Jul 1, 2021
 in 
Credit Cards

What You Need to Know About the Platinum Card®’s 2021 Refresh

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. 

We like to call The Platinum Card® “The King of Cards” and once again, it’ll take the rein as being the most premium card on the market: with an increased annual fee of course. Starting on July 1, 2021, the annual fee for new members and renewals will increase from $550 to $695 per year (see Rate & Fees).  This will understandably give potential new members a bit of hesitation for signing up for the card, and will likely even cause a lot of existing card members to question whether or not The Platinum Card® is worth keeping in their wallets, especially with the new Centurion Lounge guest policy that goes into effect in 2023. 

While we’ve found tremendous value in having The Platinum Card® in our wallet for well over a decade, this new change even makes us question whether or not it’s worth keeping. Let’s dive into the changes and see if the new perks justify the higher annual fee for you.

Understanding the Increased Annual Fee

As with anything worth having, The Platinum Card® is anything but cheap. Previous annual fee increases have happened, such as when the annual fee increased from $450 to $550 in 2017. This was a year after Chase launched the Chase Sapphire Reserve with an annual fee of $450. In 2020, Chase increased its annual fee from $450 to $550, and now a year later we’re seeing The Platinum Card®’s annual fee increase from $550 per year to a massive $695 per year. 

While there is certainly a sticker shock to this $145 per year increase, there’s often more than meets the eye if the benefits make sense for you. This is why we’ve always encouraged you to look beyond the annual fee since we started Points Passport. With that, let’s see what this additional $145 gets us.

The Platinum Card®’s Statement Credits and Benefits

2021 New Statement Credits

  • Prepaid Hotel Booking Credit - Up to $200
  • Clear Membership Credit - Up to $179
  • Digital Entertainment Credit - Up to $240
  • Equinox Credit - Up to $300
  • Total New Annual Statement Credits Value: $919 

Current Statement Credits 

  • Airline Fee Credit - Up to $200
  • Uber Cash - Up to $200
  • Saks Fifth Avenue Credit - Up to $100
  • Total Current Annual Statement Credits Value: $500 

Total Annual Statement Credits - up to $1,419 per year

Here we can clearly see that the new benefits greatly outweigh the additional $145 annual fee increase from $550 to $695 (See rate and terms). If you’re able to take advantage of all of the statement credits, you’ll find that The Platinum Card® actually yields you a net annual “profit” of $724! ($1,419 annual statement credits - $695 annual fee = $724. See rates and fees.)

The catch here is that most of us won’t actually be able to take advantage of all of these credits. What if you already have a Peloton membership and aren’t interested in the Equinox benefit? Fortunately, all of the new benefits offer additional value of over the $145 increase, so let’s take a look and see if there’s one that’s right for you. If not, it’s definitely worth determining whether it makes sense to keep The Platinum Card® in your wallet with the higher annual see (see rates and fees).

Do These New Perks Justify the New Annual Fee?

There’s certainly enough value being offered by the new statement credits to easily justify the $145 increase, but they have to make sense for you. Otherwise, they might not bring you much value. Let’s break down these new statement credits to see how they work.

Prepaid Hotel Booking Credit - Up to $200 Annually

We first saw this for existing  Platinum Card® members as a 2020 benefit, where you’d receive a $200 statement credit for prepaid hotels booked through Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Collection via Amex Travel. This benefit is now a permanent annual benefit with The Platinum Card®’s 2021 refresh.  

Clear Membership - Up to $179

This statement credit covers the retail price of a Clear membership. What is clear? Essentially Clear is an expedited airport security program that lets you zip through security with Clear’s separate security lane for identity verification. You simply follow the signs for Clear and you’re escorted through with a Clear representative.

From there, if you’re part of TSA Pre-Check via The Platinum Card®’s Global Entry statement credit, you’ll be taken to the front of the TSA Pre-Check line. This is the fastest way to get through security and is well worth having for frequent fliers.

The downside here is that if you travel with friends, family, or groups you may find yourself through security waiting on everyone else in your group to clear (no pun intended). However, if you take a few solo trips for leisure or business travel, you’ll easily benefit from this new perk.

Digital Entertainment Credit - Up to $240

Not ready to travel but still want to offset that annual fee increase? If you’re currently subscribed to one of the following digital services, you’re in luck. Starting July 1, 2021, you’ll now receive up to a $20 per month statement credit, which is up to $240 per year for the following services:

  • Audible
  • The New York Times
  • SiriusXM
  • Peacock

For us, we’ll switch over our SiriusXM bill for our vehicles to  The Platinum Card® to take advantage of this credit since this is money we were already spending. To break even on the $145 increase, you’d need to spend at least $12/month on one of these services, assuming you don’t use any of the other new perks.

