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Middle Age Miles

Keep or Cancel – Amex Business Platinum card – and Did We Get a Retention Offer?

Amex Business Platinum card

Introduction

The annual fee recently posted on Philly’s Amex Business Platinum card. We were fortunate that her annual fee posted in mid-January, before the recent fee increase to $595. Thus, her annual fee for the coming year was “only” $450.

Each time an annual fee posts on one of our cards, we go through a full analysis of whether to keep the card, cancel it, or product change. In addition, we also make a call to the card issuer to see if there are any retention offers available, unless there’s a good reason not to make that call. We always like to share on Middle Age Miles our thinking and strategy with respect to these “Keep or Cancel?” decisions and our data points on retention calls.

We decided to keep the Amex Business Platinum card with the $450 annual fee. [Note: All links in this section are referral links.]

Let’s take a look at our decision-making process.

Background

We first got this card for Philly in December 2016, and it has never been product-changed. Even though we did not receive any retention offer when the card came up for renewal in January 2018, we somewhat reluctantly decided to keep the card open. On our retention calls last year, the Amex agents told us that we needed to spend $10k on the card during our cardmember year in order to receive a retention bonus on the card (and we had basically only spent the $5k minimum to get the sign-up bonus since we’d opened the card).

Please note that we understand that (a) you can’t truly rely on so-called “rules” or reasons that credit card phone agents give you; and (b) our January 2018 retention call was a year ago, and things like this are highly likely to change over the course of a year. Setting those factors aside for the moment, it’s absolutely true that higher spend makes it more likely that you’ll receive a retention offer from Amex.

During 2018, we spent about $11,000 on this Amex Business Platinum card. The vast majority of this spend, $9,000, came in a single tax payment in late 2018. There were many months where we charged nothing at all to this card.

There are also 2 interesting things about this particular Amex Business Platinum card that are relevant to our “Keep or Cancel?” analysis:

  • One, for reasons unknown to us, this is the only card out of our 13 Membership Rewards (MR) points-earning Amex cards that receives MR-earning Amex Offers. (We covered this subject in detail in our recent article, Where Have All the MR-Earning Amex Offers Gone?) This is important because (a) we prefer MR-earning Amex Offers to statement-credit Offers, and (b) if you have an MR-earning Offer for a merchant on one of your Amex cards and a statement-credit Offer on another, you can enroll in the Offer on both cards and redeem them both, whereas if you have two statement-credit Offers on two different cards, you can only enroll in and redeem one. The fact that this card still gets some MR-earning Amex Offers makes it worth more to us.
  • Two, throughout the 2 years we’ve held this card, we’ve never received an offer to get 10,000 MR points to enroll in Amex’s “Pay Over Time” feature. It seems like all Amex Platinum cards (all charge cards?) eventually receive this offer, so we’d still have the possibility of getting an extra 10k MR points at some time in the future.

Benefits of the Amex Business Platinum Card That We Use

The Amex Business Platinum card is much more of a “benefits” card than a points-earning card. It has a laundry list of benefits, and here we’ll focus only on the ones that are useful to us:

  • $200 annual airline fee credit
    • This credit is supposed to be for airline incidentals such as baggage fees, seat upgrades and in-flight food & beverage purchases. But we have always been able to successfully redeem it for $100 gift cards on American Airlines purchased online through aa.com. This is a nice offset to the annual fee.
  • 35% rebate when you redeem MR points for airfare on AmexTravel.com
    • MR points can be redeemed for airfare on AmexTravel.com at 1 cent per MR point. However, if you have a Business Platinum card, you will get 35% of the MR points you used rebated back into your account, usually about 30-35 days later. This gives MR points an effective value of 1.54 cents per point when redeemed for airfare.
      • For example, if you bought a ticket for $1,000, it would “cost” you net 65,000 MR points (100,000 less the 35,000 point rebate). $1,000/65,000 points = 1.54 cents per point.
  • 1.5x MR points earning on purchases of $5,000 or more
  • Centurion lounge access
    • Because I also have Platinum cards, the usefulness of this benefit is limited for us. However, we have at times needed to get more than 3 people in to a Centurion lounge, so it’s useful for both of us to have a Platinum card.
    • The Priority Pass on this card is not helpful to us, because we have stronger Priority Pass benefits with unlimited guesting privileges from our Chase Ritz-Carlton card.
  • SPG (now Marriott) and Hilton Gold elite status for Philly
    • Very limited usefulness to us as I have higher status with both chains and we book in my name, but still occasionally helpful on the rare occasion when we need to book a room in Philly’s name.
  • Access to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program
    • Again, this has limited usefulness to us given that I also have Platinum cards and higher status. However, this can be useful if and when we want to book multiple nights back-to-back, as we can alternate by booking one night under my name and then one under Philly’s to get “per stay” benefits multiple times.
  • 10 Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes per year
    • Philly will use some or all of these to work during flights

There are numerous other benefits, but those are the ones that are useful to us.

In addition, this month (Feb 2019) Amex introduced 2 new benefits to the Business Platinum card (we will get these benefits even though we’re “only” paying an annual fee of $450):

  • Two semi-annual $100 credits at Dell.com, for a total of $200 annually
    • We don’t typically purchase from Dell, but I’m sure we can find some accessories or other items on Dell.com so that we can get something out of this benefit. Still, it won’t come anywhere close to being worth face value to us.
  • One year of Premium Global Access from WeWork
    • Philly has a full-time job, so this isn’t useful to her. We wouldn’t expect to ever use it except perhaps once or twice as a novelty.

Keep or Cancel? (or Product Change?)

