With the American Express Platinum Card, you can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards bonus points just for signing up for the card and meeting the $5,000 minimum spending requirement in the first three months. There is a hefty $550 annual fee, but a $200 airline travel credit effectively brings that number down to $350. If you use Uber on a monthly basis, the $200 Uber credit can further reduce that annual fee to just $150. The value of the sign-up bonus will vary greatly depending on which redemption options you choose. Today, I’m going to tell you how I used my sign-up bonus, how much value I got out of the sign-up bonus, and why I kept the card at the one year mark.
Evaluating Value Ground Rules
When evaluating value, I only include the sign-up bonus, the amount of points earned from the minimum spending requirement, and any additional benefits or bonus points earned through perks exclusive to the Membership Rewards program. Everyone’s spending habits are different so I don’t want to confuse the issue with all Membership Rewards points I’ve ever earned.
I signed up for this card in April 2017 right before the annual fee changed to $550. Instead, I received a sign-up bonus of only 40,000 Membership Rewards for spending $3000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee for my first year was only $450. This means that after hitting the $3,000 minimum spending requirement, I had at least 43,000 Membership Rewards bonus points.
American Express has a great program called Amex Offers. It’s generally available on all American Express cards, but, in my experience, American Express Platinum has the best deals. During my first year with the American Express Platinum, I took advantage of three separate Amex offers which earned me an additional 11,500 bonus points. I simply added the offers to my card and made purchases with Amazon, AT&T, and Hilton Hotels. These were all purchases that I would have made anyway. So for purposes of this evaluation, I had a total of 54,500 Membership Rewards bonus points.
How I Used My Membership Rewards Bonus Points
I used my Membership Rewards bonus points by transferring points to British Airways Executive Club, Hilton Honors, and Virgin America Elevate. Virgin America has since merged with Alaska Airlines so they are no longer a Membership Rewards transfer partner. While you can also redeem Membership Rewards through the Amex Travel portal, the redemption rate is significantly lower than what you can achieve by transferring points to a travel partner as you can see from my experience below.
How Much Value I Got From My Membership Rewards Points
Free Travel to Orlando
First, I transferred 22,000 Membership Rewards points to Virgin America for our 2017 flight to Orlando before our Caribbean Cruise on Oasis of the Seas. At the time, the transfer ratio was a measly 1:½ so those Membership Rewards points became 11,000 Virgin America Elevate points. However, since Virgin America and Alaska Air were in the process of merging, I was able to then transfer those points to Alaska Air at a ratio of 1:1.3. So, those 22,000 Membership Rewards points ultimately became 14,300 Mileage Plan miles. Now that might sound crazy, but I had a specific reason to devalue my points in this manner: business class seats from LAX to MCO. I booked two business class seats on Virgin America for just 50,000 Mileage Plan miles each round-trip! Based on the cost of the flight, those Mileage Plan miles were redeemed for $372. That means I redeemed those Membership Rewards for 1.69 cents each.
Free Travel to Hawaii
Second, I transferred 9,500 Membership Rewards points to British Airways for my 2018 trip to the Big Island of Hawaii and Kona. I was a few points shy of the 75,000 British Airways Avios needed to book three round-trip tickets to Hawaii from California. At the time, Membership Rewards had a 40% bonus on transfers to British Airways. Those 9,500 Membership Rewards became 13,300 Avios. Based on the cost of the flight, those Avios were redeemed for about $320. That means I redeemed those Membership Rewards for 3.37 cents each!
Finally, I transferred 23,000 Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors to book the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii. Membership Rewards recently increased the transfer ratio to Hilton Honors to 1:2. This change appears to be permanent. I combined those points with the Hilton Honors points earned from the American Express Hilton Honors Ascend card to book five nights with points. Using the fifth night free deal, I only paid points for four nights. Those 23,000 Membership Rewards points became 46,000 Hilton Honors Points. I redeemed those Hilton Honors points for $345. That means the redemption value of my Membership Rewards points was 1.5 cents.
I also utilized the $85 TSA Precheck reimbursement my first year and the $200 airline fee credit for both 2017 and 2018. I don’t use Uber very often which means that I miss out on the Uber credit since it’s distributed on a monthly basis over the course of the year. However, I managed to save $85 with Uber credits in 2017 and $30 so far in 2018. And, I saved another $105 in statement credits from Amex Offers for purchases with 1800Flowers, Amazon, Etsy, and Undercover Tourist.
|Flight LAX to KOA||+320|
|Hilton Waikoloa Village||+345|
|Flight LAX to MCO||+372|
|Travel Credit 2017||+200|
|Uber Credit 2017||+85|
|Travel Credit 2018||+200|
|Uber Credit 2018||+30|
When you add all that up, I got about $1300 value out of American Express despite the high annual fee! The average value of my Membership Rewards bonus points was about 1.9 cents ($1037÷54500MR) when redeemed through transfer partners.
Why I Kept American Express Platinum after the First Year
I kept the American Express Platinum card for a second year because of a retention offer. I checked for retention offers about three months before my annual fee was due. Initially, they offered $300 to keep the card for another year. That would have significantly offset the annual fee, but then I asked if they had any offers that involved Membership Rewards bonus points. Sure enough, they offered 30,000 Membership Rewards bonus points to keep the card for another year.
The American Express retention line can be reached at (800) 452-3945. Before calling, check this FlyerTalk tread for more data points on retention offers.
If last year is any indication, I’ll be able to redeem those points for at least 1.9 cents or $570 in free travel. To me, that’s a much better deal than $300 and it completely offsets the annual fee. The American Express Platinum Card has a lot of other great perks like lounge access and status with hotels and rental car agencies that I’ve enjoyed throughout the year. As you can see, the American Express Platinum Card has more than earned its spot on my list of Best Travel Credit Cards.