Platinum Card Finally Gets Me

53 Comments

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I don’t spend much time juggling frequent flyer miles. Nor do I squander hours making pennies on the dollar with point schemes or signing up for the latest special-offer credit cards. I have four credit cards (two personal, two business) for separating expenses, and I have used an AMEX gold card since 2003 for most purchases because: 1) Their customer service has handled disputes and fraud within 24 hours with zero paperwork, and 2) I’ve never had issues using it in more than 20 countries.

AMEX has also been outstanding at sending me at least 3 pieces of mail a week since 2003. Most of it has been offers to upgrade to the Platinum Card, which, at around $200 per year at that time, made no sense to me. The benefits included things I would never use, like getting a free companion ticket if I bought a full-fare business/1st-class ticket (about $2,000-4,000 on the tickets I checked). Personally, I’d rather get a $200 roundtrip on Orbitz.

That said, and for all my smack talking, I just signed up for the Platinum. What?!

Unknown to most people, the Platinum card benefits have just been changed for the first time in close to 10 years. Here are the two new features that sealed the deal for me and how I’ll leverage them for more fun and profit:

1. Four free domestic companion flights per year on flights over $299

[UPDATE: This benefit has since been canceled. Why? My guess is that they never planned to continue it past one year or so. It would just be a loss-leading benefit for a brief time to get sign-ups and new members. Just an educated guess.]

Since I live in CA but travel a lot to NYC, I can get four free tickets for friends who want to come with me to NYC on the same itinerary. I can also barter these tickets or trade them on Craigslist, which gives me an automatic ROI of at least $1,200 on the $300 first year annual fee. If I fly to Hawaii from San Francisco, which I plan to do soon to train with BJ Penn, and barter the extra ticket – even at a 30% discount on the “retail prices“- the ROI will cover my expense while there.

2. Free access to over 950 work and meeting spaces around the world

Coffee shops can get old fast. More that once (especially in Buenos Aires and Paris), I’ve wanted to dropkick the smoker who refuses to go outside and DDT the kid with the iPod on 1,000 decibels. If you really want to see me lose it, surround me with a gaggle of gum-chewing girls on their cell phones. The Platinum Card gives me an alternative to going postal — a remote office to use, complete with gourmet coffee, broadband, printing, and conference rooms. The alternative use that interests me — mostly for fun and pranks — is getting a mailing address and receptionist in primo locations and then having the mail and calls forwarded to wherever I actually happen to be. Want an office on Wall Street or Champs-Elysees in Paris? Next time an investment banker rolls their eyes when you say you’re an entrepreneur, you can casually mention at the end: “Nice meeting you. Next time you’re in London or Paris, give me a call. We should do lunch near one of my offices. Gotta run to the theatre/beach/museum [make sure it’s around 2pm in the afternoon], but keep in touch!” Ah, the precious moments ;)

More to come as I figure out even better methods for squeezing the most out of this card, my first new one in 3 years. If you have any good ideas, let me know.

Posted on: March 8, 2007.

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53 comments on “Platinum Card Finally Gets Me

  1. I wouldn’t mind a Ducati Monster and a new jiu-jitsu gi (uniform) to start with. Greece is also on the to-do list, and I should be headed that direction for a catamaran trip in August. AMEX points should pay for the airfare, at the least.

    Like

  2. The real bonus is cashback 1-3% depending on your spend and the deal you get. Amex Platinum everything – get paid. Pay in 30-45 days, all the while your cash is earning you money elsewhere. Figures out as up to 10% spread on your monthly cash :)

    Nice site, thanks for all the tips!

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  3. Div, smart you are. I didn’t mention it, but it’s most true that — with sufficient spend (about $20,000-30,000 per year, unless I’m mistaken) — the annual fee is completely paid for with either point purchases or cash back. This figure might seem like a mountain at first, but it really isn’t if you move all of your expenses to AMEX.

    Great point.

