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The credit card world has been abuzz recently with rumors of a big hike in the annual fee for one of the most popular travel-rewards credit cards, The Platinum Card® from American Express. Today, you have to pay a fee of $550 a year to hold the card — and if the rumors are right, that figure is about to go up to a pretty staggering $695.
There are other cards that cost a lot, for example the $550 Chase Sapphire Reserve and some co-branded airline and hotel cards. And, in many cases, people can find enough value in their perks to justify holding them, even as nonessential travel is very much on hold.
But a fee of almost $700 sounds like a whole different ball game.
“We do not comment on rumors or speculation about our products or business,” an Amex spokesperson replied when we asked if the fee hike was real. But credit card experts and enthusiasts have been discussing it online for days now. It was a hot topic of discussion in a Clubhouse chat about credit cards we here at NextAdvisor hosted with our sister publication, The Points Guy, this week (both sites are owned by Red Ventures).
While nothing has been confirmed yet, it still raises the question: Would you, and should you, pay $695 for a credit card?
Before applying for any card, consider your goal for it: What do you want to do with the benefits it offers? That’s especially true for cards with an annual fee.
The Amex Platinum currently carries an annual fee of $550, certainly not a bargain by any stretch of the imagination. It is, though, offset by perks such as a $200 airline fee credit, $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, $100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit and $200 annually in Uber Cash. If you use all those benefits, you’ve already extracted more value from the card than it costs to hold it.
Several sites that follow credit card news have reported that the unconfirmed, rumored $695 fee would come with new benefits like a $300 Equinox credit, $240 entertainment credit (for services such as streaming and Internet), $200 prepaid hotel credit and even a $100 credit to restaurant booking service Resy. If that is true, and if you use all those credits — which is a big if — then a higher-fee Amex Platinum might work for you.
“I think it really depends on exactly what the details of these perks are, like if it’s split up by months or if it’s really hard to use — that’s going to be key,” Chris Dong, Credit Cards Reporter at The Points Guy, said during the Clubhouse chat.
Chris would lean towards keeping the card, even at the increased fee. But Madison Blancaflor, Travel Editor at The Points Guy, feels differently: “If you live in New York, D.C., Boston, LA or any other large city, you might be able to justify it. But for the vast majority of cardholders, that’s just a ridiculous price tag for what you’re getting. I don’t think most people are going to be able to use all of those perks.” In fact the current $550 fee, let alone an even bigger one, was already enough to discourage her from applying.
Of course, the Amex Platinum isn’t the only premium travel rewards credit card on the market. Its direct competitor, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, also carries a $550 annual fee, and comes with solid perks: $300 travel credit, $100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit and even $60 in DoorDash credits (through 2021). And with travel taking a back seat to public safety in the past year, the Reserve has introduced perks unrelated to travel that have made it a good premium credit card to hold while travel is paused.
Both of these premium cards certainly have perks that help offset the cost of the fee, although there’s no doubt they carry a high price tag. And while it can be a tough decision deciding between the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards, it’s important to consider your spending and lifestyle habits. The “best” card is the one that best matches your preferences and helps you achieve your financial goals.
In fact, that is true no matter the cost of the annual fee. Whether the price of the Amex Platinum card stays at $550 or increases to $695, we always recommend taking a critical look at what perks and benefits a card offers to determine if it’s a good fit for you.
Speaking from personal experience, I know I will seriously have to consider renewing my Amex Platinum card if the price increases. While I know I would continue to get use out of the Uber, airline and Saks credits — and would get use out of the hotel and Resy credits if they come to fruition — the $300 Equinox credit would be a hard pill to swallow. I do not have, nor do I plan to have, an Equinox membership, so this perk would not help me offset the card’s high annual fee.
This exemplifies the thought process we would encourage current and potential cardholders to follow when making the decision about keeping any of their credit cards, fee or not.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Intro bonus:60,000 points
- Annual fee:$550
- Regular APR:16.99%-23.99% Variable
- Recommended credit:740-850 (Excellent)
- Learn more at our partner’s secure site.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Intro bonus:80,000 points
- Annual fee:$95
- Regular APR:15.99% – 22.99% Variable
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Learn more at our partner’s secure site.
In any case, if you’re in the market for a new travel credit card, there are great options out there with fees that don’t make your eyes pop. For example, there’s never been a better time to sign up for the $95 Chase Sapphire Preferred. It’s currently offering a very large sign-up bonus of 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. That’s enough points for two people to go for free on a flight across the U.S., twice.
So, while you may scoff at the fees for some premium travel cards — and based on our Clubhouse chat, you would not be alone — you don’t have to write travel cards off altogether.
No matter your spending habits and budget, there are plenty of fee and no-fee credit cards on the market that can help you achieve your financial goals. And, once it’s safe to do so again, even to see the world for free.