One of my daughter’s friends celebrated a birthday a few weeks ago. My family attended the party — and a fellow parent approached me with a question: “How do I earn back that huge annual fee on my (The) Platinum Card® from American Express?” he asked. “Is that even possible?” (See Rates and Fees for the Amex Platinum Card. Terms Apply.)
“Absolutely! I do it every year,” I told him. “There’s a little work involved but it’s totally doable.” (Then he asked me “Hey, are you The Points Guy?”)
Maybe you have the same question. Perhaps you want to get the Platinum Card. Or you already hold the card — but wonder how to earn back your money’s worth.
So, I want to share with you the same game plan I’m sharing with my friend.
The Amex Platinum Card’s Annual Fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express is a classic, travel-oriented card. It’s packed with benefits (airport lounge access, luxury hotel perks, airline incidental statement credits, and much more. Terms apply.)
But there’s something for which the Amex Platinum Card is also known: a high annual fee. When I got first got the Platinum Card about a dozen years ago, it was $450. Then it climbed to $550.
Now it’s $695. (See Rates and Fees. Terms Apply.)
Each annual fee increase came with at least a slight boost in benefits. That took some of the sticker shock away. Still, no one enjoys paying more for anything.
Cool Story, Bro. So, How Can the Annual Fee Be Recouped?
The Platinum Card offers more than a half-dozen statement credit opportunities. And those alone are where your $695 annual fee can be earned back. (See Rates and Fees. Terms Apply.)
But you have to spend ‘em to earn ‘em.
They don’t just magically appear on your statement and suddenly make everything even Steven without any effort. As I told my friend: there’s a little bit of work involved.
If you enjoy traveling and certain types of entertainment, though, earning back the $695 annual fee is pretty easy.
Keep in mind The Platinum Card is, really, “a luxury card.” It’s geared toward people with deep pockets and upper-crust spending habits. (Or those who pose as such.) So, recouping your annual fee requires some work.
Just remember to use the statement credits. So, here’s a roadmap — and a running total of how much we’ll earn back.
$240 Entertainment Credit (Running Total: $240)
Cardmembers may earn back up to $20 in statement credit each month when charging certain entertainment purchases to their card. (Enrollment required.)
These include eligible purchases made directly with:
- The Disney Bundle (which our family uses and absolutely loves)
- Includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+
- Sirius XM
- The New York Times
I use my $20 perk on Disney Bundle and Peacock (we’re Below Deck franchise junkies and admit it).
$200 Airline Incidental Credit (Running Total: $440)
The Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders may earn up to $200 in statement credit each calendar year for certain airline charges made on their Platinum Card. We’re talking about purchases such as checked baggage fees, early check-in fees (hello, Southwest!), inflight food and beverage purchases, seat assignment fees, and more. This post breaks it down in much more detail.
Members must manually enroll and chose one airline for the entire year. Eligible carriers are:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Spirit Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
As a data point: I’ve heard that if you haven’t used any of your credit during a calendar year, you can switch your preferred airline to a different carrier. For example, my friend might have Southwest selected — but I know he’s taking his family to Oahu and flying Hawaiian Airlines. He hasn’t yet used his $200 airline incidental credit on Southwest. So, he can change it to Hawaiian and save some money on checked baggage, etc.
Using the $200 can be a challenge for elite status holders who routinely enjoy free checked bags, complimentary alcohol on board flights, and other perks. Keep in mind that award booking fees and taxes generally work for the statement credit.
$200 Uber Cash Deposits ($640)
Cardmembers who enroll their card with Uber automatically receive monthly Uber Cash deposits.
The Uber Cash is distributed as $15 each month from January through November. December’s deposit is $35.
Uber Cash can be used for both Uber rides and Uber Eats purchases.
Be mindful that the Uber Cash deposits are if-used. Any remaining balance expires on the last day of each month and does not roll over to the next.
This is such a simple benefit to use, though. When you travel, you probably need an Uber at some point, right? Or maybe your hotel doesn’t have room service. Hello, Uber Eats!
It’s easy to use even when you’re home. There are plenty of times I’m stuck at my desk at a project and it’s easier for me to order in a meal than make something. That’s where Uber Eats and the Uber Cash deposits come in handy.
Or when I’m grilling or smoking a big meal for friends and family — I’ll use the Uber Cash to help offset the cost of ordering in side dishes.
$200 Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Hotel Collection ($840)
This one is sort of hit-or-miss. It depends on not just your travel budget also where and when you travel.
And plain old luck.
The American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program is a group of (generally) upscale hotels and resorts where cardholders can enjoy several great perks. Bookings must be made directly through American Express Travel.
The Hotel Collection is a group of properties offering cardholders $100 to spend on qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities — plus room upgrades (pending availability).
Platinum Cardholders earn up to $200 in statement credits each year for FHR or THC reservations charged to their card.
Most Fine Hotels & Resorts participating properties are high-end — with price tags to match.
But you can occasionally find a great deal. I consistently had great luck in Las Vegas — often getting FHR property rooms for $200 or under for one night. (Read about my FHR stay at Bellagio.)
FHR bookings come with a number of benefits:
- Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
- Daily breakfast for two people ($30 per person or $60 total per room)
- Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
- Noon check-in, when available
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- $100 Resort credit to be used during the stay (benefit varies by property)
(Vegas side note: some of Sin City’s properties are dropping off the FHR radar.)
