Why I’m keeping my Amex Platinum even though I’m not travelling
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In the U.K., if you’re after a rewards card that’s awash with wide-ranging benefits, no other card comes close to The Platinum Card from American Express.
The issue is that many of the benefits that come with the card are related to travel. And with a hefty annual fee of £575, it has become difficult to extract the usual value I get from this card whilst grounded due to the coronavirus crisis.
I have three options in front of me. Should I keep, cancel or downgrade to a cheaper Amex product?
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I’ll break down each of these three options and delve into why I have ultimately decided to keep the Amex Platinum in my wallet even though I’m not currently travelling.
Platinum annual fees during coronavirus
The annual fee on the card is £575 and comes with a swathe of benefits. Some of my most-used benefits over the years include the access to Amex’s portfolio of Centurion airport lounges around the world and the complimentary Priority Pass membership for lounge access on trips when there isn’t a Centurion lounge and my airline status doesn’t afford me lounge access.
I’ve also benefitted from great usage of the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program and various benefits it brings — late checkout, room upgrades when available, complimentary breakfast for two and more. Plus, the complimentary hotel status bestowed upon Platinum cardholders — Hilton Honors Gold, Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Melia Rewards Gold and Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade — and the complimentary rental car insurance and status at Avis and Hertz have saved me both a fortune in additional fees and hours waiting in queues.
One thing is glaringly obvious. Usually, the fee is totally worth it for me, but these benefits are related to travel, and right now, I am not taking advantage of any of these while I’m grounded at home.
As of today’s date, American Express has yet to offer any widespread annual fee assistance for cardholders due to the coronavirus. A hefty reduction in the annual fee would have made keeping the card a no brainer, although there is some assistance being offered by Amex, which I will discuss later.
My attempt at a retention offer
In all my years with American Express, I have never attempted to get a retention offer. However, under the current circumstances, I decided to give it a go, knowing that I wasn’t using all of the benefits of the card while being stuck at home. After all, it is hard to justify paying £575 when the card is effectively just sitting in my wallet.
When I contacted the issuer via its chat function, I alluded to the fact I may have to cancel my card and asked if there was anything they could do to assist. The agent explicitly confirmed Amex could not reduce the annual fee, but there were some helpful benefits as part of its “Credit Relief Programme”.
Amex offered that it would:
- Not make my account more delinquent for the current and two following billing cycles;
- Suppress further late fees and returned payment fees;
- Reinstate any forfeited rewards; and
- Suspend the account from a line of credit reduction.
These were helpful, but my issue is justifying the annual fee rather than an inability to pay my bills.
Keep, cancel or downgrade
If you’re in a similar position, here are your options:
- Keep the card
- Cancel the card
- Downgrade to another Amex card, such as the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card or The American Express Card.
Weighing my options
Here is how I weighed my options and what I decided to do:
Option 1: Downgrading
By downgrading, I could reduce my annual fees but keep my account active. I would be able to maintain all of my Membership Rewards points without having to worry about transferring them out to a different programme, which would be a tough and risky decision in these uncertain times.
The annual fees on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card and The American Express Card are £140 and £60, respectively, and whilst most of the benefits disappear, this represents a huge saving on the £575 annual fee.
I’ve had the Preferred Rewards Gold Card in past, and because of the Amex restrictions on earning welcome bonuses, I wouldn’t be eligible to earn an additional bonus. I would also lose out on earning double membership reward points until 20 July 2020 — a benefit Amex implemented for the Platinum Card in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Option 2: Cancelling
Although I did seriously consider cancelling, I usually gain so much value from the card and I truly hope to be flexing those benefits later this year. Although perhaps now looking a little hopeful, my first booked trip is in August and I will need my Platinum Card then.
The most significant reason for me not to cancel, however, is that it would force me to transfer my not-insignificant balance of Membership Rewards points to one of the transfer partners (or use it for a statement credit, which temporarily gets you double the usual value). I want to realise the full value of my points, so a statement credit is not an option, and right now, we have no idea what frequent flyer programmes might look like in 12 months. Nor do I have any idea how I’m going to want to use my points in 12 months time, so taking a punt on one programme is not a viable choice.
Option 3: Keeping
I gave this decision a lot of thought but finally concluded that I would keep the card. I believe I’ll be able to use the benefits soon enough and I want to maintain my Membership Rewards balance without having to worry about what will happen to their value.
I am likely to take another close look in a couple of months time when we will all have a better sense of how soon travel will return to normal, and I will make another considered decision. I still always have the option of cancellation or downgrade further down the line.
Benefits I still use on my Amex Platinum
While most of the benefits of the Amex Platinum are at a standstill because of the coronavirus, there are still some that can be used from home. For example, I’m still able to take advantage of the £10 monthly Addison Lee credit (even using Addison Lee as a pseudo courier service!), and the comprehensive purchase protection keeps my shopping activity safe whilst under lockdown. As previously mentioned, I am also taking advantage of the double earning on Membership Rewards points for all purchases until 20 July 2020.
It’s also important to note that I find the customer service on the Amex Platinum exceptional. My request on the live chat function regarding my annual fee issue was answered within seconds. With so much change happening in the travel world, I’m confident that Amex will have my back if I’m at risk of losing money over future travel bookings.
I’ve also been able to take advantage of many Amex offers on my Platinum Card since being in lockdown, which has helped to slightly offset the annual fee. Some of these discounts have been with retailers I would have shopped with anyway.
Whilst I was hoping for more leeway from Amex regarding annual fees, I am not entirely surprised by its refusal to offer a reduction.
Ultimately, I won’t be using many of the benefits of the card right now, but I am hopeful that I will be soon. Under normal circumstances, I make full use of a wide range of the card’s benefits in order to extract maximum value from the card. In the meantime, I am happy earning double Membership Rewards points, being protected for my purchases and using the few card benefits that are still valuable right now.
This decision will be different for everyone, but this works for me right now. I will look to reconsider my options in a couple of months, perhaps when the double points offer ends. If the world looks like travel won’t be up and running again for some time, I think downgrading will be my next move.
Until then, my fingers and toes are firmly crossed!
Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.
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