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Middle Age Miles

Keep or Cancel – Amex Mercedes Benz Personal Platinum

Amex Mercedes Benz Personal Platinum card

Executive Summary

I canceled my Amex Mercedes Benz Personal Platinum card yesterday.  My primary motivating factor is Amex’s discontinuation of the MB Platinum and soon-to-come forced product change to the regular Personal Platinum card (the “vanilla” Platinum).  I have never held the vanilla Platinum card before, and I don’t want to be disqualified from being able to get a sign-up bonus on the vanilla Platinum.

Analysis

I got my MB Platinum card two years ago, in June 2016, when the sign-up bonus was at an all-time high of 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points.  During that time, I’ve made good use of the card’s benefits, including the $200/calendar year airline fee credit (used for AA gift cards), monthly Uber credits, 5x MR earning on airfare, and Centurion lounge access.  Philly and I have even used the MB merchandise certificate benefit to pick up goodies from the store at our local Mercedes Benz dealership, including some good insulated cups and a Ryder Cup hat that son Dylan still wears to this day.  The card has been good to us, and we’ve certainly come out ahead, even though we paid two $475 annual fees.

A few months ago, though, Amex announced that it was discontinuing its Mercedes Benz card program in January 2019.  Amex said that MB Platinum cards “will be replaced with a different American Express Card at the time when the Card program ends.”  Although I’m not sure this was officially confirmed by Amex, this language suggests that the MB Platinum card will be converted to a “vanilla” Personal Platinum card.  Also, this seems to set expectations that the conversion will occur in January 2019; however, I was not confident in the MB Platinum card lasting this long.  For one thing, Amex seemed anxious to shut down the card – it stopped taking applications for it as of March 31.  And then, with my annual fee coming due in June, I received a mailer from Amex recently that contained all vanilla Platinum card branding and mentioned that I was “begin[ning] another year of Card Membership (and I don’t have the vanilla Platinum, so my MB Platinum almost had to be the catalyst for this mailer).

Amex Personal Platinum mailer

Amex’s standard language on sign-up bonuses precludes a new cardholder from getting a bonus if he or she has ever held the card before.  I have never held the vanilla Platinum card before, and I certainly do not want to be precluded from getting the bonus.  The current publicly-available sign-up offer on the vanilla Platinum is 60,000 MR points, and there have been offers of 75,000 or even up to 100,000 MR points at times.  That is way too valuable to give up.

Aside from the benefits, I had used the card primarily for two things:

(1) Gift card purchases through the MileagePlus X (MPX) app.  There was a time when purchases through MPX earned 5x MR points on all personal Platinum cards.  I had just figured this out and started using it regularly when Amex abruptly brought 5x earning on MPX to a halt in early 2018.  Rats.

(2) Airfare purchases, especially when redeeming Amex MR points for flights.  Airfare purchases (direct from airlines or through amextravel.com) earn 5x MR points on all personal Platinum cards.  But the huge benefit here has come when using MR points to purchase airfare.  The way Amex handles those transactions, the airfare is charged to a Platinum card, and a couple of days later Amex issues a statement credit in the same amount of the airfare.  The trick was, the charged airfare earned MRs at 5x, whereas the statement credits deducted MRs at only 1x.  Thus, I was earning 4 MR points per dollar on tickets purchased with MR points.  For example, a ticket that would have cost $1,000, using MR points to pay (that is, paying no cash) would earn 4,000 MR points.  That was, and remains, a very nice unadvertised benefit of the personal Platinum card.

Philly was hoping a nice new Mercedes Benz convertible would come as a card benefit!

Against that backdrop and with my annual fee (now $550) due to post during June, I thought it was a no-brainer to cancel the card prior to the fee posting.  The biggest benefits to keeping the card would be the continued 5x earning on airfare and the monthly Uber credits.  Those weren’t going to justify the annual fee.  In addition, I’m not buying many flights with MR points at the moment, because I just burned most of my MR points (this was because I still had the 50% MR rebate on airfare under an Amex Business Platinum card, through early April 2018, and I was using the MR points before they “devalued” to the now-35% rebate).

I waited until my $15 Uber credit for June posted to my Uber account (have to get the last bit of benefit out of the card!), and then I called to cancel.  The call was uneventful.  I worked my way through the automated system, stating that I wanted to cancel the card, and I was eventually put through to a live customer service rep.  He asked why I was canceling the card.  I said that I didn’t want it to be converted to a different card, and left it at that.  He said he understood, and he proceeded with the cancellation.  The card showed as “Canceled” in my online account same-day.

Although this was my highest-earning card for airfare, I’ll be able to earn 3x points on any flights I buy with cash using other cards.  For now, that spend can go on my new US Bank Altitude Reserve card and my new Citi ThankYou Premier card as I work on hitting the minimum spend requirements on those new cards.

I’m sure I’ll try to get another “flavor” of Amex Personal Platinum card in the next few months, when the time is right.  I’ll be watching the sign-up bonus offers and considering the different “flavors” of the card, such as the “vanilla” card, the Schwab card, and the Ameriprise card.  And I’ll certainly let Middle Age Miles readers know when I come across any good new sign-up bonus offers!

 

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