I mentioned above that participating hotels aren’t exactly cheap. I’ve found some great deals in Las Vegas (as I mentioned) and New York. But I’ve also seen rates that are absolutely ludicrous. So, it just seems to depend on occupancy rates, phases of the moon, whatever. But it’s worth checking out if you have the Platinum Card.
Saks Fifth Avenue Credit: $100 ($940)
If I earned a Membership Rewards point for each time someone complained to me about the Saks Fifth Avenue statement that’s part of the Platinum Card, I could afford to never fly coach again. Ever.
- “But I don’t shop at Saks!”
- “Saks is too expensive!”
- “There’s not a Saks where I live!”
Everything is going to be fine.
Here’s the deal. The Platinum Card® from American Express members may earn up to $100 in statement credit each year for eligible purchases made at Saks Fifth Avenue or their website. Enrollment is required. You can earn up to $50 back from January through June. Then $50 back from July through December. (Like the Uber Cash deposits, these are if-used and don’t roll over. Terms apply.)
Saks sells more than just expensive, designer items like this $2,500 “hobo bag.”
For example, here are plenty of socks for $50 or under. Need some underwear? Let the Platinum Card Saks credit take care of it. Check out the selection of about 1,000 t-shirts that are $50 or cheaper.
So, you’re in luck if you wear clothes.
I used my Saks credit a few weeks ago to buy some Ralph Lauren cologne — and saved big.
WAIT! Use a Shopping Portal
For example, I recently used Rakuten to click through to Saks. Big here’s where it gets especially rewarding: This was during Rakuten’s recent Big Give Week promotion.
Rakuten offered 15% cashback (or 15X American Express® Membership Rewards®) on Saks purchases. All said and done, my $98 cologne purchase ended up costing about $34 out-of-pocket after the Rakuten cashback rebate and $50 Saks benefits.
That’s basically a $100 bottle of cologne at a 77%-ish discount.
CLEAR Credit: $189 ($1,129)
CLEAR uses biometrics to help identify passengers at more than 40 US airports (and event attendees at certain entertainment and sports venues). Instead of pulling out your passport or driver’s license, your fingerprints or retina scans prove that you’re you.
Once your identity is verified, you’re escorted to your respective security lane (TSA PreCheck or standard) for screening. CLEAR can be a big time-saver in many instances.
Platinum Card holders receive up to $189 in annual statement credit when charging their CLEAR membership fee to their card.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® Application Fee: $22.22 or $18.88 ($1,151.22 or $1,147.88)
Global Entry helps speed you through customs when arriving back to the United States. TSA PreCheck® is a program that gives pre-screened passengers privileges such as (usually) not having to remove laptops, tablets, and liquids from their carryons before placing them through scanning machines at TSA checkpoints. They also don’t have to remove belts, shoes, or light jackets.
Both programs carry non-refundable application fees.
Global Entry’s is $100. TSA PreCheck® carries an $85 fee. The Platinum Card will give you a one-time statement credit every 4.5 years when you charge the application fee to your card.
Once approved for either program, your membership is good for five years.
But here’s the big thing to remember: Global Entry membership includes TSA PreCheck® membership. So, I highly recommend people get Global Entry.
Now, there are far more TSA PreCheck® enrollment centers than Global Entry facilities. But if you travel occasionally and visit a major airport, chances are you’ll encounter a Global Entry interview center and can schedule an appointment.
My wife, family, and several friends have Global Entry. We love the ease of returning to the US from International trips. But the TSA PreCheck® membership is a huge bonus we use on a regular basis.
Honorable Statement Credit Mentions
We’re up to about $1,150 worth of statement credits. You probably already see how it’s not that hard to earn back your card’s annual fee.
Given that this is a blog for people who travel, eat, and uh, probably wear clothes (apropos of the Saks credit, but we don’t judge), that’s how we use our Platinum Card credits.
But while we’re almost at the summit, the tip of the iceberg still hasn’t been reached.
Equinox and SoulCycle At-Home
Up To $300 Equinox Credit
Bring the experience of SoulCycle home with you. Get a $300 statement credit after each time you use your Platinum Card to purchase one SoulCycle at-home bike.‡
Get a $25 statement credit each month at Equinox. Simply use your Platinum Card to pay for monthly Equinox All Access, Destination, or E by Equinox membership fees, or for Equinox+.‡
Platinum Card members who charge a Walmart+ subscription to their card receive $13 back in statement credit each month as long as the subscription is valid. (Terms apply. Enrollment required.)
Global Airport Lounge Access
The Platinum Card® from American Express receive complimentary admission to more than 1,400 airport lounges across the world.
(Enrollment is required for Priority Pass Select.)
You won’t get Michelin star dining in these lounges. But most offer enough to satiate your hunger and thirsts. Heck, even visiting the Delta Sky Clubs saves my family plenty of money each year in terms of food. We’re fine dining on appetizers and light meals. Otherwise, we’d be overpaying airport restaurants for heavy meals we don’t need.
For those who enjoy adult beverages while traveling, airport lounge access can save you a chunk of change.
Remember that decent Amex Offers pop up every so often. (i.e., spend X amount of dollars Y merchant and X cashback or Z Membership Rewards points.)
The Platinum Card® from American Express carries a $695 annual fee — and that’s a lot of money when there are plenty of no-annual-fee credit cards available. (See Amex Platinum Rates and Fees. Terms Apply.)
But the Platinum Card also offers several great benefits and perks. If you take advantage of them and the card’s statement credits, you can easily come out ahead.
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