One of the more common questions we get at TPG is if it makes sense to upgrade a credit card.
There are some very important things to consider before taking the plunge and moving up in the world of card products. Today, we'll take a closer look at two of American Express' most popular cards: The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card.
Specifically, we'll dive into when it makes sense to upgrade from the $250-per-year Amex Gold (see rates and fees) to the high-end $695-per-year Amex Platinum (see rates and fees).
Sure, that's quite the jump in annual fee, but with it comes a plethora of premium perks and benefits. While the Amex Gold and Platinum are fairly distinct, they're also a common upgrade within the Amex ecosystem.
Let's see if it makes sense for you.
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Here is a quick overview of what the Amex Platinum and Amex Gold cards offer.
Trip delay: Up to $500 per covered trip when the delay is six or more hours; up to two claims per eligible card per 12 consecutive month period.
Trip delay: Up to $300 per covered trip when the delay is 12 or more hours; up to two claims per eligible card per 12 consecutive month period.
Before diving into the reasons you might want to shift from Amex Gold to Platinum, let's first ensure that you know the means by which to upgrade.
First, you may have an upgrade offer directly from Amex to move from the Gold Card to the Platinum Card. And if so, it can make sense to take advantage of it. However, if you’ve never had the Amex Platinum, you may want to consider passing up this offer. Here's why.
American Express has a once-per-card-per-lifetime bonus restriction, which means you only get one chance to earn a welcome bonus for each of Amex’s products. If you choose to upgrade using a bonus offer now, you’ll never be able to earn the bonus for the Amex Platinum ever again in the future.
One option is to apply outright for the Platinum and downgrade or cancel your Amex Gold.
The current welcome bonus for the Amex Platinum is 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership. According to TPG’s monthly valuations, Amex Membership Rewards points are worth 2 cents each, making this 100,000-point bonus worth $2,000. That is nearly three times the card’s $695 annual fee.
Related: Amex Platinum vs. Amex Gold: Which one is right for you?
The Amex Gold is ideal for spending at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, but doesn't provide some of the elevated travel perks like airport lounge access.
The Amex Platinum unlocks the door to arguably some of the best airport lounges in the U.S., Amex’s Centurion Lounges. Amex has spent a lot of resources building these facilities and they’re worth every penny, with food menus from award-winning local chefs and top-shelf cocktails at each location.
When you’re in a city without a Centurion Lounge, you’ll likely have other options because the Amex Platinum also comes with a complimentary Priority Pass membership, giving you access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide. Plus, you can access Airspace and Escape lounges. And you have Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying on the same day with Delta.
It's not just about airport lounges, though. The Amex Platinum also comes with some elite-like perks with hotels and rental cars — benefits you won't find on the Amex Gold.
For instance, you and any Platinum Card authorized users on your account can register for complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status.
These hotel elite statuses can provide many perks, including elevated earnings on stays and space-available upgrades. In the case of Hilton Honors Gold status, you’ll even get a food and beverage credit within the U.S. (and free breakfast outside of the U.S.) at most of the chain’s brands.
In addition, the Amex Platinum now comes with an up-to-$200 annual hotel credit, in the form of a statement credit, on prepaid Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings with Amex Travel when you pay with your Amex Platinum. Booking through Fine Hotels + Resorts gets you top-tier benefits at luxury hotels, including complimentary breakfast for two, noon check-in when available, a guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout, free Wi-Fi, room upgrades when available and a benefit specific to each hotel worth at least $100.
Last but not least, you'll also get complimentary memberships in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club. These perks can help whisk you through the rental car counter.
While the Platinum has over $1,500 in benefits in the form of numerous travel and lifestyle statement credits, the card may only make sense for those that can utilize at least some of them.
Head over here for a full list of the card's statement credits.
Some of my favorite Amex Platinum perks include an up-to-$200 annual Uber credit along with an up-to-$189 credit to cover an annual membership with Clear.
However, there are also many other perks that I find less useful, including up to $300 in annual Equinox credit, in the form of $25 in monthly statement credits on select Equinox memberships or the Equinox+ app, and up to a $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, split into two $50 statement credits between January and June then July through December.
To ascertain if the Platinum makes sense, you'll want to investigate if you can use these credits and, if not, whether the premium travel benefits alone are worth the $695 fee.
Related: It’s a ‘lifestyle’ card now: A closer look at the Amex Platinum’s 6 new benefits launched in 2021
Let's put this out there: The Amex Gold is a fantastic card for dining and U.S. supermarkets (earning up to 4 points per dollar) and simply put, the Amex Platinum is not (1 point per dollar). If you're upgrading your Gold Card, you'll want to make sure you still have a product that still earns valuable rewards on everyday spending, like food and drink.
For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card now earns 3 points per dollar on dining (up from 2) along with 3 points per dollar on online groceries (excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), among other categories. Having a diversified wallet — and a card that earns across multiple categories — is a valuable tool in your points and miles strategy.
Related: Chase adds bonus categories, new perks to Sapphire card lineup
There's certainly room in your wallet for both the Amex Gold and the Amex Platinum. In fact, the Amex Gold and Amex Platinum complement each other very well in the Amex Trifecta. Each card excels in areas where the other may fall a bit flat. But if you're in the market to upgrade your Amex Gold, the Amex Platinum within the Amex Membership Rewards portfolio is worthy of consideration.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
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