used to be the best feature on Amex, but now FHR rates are usually higher than other options, and the upgrade and late checkout are available with other cards or means.

    • BlackHill,
      Bravo for thoughtfully analyzing the card benefits for your situation! I encourage everyone else to do the same.

    • @BlackHill Same here. I’m done with the Amex Platinum. I’ve only had one flavor of the card and only picked it up because of the 100k/10x offer.

      I’m sure the card will be useful to some but I’ve never been the type of person who wants to get to an airport early just to partake of room temperature soup, sam’s club cookies, cheap liquor, and hummus and crackers that always look to be a few hours past their prime.

      I do think the Clear credit may be enough to keep some folks but if Clear becomes popular then hopefully TSA PreCheck lines will get back to normal or at the very least, thin it out a little more than they currently are.

      While I may not care for the Platinum card, it is nice that Amex is always trying to keep things fresh which is more than I can say for Citi and Chase at the moment.

  6. Benjy, it makes sense for you because you literally do this for a living. This, in conjunction with the Schwab devaluation was bad enough for me to stop collecting Membership Rewards. My Schwab Platinum and Gold are getting the axe and Chase will get all my spend. It’s at that point where keeping track of the monthly coupons isn’t worth my time. How many friends and family would you actually recommend this card to compared to a Chase Sapphire Reserve?

    • Joe,

      Like many active hobbyists, I enjoy Amex, along with other card issuers. I largely find there is something to like about most all card issuers. I may not like a given decision a bank makes, but I rarely, if ever, have completely given up on a rewards currency based on one negative change. In my view, maximizing success in this hobby is more nuanced, and I do much better by diving into those nuances.

      Nonetheless, I agree that the Amex Platinum is now harder for me to recommend to friends and family, as I addressed in the “Hobbyists Obtain Better Value” section.

      • @Benjy,

        I agree that while I may not like the changes to the Platinum card, I’m not going to give up on Amex or other Amex cards because of it.

        I know some would call me crazy but if I could get 10 Bonvoy Brilliant cards I would. The $300 Marriott credit and the 50k free night cert is more than worth it to me…but I’m the guy who spends 100+ nights in Marriott properties every year for the past 9 years. So while the card works for me, I’m sure others absolutely hate the Marriott card and Marriott as a brand.

        This hobby allows for enjoying it from many angles…for me, the Platinum isn’t one but Amex is, and will always be, part of the bigger overall picture.

        • 2808 Heavy,
          Great perspective! As individuals, we all have our preferences. I’m no longer a Marriott guy but can definitely see the value in that play for those who are. It’s just another example of how hobbyists can be correct for our their specific situations, even though we may not agree on a specific card, currency, or benefit in a vacuum.

  7. A very rose colored view in my opinion. Over the past dozen years or so Amex Platinum has changed from a card that provides unique amenities to luxury travellers with real benefits (i.e., 2 for 1 F/J Air Program, FHR, a reserved table at top restaurants) that one happily paid for, into a glorified S&H Green Stamps program for those happy to do the equivalent of clipping coupons to direct you to spend money on things at places Amex has a deal, and pay $600 for the privilege — picking up pennies in front of the Annual Fee steamroller. In my opinion, Amex Platinum has become a joke, with the real value removed, and replaced by gimmicks. I gave up my AP after nearly 30 years and haven’t looked back, and set myself free from keeping track of my benefits and shopping where Amex wants me to rather than where I want to.

    • Mak,

      I can understand your 30 years of experience with the Amex Platinum makes it less relatively valuable to you now, but I can’t identify with it for my situation. A negative change doesn’t definitively eliminate a card which is still a net positive for me. If I applied the “it was better before” logic to every card decision, I would have very few cards/rewards (if any) now. Different strokes for different folks.

  8. A lot of American Express boot licking in this article. Sure “not that bad” to you. Stop trying to speak for the rest of us that are unhappy with changes we think are bad. We’re not idiots, we know where we are getting value and we know when its time to move on from a certain product. You clearly have a weird emotion infatuation with Amex, good for you bud. Let us be upset and make our decision. Amex doesn’t need you to defend it. Have you equinox and peacock credit.

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