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The pandemic has brought a lot of changes to the credit card landscape, and one positive has been a reprieve from the annual fee increases we’ve seen on premium credit cards in years past.
But now that travel and consumer spending are turning around, we’re seeing huge credit card welcome bonuses make a comeback — and inevitably, annual fee increases have returned, too.
Effective immediately, new applicants for The Platinum Card® from American Express will be charged an annual fee of $695. That’s a $145 jump above the previous $550 fee, and it’s sure to give prospective cardholders pause if they’re considering opening the card.
Read more: The best American Express cards in 2021
The news isn’t all bad, though. Along with a higher annual fee, The Platinum Card® from American Express is adding substantial new benefits that could offset the fee increase and then some — if you can use them. These include new travel and merchant statement credits, which are in addition to existing perks like annual airline incidental fee credits and monthly Uber Cash credits**.
And there’s a new, increased welcome offer to factor in, too: 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership.
If you already have the card, you can breathe easy — for now. Cardholders who opened the Platinum Card before July 1, 2021, won’t see an annual fee increase until their next renewal after January 1, 2022. That means those of us who have renewal dates before the end of the year will still get charged the lower $550 annual fee one last time.
Here’s everything you need to know about these updates to the Amex Platinum.
Major Amex Platinum changes
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100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership
As of July 1, 2021, all new Platinum Card members will be charged the increased $695 annual fee. Only a handful of cards (mostly invitation-only products, like the Amex Centurion card) charge annual fees that are higher.
Read more: Annual fees aren’t always worth it, but with these 5 cards the benefits are worth more than what you’ll pay each year
Keep in mind this isn’t the first annual fee increase we’ve seen on the card in recent years. In early 2017, there was another shakeup when Amex introduced up to $200 in annual Uber Cash credits as a benefit — and bounced the annual fee from $450 to $550 at the same time.
The new annual fee will make it harder to justify opening the card, especially if you’re concerned about the upfront cost. However, if you can make the most of the Platinum Card’s elevated bonus and additional perks, you could still come out ahead.
For the first year, you can certainly squeeze much more than the fee cost from the increased welcome bonus — 100,000 points are alone worth up to $1,800 based on Insider’s valuation of 1.8 cents per point. And if you were to max out the 10x bonus categories in the first six months, you could snag an additional 250,000 points — potentially worth another $4,500 depending on how you redeem your Amex Membership Rewards.
Read more: The best credit cards with welcome offers of 100,000 points or more
Beyond the first-year bonus, you’ll have to decide if the Platinum Card’s existing and new benefits are enough to make keeping the card worthwhile.
Also effective July 1, all Platinum Card cardholders will have access to new benefits — even those of us who already have the card and won’t pay an increased annual fee until 2022. This actually makes the card much more lucrative for existing members, and affords an opportunity to try out the new perks for at least six months without facing an annual fee bump.
Up to $200 hotel credit
Cardholders will get up to $200 in credit each calendar year toward prepaid bookings at Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts or Hotel Collection properties when they book with their card through Amex Travel.
Read more: I pay hundreds of dollars a year for my Amex Platinum and I’m always excited to take advantage of one of its coolest perks
Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings include perks such as free breakfast, guaranteed late checkout, room upgrades and early check-in when available, and a welcome amenity or credit unique to each property. If you would have otherwise paid cash for a luxury hotel stay, this perk can effectively shave $200 off your annual fee cost.
Bookings with The Hotel Collection must be for a minimum of two nights, and include benefits like room upgrades and a $100 on-property credit.
$179 CLEAR credit
CLEAR is an expedited security screening program that can save you time waiting in long lines at select US airports and stadiums. A CLEAR membership normally costs $179 per year, but if you pay with your Platinum Card, you’ll receive a credit to offset that cost.
Read more: TSA Precheck isn’t worth your money — and there’s a better alternative few people consider
When you have a CLEAR membership, you can jump to the front of the security line, but — unlike TSA PreCheck members —you’ll still have to remove items like your laptop and shoes before getting screened. CLEAR isn’t a government program so the application requirements are much less stringent than those of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
The downside is that CLEAR screening is only in select locations, so if the airports you travel through don’t participate, this benefit is of little use to you. However, the program is also available at a handful of stadiums, so if you’re a sports fan who likes to attend live games, this could end up being a good deal.