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  4. I just found your blog and am enjoying it already. I have been looking at Amex for over a year now and have a few questions. Is the use of airline clubs still included? My second question is in comparison to the black titanium Amex. My friend has one and explained to me that anytime he flies he can purchase a coach ticket and be upgraded to business or first class. Does the platinum card have any perks like that?
    Thanks in advance,
    Jeb

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  5. Hi Jeb,

    Good questions. My understanding is that, among other things:

    -Airline clubs are included. Considering you might have to otherwise spend $9.95 per airport for Tmobile wireless, the savings and free coffee adds up
    -Complimentary or discounted seat upgrades are available for card members when seats are available (as are late check-outs at hotels, which is a lifesaver for us nightowls)

    I believe that the “black titanium” you refer to is the famous Centurion card (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centurion_Card). If you watch Casino Royale, you will notice that he uses a black card to check in. This is rumored to be a product placement for Centurion. These cards will get you MUCH more than platinum, including personal shoppers at Saks Fifth Avenue, but the catch is that you need to spend $250,000 per year on another AMEX card to be invited to apply. Happy spending!

    For mere sub-$250,000/year spenders, the Platinum Card is, in my opinion, worth it just for the concierge: http://www133.americanexpress.com/osbn/landing/BusinessPlatinum/BPCR001_Home.asp

    Hope that helps,

    Tim

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  6. Yeah, unfortunately, AMEX sux when it comes to ubiquity of acceptance. As a traveler who’s been to a lot more places than Buenos Aires, I gotta tell you that the howManyPlacesTheCardIsAccepted factor trumps over freeAccessToBizLounges factor every day. At the end of the day, the pedestrian Visa / MC wins every thime….

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  7. Airline Clubs are included, here’s the deal: With Platinum, you have access to the clubs of NWA, Delta, and Continental if you are flying the airline that owns the club on the day of your visit. So, if you’re flying on a Delta ticket, you cannot visit the NWA Club.

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  8. What is the policy on upgrades with the Platinum card? I heard that if there is space available in Business or First class they CAN upgrade you. Is this true? What are the requirements? I’m thinking about getting a Gold card because you can earn more points toward airline miles much faster with the Gold then the Platinum. But if you get upgraded when you fly with the Platinum it is probably worth going with Platinum.

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  9. You’re living the dream mate! Training with BJ Penn! As soon as you’re done, do a write up of how the training with “the prodigy” went.
    Cheers

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  10. Wow, my dad has a Centurion card, but I didn’t know it was THAT rare! But he once told me you can only get it when they approach YOU with the offer…

    Also he doesn’t make use of ANY of the special services, it’s merely like a “pimped” Gold-Card for him… :P

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  11. each of my credit cards are with a different airlines so that all of my charges are adding more frequent flyer miles too. love using my FF miles to delightful adventures all around the world.

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  12. Well… This makes probably the tenth time I visited your site – first for the Geek to Freak entries, then for FHWW stuff (brilliant book, very inspiring, thanks! and congrats on best-seller-dom! [I knew you would do it.]). I saw this entry and had been on the fence about Platinum for a while but now am going to go for it. Thanks!

    Also, would love to add you on LinkedIn.

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  13. I have had a lot of customers with the Black card. It used to be a rumor and available to a mere couple thousand customers worldwide, but the doors quickly opened and while way out of my reach, did lose some cache. I did have one customer buy a Maserati with it though which was pretty pimp. The cards are metal, thick, and heavy too which is kind of cool. They don’t give you 3% back like on my good old Chase Rewards card (which let me tell you, does NOT impress the ladies, but thats ok, I have my hands full with the two I have now – my gf and my daughter).

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  14. So, what are the “exclusive rates” that are charged for this office space and mail address? The link about the office space mentions the rate, but doesn’t tell you what it is.

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  15. Just checked these out – sounds good – the benefits look the same for both the Platinum Personal and the Platinum Small Business – but the websites show the fee much higher than the $200/year you are paying – they show $450 a year for Platinum Personal, and $395 a year for Platinum Small Business?

    Is there a secret to get the much better $200/year?

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  16. I’ve been using Platinum for years, I love the concierge service. As Tim suggests, outsourcing has its benefits! Its been invaluable when booking hotels, finding restaurants and getting in to nightclubs, everywhere from Tokyo to New York. I probably use the free concierge service up to 3 times a day.

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  17. Cote: I’m waiting for feedback also. The only thing that really interested me about the offer was the office space use (I’ve had it with cafes also). I haven’t seen any comments on experiences with that however.

