American Express (AXP) continues to keep the credit card rewards battle interesting, unveiling new perks that could draw customers away from competitors.
On Thursday Amex announced that the sign-up bonus for its Platinum card would increase from 40,000 points to 60,000 points, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. The new offer is certainly enticing, but comes with a catch — customers must use their card to make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months. That’s up from the previous required spend of $3,000.
So the question on consumers’ minds (especially those comparing the Platinum to the Chase Sapphire Reserve) is: Do the extra bonus points justify the increased initial spend?
In terms of travel, 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points are worth $400 on airfare, and $280 on hotels, cruises and vacations. On the other hand, 60,000 points are worth $600 toward flights, and $420 on hotels, cruises and vacations. Based solely on the sign-up bonus points, spending an additional $2,000 in three months for an extra $200 towards a plane ticket doesn’t really add up.
In comparison, the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, which has been setting the bar for consumers focused on rewards, gives users 50,000 rewards points after spending $4,000 in three months. Those points are worth about $750 on travel when it’s booked through Chase. The Reserve card previously had a sign-up bonus of 100,000, but Chase slashed that number in March – Amex’s announcement might be an attempt to lure customers over to its luxury reward card.
Extra Amex benefits: Uber credits, TSA Precheck, free wi-fi
Applying for the Platinum card based solely on bonus points probably isn’t the best strategy. But if you take advantage of the other perks, it could help justify the required $5,000 spend and the $550 annual fee that the card carries (Amex raised the fee from $450 in March).
Amex Platinum card members can take a free $15 Uber ride every month, with a $20 bonus in December. This adds up to $200 a year in free Uber rides and reportedly includes UberEats as well. The card also comes with a $200 annual airline credit that cardholders can use to pay for fees associated with checking a bag or buying an inflight meal on any airline.
Even more, the Platinum provides users with a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, complimentary wi-fi via Boingo, and 5 points for every dollar spent on flights or hotels booked through Amex travel or directly on the airline’s website.
It should be noted that the Chase Sapphire Reserve has similar perks, including a $300 annual travel credit, $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, complimentary access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide, and 3 points for every $1 spent when you use your card for purchases in the travel or dining category.
If you go beyond travel, the Platinum card gets the upperhand when it comes to entertainment. American Express is constantly offering pre-sale tickets to special events, sports and concerts (like “Hamilton” and Billy Joel), allowing cardholders to get access before everyone else. The card even provides preferred seating so that you can snag the most sought after spots in the venue.
That said, if travel is your main focus, we’d give the gold medal to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Users earn similar rewards, the annual fee of $450 is cheaper, and cardholders get more free travel for a smaller required spend.
Analysts at Barclays came to a similar conclusion. In a new note they say that even with the added bonus, the Amex Platinum still lags the Chase Sapphire Reserve card when it comes to overall value for cardholders. “The Amex Platinum card is still at a 14% discount of total value to the Citi Prestige and a 27% discount of total value to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.” Meaning: the Amex Platinum lifetime value equals $5,800. This lags far behind the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which Barclays estimates will generate $7,955 over a lifetime.