I see a lot of posts this morning about using the American Express Platinum benefits. Most of these are coming from bloggers with affiliate links and I would say most are as such tainted in their usefulness. Here is my take on how best to maximize the value of your Amex Platinum cards, but these views probably don’t tie up with the way Amex want their cards promoted, so you might not read this kind of take elsewhere.

Use Your $200 Airline Incidental Credit

If you do already have an Amex Platinum card, use up the $200 Airline Incidental credits right away. While technically this is meant to cover bag fees, in-flight food etc in reality it can be used on many airlines to buy gift cards. As someone who does a reasonable amount of paid travel, this is effectively cash back for me.

Note you have to set your airline upfront, and once you choose for the year you are set. But 2014 is a new year, so you can reset this year’s airline once to the airline of your choice. To set this up go to americanexpress.com/airlinechoice.

The best source of information on whether you can buy gift cards and reports of successes from others is on FlyerTalk, with threads on  AlaskaAmericanDeltaSouthwestUnited, and US Airways. Note that not all airlines allow you to buy gift cards that get reimbursed, but I have had historic success with American Airlines and United.

Use Any Other Unused Credits and Benefits

If you need Global Entry and haven’t got it yet, use up your one time application credit. I need to get GE for our kids so next time we travel as a family we can all use the quick kiosks. I will get this taken care of this week.

If you haven’t already done so enroll in Priority Pass Select for airline lounge access.

If you haven’t already done so, get Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status by calling 1-800-525-3355 and giving them your SPG number

Consider Canceling and Switching Cards

Once you have done all that I recommend you then consider canceling your current card and switching for another version of the Platinum card. In order to do this you will need to cancel your current Personal card and apply for a Business one (assuming you don’t have or have not had another Business Platinum or Green Card in the last 12 months) or vice versa. So this only works for those with a business, or comfortable enough that you can justify a business. You used to be able to do this trick between the regular Amex Platinum and the Mercedez-Benz Platinum but that loophole is now closed. But personal-business rotation still works.

For me personally my personal card has been open nearly 12 months so the annual fee will come due soon. I paid the first year $450 annual fee and in return I will get:

  • $200 American Airlines gift cards in 2013
  • $200 American Airlines gift cards in 2014
  • $100 Global Entry Application Fee credit
  • $25 Amazon Gift Card credit
  • $10 Small Business Saturday credit
  • At least a dozen lounge visits
  • 50,000 Amex Membership Rewards on sign up

So $535 in credits, 50k of points worth at least $500, and lounge access for $450. Not bad eh?

I will cancel this month and sign up for the Business Amex Platinum. It looks like the affiliates are pimping a card with no sign up bonus, but you can get 25,000 points after $5k spend for signing up using this link, which you can also access by just going to open.com and clicking on “View all Cards”. Once I have the new card, I will just repeat and get another $200 airline credit for this year, making a total of $400 for 2014. And come next January I will be looking for a sign up bonus on the personal Platinum card, a day or two more than 12 months after I close this card.

If you plan to switch from Business to Personal, the signs ups are 25k for the regular and 50k for the MB version. Links provided below. Note none of these links in this post provide any commission back to me, they are just the best links I know of:

Regular Amex Platinum 25k Sign-Up Link

Mercedez-Benz Amex Platinum 50k Sign-Up Link

Note the annual fee on the MB version is slightly higher at $475 but more than offset by the higher 50k sign up. Also if you spend $5k you get a $100 voucher to use at Mercedez-Benz. They actually sell some decent clothing at MB dealers and I used a voucher on my wife’s card to buy a nice cycling shirt. So another way to eek out even more value from the card.

Won’t This Hurt My Credit?

Applying for new cards on a regular basis will certainly impact your credit score and your ability to obtain further credit. If you plan to open lots of new credit cards, make sure you are aware of the impact this has on your credit. However one thing to note with Amex cards is when you open new cards they will be reported as being open from the date you opened your first card. So as long as you keep one Amex card open at all times, all your cards will be reported as being the same age. This is very beneficial and having more Amex cards can in some cases significantly improve your credit score for this reason. Do make sure to keep one card open though – so if your Platinum is your only card, get the new card before canceling the old. Or better yet get at least one other Amex card, maybe a fee free card, and keep that open constantly.

Conclusion

Using this card switching trick you can get a new American Express Platinum card every year, get a new sign-up bonus every year, and get $400 a year in airline credits along with all the other Amex Platinum benefits.

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  • ABC

    I called amex regarding a different card ~2 days ago. While waiting for the lady to fix the issue with the card she offered me the platinum card w/ 50000 points. Of course with annual fee.

  • MilesAbound

    I only ever once got the Plat with first year waived, but using the strategy above I get way over the $450 fee value from the card

  • de

    Where can you sign up for GE in RDU? I thought the closest site was CLT?

    • MilesAbound

      Yeah we will do the “interview” at JFK when we are next up in NY. The charge goes through right away so you get the $100 back and then we will be in NYC in March en route to Maldives and get the kids taken care of then

  • Zach

    My personal platinum card annual fee will come due this month. I don’t currently have any other Amex cards open. Do I need to transfer my points out of my card before canceling?

    • MilesAbound

      I’d suggest getting the new card first and registering it under the same login. Then once that is in place you will be able to cancel the old without losing any points. Note if you have not been billed the fee yet you have until (at least) the due date of the statement in which it is billed to cancel and get the full fee refunded.

  • Andy

    I have the Amex PRG and the Amex Business Rewards Gold. Am i elgible to upgrade to a platinum card? I called Amex and they said no because they are in the same family of cards. What should my strategy be to get one of these? Cancel one of my gold cards and wait a year?

    • MilesAbound

      Andy – to take advantage of this you do not want to do a card upgrade but get a new card via a new application. The T&C for the Platinum card exclude anyone who has had a Platinum card within the last 12 months or a Zync, Green or Gold card within the last 90 days. So you could cancel your Amex PRG (assuming you don’t want the benefits – I never keep that card past the first free year) and then get the Amex Platinum. It does look like Amex is further tightening up the language around getting the bonus multiple times for us churners!

      • Andy

        Thanks for the reply, I should be able to do the same thing with the business card right? Cancel my Amex Business Rewards Gold card and get the Business Platinum Card?

  • Or take it one step forward. Cancel your card and have a partner or a family member sign up for the “good” MB card with 50,000 points instead. Next, sign up to 3 other family members in need of lounges and Global Entry and other non-monetary Amex Plat perks for $175. The extra 25,000 points are worth the increased annual fee, methink, and besides, I’ve heard some folks have been able to liquidate that $100 MB certificate.

    • MilesAbound

      Good points Andy. I used the MB cert to buy some cycling shirts that were quite nice

      • Really? That’s even better as I thought these were only good for MB stuff. What else can you buy with MB certificate?

        • MilesAbound

          Just pop in a dealership. I mean they are “mb” branded but all kinds of clothes, coffee mugs etc.

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