To travel or not to travel, that is not a question. Travel makes the world go round, literally, and I couldn't possibly imagine life without it. You should never fly without earning miles, nor should you ever buy without earning points. I can't think of many (if any) cards that are better for travelers than the Premier Rewards Gold or Platinum Cards from American Express. Both cards offer incredible travel benefits, point bonuses for sign ups and the continued ability to earn points transferrable to many airlines or hotels for every purchase you make. The card is worth its weight in gold...or platinum.
The question of which card really lies in how much you travel, how many of you are traveling and your preferred style of travel. Both cards carry annual fees of $175 (£140) for Gold and $450 (£450) for Platinum, which are easily justifiable given proper usage of their respective benefits. Which fee will suit you better is entirely dependent on travel habits. The more you travel, the further the scales tip towards the Platinum. The main thing to remember is that both cards offer points earning in the same program and both cards have the same transfer partners. Whichever card you go for, it's essential to check for targeted offers to ensure that you don't potentially miss out on hundreds of thousands of extra points. I'd go for the card with the best targeted offer.
The Case For Platinum:
$200 Annual Airline Credit: This is huge because it resets by calendar year. If you got a card in November, you could use your $200 fee credit and receive a brand new one in January, long before your next annual fee. Essentially you got $400 back towards your $450 fee in two months. You can't use it on airfare itself but you can use it on baggage fees, ticket changes, upgrades and more...
Lounge Access with Priority Pass: Virtually every airport I've ever been in has lounge access via Priority Pass. Not all lounges are created equal, but there are many great offerings. If you are traveling with more than one person, additional cards each count as their own Priority Pass membership so if you travel frequently, you can save a lot on guest fees by grabbing an additional card for your companion/spouse/partner. I was able to cancel my pre existing lounge membership and no longer have to only use lounges in my Sky Team Elite network, allowing me greater flight flexibility.
Starwood Gold Status (US): Starwood is a top notch hotel brand with offerings ranging from five star glamazons to roadside stopovers. Having gold status isn't a crazy benefit, but it helps with free wifi, a room upgrade when available, early check in, late check out and a few other things.
Hilton Gold Status (US): Those little expenses while traveling can seriously add up. Though the benefits won't knock your socks off, you will receive nice things like complimentary wifi, enhanced rooms and all the other benefits surrounding Hilton HHonors Gold status.
Fine Hotels & Resorts: If you like nice hotels, this is the single most awesome benefit. Only Platinum card members have access to Fine Hotels and Resorts, which is a curated collection of top notch properties with which American Express has relationships. At each FHR booking you receive early check in, late check out, room upgrade (when available) and a food and beverage or spa credit, regardless of how long you stay. Additionally, many hotels will offer the third or fourth night of the stay for free. We personally LOVE the food and beverage credit which helps us majorly cut down on expenses whenever we are traveling. Sure, we may have paid $20 more for the hotel through Amex, but we got a bigger room, a late check out and usually $100 to spend at the restaurant or bar (sometimes even more). If you are planning a big trip this is major.
Travel Insurance / Emergency Service: Platinum Card offers incredible travel coverage. You receive insurance when using the card for trip cancellation, baggage delays, travel delay,s medical and more. After only four hours of baggage delay you can receive up to $500 per person to cover costs of any necessary items to keep your trip alive. Additionally, the card covers all transportation and evacuation costs for an injured cardmember or spouse when traveling. The actual cost of medical coverage is not complimentary, but getting you to the best doctor or hospital whether it takes a plane, a helicopter or an ambulance is. They will even fly your spouse out for free to help care for you. Fantastic.
Platinum Dining: Though your initial results may vary, if you push the Concierge rep to actually call the restaurant and inquire, you can secure some impossible bookings with this service. I have had many occasions where OpenTable, or calling the restaurant turn up no options. After calling Platinum dining and asking them to call the restaurant, usually a table magically appears. A great service.
The Case For Gold:
Better Points Earning: Though the travel benefits aren't nearly as comprehensive, the ability to earn points is amazing, with 3x points on airfare booked through airlines (US) or 3x points on travel booked on Amex Travel (UK).
$100 Annual Airline Credit: Just like the Platinum card, the Gold has recently stepped up by offering a $100 annual airline fee credit (starting June 1st). The credit is good towards anything like baggage fees, seat assignments, changes etc and is an excellent way to make back $100 of the $175 instantly.
The Hotels Collection: Though not as rewarding as the Fine Hotels and Resorts program from the Platinum card, the Hotels Collection is an awesome benefit offering $75 food and beverage or spa credit on all stays over two nights as well as a room upgrade when available. A very nice perk.
Lounge Club (UK): This is a great additional benefit for UK card holders, where you get two free lounge passes per year. For the occasional traveler this is an excellent case for sticking with the Gold and avoiding the higher Platinum fee. You could always run any additional lounge visits through the LoungeBuddy app.
Amex Pre Sales / Amex Invites: Though there is a US and UK version, each essentially help you gain access to early ticket pre sales and score insider access to certain curated events. It's not a major deal, but it can be really helpful with concerts. The Platinum definitely offers better access, but this is still something to be happy about.
In the end it comes down to math. Laura and I are virtually always traveling together and we value lounge visits at roughly $50 per person per visit. Between the lounge visits, Fine Hotels and Resort savings and $200 annual airline fee credit, we come out well ahead of the $450 every year, in fact I would say it makes us money. Laura has the Premier Rewards Gold, because it offers us an extra point on flight bookings and came with a targeted 50,000 point bonus after only $1,000 in spending. If you can find offers like that, why not get both?! Either way, I highly recommend each card and you can't go wrong.
Questions? Happy to Help: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com