U.S. Markets closed

For travelers, The Platinum Card from American Express is worth the hype

Danny Nelson, Reviewed
The Platinum Card from American Express can get you access to airport lounges around the world, like this American Express Centurion Lounge at Hong Kong international airport.

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you sign up for a credit card after clicking one of our links, we may earn a small fee for referring you. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY's newsroom and any business incentives.

Travelers swear by the perks; newcomers balk at the fees; airport lounges are filled with the users. Say what you will about The Platinum Card® from American Express but one thing is clear: it’s one of the premier travel cards on the market — and it has been for years.

The American Express Platinum’s chart-busting $550 annual fee is, in its unbelievable largess, the key to proverbial “travel perk city.” It literally unlocks the door to travel experiences found almost nowhere else. Access to a growing network of luxe Centurion airport lounges and a direct line to the all-powerful American Express concierge desk are just two of these top-line perks.

And there’s one major attribute that makes this card unique amongst other travel credit cards. It’s not, technically, a credit card at all: It does not extend you a loan that you can pay off—at interest (and unwisely)—over time. Instead, the Platinum is a "charge" card, which means you'll need to pay off you statement balance, in full, every month.

Learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express

Everything you need to know about the American Express Platinum

The Platinum Card from American Express
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Points: 5x points on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amextravel and on prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
  • Perks: Lounge access, airline credits, many, many more
  • Welcome bonus: Variable, expect around 60k

Who should get the Amex Platinum?

You’ll need an excellent credit score (700 at minimum), and a strong history of responsible spending to qualify for the American Express Platinum card. This is more important than you might think.

Remember, the Platinum is a “charge” card. Functionally, that means you are responsible for paying off the sum of your balance every month. That’s part of the cardholder agreement.

What kind of points can you get with the Amex Platinum?

Platinum cardholders are almost always heavy travelers, and their favorite card’s weighty—and selective—points bonuses reflect that fact alone. You earn 5 points for every dollar you spend booking flights directly with the airline or through American Express travel, 5 points for every dollar you spend booking prepaid hotels through amextravel.com, and 1 point for every dollar you spend on anything else. These valuable “membership rewards” points can easily credit your next vacation.

American Express places some restrictions to your earnings availability. You’ll need to book your hotel reservation through their online travel portal and your flights either direct with the airline or on Amex’s site. Discount travel sites may show you better rates, but they will not get you the all-important 5-times-the-points that makes Platinum so valuable.

Your best bet comes as a new cardholder, where American Express’ 60,000 point bonus is a trampoline into near-immediate points riches. You can get those Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in purchases over your first three months. A hefty sum to be sure, but a big reward from one of the most powerful travel cards on the market. They’re easy to redeem via the Amex travel portal and will likely be more than enough for a round-trip airfare somewhere swanky.

More: Learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express

What kind of perks can you get with the Amex Platinum?

Prepare to rethink nearly everything you thought you knew about flying. The Amex Platinum has that kind of swagger—I know from experience.

Let’s walk through my average Thanksgiving week excursion through my home airport, Philadelphia International, before Platinum: I catch a pricy Uber to the arrivals terminal early to compensate for expected security delays; the check-in agent sights, charges, and checks my “oversize carry-on” for $50 unnecessary dollars; I slog through 30-45 wending minutes of TSA security harassment, only to repeat the process because I neglected to remove my laptop from my backpack; hunger forces a desperation buy from the greasy pretzel stand; I fail to find a seat by the gate; I order an overpriced bloody mary on the plane. By some miracle of miracles the airline never once lost my bag.

I did this trip 100 times. I can’t say I hated it; I thought the pain was necessary. It wasn’t. Here’s my same trip after platinum perks:

  • I pay part of my rideshare charge with Platinum’s $15-a-month Uber credit
  • I check my bag and know that the the annual $200 “airport incidentals” credit will cover any associated fee
  • I skip the regular security line, and keep my laptop hidden, by enrolling in TSA PreCheck with my PreCheck Credit
  • I find a comfortable seat in Terminal A’s Centurion Lounge, where I order a drink and peruse through the buffet free of charge.
  • I put my 5x points towards booking my next flight

This is just the tip of the platinum perk iceberg. It is a must-have, especially for international travelers who can benefit from the Global Entry credit that makes passing through any American port-of-entry an absolute breeze.

International travelers will make the most of Platinum’s included Priority Pass membership. Nearly all major foreign airports have at least one Priority Pass-eligible lounge; there’s 1,200 of them globally. I saw the best South East Asia had to offer during a recent month-long jetset around the region. Here’s what I learned: Though some Priority Pass lounges are more luxurious than others, their free food, drink and seating area is always better than waiting by the gate. Amex Platinum also gets you through the door at Delta SkyClub — but only when you’re flying Delta.

Terrestrial travelers get a sizable slice of the perkage, too. Supercharged hotel stays (instant Hilton Honors Gold status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status) discount premier lodging ($550 in annual benefits at select Fine Hotels and Resorts) excellent car rental coverage and a 24/7 concierge are all great upsides. The concierge service can be particularly potent. I’ve used this underappreciated booking wizard to get reservations at some of the world’s finest restaurants on very short notice.

Special things to know about the Amex Platinum:

New American Express Platinum cards are made of metal. Some people love that feature, now common among premier cards like Chase Sapphire and Apple’s new card. But I hate this unnecessary “perk” with a passion — it makes wallets heavier and garners inquisitive looks from every cashier one meets. I still have the old plastic version and am dreading the day I’ll need to turn it in.

What drawbacks does the Amex Platinum have?

Remember: American Express Platinum is not a credit card. It’s a charge card. Stay away if you have any qualms whatsoever about paying your balance on time and every time. The consequences are serious. Amex strips ALL your membership rewards points from that billing period as a punishment for your truancy. You can pay off the $39 late fee but you can’t get those valuable points back from the abyss.

How does the Amex Platinum rank in our ratings?

We’ve called this one of the best international travel cards, and a great pick for cruises.

So should you get the Amex Platinum Card?

Travelers: Yes. Absolutely. American Express Platinum’s valuable perks enhance every aspect of the travel experience, saving you money, getting you deals, and opening up doors you didn’t even know existed. The top-line annual fee pays for itself surprisingly fast.

Non-travelers: No. Absolutely not. This is a $550 unnecessary metal paperweight. You will not make the most of the perks and will not earn enough bonus points to make it even somewhat worth your while.

Learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express

When you sign up for one of these cards, Reviewed may receive an affiliate commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network.

Please note: the offers mentioned above are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.

Other Top Credit Card Options

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest, deals, product reviews, and more.

This article originally appeared on Reviewed.com: Why the Amex Platinum benefits are worth the hype: Reviewed