Thursday, March 2, 2017

Amex polishes up their platinum card to compete with Chase Sapphire

Ever since the Chase Sapphire Reserve came out, people have been waiting for Amex to respond. A few months back they bumped up the airfare bonus on their Platinum card to 5 points per dollar, but we've all been expecting a bigger announcement to generate some actual word-of-mouth buzz among the travel nerd community.

Well, last night they announced their new Platinum card and the general response this morning has been, "Wait, really? Oh. Um... No."

The fee goes up $100 a year, but you get $200 a year in Uber driving credits now. As I've said many times, one of the things I love about the Chase Reserve card is how easy they make it to spend your annual travel credit and how refreshing it is compared to Amex's hokey requirements that seem designed to bamboozle you out of using them. The bamboozling continues with this new card:
  • Uber credits are only good in the USA
  • You get a $15 credit each month that expires at the end of that month
  • The credit is aimed at attracting Millennials but didn't anyone notice the big Delete Uber movement last month? 

The card is made of metal now. Lots of cards are made of metal now so I don't think the Vegas VIP lounge waitress is going to swoon for your faux Centurion card, sorry. Sidenote: I forgot my card at a restaurant while traveling. I'd already canceled and replaced the card but when the manager offered to just "cut the card up and toss it" he kinda couldn't do that. Yes, the card comes with a return mailer, but that wouldn't have helped here.

5x on Hotel spending. The problem here is that you have to book through Amex's travel portal, which means you won't earn any points with the hotel's own loyalty program. Further, one of the biggest perks of getting a platinum card is for Amex's Fine Hotels and Resorts program but guess what? No 5x on those!

New Centurion lounges. Philly and Hong Kong are getting American Express lounges. While they've generally gotten good reviews from frequent fliers, they're also prone to overcrowding. Furthermore, at a big airport most people don't want to go to a pre-security lounge that's likely in a different terminal than the one they're departing from.

What they don't grasp is that when the Chase Reserve came out it was such an absolute no-brainer. If you'd like a no-brainer Amex Platinum:
  1. Make it easier to spend those annual credits
  2. 100,000 signup bonus
  3. Minimum 3x category bonuses for all travel and dining
  4. One "hot" category – like their 5x on airfare.
  5. Centurion and Priority Pass access
  6. Something innovative in their point redemption process: for example, I'd love a super-quick portal where I could compare and book airline reward tickets (not those 1-point-per-dollar ticket purchases, I mean actual award tickets) that let me completely skip all of the cumbersome searching and point transferring.
For now, I'm keeping my Premier Rewards Business Gold card, largely because my company does a lot of shipping and it has a bonus on FedEx spending.


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