Reader Joseph emailed me the following question:
With the recent changes to the American Express Platinum Cards, does it now make sense to have both cards? I would rather not pay $1000+ in annual fees, but am not sure if it is worth it with the new benefits?
We recently learned about some major changes being made to both The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees). Specifically:
- The Personal Amex Platinum Card now offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines
- The Business Amex Platinum Card now offers up to a 35% points refund when using the “Pay With Points” option, which is essentially an opportunity to redeem all your Amex points for 1.54 cents each towards the cost of airfare
It’s interesting that American Express has added different benefits to the two cards. When I think about it, I really don’t blame them, since after crunching the numbers for myself, I see value into holding onto both cards, despite their largely overlapping benefits
Similarities between the Personal & Business Platinum Card
Both of these cards come with quite a few benefits, including the following:
- $200 annual airline fee credit
- Access to Boingo hotspots
- Access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts
- Access to Delta SkyClubs
- Priority Pass Select membership
- Access to the American Express Centurion Lounges in Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, etc.
- A Global Entry fee credit
Differences between the Personal & Business Platinum Card
At the same time, there are a few differences between the two cards, in terms of the benefits.
- Only the Business Card offers 10 complimentary Gogo wifi passes per calendar year, which is potentially very valuable
- Only the Business Card offers up to a 35% points refund when using the “Pay With Points” option, which is essentially an opportunity to redeem your points for 1.54 cents each towards the cost of airfare
- Only the Personal Card offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines
- Only the Personal card offers $200 in total Uber credit across the year ($15/mo + $20 additional in December)
Crunching the numbers on keeping both cards
I view the “out of pocket” cost on these cards as being ~$150-395. That’s because I more or less value the $200 annual airline credit and $200 Uber credit at face value, so let’s take all of the other benefits out of the equation for a second. After all, we’re trying to figure out whether it’s worth keeping both cards rather than just one.
In other words, is the ability to earn 5x points on airfare worth $150 per year, and is the ability to redeem points for 1.54 cents each towards the cost of airfare worth $395 per year? Before I share my math, here are my assumptions:
- If not using the personal Platinum Card, the alternative for airfare spend is a card that earns 3x points per dollar spent, meaning you’re earning an incremental 2x points per dollar spent
- I value major transferable points currencies at 1.7 cents each, so the marginal return by using this card for airfare spend is ~2.6%
- When looking at the 35% “Pay With Points” option, the assumption is that you value transferring points to a partner at ~1.7 cents at most, while you’re valuing the airline redemption option at ~1.54 cents
With that in mind:
- If you spend at least ~$5,770 per year on airfare, it’s worth holding onto the Personal Platinum Card
- If you earn at least ~113,000 Membership Rewards points per year, it’s worth holding onto the Amex Platinum Business Card
Everyone’s math on this is going to be completely different, since everyone values points, benefits, etc., differently. As much as no one likes paying over $1,000 in annual fees for two cards, I think many people will find that it’s actually worthwhile when you crunch the numbers, especially when you factoring in the $400 in airline credits you’re getting across the two cards (with the first year’s annual fee, that’s potentially $800 worth of airline credits):
- I think it’s worth holding onto one American Express Platinum Card for the lounge access benefits, etc.
- By my math, the incremental cost of holding onto a second American Express Platinum Card is ~$150 (assuming you value the airline and uber credits at close to face value), and for many people that’s a reasonable cost for 5x points or 35% off “Pay With Points” redemptions
If you apply for either of these cards soon you should be able to pick up a $200 airline credit in the coming weeks, and then another one starting January 1, meaning you’ll have $400 in airline credits per card before the second year’s annual fee is due.
To those of you who are in a similar situation, are you finding it worthwhile to hold onto both cards, or which card’s benefits do you value most?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).