American Express’s Platinum card once gave cardholders a $200 annual credit against airline purchases. Several years ago, Amex “upgraded” its program by only applying the $200 annual credit against incidentals at a single airline that cardholders needed to specify beforehand. Savvy cardholders realized from searches on the internet that they would continue to get the full credit by specifying Delta as their chosen airline and purchasing 4 gift cards of $50 each. (There is also anecdotal evidence that this worked for American Airlines too, but with Delta, it was always certain). As another new “upgrade” for 2019, Amex is no longer accepting Delta’s $50 gift card charges as an incidental and will charge you their full cost.
Amex seems to just be constantly “upgrading” the Platinum card such that it is becoming harder and harder to see its value against the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and the newly improved Citibank Prestige card. It is especially remarkable since Amex used to bend over backwards to keep Platinum cardholders happy.
These days, they now charge $550 per year for the card (“upgraded” from $450) and give you small monthly Uber credits that are often not properly credited. While access to United and American lounge access has been lost (and Delta is no limited to the cardholder only), you do have access to the Centurion lounges, but they are most likely to be more crowded than the terminal itself. Plus, you may not always be given access and they won’t let in a single cardholder with more than one kid.
Platinum does now give 5 points per dollar for travel booked directly with the airline, but as of January 4, 2019, that has been matched by Citibank’s Prestige card. Both the Prestige card and Chase’s Sapphire Reserve Card (which only gives 3 points per dollar on airlines) offer better compensation in the event of a flight delay or cancellation.
Of course, Platinum still has their Fine Hotels and Resorts program that can be incredibly valuable, giving you a third or fourth night free and an upgrade to a suite. But, if you don’t use that program, the Platinum card’s value is increasingly questionable.