    Also, AMEX appears to partner with regus, which charges additional office use fees. Looked to good to be true, and it appears that may be the case.

    -Devin

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  18. In regards to Regus, I just sign for their Virtual Office plan and an add-on for admin. help (phones). Not bad for $150/mo. You get your phones answered, business address and the, “Sorry, he is in a meeting” treatment for uninvited guest. That alone is worth the price for me. Their tag is, “750 Locations, 350 Cities, 60 Countries, One Call.â€?

    The only part that does not work is your company name isn’t listed in the lobby of your “home� location unless you pay an extra $20/mo. Otherwise a cardboard file box with personal office furnishings, namely, pictures of the dog, laptop, books and you’re in business.

    I did not realize they had an agreement with AMEX. Sales guy did not bring that up, shame on me, for not squeezing another deal. I am going down tomorrow to demand a refund after I pick up magnetic name plate.

    I will say that their staff is good at maintaining the façade that you actually work there, and that the staff at my “home� office remembers me on the rare occasion that I show up, or at least they pretend to.

    Regards, Eric..

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  19. The Platinum Travel Service is great! I used to use Travelocity, Orbitz, airline websites and hotel websites to book travel. It took tons of time. Now I just call Platinum travel, they book my travel, they find the best rates, they put together an itinerary and they just email me everything when they’re finished and charge it to my card. In fact, I’ve been enjoying lower rates since I started using PTS because they have access to special programs like Platinum Fine Hotels and Resorts Program.

    Also, just in case anyone wanted to know they just added American Airlines Admirals Club. Since I only fly Singapore, BA, United and American the others were of now help before. Now I can cancel my AA Admirals Club membership and save another $300 a year. Now only if they got United to agree to add the Red Carpet Club to their program, I would be all set.

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  20. Where do you train BJJ when you are in NY? If you ever make it north of the city (about 40 minutes) let me know. We have an academy in Thornwood and would love to have you in.

    Neil

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  21. After reading 4HWW and having been a AMEX Gold Card holder for years I decided to upgrade to the Platinum. The problem is – I did not know wether Personal Platinum or Business Platinum was better. I know the Platinum Office is only a benefit of the Business Platinum. Also the Business Card is less the the Personal Card. Is there any reason to choose Business over Personal (I checked with AMEX – you DON’T have to actually own a Business to get the BC, they just assume you are a Sole Prop)?? For the holders of both out there which do you recommend?

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  22. Ooops – In the above question I meant to ask if there is any reason to choose the Personal Plat over the Business since it’s cheaper and you seem to get more benefits? Thanks.

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  23. Tim, you’ve convinced me to get the Platinum card. Regus remote office is what’s most important to me.

    A couple of clarifications. For the 2 for 1 flying special, the card holder has to be one of the passengers, so the only thing you’d be able to trade on Craig’s list would be for someone to tag along on a flight with you (and the same return). And you are still responsible for all taxes and fees associated with the 2nd ticket, which can add up.

    I’ve also read on flyertalk.com that many people have had difficulty getting the company that does this (Amex outsources it) to give them decent itineraries. IE, they’re required to do the cheapest itinerary for that day, even if it means you depart at 5AM and take 4 connections. So the recommendation is if you use it, figure out the exact flight(s) you want and call them up and ask them for it directly.

    The free remote office included with the Platinum card gets you into the general business area of Regus’ offices; it does not get you a private office. That is extra, albeit at a discounted rate. Conference rooms are extra too. I do not know what the prices are, but a call to Amex Plat customer service would probably get that information for you. For me, the general area is perfectly fine. You get a desk, Internet, coffee, etc. It’s very much like the airline clubs that also come with the Platinum Card.

    Oh, speaking of Airline clubs, in addition to Delta, Continental, and Northwest, American is offered as well. I sure wish they’d add United and US Air. The only thing I’m not sure of is whether or not you can use, for example, an American club if flying a Delta ticket. Do you have to be flying that airline or any of them?

    I hope this helps everybody make a more informed decision.

    –Frekwentflier in Indy

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  24. American Express International Airline Program

    This is a misleading promotion. They claim if you have a Platinum American Express Card than you can buy 1 business class airline international ticket and receive 1 companion ticket free.

    They have a list of 18 international airlines that participate in this program. You must use one of these carriers.

