Platinum Card

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The undisputed kings of credit card benefits are the American Express Platinum Cards, which come with airport lounge access, airline fee reimbursement, Global Entry reimbursement, hotel status, and a Platinum concierge.

All Platinum cards have access to these benefits, whether they are personal or business Platinum cards.

I recently got The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPEN. The card has a $450 annual fee. I got it because the card member benefits far exceed $450.

 

After getting the card, I did something I do embarrassingly often, I consulted a MileValue post to refresh my memory. Specifically I read Get the Most Out of Your American Express Platinum Card to remind myself of all of the card’s benefits and how to activate them.

How did I activate my airport lounge access, airline fee credits, hotel elite status, and how long did activation take? This information is useful whether you have or plan to get a personal or business Platinum card.

The American Express Platinum personal and business cards come with annual fees of $450. But they also come with a litany of valuable benefits worth more than $450.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • With the Platinum Card, you can receive up to $200 a year in statement credits for airline incidental fees like checked bags fees, flight-change fees, and snacks.
  • To receive the statement credit, you need to enroll and select a qualifying airline.
  • There are no foreign transaction fees with purchases made on your Platinum Card.
  • Platinum Card Concierge is your personal resource to help secure a last minute restaurant reservation, or shop for a hard-to-find gift.
  • Terms and restrictions apply.

Application Link: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Unfortunately none of those benefits are automatic. In order to get the most out of the card, you need to spend a little time signing up for each one.

All American Express Platinum cards receive the following benefits:

$500 in Free Statement Credits

$200 ($400) Airline Fee Credits

Platinum cards come with a $200 airline fee credit each calendar year. That means in almost everyone’s first year of holding a Platinum card, you can get $400 worth of airline fees credited back to your card.

For instance, I got my Mercedes-Benz Platinum (personal) card in February 2013, so I will take advantage of this benefit in 2013 and January 2014 for $400 in statement credits.

The airline fee credit is supposed to be for fees likes change fees, cancellation fees, and bag fees. The fee credit is not supposed to apply to ticket purchases, miles purchases, or gift card purchases.

But American Express’s computers decides whether a certain purchase qualifies for a fee credit, and in the experience of thousands of people, certain airline gift card purchases will result in a statement credit. That makes this benefit like getting $400 in free flights, which almost completely offsets the annual fee in one swoop.

In order to get the $200 airline fee credit, you have to choose a single airline on which you will receive credits for fees incurred. I decided to designate American Airlines as my airline to receive fee credits in hopes of purchasing gift cards that I can then use to book flights on AA. Designating your airline is as simple as picking up the phone and calling the 800-number on the back of your Platinum card.

I called the number and had to listen to a menu of options. Rather than doing this, simply press “0” in order to speak to an operator. I told the woman who answered the phone that I was calling in order to designate an airline for my fee credits, and she put me down for American. She did say that it can take time for the fees to be credited back to your account, and to feel free to call back if I had a fee that I wanted to dispute.

I plan on buying two $100 American Airlines gift certificates soon and two more in January 2014. The latest reports on FlyerTalk are that these purchases are generating a corresponding credit within two weeks. Where should I go with me $400 in free AA flights?

$100 Global Entry Fee Credit

Platinum card holders are entitled to a $100 statement credit when they pay the $100 Global Entry enrollment fee with their Platinum cards.

Having Global Entry allows you to skip the immigrations and customs queues when arriving in the US. Instead of spending time in line and talking to an agent, you tap a few buttons at a kiosk and get to the curb in a few minutes. Global Entry membership is valid for 5 years. Scott raves about it. And having Global Entry also lets you skip immigration queues in Australia and New Zealand.

There are two steps involved in obtaining Global entry: an application and an interview.

First, you need to fill out the online application.  To do this as efficiently as possible, make sure you have on hand: Proof of Citizenship documents (I just used my passport); your driver’s license, if you have one; and both your address and work histories for the past five years. The online application process took me about 30 minutes to complete.

If you have never registered with GOES (the Global Online Entry System), you will be prompted to register when you click the online application link above.

Once you are registered with GOES, log in to the system. You will see that you are not a member of any programs. Click “Enroll in a New Program” to begin your Global Entry application.

Select the link that allows you to start the application for the trusted traveler program.

From here, you will have to fill out a variety of personal information. There are 16 categories of information.

Fill out all the sections and submit your application. You will be prompted to pay the $100 application fee–make sure you use your new Platinum AMEX to pay this in order to have the fee credited back to you!

Unfortunately, the GOES system doesn’t email you when your application is approved or denied. I set a reminder in my calendar to check on the status of my application in a week. Once your application is approved, you can use the GOES system to schedule your in-person interview, which will take place at any airport that participates in the Global Entry program.

