Why this seemingly expensive credit card is worth its annual fee — especially for anyone who travels

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Hong Kong Centurion LoungeThe Centurion Lounge in Hong Kong (via: American Express/Getty)Amex via PR firm

  • The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a much higher annual fee ($550) than most credit or charge cards, which can scare some people off.
  • However, the benefits and perks you can get from the card far outweigh the cost of the fee, as long as you take advantage of them.
  • Airport lounge access, up to $200 in Uber credits annually, a $200 annual airline fee credit, and special perks at hotels around the world are just a few of the many benefits that the card offers.

While the Platinum Card from American Express has been around in one form or another since the 1980s, offering perks to travelers and shoppers, it’s seen a lot of change over the decades. The charge card was originally an invitation-only product, but today, its perks, benefits, and treats are available for anyone.

The one downside to the card is that it carries a high annual fee. At $550, it costs more than its closest competitor, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and represents a significant up-front expense. However, the annual perks that come with the card can far outweigh the cost — as long as you maximize them. Take a look below at some of the card’s the best features.

Airport Lounge Access

I enjoy flying, but like many people, I find airports generally unpleasant. I think that most would agree the time you spend in the terminal waiting for your flight can be the most stressful part of a trip. Fortunately, there’s a perfect solution: airport lounges.

Lounges are exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection, food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities. Although lounges were traditionally reserved for first class and business class passengers, many are accessible to any traveler who holds either a lounge membership or certain credit cards — and the Platinum Card from American Express offers access to three different kinds of lounge.

The first type is Amex’s own proprietary lounges, located at eight airports in the United States — and in Hong Kong. These chic venues offer an oasis in the middle of the main terminal’s chaos, featuring comfortable seating, complimentary cocktails and food created by award-winning mixologists and chefs, respectively, and other amenities. Access to these lounges is limited to holders of the Amex Platinum or Amex Centurion cards.

If you’re flying with Delta and carry a Platinum Card, you can also access any Delta Sky Club lounge. With more than 30 locations, Sky Clubs offer snacks, complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks (with more “premium” drinks available for purchase), fast Wi-Fi, and a place to unwind. Some locations also feature showers.

Finally, the Platinum Card from American Express comes with a Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world. With the membership provided by your Platinum card, you and two guests can access any location (as long as there’s room) to enjoy free snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, showers, and more, all separate from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal.

Membership Rewards points

The Platinum Card from American Express earns Membership Rewards points, which are the currency in Amex’s loyalty program. Points can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through the Amex Travel website, or transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the most valuable).

The card earns a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airline, as well as flights and prepaid hotels reserved through Amex Travel. It earns one point for every dollar spent elsewhere.

Singapore Airlines First ClassYou can book tickets in first class by transferring points from Amex to Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program.Singapore Airlines

The Platinum Card comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. The value of the points depends on how you use them, but by transferring them to airline frequent flyer programs, it can be possible to use those welcome points to fly round-trip to Europe, or even one-way in first class.

$200 airline fee credit

Every calendar year, the Platinum Card from American Express offers a $200 credit toward incidental fees on one airline (that you can choose at the beginning of each year). While it doesn’t cover tickets, it applies to a wide variety of charges and fees, such as checked bags, change fees if you need to change your flight, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, airport lounge day passes (if you don’t already have complimentary access), and sometimes even things like seat assignments and extra legroom upgrade fees.

Up to $200 in Uber credits

FILE PHOTO - The Uber logo is seen on mobile telephone in London, Britain, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKayThomson Reuters

In March, 2017, American Express added this as a new perk to the Platinum Card. The credit is up to $200 per year, broken into monthly chunks; each month, you’ll get a $15 credit added to your linked Uber account, with an extra $20 for a total of $35 each December.

If you travel on a regular basis or live anywhere near most cities, this is an easy perk to get value from. You can also put the credits toward UberEats orders.

In addition, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status. There aren’t a ton of perks with this, and it’s only available in certain cities, but with Uber VIP, you’ll only be connected to drivers rated 4.8 stars or higher. Uber also says that Uber VIP drivers have “high-quality cars.”

Elite status at Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton hotels

Elite status at hotels can be incredibly valuable, often including free perks like daily breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in or late check-out, premium internet, lounge access, free nights, points-earning bonuses, and more. Usually, only the top frequent travelers earn status, but with the Platinum Card, you can earn it before you’ve stayed a single night.

The card comes with gold-level elite status at both Hilton and Starwood hotels. Because Starwood is owned by Marriott, the latter matches your status at Starwood. If you stay at hotels even a few nights a year, these benefits can be extremely valuable — especially considering how expensive hotel breakfasts can be.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry (which comes with PreCheck) are absolute musts for just about any traveler. Once you enroll, you can use special lanes to breeze through airport security — you won’t have to remove shoes and light coats, and you can leave your laptop in your bag. With Global Entry, you can use a fast lane when you return to the US from abroad, which makes clearing immigration and customs easy and quick. The programs cost $85–$100, and American Express will provide a credit for that fee every four years (memberships are valid for five years).

Other benefits

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a few other benefits that help offset the annual fee. Cardholders can enjoy a free membership in Boingo’s preferred plan, which gets you access to more than a million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world. On its own, that membership would cost $9.95 per month.

Amex also offers Platinum cardmembers access to the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program. When you book participating hotels through Amex Travel (there are nearly 1,000 worldwide), you’ll enjoy valuable perks including room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, free Wi-Fi, and a unique amenity at each hotel, like a credit to use at on-property spas or restaurants.

An exclusive concierge service is available to Platinum cardmembers, too. While the services are complimentary, you’re responsible for paying for any services booked or purchases made on your behalf (don’t worry, the concierge will always ask for approval first). The service can come in helpful for things like getting tickets to shows or making reservations at exclusive restaurants.

Bottom line

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a high annual fee of $550, but the value of the card’s annual benefits more than outweighs the fee. That’s especially true the first year, when you can earn welcome points.

Click here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy

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