First off, I am NOT connected to American Express and don’t make money from bragging about their benefits. I’ve had a card with Amex since 1989. Yes, they charge an annual fee and yes, not everyone takes their cards, but I have learned how to maximize using it to my advantage. If you don’t travel, this card may not suit you. If you have a business and can use your card to purchase items, you can build points faster and use them for FREE flights on many major airlines, which I think is still the best trade off for points.
Here’s the list of benefits for the card and how I maximize the services and points I build:
#1 – FREE enrollment into Starwood Gold, which gives you upgrades and late check-out (if available). I have received an upgrade every time I’ve stayed in a Starwood Hotel. The website is easy to use and keeps track of your point there, which you earn IN ADDITION to Amex points. This is called “double dipping”. You can use your Starwood points for future hotel stays or convert them to airline miles. Nice to have flexibility.
#2 – FREE enrollment in several car rental agencies. I use Hertz, but National and a few others are available. Enroll in them all and when you rent a car, choose and then stick with your favorite. With Hertz Gold, you get slightly better rates and sometimes they’re cheaper then Enterprise!!! It’s still best to shop around, but I seem to get the best rates from Hertz. Again, you’ll earn points for Hertz AND Amex. Another “double dip”. One perk I really love is never having to stop at the counter. When you reserve with Hertz, you go to the board (usually outside the office or near where the cars are parked, which varies from location to location). The board will have you name on it and the space the car is parked in. When you go to that space, your car will be waiting, usually with the trunk opened, the key in the door, and your paperwork hanging from the mirror. That’s IT!
#3 – FREE Global Entry Card. This is especially helpful when you return to the U.S. after a trip outside the country. It works like this: you have to apply online (Amex sends the details), you pay the $100 fee (Amex automatically reverses the charge), you go somewhere (in San Francisco, I had to go to the airport), you get your photo and fingerprints taken, the card is mailed to you a few weeks later. When you travel outside the US, you can “flash” your card and will be able to use the Pre-Check line at the TSA station. That means you don’t have to take off your shoes, belt or anything. You do need to pull out your cell phone, but that’s about it. You still have to abide by the 3 ounce fluids rule, but they trust you won’t lie (and they still X-ray your bag, so don’t cheat). When you return to the U.S., you won’t need to get into the long line for Customs. You go off to the side where there are usually two machines you will use to insert your passport and your global entry card. You’ll give the machine your fingerprints and the machine will print out an “OK” slip that you show to the customs guard as you leave. It’s a great service. Usually, we’re the only ones going to the machines, but I’m sure more and more people will start using this card as word gets out. If you prefer, you can have TSA Pre instead, but I think the Global Entry is better because of the U.S. Customs feature, but it depends on your travel habits and needs..
#4 – FREE $200 airline credit. You can purchase up to $200 per year on one airline you choose. Use it for food and drinks at the Delta Sky Clubs, Airspace Lounges and Centurion Lounges (the best, but not available at too many locations … yet). You can enroll in Priority PassTM Select at no additional cost. These programs provide you access to over 700 domestic and international airport lounges. I’ve found that Delta is OK, and I don’t know about Airspace, but Centurion is the best … exhibition cooking, amazing wine collection, a full bar and more … all free. Every year you can elect one airline and use up to $200 in that year for incidentals, such as baggage fees, food or drinks on that airline. It can also be used to get access to a lounge that isn’t the one you chose. For example. I fly on Virgin America a lot, but in San Francisco, they don’t have a club … yet. I elected American for my annual $200 allowance, because American has a lounge in the same terminal. Normally, they charge $50, so I can use it 4 times a year and Amex picks up the tab. That said, now Amex opened a Centurion Lounge in United’s terminal, which is one terminal away from Virgin, so I go there early, hang out, then go check in at Virgin using my Global Entry card for a little faster access through TSA. It’s a little trick that works for me.
#5 – FREE unlimited Boingo Wi–Fi at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide.
#6 – FREE membership in Regus to get access to the lounge area of hundreds of business centers worlwide. I use these to go catch up on work, or planning more trips. There’s always free wifi and modest services, like coffee or tea. These business centers are also available to rent for meetings.
#7- Dispute handling is another big benefit. Have you every purchased something and it turned out to be bait and switch or a charge you didn’t make? American Express has an entire department to help handle whatever you need. My partner accidentally left a hard drive of photos on a train in France. American Express concierge went to work and had a French speaking agent call both ends of the train route to help find the drive. They will also make reservations for travel, restaurants, events and more. They will send gifts, flowers and most anything to someone yu love or a business colleague. The list goes on. I wanted to find the best language learning system and they researched it for me.
#8 – Priority Pass. Priority Pass Select Members have access to over 850 airport lounges around the world. If you’re flying first or business class, you won’t need this card, but if not, you can use it to get into most any airline lounge for FREE. United Airlines doesn’t participate, for some crazy reason, but there are many, many others that work just fine. Check the website for lounges you might use.
In addition to all of these services offered by the American Express Platinum Card, there are discounts and extra points for limousine, private jet and other services. They also have concierge services, global assist, and more. It’s best to go to the website for details. I’ve listed the ones I like and use frequently to save money and make my life easier. You may have other preferences, and it’s certainly worth looking at other cards, if the fee of $450 doesn’t pan out for you. For me, I reap the benefits of a lot more than I pay, so I think it’s well worth it’s cost.
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