As I’ve mentioned few days ago, Amex came out with a pretty hot offer on Platinum Mercedes-Benz card. How hot? Well, I would describe it as almost sizzling, but not quite. The problem? That darn $475 annual fee. I keep going back and forth on whether to sign up or not, but will probably pull the trigger in the next few weeks. For those who just heard about the offer, here are the details:
Platinum Card® from American Express
Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz
- Limited Time Offer: 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you charge $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first three months of Card Membership. Offer expires 06/22/2016.
- Receive a $1000 certificate each year you charge $5,000 in purchases, good toward the future purchase or lease of a new Mercedes-Benz
- Up to 2,000 excess miles waived at lease-end on leases through Mercedes-Benz Financial Services
- $100 certificate at renewal of your Card account, good toward Genuine Mercedes-Benz Accessories
- Annual fee of $475
- The card pays me no commission. Here is a direct link.
So, obviously, getting 75,000 MR points after spending $3,000 in 3 months is pretty great. You can see this post for some ideas on what you can do with that amount. Let’s ignore all the Mercedes-Benz goodies. I know I won’t be buying one any time soon. Hmm, do they make a minivan?
Breaking down Amex perks
Are benefits on the card worth such a hefty annual fee? For most, absolutely. The biggest perk is that as of now, you can buy airline gift cards and get reimbursed up to $200 per calendar year. First, you have to make your airline selection.
So that alone will potentially shave $400 off your fee. Be aware, gift cards are technically excluded, so proceed at your own risk. From “T and C”:
“Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.”
However, so far, Amex has been happy to play along in spite of this loophole being covered extensively on blogs. There are actually other worthwhile benefits as well. Those are, in the order of significance:
1) Premium Roadside Assistance
“Premium Roadside Assistance provides the following services at no additional cost up to 4 times per calendar year when Card Member is present with the eligible vehicle: towing up to 10 miles, winching, jump starts, flat tire change when Card Member has a workable spare, lockout service when key is in vehicle and delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel.”
If you are paying for AAA membership, you can cancel it if you have a Platinum card.
2) Return Protection
“Return Protection can refund you for eligible purchase(s) charged entirely on an eligible American Express Card. Coverage is limited to 90 days from purchase, up to $300 per item and up to a maximum of $1,000 per Card Member account per calendar year based on the date of purchase. Shipping and handling costs for the purchase will not be refunded.”
3) Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Benefit for Platinum – Automated Enrollment
“As a Platinum Card® Member or Business Platinum Card® Member you are eligible to enroll in complimentary Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG ®) Gold Preferred Guest status.”
This could be a very nice perk if you plan to stay at Starwood properties. As a Gold, you can qualify for upgrades, late check-out and some other goodies. Read details on this status level here
4) Hilton HHonors Gold Status Enrollment
“As a Platinum Card Member you are eligible to enroll in complimentary Hilton HHonors Gold status. Offer available only to Platinum Card Members and is not transferable.”
Not a game changer, but nice to have. You can get free breakfast at most properties, plus a potential upgrade. Read details here
5) Complimentary lounge access.
“Card Member’s spouse and children under the age of 21 or up to two companions may enter the club as complimentary guests.”
This could actually come in handy on flights with long layovers. While this benefit is not critical to me, it is not worthless either because you can get free food. And free is always good. It rhymes!
You can make out like a bandit on some routes. My uncle-in-law and his family were able to hang out in the lounge in Dubai that had nap rooms, showers and free food. As a result, they saved money by not having to pay for two hotel rooms.
6) Cruise Privileges Program
“Valid for new bookings of voyages of at least five nights made with a participating supplier through Platinum Travel Service, Centurion Travel Service, any American Express Travel office or the Agency Services Desk.
May not be combined with other offers unless indicated. Blackout dates, category and fare restrictions may apply. Payment must be made with an American Express Card in U.S. Platinum Card Member or U.S. Centurion® Member’s name.
Card Member must travel on itinerary booked. Benefits listed require double occupancy and are non-transferable. Program benefits may not be available to residents outside of the contiguous United States.
