American Express Co. is upping the benefits – and the fee – on its flagship Platinum Card this month as it tries to hold on to its well-to-do customers who are returning to their prepandemic lifestyles of travelling, dining out and shopping.
But at the same time, some of the new or now-permanent benefits reflect a change in how AmEx views the card and its customers after the pandemic: It’s no longer a card aimed just at those who travel extensively, but also at those who have an overall affluent lifestyle and are willing to pay for it.
“Our customers are living their lives in fundamentally different ways than before the pandemic, and we wanted to add value for those who not only travel, but also are at home,” said Rafael Mason, senior vice-president of international premium products at American Express.
The additional benefits will come with a heftier annual fee – US$695. That’s up from US$550.
Since it was rolled out in the mid 1980s, the Platinum Card has been American Express’ most premium card offering. It basically defined what a luxury credit card should be for 30 years before it faced additional competition from cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi’s Prestige Card.
The Platinum Card’s most recent challenge came with the pandemic. The card’s value was almost entirely derived from travelling, staying at hotels, dining out and shopping – all things that came to an abrupt end more than a year ago. Credit-card forums last year were full of messages such as, “What do I do with a $200 airline credit when I can’t get on a plane?”
To compensate and prevent cardmembers from cutting up their cards, AmEx rolled out a series of temporary credits last year for its pandemic-confined customers, including a credit through PayPal and one for streaming services. The company says those were popular, with roughly eight out of 10 Platinum Card customers using the streaming credit to its fullest amount last year.
Because of its popularity, some of those credits are now becoming permanent. The company is also making two other benefits created during the pandemic permanent: the US$240 annual entertainment credit toward services such as NBC’s Peacock or The New York Times, and the US$300 annual credit toward an Equinox gym membership or digital fitness class subscription.
“The Platinum Card has always been a high-end travel card, but I think they are now moving toward a hybrid model where the audience for this card is now broader,” said Ted Rossman, an industry analyst with Creditcards.com, who reviews and analyzes credit-card offerings.
The card is still going to have travel-heavy rewards attached to it. The company will be adding a US$200 a year hotel credit for prepaid bookings on AmEx’s Fine Hotels & Resorts or Hotel Collection properties. In addition, there will now be a US$179 a year credit with CLEAR, the security verification service found at many airports and a growing number of sports stadiums.
The Platinum Card is not for everyone, and with its higher annual fee, it may be harder for some to justify its cost, Mr. Rossman said. But those who travel a lot, who are able to use the credits for airlines, travel and using ride-hailing services such as Uber, will find value in the card.
“It’s hard to get past that headline figure of $695 for a credit card. But everyone needs to do the math for their own individual circumstances,” he said.
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