I've been meaning to write about the Platinum Card for a while, but somehow haven't gotten around to it. That stops today! The Black Card gets all the press, but the truth is that the Platinum Card has most of the benefits and costs far less.
But it does cost, so let's get that out of the way. The annual fee for carrying a Platinum Card is $450, which means that you shouldn't get it unless you're actually going to take advantage of the benefits. On the other hand, it's not just a gimmick; it has real benefits that can save you money and time.
Product Replacement Guarantee
For the first three months you have anything you purchased from American Express, it's insured by them for free. Unlike most insurance policies, this one is extremely easy to use and claim.
A few years back I bought a tiny subcompact laptop for just over $2000. I was at my friend Phil's lake house, and I somehow left the laptop outside on the porch. When it started raining, I "remembered" bringing the laptop in and didn't worry about it. An hour later when I wanted to check my e-mail, I found my laptop outside in the rain.
It was ruined.
I called American Express, told them what had happened, and they assured me they would pay for it. True to their word, once I took it to CompUSA, who confirmed it was damaged beyond reasonable repair (which Amex would have paid for), they reimbursed my account for the full cost of the laptop. No deductible, no arguing.
The concierge is great, but not quite as great as you might hope. Sometimes a request is handled with amazing speed and diligence, and other times it's all but ignored until you reply a few times, "No, what I'm asking you to do is..."
Requests can be made by phone, which requires a bit of phone-tree navigation and security question answering, or by e-mail which is painless.
Some notable requests I've made:
I don't use this one much, but they have deals with a bunch of hotels where you get an upgraded room, breakfast, and a free gift of some sort. I tried this at the Bellagio in Vegas and we had a room overlooking the fountains, a big fruit basket, and breakfast every day.
I think there's also some program like this for car rentals too, but I've never used it.
Maybe the best thing about Amex (and this goes for the Gold and Green card as well), is that they always take your side when you get overcharged. They usually don't even make you fill in any forms - you call in or send an e-mail and the next day the charge is off your account.
Just last month Travelocity overcharged me for a ticket by $45. The site and receipt they e-mailed me said $272, but they charged me $317. I tried e-mailing Travelocity and they bounced me around between CSRs and never fixed the problem. One e-mail to Amex and the problem is solved.
I won't bore you with the other few times I've done this, but every time it's been easy and quick. Other times I just tell the company that I'm going to do a chargeback with Amex, and they're suddenly motivated to solve the problem.
You know those big, wooden, windowless doors in airport terminals with the chrome airilne logos on them? Those are airport lounges, and just past them lie little oases of comfort and relaxation. And if you have a Platinum Card you can get in to almost all of them for free.
The Platinum Card gives you access to the airport lounges of American, Continental, Delta, and Northwest. You have to be flying that day on the airline whose lounge you want to use.
Inside the lounges are free snacks, free drinks (yes, even alcoholic ones), usually free wifi (American doesn't have free wifi), and tons of comfortable chairs, couches, and desks.
I actually like these lounges so much that I look forward to long layovers.
One of the best perks is that there's always an airline agent there to help lounge members. If your flight is delayed and you need to rebook, you can go to the lounge and get a new flight without having to wait with the peasants in the huge line. This has saved me a couple times, including one where the agent actually bumped someone else off for me because he hadn't checked in 30 minutes prior!
How To Get It
You need pretty good credit to get a Platinum card. If you can't get one initially, apply for a Gold card, which is a lot easier.
Apply Here (non affiliate link)
I love my American Express card. I have the platinum one thanks to Todd, which has a lot of cool benefits like being able to go into airport lounges and such.
However, they always seem to freeze my account when I travel. Last year, when I went to Tokyo, Todd and I ate at a baller Kobe beef restaurant in Kobe. We went to pay and both of our Amexes got declined. Ouch.
We called from a payphone across from the restaurant and they finally fixed it.
I always knew currency exchange at the airport was a bad deal, but I never really calculated it out -- I just tried to avoid it.
I was passing through Haneda airport last night, and had a stack of Chinese RMB I wanted to sell to get Japanese Yen.
The rate was 15% lower than the market rate. That's just one way. The selling Yen / buying RMB rate was similarly crazy.
To exchange $650 of RMB for Yen would have cost over $90.
That's nuts. You can get 1% or 2% at banks sometimes. A credit card with no foreign exchange fee (all Capital one cards, high-end Visa Signatures and AMEX cards) means you're getting 1% or 2% off the market rate. Worst-case scenario, you can et 5% pretty easily.