Card Members receive $100 USD shipboard credit for inside and outside staterooms; $200 USD shipboard credit for balcony, verandah, and mini-suite staterooms; and $300 USD shipboard credit for suites on Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.”
This could be a very nice benefit, but check the prices via other sites.
There are other perks, but they will probably be mostly of interest to upper crust. All in all, I would say collectively, these are worth at least $75 per year even for most regular families. Of course, the biggest perk is calendar year airline credit.
But what if you are debating between Amex Platinum Mercedes-Benz and Citi Prestige? Perhaps you only get one or two sign-up bonuses per year, and are not sure which way to go. I assume you will cancel either card before the first year is up.
First, here are the details on Citi Prestige offer:
- $250 Air Travel Credit each year
- Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
- Points are redeemable for an $800 flight on American Airlines, a $665 flight on any other airline or $500 in gift cards.
- Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
- Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
- Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
- 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases
- Annual fee of $450, not waived.
This card pays me commission if you apply through my site. Note that some have been able to get this offer with $350 annual fee by applying inside Citi branch.
Few reasons you may want to consider Citi Prestige instead of Amex:
1) You can get the bonus on Citi Prestige 24 months after canceling the card. As of now, with Amex, you can only get the sign-up bonus once per lifetime.
If you don’t have any specific goals for Amex Membership Rewards points, it could make sense to get Citi Prestige instead. That way, you can start the clock on qualifying for Citi sign-up bonus again.
2) If you are looking to redeem points on revenue flights operated by American Airlines (or codeshares), Citi Prestige is the winner.
You can redeem 50,000 points for $800 worth of flights on American. I wrote a post on this option, so won’t repeat myself. With Amex MR program you get 1 cent per point towards airfare, so you would be able to get $750 worth of flights.
3) You like the idea of getting a guaranteed $200 calendar airline credit, which includes flights and gift cards.
Citi Prestige does not exclude airline gift cards or regular flight purchases in its terms, and I was able to buy them without any issues. No worrying about breaking the rules or Amex shutting this loophole down.
4) You value “4th hotel night free” and golf benefits that come with Citi Prestige.
For some, these are worth quite a bit. If you routinely pay cash for hotel stays of 4+ nights, it can save you serious money in the long run. If you are into golf and can easily take advantage of this unique perk, Citi Prestige probably also holds a lot of appeal. Remember, these could be watered down in the future or simply vanish. I’m not saying they will, but if you want to take advantage of them right now, it’s something to consider.
Few reasons you may want to consider Amex instead of Citi Prestige:
1) You need to transfer points to airline that partners with Amex but not Citi.
There are quite a few of them, and Amex is the winner in this respect, hands down. Among those that hold the most appeal when it comes to regular family: Delta, British Airways Avios, Air Canada and Jet Blue. Jet Blue has revenue program similar to Southwest, where you don’t have to worry about award availability.
Delta is a good option for hub-captive readers and those who prefer instant transfer. Ditto for Air Canada program which you can use on United flights. Avios program has lost its luster somewhat due to murder of 4,500-mile routes and current 800:1,000 transfer ratio from MR program. Still, it holds value for those who fly from (or to) American and Alaska hubs.
Amex is also known for regular transfer bonuses, like current 30% bonus on Virgin Atlantic and 30% transfer to Etihad. Keep in mind, right now Virgin Atlantic is having a sale on economy award seats. If you redeem for one-way flights to Europe, fuel surcharges are palatable. Etihad miles can be redeemed on American Airlines, with excellent value to South America and Europe in the off-season.
2) You are concerned that bonus on Amex Mercedes-Benz card will never be higher.
This is the highest that offer has ever been on this particular card. Amex deal is hot, no question about it. Will it ever go up to 100K points? Your guess is as good as mine. Note that signing up for it shouldn’t preclude you from getting a bonus on regular Amex Platinum down the road.
3) You are afraid that airline gift card reimbursement loophole will be closed in the future.
Definitely a possibility.
4) You value unique Amex Platinum perks I’ve listed previously.
Getting Gold status with SPG and Hilton can definitely come in handy for some families. Cruise credits and roadside assistance can be quite useful as well.
Well, those are my two cents. What are your thoughts? Is anyone tempted by Amex card in spite of its crazy fee?
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