The New and Improved Platinum Card: American Express Makes Moves to Attract High-Income Customers

by on Mar 28, 2017

American Express recently announced significant changes to the Platinum card, its premier travel card. The changes come at a time when Platinum card dominance has been diminished as other firms have introduced new travel and luxury cards, like the Sapphire Reserve card from Chase. The Sapphire Reserve card became so popular following its late summer 2016 debut that Chase recently cut the hefty initial spend offer in half as the firm had taken losses on the card. Coincidentally, right around the time that Chase announced it would chop the Sapphire Reserve initial spend offer, Amex came out with its rebranded Platinum offering.

The Platinum card, which has been a staple of American Express’s arsenal for 33 years, is built for customers seeking extensive travel benefits, premium amenities and access to exclusive events and services. While the product has been a top-seller for decades, its popularity has decreased recently due to increased competition for high-end clients industry-wide. The new Platinum card, now made with metal instead of plastic, comes with some pretty enticing rewards, like:

  • a $200 Uber credit and VIP status when available,
  • five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on hotels and airfare,
  • an expanded Global Lounge Collection,
  • a new Global Dining Collection and
  • access to other exclusive benefits and events.

And all these perks come in addition to the existing suite of benefits such as the $200 airline fee credit, $100 TSA precheck fee credit and two hotel status programs. The added exclusivity comes at a price, however, as Amex is increasing the annual fee from $450 to $550.

Will these new benefits see the Platinum card regain popularity over Sapphire Reserve? Maybe. A closer examination shows that the cards are built for different preferences. The Platinum card is catered heavily to those wanting significant travel rewards and access to exclusive experiences. According to Janey Whiteside, American Express’s SVP of global charge products, benefits and services, the firm believes that Platinum card holders most value “access to exclusive experiences, rich travel rewards and superior service.” This differs slightly from Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card whose card holders earn three points per dollar spent on both dining and travel, making it more suited for earning rewards on everyday spending. Sapphire Reserve has a more flexible travel credit too, as customers can use the $300 statement credit on a broad scope of travel purchases like airline tickets, Ubers, cabs and subways. While Amex is diversifying the Platinum card key features with the new Uber credit, the main benefits are still centered on travel rewards, hotel rewards and exclusive access, making it likely that the Platinum card will continue to serve a highly specific subset of customers.