Up to $240 digital entertainment credit
According to Amex, 78% of Platinum Card cardholders took advantage of limited-time statement credits for streaming services that were offered during the height of the pandemic in 2020. These new digital entertainment credits are permanent, and are awarded in chunks of up to $20 per month (maximum $240 per year)**. Enrollment is required before you can use this perk.
Read more: The best credit cards for streaming services in 2021
However, the list of eligible digital subscription services is quite short:
Depending on if these are subscriptions you already have (or would be likely to use), this credit might not make a difference for you. Amex says cardholders will also have access to exclusive experiences from these partners.
Up to $300 Equinox credit
Cardholders can receive up to $300 annually (up to $25 per month) in credits toward Equinox gym memberships or digital subscriptions to on-demand fitness classes through the Equinox+ app**. Enrollment is also required to activate this benefit.
Equinox is a chain of high-end fitness clubs that are mostly located in large US cities. The company’s website lists 106 locations, 40 of which are in Manhattan, and the rest are sprinkled around places like Chicago, Miami, London, and Washington, DC.
Read more: If you have a Chase Sapphire card, you can get up to $120 in statement credits for fitness classes with Peloton
Again, if this is something you’d pay for anyway, these credits could amount to a nice little discount — but keep in mind that Equinox memberships are not cheap. For example, with a 12-month commitment, you’d pay $240 per month for membership at the Rockefeller Center location, and $275 per month if you want access to all US clubs.
Expanded airport lounge access
The Platinum Card® from American Express already offers the best airport lounge access of any mainstream credit card, and Amex is adding even more options for cardholders by expanding its Global Lounge Collection.
Read more: The best credit cards for airport lounge access
This includes updates and rebranding of Escape Lounges in the US to “Escape Lounges — The Centurion Studio Partner” — complete with premium bar and snack selections. American Express International Lounge locations will be converted to Centurion Lounges, and cardholders will also have access to select Lufthansa lounges around the world.
There’s also an official update to the Centurion Lounges’ guest policy. Currently, cardholders are allowed two guests at no charge, but starting February 21, 2023, each guest will cost $50 ($30 for children aged 2 to 17). However, if you spend $75,000 or more on your card each year (starting in 2022), the fee will be waived for up to two guests.
Premium Private Jet access
Cardholders are now eligible for up to 40% off a Premium Private Jet Program membership with Wheels Up, a private jet charter company. You can also get up to $2,000 in initial year flight credits toward private charters. This won’t be a practical benefit for most folks, but one can dream!
Exclusive Global Dining Access by Resy
If you’re a foodie and enjoy dining at high-end establishments, the Platinum Card offers exclusive reservations at some of the world’s most coveted restaurants. Amex says Resy will also offer cardholders access to premium events and other perks.
Existing benefits aren’t going away
The Platinum Card® from American Express is keeping all of its current benefits, so if you’re thinking of opening the card (or already have it) you can still include these when you’re deciding if the annual fee is worth it for you.
- Up to $200 annual airline incidental fee credit: Every calendar year, the Platinum Card offers up to a $200 credit toward incidental fees on one airline of your choice.
- Up to $200 per year in Uber Cash credits: This credit is broken into 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.
- Up to $100 in Saks credits each year**: Cardholders receive up to $50 in statement credits when they use the card to make a Saks purchase from January to June, and up to $50 again from July through December.
- Elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy**: After enrollment, cardholders receive complimentary Gold elite status with Hilton and Marriott for as long as their card is open.
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit: When you use your card to pay for your application fee, you’ll receive a $100 credit (Global Entry) or $85 credit (TSA PreCheck) to cover the cost, every four years.
- Travel and shopping protections: Benefits like cell phone protection, car rental insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and extended warranty remain unchanged.
Read more: The Amex Platinum has a long list of benefits, but 6 of them are especially easy to maximize
Nobody likes annual fee increases, and the new $695 fee on the Platinum Card will be tough to swallow for a lot of people.
If you’re considering opening the card, the welcome offer has the potential to boost your Membership Rewards balance by a whopping 350,000 points if you spend the maximum allowed for the 10x bonus. Those 350,000 points are worth $6,300 based on Insider’s points and miles valuations — and potentially more if you transfer them to Amex’s airline and hotel partners and book high-value award travel. This alone could make the new fee worth it for the first year if you can maximize the bonus.
Spending nearly $700 a year for a credit card might sound like too much, but if the new (and existing) benefits line up with your spending and travel habits, it should be easy to get a value that well exceeds the annual cost.