We’d love to see this benefit expanded to other streaming services in the future, like Netflix, Hulu, HBOMax, Spotify, etc. The fact that American Express calls this a “Digital Entertainment Credit” does leave the door open to future benefits in this category.

Equinox Digital Credit - Up to $300

The Equinox Digital credit of up to $300 per year, in $25 monthly statement credits arguably brings the most value but is also the most challenging to use. If American Express is targeting millennials that are interested in digital fitness, a $300 annual Peloton credit would make a lot more sense, but Chase certainly beat American Express to that partnership. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a direct competitor to  The Platinum Card® and offers up to $120 in statement credits for a Peloton digital subscription service.

The Platinum Card®’s Equinox credit is similar. Essentially you’ll need to sign up for Equinox’s digital platform, called Equinox+, and put your subscription on your  Platinum Card®. It’s easy to see how American Express is partnering closely with Equinox, as the JFK Centurion Lounge even has a full wellness center called the “Equinox Body Lab”. Watch our review of the JFK Centurion Lounge to check it out!

Upcoming Centurion Lounge Guest Access Changes

Speaking of Centurion Lounges, this 2021 refresh also confirms the previous rumor from April 2021 that Centurion Lounge guest access would be changing soon. Starting in 2023, Platinum Cardholders will no longer receive complimentary guest access for up to 2 guests. That means that only the primary cardholder and any paid authorized users will have complimentary access to the Centurion Lounge once this policy goes into effect.

Guests of Platinum Cardholders will be $50 per guest. Children from 3 to 17 years old will receive a reduced guest rate of $30. It’s worth noting that you can add up to three full authorized 

users for a total of $175 per year. For families, this means you can add your children on as authorized users once they turn 13, which will also help establish their credit history and go a long way towards building their credit score for later in life.

The full authorized user option is interesting, as it allows families or close friends to take advantage of this lesser-known perk. For $175 per year, you can add up to 3 paid authorized users. They will receive the metal Platinum Card, benefits such as Marriott Bonvoy Elite Gold status, Hilton Honors Gold status, and complimentary access to the Centurion Lounge. This is very different than the $0 “authorized user” card, which is a plastic gold card and only allows an authorized user to put charges on your Platinum Card account.

If you’re a cardmember who spends over $75K per year on your Platinum Card, you’ll still be able to unlock the complimentary guest access that currently exists.

We find that this is a devaluation of the Centurion Lounge benefit. The reason so many of you have The Platinum Card® is for lounge access. While the lounges have certainly become overcrowded prior to the pandemic, the combination of increasing the annual fee while dropping the guest policy is a double hit.


American Express’ Expanded Lounge Network

On the positive side, American Express will also expand its Centurion Lounge network. Several of the international American Express lounges will now become full Centurion Lounges. These can be found in the following locations:

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Delhi, India
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Monterey, Mexico
  • Mumbai, India
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Sydney, Australia

Additionally, American Express will refresh and rebrand its Escape Lounges as “Escape Lounge - The Centurion Studio Partner”. These locations will see enhancements to premium drinks, wine, and cocktails. Day passes will continue to be sold for the Escape Lounges for people who aren’t eligible for complimentary access with their American Express cards.

The Final Point

Overall, any increase to the annual fee without additional benefits is a clear devaluation of a card. We find that the 2021 refresh for The Platinum Card® is a mixed bag. On the one hand, if you’re able to take advantage of all of the new benefits this brings a ton more value. On the other hand, if you’re not able to take advantage of any of these benefits, combined with the more restricted Centurion Lounge access in 2023, it may be time for you to consider whether or not to continue to have this card in your wallet still makes sense.

We believe that most people will be able to take advantage of at least one to two of the new benefits. The $200 prepaid hotel benefit should be the easiest one for most people to use, followed by the $200 digital entertainment benefit. From there, it depends on how often you fly as to whether the $179 Clear membership is valuable. The $300 Equinox credit is great, but if you’re like us and already stacking the Chase Sapphire Reserve with your Peloton subscription, you might not find much value in this perk. In the end, it always comes down to understanding the benefits of each card and determining what works best for you. 

If you don’t have The Platinum Card® and are interested in taking advantage of these new perks, check out the CardMatch tool to make sure you’re earning the best offer. Some Welcome Offers can be up to 125,000 Membership Reward points, which is far more than the standard 75,000 Welcome Offer!

CardMatch™

If you have any questions regarding any of The Platinum Card’s benefits, feel free to DM us on Instagram or email us at hello@thepointspassport.com.

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