If you don’t hold a premium credit card, you probably think they’re for insecure boobs who desperately want a status symbol to flash – the credit card version of a Hummer limo.
But the credit card companies have been working hard to lure new customers to these cards by providing a raft of travel benefits that are richer and more encompassing than they have ever been; and now the value proposition for these cards is pretty amazing.
Let’s use the Amex Platinum as an example.
Yes, the annual fee is high – $550! But FOR that fee you get:
Airline Lounge access
Amex gives you an unlimited Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass provides entrance to a variety of lounges, one or more of which can be found in most airports around the world.
But even better, Amex operates its own domestic chain of lounges (with a couple of international locations) called the Centurion Lounge, which are some of the best lounges out there – cool décor, great celebrity-chef-guided food, full premium bar, etc. With both the Centurion Lounges and Priority Pass, you can bring yourself and a guest into each lounge.
$200 in airline credit
Each year, you select your airline for that year, and $200 of your purchases on that airline (gift cards on some airlines, upgrades, baggage fees, seat assignments, onboard food/drinks, etc. – pretty much everything except actual ticket purchases) will be credited back to you.
$200 in Uber credits
Each month, you’ll get $15 to use for Uber rides. ($35 in the month of December.) Just make the Platinum card your primary form of payment in the Uber app and select the credit when booking a ride. Easy peasy.
TSA Precheck/Global Entry
If you don’t already have this, or are ready to renew (it has to be renewed every 5 years), use the Platinum card to pay the $100 fee, and it will be credited back to your account.
Hotel Elite Status
You’ll get mid-tier elite status with Hilton and Marriott, which gets you room upgrades (when available), late check-out, etc. It does not get you lounge access, but at least you won’t be in the room next to the boiler.
Car Rental Elite Status
You’ll get Executive elite status with National, which means you not only get to skip the counter and pick your own car, you get to pick from the Executive aisle, which is at least 2 car classes better than the one you reserved. (You do have to reserve a mid-size or above.)
$100 Saks Fifth Avenue Shopping Credit
Twice a year (in the first half and second half), you’ll get a $50 credit for anything you buy at Saks Fifth Avenue. Buy a $50 shirt and get it credited back to you. But a $100 muff and get $50 of it back.
While doing a hand-off of our brand-new camera in Amsterdam last summer, my husband and I dropped it on the pavement. It broke. I emailed the receipt for the original purchase (along with the receipt for the new one we bought in Amsterdam) and voila – Amex credited my account for the total cost of the original camera.
5x earning on airfare
If you buy airline tickets, this can be a really quick way to earn a lot of points. A $1,000 ticket will earn you 5,000 points.
This usually hovers around 50,000 or 60,000 points, which is about enough for a one-way business class award ticket to Europe.
Amex’s points program is called Membership Rewards, and while you can use those points for things like shopping at Amazon (at 1-cent per point – meh), by far the better redemptions are for travel. You can transfer the points to a variety of airlines (the best option) or hotels instantly.
There are several iterations of the personal card (the standard one from Amex, plus several co-branded versions with different investment companies), along with a business version.
I have the Morgan Stanley version of the personal card, which also allows additional cardmembers at NO FEE – so my husband (who travels for work) can use all those lounges anytime he wants.
There are, of course, numerous other great premium cards:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Citi World Executive (for American flyers)
- Delta Reserve (for Delta flyers)
- United Club (for United flyers)
- Citi Prestige
- Hilton Aspire
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant
Obviously, you need to make use of the perks for these cards to be worth their annual fee. But if you do, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to get and keep one!