Free Lounge Access

You can get free lounge access at US Airways Clubs, American Airlines Admirals Clubs, and Delta Sky Clubs by showing your American Express Platinum Card and boarding pass–no set up required! (Admirals Club and US Airways Club access ends March 22, 2014.) I took advantage of Admirals Club access on a recent trip from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, enjoying drinks, a comfortable place to sit, and free wifi at the American Airlines lounges along the way.

You can get even better lounge coverage–especially internationally–by signing up for a free Priority Pass Select membership to complement the automatic free lounge access.

Priority Pass Select

Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge access program. Platinum Card holders get free Priority Pass Select membership, which entitles them to free access to hundreds of lounges worldwide (everything on the list except United Clubs).

Signing up for Priority Pass Select is easy. I did it on the same call as setting up my airline fee credits. After designating AA as my airline to receive fee credits on, I asked the agent if she could enroll me in the Priority Pass Select program. It literally took her 10 seconds to enroll me. I received my shiny black and gold Priority Pass card in the mail only 5 days after I called.

This card has to be shown and swiped at participating Priority Pass Select lounges. I downloaded the app on my phone, so I can search for participating lounges by airport while I travel.

There’s more information about this benefit here.

Hotel Status

Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status

Platinum Card holders are entitled to free Gold status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. Gold status will entitle me to late checkout, free internet, and other benefits on any stays at a Sheraton, W, Westin, Four Points, and other hotel brands.

Not only did I not have Starwood Preferred Guest Status, but I wasn’t even enrolled in the Starwood Preferred Guest program when I called AMEX to set up my Platinum benefits. After enrolling in Priority Pass, I asked the agent about getting SPG Gold, expecting that I would have to go online and dig around in order to do this. I was pleased when she simply transferred me to a Starwood agent. Since I did not already have an account with Starwood, the agent took down my information and promptly enrolled me.

I got an email from SPG with my account number, and when I set up my account online, I had Gold status.

I expect to get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with my next applications, so having Gold status for the stays I take with those points will be a real plus.

Hilton Gold Status

Until December 31, 2013, Platinum card holders can call American Express and request Hilton Gold Status. Hilton Gold Status means free internet and free breakfast during Hilton stays, which are the big two benefits of hotel status.

Recap

The American Express Platinum cards come with big annual fees, but even bigger benefits. The benefits require a little bit of work to set up: a phone call, some gift card purchases, and a Global Entry application. But setting up and enjoying your benefits is easy–even for a Rookie.

Call American Express at the number on the back of your AMEX card:

  1. Designate an airline to receive your $200 annual (calendar year) airline fee credit.
  2. Ask to be enrolled in Priority Pass Select.
  3. Ask to be given Gold status in Starwood Preferred Guest (and enrolled in SPG if necessary). You will be transferred to SPG.
  4. Ask to be given Gold status with Hilton.

Buy gift cards with your AMEX Platinum on the airline you designated that will be reimbursed by the airline fee credit. Then use those gift cards for free flights.

Apply for Global Entry, paying the fee with your AMEX Platinum. Then enjoy plane-to-curb times under ten minutes on international flights.

There are even more benefits of holding a Platinum Card–many more than would fit here, and most of little use for the majority of people. For a complete list including benefits at Neiman Marcus, Equinox Fitness Clubs, car rental agencies, and more, see here.

Bonus

For me, a ten minute phone call was the easier way to enroll in these benefits. If you prefer not to speak to an agent, you can enroll for most benefits online here.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • With the Platinum Card, you can receive up to $200 a year in statement credits for airline incidental fees like checked bags fees, flight-change fees, and snacks.
  • To receive the statement credit, you need to enroll and select a qualifying airline.
  • There are no foreign transaction fees with purchases made on your Platinum Card.
  • Platinum Card Concierge is your personal resource to help secure a last minute restaurant reservation, or shop for a hard-to-find gift.
  • Terms and restrictions apply.

Application Link: The Platinum Card® from American Express

If you don’t have the American Express Platinum Card and want to get one with the first year annual fee waived, apply here for a special offer for Ameriprise clients. Normally the first year annual fee is $450 and is not waived, so this can be a huge value.

Reports are that the application works regardless of having an account open with Ameriprise, but apply at your own risk.

The AMEX Platinum has these benefits:

If you’ve wanted those benefits, but were leery of the $450 fee, this offer may be for you. But you may also want to consider the Mercedes-Benz Platinum Card.

The Mercedes-Benz version is open to all and has all the same benefits listed above. But it also comes with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $1,000 within three months. The Mercedes-Benz version has a $475 annual fee that is not waived, so choosing it is like “buying” 50k Membership Rewards for $475, a choice I’d make every time.

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