Last week, I added a new horse to the stable.
The American Express Platinum, Charles Schwab edition.
I’ll admit, this one was a bit of an impulse. I’ve been shifting my focus from credit cards to bank bonuses, giving my credit report a bit of time to recover from the inquiries in the last year. I’ve opened up more than 10 cards since I started travel hacking about 9 months ago.
Hey, go big or go home, right?
I decided to take advantage of the Schwab referral promotion going on right now (via Doctor of Credit, note that the “referrer” doesn’t actually get any bonus). I’m particularly excited about their Investor Checking Account for the lack of foreign transaction fees and free worldwide ATM access. Once I’ve used the account for a bit, specifically on my upcoming trip, I’ll be sure to write more about the Schwab Investor Checking Account in more detail. In the meantime, there are plenty of great write-ups out there, and I encourage any world traveler to look at Schwab’s account!
Anyway, having a Schwab account opens a few doors. American Express partners with Schwab for two credit cards: the Schwab Investor Card, and the American Express Platinum Card for Schwab. The investor card is essentially 1.5% cashback card, except it’s less flexible. The 1.5% back is deposited directly into your Schwab account, so it’s really more of a 1.5% “Schwabback” card. Nice ring to it, huh? Needless to say, I wasn’t interested, though I can see the advantage of the card: no hassle and automatic savings. Decent rebate on everyday spending for those that don’t want to pour over FlyerTalk, blogs, and credit card sites.
The Platinum though, well that got my attention. For those that don’t know, there are many versions of the American Express Platinum card. Most of their benefits tie back to the “parent” version of the card, the straight up Platinum. These include car rental privileges, hotel status, and statement credits for certain options.
Plus, Schwab is just fun to say..
40,000 Membership Rewards for $3,000 spend in 90 days. This is a standard offer on all the American Express Platinum Cards. Since it’s only been available a few months, we have yet to see an increased offer on the card. I’m happy with 40,000 points, especially in addition to the other benefits the card comes with.
- 1 Membership Rewards Point/$1 spent on all purchases
- $200 airline fee credit each calendar year (typically for baggage fees, in-flight purchases, etc.)
- No foreign transaction fees
- Access to AmEx Offers
- SPG Gold Status
- Hilton Gold Status
- Complimentary Boingo Wifi
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every 5 years
- Priority Pass Select airport lounge access
- Avis Preferred Status
- Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
- National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive
- Assorted American Express benefits, like global concierge service, rental car collision insurance, extended warranties, purchase protection, and more
- Schwab appreciation bonus (outlined below)
- Ability to cash Membership Rewards into your Schwab account, increments of 10,000 points for $125
- $450 annual fee
American Express Platinum Benefits
You could probably guess from the extensive list above: most people consider the Platinum to be purely a benefits card. I, for one, will not be putting much spend on the card after the sign-up bonus. Even with its shiny silver front, the card only earns 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar, no matter what. Compared to the rest of the plastic in my wallet, this doesn’t offer a great option. However, the Platinum’s annual fee is definitely worth at least the first year to me. After that $200 airline fee credit, the fee is effectively $250 anyway.
As an American Express cardholder, I have access to AmEx Offers, which I’ve found particularly useful. You can read more about these in my post about the Premier Rewards Gold Card from AmEx.
Airline Fee Credit
Similar to the Premier Rewards Gold (a $100 credit), the Platinum also offers an airline fee credit. Simply choose your airline, and use your card for the eligible charges. Eligible charges typically include baggage fees, advance check-in fees, in flight purchases, and anything else associated with the flight. Remember though, it doesn’t count for actual airfare or tickets. I’ll definitely get some use out of this!
Car Rental Status
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m new to the world of rental cars. For those that find themselves renting wheels frequently, the Platinum card may be helpful. Between Avis, Hertz, and National, the benefits range from car upgrades and 20% savings to a copy of the Wall Street Journal in the car. I’m sure I’ll find some value here in the next year.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
The Platinum cards offer the cardholder reimbursement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every 5 years. I already signed up for Global Entry using the same benefit on my Citi AAdvantage Executive. I’ll plan on using this credit for my girlfriend, so that way we can both benefit from this while traveling.
Although I haven’t actually had my interview with Global Entry at Boston Logan, I’ll be sure to write up a post about the experience!
Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status
Starwood Gold Status. That’s what I’m excited about. With our upcoming stays at the Westin Cancun, and another in Baltimore this fall (and hopefully more to come), I’m definitely looking forward to the benefits. Upgraded room? Sure!
SPG Gold status isn’t automatic, you need to put in a quick call to AmEx. I gave them my SPG number, they read a little disclaimer about terms and conditions, and signed me up! The customer service representative said it would take up to 72 hours. Since I called on a Friday night, I figured I’d hear back by Monday or Tuesday.
I woke up the next morning with an email from SPG confirming Gold Preferred Guest status! When I logged into my SPG account, sure enough, I was a registered Gold Preferred member.
Hilton HHonors Gold Status
With no Hilton stays lined up, I haven’t gotten to this one yet. When I do get to take advantage of the upgraded rooms, increased Hilton point earnings, and 5th reward night free, I’ll let you know!
Priority Pass Select
The Priority Pass grants members airport lounge access throughout the world. With the Platinum card, you can enroll in a free membership program, but only the cardholder can get in. You’ll still have to pay for guests.
Enrollment is extremely simple, just punch in a username and password. The website then asked for information on my Platinum card, confirmed eligibility, and they confirmed a 10-14 day arrival time.
Airline Lounge Access
In addition to the complimentary Priority Pass, the AmEx Platinum grants access to a slew of other airline lounges. The cardholder and guests can get into the American Express Centurion lounges, International American Express lounges, and Airspace lounges. Holders of the Platinum card can also access Delta Sky Clubs with same-day Delta boarding passes.
Invest with Rewards!
Keeping it interesting, the American Express Platinum Card for Schwab allows users to cash their Membership Rewards out towards an eligible Schwab account. Redemptions start at 10,000 points for $125 in your brokerage account, representing a redemption value of 1.25 cents per point. Although lower than the maximum value you could get for those points (when transferring to airline partners for a great redemption), this represents a strong, stable value on your points.
Since the card is still new, there’s some speculation as to whether or not this form of redemption will trigger a 1099. Theoretically, it shouldn’t, as these points are considered rebates, and therefore not taxed. You’re not turning them into income, per se, you’re just redeeming your rebate. The IRS won’t tax me on the Staples rebate card I received last week, so why the points? Regardless, I’ll be waiting to redeem toward Schwab until we see some proof that I’m safe from a 1099. Be sure to talk to a tax professional if you have any questions about this process.
Schwab Appreciation Bonus
Finally, Schwab offers cardholders an appreciation bonus in the form of a statement credit annually. $100 for folks with qualifying Schwab holdings of at least $250,000. Once you hit $1,000,000 in Schwab, that bonus becomes $200, or 0.0005% of your holdings.
Gee, thanks…either way, it’s going to take me quite some time to get up to a million dollars in Schwab holdings. Or in any holdings, for that matter.
Was this a methodically planned application?
Will it be worth it?
I think so! Obviously, we’ll have to see how much benefit I get from the card, but I feel pretty good about this one. The SPG Gold status will be great and the airline fee credit is a no brainer. With the AmEx Offers and other benefits, I’m confident I’ll come out ahead!