Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.
The Platinum Card from American Express has one of the highest annual fees of any publicly available consumer credit card — $550 — but the benefits of the card more than outweigh that fee. For example, I made almost quadruple the value back from the card in my first year — if you travel even a few times a year, you can easily get a similar value. On the other hand, if you’re a frequent traveler, this card is a must-have.
The card features a great welcome bonus for new applicants: 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. While that’s a fairly high spend requirement, it could be worth opening the card if you have any large expenses coming up. The card also earns 5x points per dollar spent on airfare purchased directly from the airline or through AmEx, and 1x point per dollar on everything else
In addition to the welcome bonus, the card’s other benefits include statement credits for various travel services, access to more than 1,000 airport lounges, and benefits at a ton of different hotels.
Some of the card’s benefits need to be activated before you can use them. To make sure you don’t miss out, here’s what you should do as soon as you get your Platinum card so that you can take advantage of all the perks and benefits, including those that helped me get more than $2,100 in value.
Choose your airline for the travel credit
One of the benefits that offsets the AmEx Platinum’s annual fee is a yearly $200 airline fee credit. Each calendar year, you can designate one airline on which you can get $200 of fees reimbursed. While the fee doesn’t include tickets, it covers things like checked bags, flight-change fees, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, lounge day passes (for lounges you don’t already have access to), and sometimes things like seat assignments and extra legroom upgrade fees.
While it’s not specifically allowed, you may even be able to purchase airline gift cards with the credit, which you can then use for ticket purchases. If you search online, you can see if this applies to your chosen airline — frequent-flyer message board FlyerTalk has a dedicated thread for each airline discussing how to use the credit.
The best part of the airline credit is that because you get it each calendar year, not cardmember year, you could get it twice in your first year of having the card.
If you opened the card in March, you can earn the full $200 credit before the calendar year ends. Then, once the credit resets on January 1, you can get it again before your next annual fee posts, meaning you can get up to $400 in value from this credit each year.
When you get your card, you can either call the number on the back or log in to your online account to designate your airline.
Add your card to your Uber account
The AmEx Platinum offers cardholders up to $200 in Uber credits each cardmember year. This perk was added to the card in 2018.
The credit is broken into monthly chunks. At the start of each month, you’ll get $15 of credits added to your Uber account, with a $20 bonus each December for a total of $35. Additionally, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status, which comes with a few perks, like the option to only request rides from top-rated drivers.
To get the credit, just add your new Platinum card to your Uber account as a payment method. You don’t actually have to use the card to pay; as long as you have it stored in your account you’ll get the credits and VIP status.
Enroll to get up to $100 each year in credits at Saks
In July 2018, AmEx started offering Platinum cardholders up to $100 in annual shopping credits, broken into two chunks: You’ll get up to $50 during the first six months of the year, and another $50 during the second.
Sign in to your AmEx account, click on the “Benefits” tab, and scroll down to find the credit listed. Click “Enroll,” and you’re all set going forward — you don’t need to re-enroll to get the credit each time.
While items from Saks can be expensive, and not everyone shops there, there are plenty of lower-priced items available, both during sales and otherwise. I’ve used my credits so far for things like a pack of undershirts and a pair of sneakers that were on sale.
Sign up for Gold elite status with the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors hotel loyalty programs
This is an excellent perk that can get you real value if you stay in hotels sometimes, but not often enough to qualify for the mid-tier Gold level status.
Make sure you’ve signed up for loyalty accounts with each of the three hotel brands. Then, either call the number on the back of your Platinum card, or log in to your AmEx online account. Enter your Marriott and Hilton account numbers to request gold status — it typically takes a day or two for the status to show up in your accounts.
Elite status perks vary between the different brands and each individual hotel, but typically include things like early check-in and late check-out, room upgrades, hotel lounge access, extra loyalty points for every dollar spent, and, in Hilton’s case free breakfast — that last one alone can be worth a ton and saved me about $280 on a recent trip.
Sign up for rental car elite benefits
In addition to gold status at hotels, you can get elite status with several car rental agencies. When you get your Platinum card, log in online and request Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status — you’ll just need to create accounts with those providers first. Benefits include things like car upgrades, guaranteed availability, and waived fees for additional drivers.
Apply for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
If you don’t have Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, you’re doing it wrong.
TSA PreCheck is a program that lets members undergo an expedited security screening at airports. Instead of having to take off your shoes and light jacket, unpack laptops, tablets, and liquids from your hand luggage, and go through slow full-body scanners that create a bottleneck at the security checkpoint, PreCheck members can just put their bags through the x-ray machine, empty their pockets, and walk through a metal detector. It’s a faster, easier process, and typically leads to shorter and quicker lines — the longest I’ve ever waited on a PreCheck line was about four minutes.
You can pay an application fee of $85 for PreCheck, or you can pay an extra $15 to apply for Global Entry, which, if you’re approved, includes PreCheck. Global Entry lets you use self-service kiosks at passport control and customs when you return from abroad, skipping the long, snaking lines that typically form in the border control halls.
The AmEx Platinum offers a statement credit to cover either program’s application fee. Fill out the application online and pay with your Platinum card. Then, make an appointment to have your fingerprints taken — after a background check, you’ll be set to start using PreCheck.
Sign up for ShopRunner to get free 2-day shipping
ShopRunner is like Amazon Prime for other retailers. With a ShopRunner account, you can get free two-day shipping from hundreds of participating online stores.
Check out the Fine Hotels and Resorts program
Platinum and invite-only Centurion (or “Black”) cardholders have exclusive access to AmEx Travel’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program, or “FHR.”
FHR is an exclusive, curated list of hotel properties and resorts around the world. Currently, there are about 1,000 properties in the program, although the list changes each year as new properties are added and dropped from the program.
When a cardholder books through the program, they’ll get exclusive perks at the hotel, including room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, complimentary breakfast, and an on-property credit to use on dining or spa services. You can learn more about the program here.