    I tried to do this and found out it is a phony program.

    First I got the business fare on two of the approved airlines and I was told that you must book thru American Express Platinum Travel Services. When I called them I was told that my fares were not valid because they were not unrestricted. American Express told me that the fare for the flights I wanted would cost me more than the airline price for two Business Class tickets.

    I went back to the airlines and priced the cost of unrestricted airfare. The new higher price was $8,434.56 for Swiss Air. When I re contacted American Express they advised me that they did not have any seats in Business Class for my travel dates. There were seats available in Business class but not American Express seats.

    I went to Lufthansa and found good flights for a new higher fare of $8744.68. The flights were Lufthansa 463 connecting with Lufthansa 2954. The return was Lufthansa 2941 connecting with Lufthansa 462. This price was for unrestricted business fare. I contacted American Express again, only to be told no good, because Lufthansa flight number 2954 was a code share flight with South African Airways and not eligible.

    I tried South African Airways from Washington DC. I got a price of $8424.26. I would have to get my own airfare to and from Washington, but I would be flying only South African Airways which is American Express Approved. This fare is also unrestricted.

    Once more I was turned down by American Express. They would book me on the same flights but for a fare in excess of $13,000.00. When I questioned why, American Express said you have to use their own special prices. These fares are not even published.

    In other words you can buy one and get one free, but only at a price created by American Express and costing in some cases more than double the airline price.

    I am sure this is not only misleading, but a case of fraud.

    What do you think?

    ###

    Hi Bert,

    I agree that this is ridiculous. I’ll be experimenting with this soon, and if I have a similar experience, you can bet that it will come up on this blog for a few million eyes to see.

    Thanks!

    Tim

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  25. I came across your site (nice) while searching for information on amex’s latest ad piece for platinum. it is a beautiful magnetic close, platinum fold out about 4 by 4. different striking, and I want one for my photos! : )

    But I was moved to leave this note because I worked for the assistance company that provided all of amex’s customer service as my first job out of college. And in case you haven’t figured out these little tidbits (which they don’t advertise), they keep special tables reserved for plat members in some of the best restaurants worldwide. They will find “anything, anytime, anywhere” for you. In one such case, I was asked to find the mule on page 56 of a nieman marcus catalog because the plat member wanted to adopt it (I found it– in a small town in mexico- owner wouldn’t part). I was asked for a vial of red sea water for a school project. I created marriage proposals, birthday parties extraordinaire.

    And perhaps, of most interest for travelers out there, is their rx transfer, dr referral and evacuation services. I evacuated a gal who had been gored by a bull, one bitten by an ape, someone stabbed in a turkish hotel room, from cruise ships, etc etc etc. It has its fine print, to be sure, but it is a wonderful safety net.

    And no, I don’t work for Amex : ) This just triggered some memories.

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  26. I recommend an American Express card to everyone solely based on its ability to provide great customer service. Everyone speaks understandable English, unlike with other credit card companies, you end up saying “mmm…okay” just because you don’t understand and end “mmm…okaying” for all these different monthly services.

    I think it is fairly easy getting an American Express, as long as you have good credit (started building since 16). I ‘m currently 20 and had it since 18 and worked probably only 3 weeks out of those 2 years..tax return of like $8, so income is not significant (in my case). I had the Gold Business card for 6 months and then upgraded to the platinum afterwards. **TO CLARIFY**. The Platinum UPGRADE is $200. It is an promotional upgrade annual fee. To start off with the platinum card from “scratch”, it would be $395/bus. $450/personal. The gold personal card fee applies but the gold business card is (not sure as of now) waived for the first year. The upgrade was offered on my 6th month of having the gold business card.

    And to all small business owners/entrepreneurs, the platinum card will save you a lot of time and money. Currently in the process of starting my own s-corporation, the platinum card benefits has already paid for the card many times over.

    Hope that helps!

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  27. “-Complimentary or discounted seat upgrades are available for card members when seats are available”

    Really? Do you have a link to the description of this benefit?

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  28. I popped for Platinum after reading this post and, herewith, some comments.

    The investment has paid off (to my way of thinking at least) just for access to the airport lounges. I discovered that are are two airport lounges operated by Amex itself. One in Mexico City (which I have used) and one in Buenos Aires (which I will). These are not listed on the Amex site, BTW.

