Amex Overeggs its Platinum Card Changes

Amex has announced an annual fee increase to $550 for its personal Platinum card along with a few over-complicated benefits. Doctor of Credit has the more sober take and Zach Honig has the direct line with Amex representatives. Doctor of Credit also lays out the timing of the annual fee increase and how it impacts current and prospective cardholders.

Amex Platinum Metal

image courtesy American Express

For an annual fee increasing from $450 to $550, cardholders will get:

  • $200 annual Uber credit ($15/month, except $35 in December)
  • 5x on hotels ONLY when booked through amextravel.com and NOT Fine Hotels & Resorts (similar to the airfare 5x bonus added last October)
  • Some other cosmetic and minor changes, not all with much explanatory detail such as a new Global Dining Collection

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has been a hit, particularly with millennials, because its value proposition is so clear. Anyone can understand a liberal $300 travel credit that automatically pops up on statements. CSR has been slickly marketed as the cool card to look like you are in the know, without having to spend lots of time to figure it out. This is the card for the mobile generation that does not read to the end of the sentence, let alone the paragraph.

Amex continues to add convoluted benefits presumably chasing breakage, as in expecting a low percentage of customer base to max out the full $200 Uber credit by parceling it out in monthly increments. Easy to forget and easy for customers to choose an alternative when facing a $15+ ride.

5x or Not?

Confusion over the 5x hotel category is illustrative. Initial reporting that booking at the Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection would count for 5x has now been walked back.

5x is only for hotel bookings through amextravel.com, meaning customers must go out of their way to book through that website rather than their preferred channel, are limited to participating hotels and those rates, and forgo other discounts such as with cashback portals. And these are not award nights, these are just regular cash bookings. Anything that attempts to have me add a new website to my booking routine better add real value.

Chase and Citi card bonus categories don’t require jumping through booking hoops.

Personal and Business:

Further confusing is that the benefits of the personal Platinum and business Platinum continue to diverge. Today’s announcement applies only to the personal card. Both cards added other, different benefits in 2016, such as 1.5x on single purchases of $5,000+ for the business card.

On paper the Amex Platinum cards have arguably the richest set of benefits yet they take a lot of work to enjoy. A new cardholder must learn of and find how to enroll in most benefits. I wrote You Just Got an Amex Platinum, Here are 20 Things to Do (and 3 Not to Do) and You Just Got an Amex Business Platinum, Here are 25 Things to Do to try to help.

Takeaway:

Some cardmembers will focus on the Uber credit and see a net win for them. Overall, I see this as Amex entirely missing why the Chase Sapphire Reserve has been a success.

Readers, what is your take on the Amex Platinum changes?

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  • PatMcPSU

    It’s too early to call theChase Sapphire Reserve a “success”. I believe the rule of thumb is “a business isn’t successful until it stays around for 5 years” and the CSR is no exception.

    How many cardholders will renew when the annual fee is due? I imagine that the 100k sign-up bonus was a deciding factor when paying for it the first time around.

    Is the CSR business model even sustainable? Are they turning much of a profit on the $450 annual fee if they essentially give $300 of it back to everyone?

  • Jason

    I sure hope they plan to roll out the Uber credit to Centurion cards as well!

  • Jason

    No sooner did I post than AmEx just emailed:

    “Uber Rides with Centurion. With your Centurion Membership, you’ll receive $15 in Uber credits for U.S. rides every month plus a $20 bonus in December, delivered through an exclusive Uber app experience. That’s up to $200 for Uber rides annually.

    You’ll also become an Uber VIP, where available, without meeting minimum ride requirements and be matched with top-rated drivers, so that even a 5-minute trip can be a 5-star experience.”

  • Sassinak

    You have to remember that AMEX is a Credit Card Bank.. vs. Chase is a traditional bank.. So the CC is more of a gateway into getting them to align with other chase products. (where they do have more profit). So the CSR is basically breaking even to get people to onboard other items. Add to this a high requirement to join the card, means it essentially weeds out “lower quality” candidates for other products.

    Vs. the Amex card as a CC needs to actually generate revenue on the card itself + merchant fees. So I get why they raised the rates.. but as the options given for that raise basically does nothing to increase its value or even distinguish its value from other products means its a poor card (especially by comparison to other products out there).

    Personally, this is my last APC year as a higher fee with no realistic benefits means its a poor card. (restricting Uber to the US means its even worse as a travel card).

  • MJonTravel

    I tend to agree. I keep it for the Sky Club access, and that’s about it. The annual fee was paid 2 months ago, so I’ll keep it for now. We’ll see if it stays next year.