Back in October of 2016, American Express announced enhancements to both the personal and business version of the Platinum Card, including earning 5X on airfare. Amex also stated that more changes were en route for the future and it looks like the next wave of changes are here. Via The Points Guy, major changes have just been announced to the Platinum Card from American Express.
Here are the new changes
- Increase in annual fee to $550
- 5X on hotel purchases made through Amextravel.com
- $15 a month in Uber credits ($35 offered for the month of December)
- Card will be issued in metal
- Complimentary Gold Cards
Increased annual fee
The new $550 annual fee is said to go in effect March 30, 2017 for new applicants. If you already have the Platinum Card, then you won’t be billed the $550 annual fee the first year if your renewal date is before September 1, 2017.
So for example, my renewal date is coming up in mid-May. I will be billed at the former $450 annual fee rate and then in May 2018, I’ll get hit with the $550 annual fee.
This is a major blow for many people but it shouldn’t come as a major surprise. I’ve written before about how American Express’ target market is definitely not the niche pocket of credit card hobbyists/churners. For their premier cards (Platinum and Centurion), they tap into high income earners who spend a lot on their cards and value the prestige element of American Express (however much that is or is not a modern reality).
This $100 hike in price probably only furthers the prestige of the Platinum Card brand to the market segment that Amex is actually interested in retaining. So while it might seem like a ridiculous move compared to moves made by Chase with the Sapphire Reserve and it’s $300 travel credit and $450 annual fee, I honestly think it makes sense for American Express.
5X on hotels when booked through Amextravel.com
The Platinum Card recently added the perk of earning 5X on airfare booked directly with the airlines or through Amextravel.com. But now they’ve added the additional perk of 5X on prepaid hotels booked through Amextravel.com. This perk is not as great as it sounds.
When you book through portals like the Amex Travel portal, you likely lose out on earning points through many hotels and often lose out on your elite benefits. For example, both Hilton and IHG will typically not honor your elite status, so you might lose out on things like free breakfasts or complimentary upgrades. The major exception to this has been Hyatt, who has offered elite benefits but not point or stay earnings.
Bookings made through Fine Hotels and Resorts will not earn 5 points per dollar.
The partnership with Uber was a bit of a surprise to me — Amex can’t be too happy about the timing of this announcement given the media firestorm hitting Uber.
The credit is offering $15 a month in Uber credits and $35 for the month of December for rides in the US. Specifically, TPG writes that, “Members with a Platinum card linked to their Uber account will receive $15 in credit automatically each month.” This sounds like an automatic credit that will be issued within the app, which might make it more difficult or impossible for some employees to get reimbursed for it, which is a bit of a negative.
It’s important to note that the credit balance will expire at the end of the month it’s issued. So while the total amount of the credit will come out to $200 per year, you can only utilize $15 per month and if you don’t use it, you lose it.
That limitation right there (along with the limitation to rides in the US) drastically restricts the value of the Uber credit. One could easily rack up close to $200 in Uber in a couple of trips so it would have been much more beneficial if the credit was issued annually.
I still think this credit has some real potential for some people, though.
Obviously, if you regularly use Uber in your hometown this will be an easy way to offset $200 of the annual fee. I’m really hoping that the credit will be able to be used on Uber Eats, because in that case, it’s like getting a up to 20+ meals covered a year.
But for the average person who will only use this a couple of times to get to or from the airport, it doesn’t do much. If you plan your trips so that you take off at the end of the month and return the next month, at least you’ll be able to take advantage of $30 of credit for one trip. But that’s not always going to be practical.
Overall, this $200 Uber perk will be is a great equalizer for some people but practically worthless for others.
Card will be issued in metal
Issuing cards in metal or a combination of metal and plastic is becoming more common. Cards like the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, and Venture, all come in with some form of metal now. Also, like many other cards, the card number will be on the back side of the card. I personally thinks this is a nice added touch to the Platinum and will be interested to see just how heavy the card will be. I really like the new design, too.
Still, given the fact that the enhancements to the Platinum this go-round are a bit so-so, I’m not overly excited about the metal feature and it almost feels like it’s supposed to divert my attention to some of the lackluster new features.
You’ll automatically receive a metal card if you apply on or after March 30, but if you’re already a cardmember you’ll have to call in and request a new metal card on March 30 (otherwise a metal card will be issued to you within 60 days of your cards expiration).
Complimentary Gold cards
You’ll now be able to add Gold cards for up to 99 authorized users with no additional fee. These cards will be able to earn 5X on airfare and hotels but will not receive other major benefits like the $200 airline fee, Uber credits, or lounge access.
I personally have no interest in this somewhat bizarre benefit (99?) but perhaps this will come in handy for some others?
Co-branded Platinum Cards also affected
The changes are said to affect a number of the different versions of the Platinum Card.
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Morgan Stanley
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Goldman Sachs
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Ameriprise
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Mercedes-Benz
- The Platinum Card from American Express for Charles Schwab
My take on the changes
I don’t feel like these changes are going to make a lot of people excited, mostly due to the increased annual fee.
The 5X on hotels would be a huge addition if it were allowed for hotel bookings directly with the hotel but it’s not, thus the Sapphire Reserve makes more sense to put my hotel expenses on for now.
The increased annual fee is a blow and the $15 monthly limitation on the Uber credit is probably too restrictive for it to be considered anything close to a universal upgrade for the card. A metal card is cool but at this point, it’s lost some of its luster due to how common it’s become.
I hope that Amex will unveil another wave of changes. A bigger sign-up bonus would have been nice but I was hoping for the addition of a benefit that’s much more practical, such as a more expansive travel credit. Overall, I’ll still be keeping my Platinum because I will be able to make use the Uber credit and value Gold status with SPG/Marriott/Hilton and Centurion lounge access, but I almost feel like these changes pushed many people closer to thinking about cancelling the card rather than retaining it.