    Whatever, Bert’s experience with the BOGO on Biz Class might have been, I had a good experience using their travel services. I use ITA software (they provide the underlying software for many online booking engines) to get the best fares from multiple airports within 100 miles of my home. However, when the best fare/routing involves more than one airline, booking online can be a problem.

    I called Amex, gave them the routing and fare codes and they reproduced the fare ITA had quoted, no problem, no premium.

    As to Amex not being accepted everywhere, what’s so hard about carrying two (or more) credit cards?

    So all in all, I’m satisfied and I haven’t had the card that long.

    BTW, ITA’s fare search can be found at:

    http://matrix.itasoftware.com/cvg/dispatch

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  29. Diners Club also offer free Regus businessworld membership. But unlike Amex, Diners free access to Regus offices is available to everyone (at least for Australian cardholders) not just Platinum card holders.

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  30. Tim and everyone else,

    Just FYI, AMEX has discontinuted the 4 Free companion tickets effective 11/15/08. I believe if you are a member you can still book tickets up to that date, but after that date, the program is gone. Here’s a link to the information, when you get the homepage, click on the left and scroll down to the last benefit of Companion tickets. It’ll tell you that it’s discontinued. Too bad, I was considering it, especially with 4 kids, any ‘free’ seats my wife and I can grab saves us money. Good luck, and keep us posted on any new card deals.

    https://www143.americanexpress.com/cards/home.do?pmccode=137#CARDS/137/1/0/17

    Enjoy all your travels!!!!

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  31. Here’s a quote on the program given in the Wall Street Journal on October 20, 2008.

    “In addition, AmEx is reining in programs and perks that don’t pay off for the company. Last week, AmEx notified holders of platinum and super-exclusive Centurion cards that it is canceling a program that provided a free ticket on U.S. airlines for each full-fare ticket purchased.”

    The entire article can be found at:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122446082980748593.html?mod=yahoo_hs&ru=yahoo

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  32. I’ve got Platinum cards for age but the problem is small shops do not need to get my Platinum card because of, they said, there are more fee than another cards.

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  33. for me the biz plat card value is in the insurance policies that i have used twice before with the gold card (plat has 10X coverage), concierage and travel services (time is money), and secondarily the regus facilities and airport lounge perks (i hate airports waits unless at a airline lounge!) so forget “free” companion tickets and reward miles that only are good if you insist on first class etc or certain other restrictions and first/business class, well thats not my companies expense image! plus, i would rather save the eat/drink calories and dollars for on land destination expenses while i sleep thru a coach seat flight. the first time you “suffer” thru a long layover in a cushy airline lounge or “lose” a new camera, laptop and get a refund, then you be glad you had a platinum card.

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  34. I have used the Amex Business Platinum Card for several years now and by far the best benefit is free admission to the airline clubs of American, Delta, Northwest, and Continental. This alone is worth the card membership fee because even ad-hoc use of those lounges (I use them a lot – nearly every time I fly) would far exceed the cost of the card membership.

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  35. I recently got the AMEX Plat Business and I haven’t heard anyone talk about the savings with FedEx or the other participants…I save 20% + by using the card along with all the other perks!

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  36. Has anyone figured out a way to outsource or automate payment of recurring expenses to credit card that traditionally go directly from a bank account? This is one way it seems to accumulate some points for monthly expenses. Also- Citi Platinum has 10% back on spending in the form of Citi-cash which is good at a ton of different retailers. If you’d normally spend money there, it’s like free gift cards. The challenge is that there’s only one site i’ve found to process CC’d payment on things like cars, mortgage etc. and are limited in the vendors they work with. Anyone have this one figured out already?

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  37. This card is really only worth it if you travel a lot. I prefer the no annual fee AmEX Blue Cash card for optimum cash back.

    When traveling I actually prefer not to be in one of those airline clubs because I can find out more about what’s happening with my flight/aircraft/delays etc. by hanging out at the gate.

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  38. Agreed, It’s hard at first — especially for writers because most work is edited. But practice and the realization it helps you become a better writer eases the “personalizing” of things. It’s a great business skill.This is my first time I have visited this site. I found a lot of interesting information in your blog. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one! keep up the good work..i work on this topic.

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