I’ve been a long-time American Express customer but am making some changes in 2017 to the cards in my wallet.
First, a disclaimer. I don’t have referral links and am not trying to sell you any cards.
For the last five years I have had two cards in my wallet that I used frequently — a personal American Express Platinum card and a business AMEX Gold card for Award Expert.
Up until late 2016, the Platinum card was rarely used. I would buy big-ticket items like computers or home appliances with it because of the extended warranty benefit, but it was not a very valuable card for daily use. Still, I paid the annual $450 fee each year for the $200 airline credit plus lounge access. I love American Express lounges and used the Centurion Lounge in San Francisco often. The Platinum card also comes with Priority Pass Select, which I use all over the world to access lounges.
I crunched the numbers and here is why the $450 was worth it for me. Subtract the $200 airline credit I would have spent anyway, and the annual fee drops to $250. Divide that by the number of lounge visits per year in one of the Centurion Lounges or Priority Pass lounges. For me, that was 42 visits in 2016. $250 / 42 works out to $5.95 per visit!
But in response to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, AMEX was forced to make the Platinum Card even better. Travel on the personal Plat card now earns 5 points per dollar. All of a sudden I am putting all my airline spending on this card.
What should I do with my AMEX Gold card?
I kept the AMEX Gold card in my wallet for many years and used it frequently because it gave me 3 points per dollar on travel. Now I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card that also gives me 3 points per dollar and a Plat card that give 5 points per dollar. Since I have the business variant of the Gold card, I do not receive a $100 airline credit, meaning the whole $185 annual fee offset the ~100K miles I earned through the card last year. That’s a fair trade, but I see no reason to keep this card.
Two choices: cancel the card or upgrade to a business platinum. While I don’t really welcome a third $450 annual fee (because I pay $450 for the Sapphire Reserve and $450 for the Personal Platinum), the AMEX Business Plat gives you half the miles back when you use the AMEX Travel Portal for premium cabin purchases. It also gives you half back in economy class for one selected airline.
With paid premium cabin fares dropping and mileage prices increasing (see this glaring Delta example), this is compelling. Of course if that is my metric of value, perhaps getting a 1.5% cash back card is the better option.
The annual fee is due soon, so I do not have long to make a decision. Am I missing anything? I think I will just cancel this card and hopefully move the line into my Starwood Business card.
If you haven’t read on 40 other Boarding Area blogs, the Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus is dropping from 100K to 50K on January 12, 2017 (though not until March 12, 2017 in-branch). That is still my top-recommended card. But American Express Platinum has become much more valuable and Membership Rewards points are valuable. As I weigh my choice for 2017, one thing is clear: all my AMEX cards will be silver.