I signed my wife up for the AMEX Platinum last year. It has a hefty $450 annual fee that is NOT waived but they were offering her 100,000 Membership Rewards points that I couldn’t pass up. That’s less than 0.5 cents per point if you don’t use any of the benefits of the card at all. The flight home from D.C., however, illustrated why having an AMEX Platinum might just be worth the high annual fee. I’ll first write about our experience, then explain how the card made it all possible.
We arrived at the airport an hour and a half before our flight. We decided not to check in bags again, so went straight to security. The TSA agents let us cut the line due to baby M, but when we had our I.Ds checks and tickets scanned we received a better surprise – TSA Pre Check.
What is TSA Pre Check? It’s airport security before 9/11, as you remember it from your childhood. You don’t take off your shoes, don’t take liquids out of your bags, and don’t even take your laptop out of your bags. When your ticket is scanned, if you hear three beeps, that means you have TSA Pre Check and you are golden. We were through security in under a minute.
We did have to take baby M out of her carseat to put it through the machine (this time we took all the toys off beforehand – learning!). I thought it odd that she had been freaking out in the car and strangely silent during security. Maybe she really likes airports?
We arrived in the US Airways lounge about five minutes later and figured out why she was so calm. As Jess took her out of the carseat, she noticed that her arm was wet…and it was brown. Doh! I guess she pooped somewhere along the car ride and when we took her out of the car seat for security it leaked out. Gross.
Anyway, thankfully, we were in the lounge so Jess was able to clean and change baby M in relative privacy in a clean and well stocked bathroom. She even managed to drink an espresso before we had to leave for the gate.
Once on the flight, everything was very smooth, baby M slept the whole way again and before we knew it we were in our front door. Our first family vacation was over!
Why AMEX Platinum is worth it?
If you’re unfamiliar with the AMEX Platinum card, you may be wondering why things ended up being so easy for us. TSA Pre Check, the lounge access, and even our flights themselves all were benefits of AMEX Platinum. Let me break it down.
Like I said, TSA Pre Check is a program designed to make going through security much easier. There are multiple ways to qualify, including having high status on certain airlines, but we qualified because we have Global Entry. Global Entry completely streamlines the process of going through customs when you return from international destinations. Anyone can apply and as long as there are no major red flags, most people get approved. Global Entry costs $100 to apply, but AMEX reimburses platinum card holders for the fee. Thus, we got Global Entry for Jess for free (I have it too but I paid), so we both get selected for TSA Pre Check on most of our domestic flights. TSA Pre Check is only limited to certain airports and certain security checkpoints but it is expanding.
US Airways Lounge Access
Another benefit of the platinum card is free access to US Airways, Delta, and American Airlines lounges. For the latter two, you need a ticket for that day, but US Airways lounge access is anytime regardless of the carrier you are flying. So, we used the AMEX Platinum to get into the US Airways lounge which made our wait for the flight a lot more comfortable
$200 Airline Reimbursement Credit
AMEX Platinum card holders also get to select one airline per calendar year to receive a $200 airline credit on. Technically, that credit is supposed to be for fees, but AMEX actually reimburses people who buy gift cards on certain airlines (US Airways, United, and AA being the prominent ones). We bought $200 of gift cards on US Airways this year which paid for 2/3 of our flight costs. The other nice thing is the $200 airline reimbursement credit is per CALENDAR year. Last year we used the $200 on Delta (and were reimbursed) while this year we got our $200 reimbursed to US Airways.
Making the $450 annual fee worth it
By now you’ve probably done the math. We did pay $450 for the annual fee last year. But Jess received $100 for her Global Entry fee, and $400 in airline credits ($200 in 2012 and $200 in 2013). That means we already received $500 worth of benefits for our annual fee. This isn’t even factoring in the lounge access that we received. Ultimately, this is how I justified the high price tag on the card for the first year. The benefits ended up far outweighing the cost, even though the up front cost of $450 seemed steep.
All in all, Washington D.C. was a great trip. We got to see friends, family, and cherry blossoms. The AMEX Platinum card has a hefty $450 annual fee, but it’s worth it for us for the perks, and in this case made our return flight much easier. The card may not be for everyone, but the $450 isn’t as prohibitive as it might sound, so keep an eye on big sign up bonuses!