When I heard about the generous, limited-time Amex Platinum welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points, I jumped on it right away with the intention of dropping it as soon as I had hit the spending threshold and banked the points.
As an existing BA Amex Premium Plus cardholder, which demands a £250 annual fee, cancelling seemed like the only sensible course of action. An additional £575 per year was hard to stomach when my priorities mainly revolve around Avios anyway. After all, the Premium Plus card bags you 0.5 more Avios than one Membership Reward point will convert to, albeit with more flexibility.
Admittedly, once the welcome pack arrived, my mindset was already beginning to waver. As I read through the perks and started adding up the potential savings, the annual fee began to diminish in my mind. The £200 travel credit? “I can have that spent in no time”… The £300 global dining credit? “Sure, I eat out”… The £100 Harvey Nichols credit? “Easily spent on Christmas gifts”… And so on and so forth. Heck, even the 10% saving at Bicester Village — that’s my annual go-to when I reluctantly need to renew my wardrobe.
But while that all sounded great, the rational side of my brain still considers it manufactured spend. While I might have spent that money anyway, I still have to go out of my way to book travel through Amex, eat in specific restaurants, and shop in specific stores, all just to recoup the annual fee. The real test therefore, was during a recent two-week family vacation to Orlando, where I sought to find out if I could make any ‘passive’ savings, and whether being a cardmember would enhance aspects of our travel experience.
By now, you’ve already read the title and know that I did indeed manage to make significant savings. So let’s break them down.
One of the staple perks of Amex Platinum is the complimentary Priority Pass membership that both the primary and supplementary cardholders are entitled to. Despite this perk, of the four legs of our journey, we utilised a Priority Pass lounge only once. This was at Edinburgh Airport’s new Aspire Lounge at Gate 16, where myself, my supplementary cardholder and one guest enjoyed a sizeable cooked breakfast, coffee and soft drinks. I’d estimate that elsewhere in the airport, this would have cost us £16 per person, or £48 in total.
The main reason we didn’t get more use out of the Priority Pass was down to my OneWorld status and the fact that we were flying business class. In general, the airline-branded lounges we had access to were of a higher standard than our Amex-based options, and this was particularly true at Heathrow Terminal 5, where the only non-BA lounge is the Club Aspire Lounge — not somewhere I have any desire to visit again.
Similarly, on our return through MIA, we had the option of three Priority Pass lounges or Amex’s own Centurion Lounge. Again though, we instead opted to use our OneWorld affiliations to visit the spacious and well-catered American Airlines Flagship Lounge. Of course, if you’re not flying business or first, and don’t have frequent flyer status with the airline you’re travelling with, you would get more value as a cardmember than we did in these circumstances.
Our arrival was into Miami, so we had booked a one-day, one-way car rental with Avis for the drive north to Orlando and opted for a “Standard (Volkswagen Jetta or similar)” class of vehicle. Unexcited by the prospect of a Jetta, our hope was that my Avis President’s Club status (another perk of Amex Platinum) would get us an upgrade. Indeed it did, to a Lincoln Corsair, which is classed as a “Small Luxury SUV”.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive any upgrade for a one-way rental, but then we went one better by receiving a Range Rover Velar in the “Prestige Small/Standard SUV” class for a day-trip to NASA in the middle of the vacation, and the same car for the return journey to Miami.
Across all three rentals we made further savings, comprised of around 10% off the published rate using the Amex Platinum AWD code, a free additional driver, and since Amex Platinum provides Theft, Damage and Liability cover for rentals, we also avoided the ad-on charges for Loss Damage Waiver and Additional Liability Insurance. All in all, the total car rental savings came to around £280.
Amex Platinum also gets you Hilton Honors Gold status, which makes you eligible for space-available room upgrades across most of their portfolio of brands. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and while I am a Diamond member, we unfortunately didn’t score an upgrade on this occasion. In hindsight, I suspect it’s because I gave my membership number at the end of check-in, by which point they’d already assigned a room. Still kicking myself as an upgrade to their Deluxe Suite would have been a big bonus. You live and you learn.
Fortunately, we did save big via the daily food & beverage credit. This is a benefit specific to the US market, which rewards you with credit to spend on room service and dining in hotel restaurants and bars. As Waldorf Astoria is one of Hilton’s luxury brands and we were a party of 3, we received the maximum credit amount of $50 per day, which we utilised for breakfast, snacks, and room service — amounting a total savings of $653 (£587) across 14 days.
Turning to reward points, I earned 71,868 points during the two weeks, comprised of 60,000 in welcome bonus points, 5,000 for an approved supplementary cardholder and 6,868 in everyday spend. At the time, since I was also working to achieve the £10k spend required for the Barclaycard Avios Plus welcome bonus, I chose to use the card for all spending while abroad (despite the exorbitant non-sterling transaction fee). In normal circumstances, it would be more lucrative to avoid non-domestic spend, but this served as a quick and convenient way to attain one of the welcome bonuses I was targeting.
On embarking on our vacation, I set out to discover whether Amex Platinum could provide tangible value, either monetarily or in terms of conveniences and heightened experiences. So with all said and done, what are my thoughts?
With savings totalling an estimated £915, there’s no question that the card has demonstrated its worth from a financial standpoint. I’m conscious that not every trip will be as rewarding as this particular instance, but I travel frequently enough to be confident that the savings will continue to rack up.
Although more of a criticism of Hilton Honors, it was of course disappointing not to receive a room upgrade, especially for what was a relatively long stay. That said, as someone who enjoys exploring different hotel portfolios and thus hasn’t historically been very consistent in retaining status with any one brand, it’s quite freeing to have guaranteed status across not only Hilton, but Marriott, Radisson and Meliá too. Even if it doesn’t always lead to upgrades, the smaller perks still make a difference.
Could we have made do without the car rental upgrades? Of course, but they went a long way to improving the long journeys to and from the airport. And hey, isn’t this exactly the sort of thing that Amex Platinum is about? As far as I’m concerned, as long as I can recoup the annual fee, then anything over and above that quickly becomes a bonus.
So as you might have guessed, I will be keeping Amex Platinum. I expect this to be the case for the long-term, unless the annual fee increases to an unreasonable amount, or my circumstances change and the benefits no longer make sense for me. I also intend to keep BA Amex Premium Plus, dedicating most of my spend to it to achieve the annual companion voucher and the additional 0.5 Avios per £1.
Congratulations Amex, you got me.
You can apply for Amex Platinum by clicking this link.