Let’s see if the benefits we get from this card justify a $450 annual fee:

  • We can get basically face value for the $200 airline credit by using it for AA gift cards. Given that we could earn 5x MR points if we paid for $200 worth of airfare using our Amex Personal Platinum card instead of the gift cards, we’ll discount this by 10% and say it’s worth $180.
  • The Dell stuff likely won’t be worth full retail price to us, but I expect that we can get 60% of face value in stuff using the Dell credits. So, we’ll call this benefit worth $120.
  • Beyond that, the other benefits (setting aside the 35% pay-with-points rebate for the moment) are worth something, but not a lot and hard to quantify – maybe $50-75 in total?

That gives us about $350-375 in benefits to this point.

As for the 35% pay-with-points rebate – At the time the card came up for renewal, Philly’s MR balance was about 120,000. And importantly, this is the way we most often use our MR points (thus, this factor may be quite different for people who use their MR points by transferring them to airline partners). At 1.54 cents per point, her MR balance is worth $1,848. Compare this to the two alternatives:

  • If we product change to the new Amex Business Gold card, she will have a 25% points rebate. At a 25% rebate, the points are worth $1,596 when redeemed for airfare. This means that the Business Platinum is worth $252 over the Business Gold for redeeming her existing MR point balance. (Plus, product-changing to Business Gold isn’t a smart option for us, as we’ll discuss further below.)
  • If we product change to an Amex Business Green card or cancel the Business Platinum card outright, her MR point balance will be worth only $1,200 if redeemed for airfare. In this situation, the Business Platinum is worth $648 over the Business Green/cancel options.
Remember, when we use Amex MR points to pay for our airfare on AA, we earn EQMs and EQDs that help us qualify for elite status on AA, which in turn leads to some valuable benefits!
This is also true for other major carriers with you pay with Amex, Chase or Citi points.

Thus, at this point in the analysis, we know that we want to keep the card. We’ve identified at least $600 in benefits, and the annual fee is $450.

Plus, we have some other factors that will make us lean toward keeping the card:

  • MR-earning Amex Offers, as we discussed above
    • It’s impossible to quantify this benefit without knowing what Offers we’d get and use. But we earned 10,500 MR points through Amex Offers in the last half of 2018. Those points are worth about $160 at 1.5 cents per point, which is a benefit of $55 over what we would have received if they were statement-credit offers.
  • The possibility of getting a 10,000-point offer to enroll in Pay Over Time, as we discussed above
    • If we get this offer, it’s worth $150 to us at 1.5 cents per point
  • The possibility of one or more referral bonuses at 15,000 MR points each
    • One referral bonus would be worth $225 at 1.5 cents per point
  • The intangible benefit of maintaining Philly’s relationship with Amex by paying this annual fee and keeping the card
  • Product changes are not smart options for us here
    • The two product change options are the Business Gold card ($295 annual fee; some good benefits like 4x points earning in some categories and the 25% pay-with-points rebate) and the Business Green card ($95 annual fee; no meaningful benefits)
    • But Philly has never had either the Business Gold card or the Business Green card. We do not want to foreclose her from receiving a sign-up bonus in the future on either of these cards by product-changing into them.

Our Retention Calls

We made two retention calls on this card. On each call, Philly gave the Amex reps authorization to speak with me. I gave the reps my standard spiel that we recently received our statement where the annual fee posted, we’re trying to decide whether to keep the card or cancel it, and we were wondering if there were any retention offers that would help make it worth it for us to pay the annual fee and keep the card.

On the first call, we were offered a choice of either:

  • $100 statement credit (no spend requirement); or
  • 5,000 MR points with no spend, plus another 5,000 MR points if we spend $3,000 within 90 days

The rep initially offered the $100 statement credit. He made the alternative MR offer after I asked him if there were any other offers and volunteered that we might be interested in something with points or more credit if we spend a certain amount. The rep emphasized that the computer gives him the offers and there’s nothing he can do to “freestyle” anything else.

I’ve seen better retention offers for Amex Business Platinum cards lately, so after chatting for a few minutes, I told the agent we’d think about it and ended the call.

After that call, I was checking the online account for this card – and wouldn’t you know it, the 10,000-point Pay Over Time offer was there! Wow! I don’t think the timing was related to the retention call, but I also don’t think it was a coincidence that it appeared in connection with the annual fee coming due. Now, it was worth another clear $150 for us to keep the card, and if the keep-vs-cancel decision had been close before, it wasn’t close any more.

We called back the next day (our payment date was immediate), and the call went almost exactly the same. We received exactly the same offers, although this time, the agent emphasized the MR offer. I knew that we could meet the $3,000 spend easily, so we preferred the MR offer given that the 10k total MR points was worth more to us than the $100 statement credit.

We accepted the MR offer and kept the card open. We then paid the annual fee online immediately after hanging up from the retention call.

We enrolled in the Pay Over Time offer the next day.

And the day after that, the 5k MR points for the first part of the retention bonus posted to Philly’s MR account, as did the 10k MR points for the Pay Over Time offer.

Conclusion

$450 is a lot to pay for an annual fee for a card, but in this case we believe the total package of benefits we’re receiving, plus the retention bonus, is worth comfortably more than the fee.

That said, I’m very glad we were still able to get the $450 fee rather than the new $595 fee. I have a feeling that this decision will get a lot tougher next year when we’re comparing the benefits to an annual fee of $595.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our “Keep or Cancel” article on the Amex Business Platinum card, including our retention call data point, and we hope that it helps you in your own analysis of what to do with your cards. As with every credit card and points-and-miles decision, the underlying factors are different for different people. You have to analyze the situation given your own personal circumstances, and come out with the decision that’s right for you.

What do you think about the Amex Business Platinum card and our “keep or cancel” analysis? Any other factors we should have considered, or any way you would weigh things differently? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!


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4 thoughts on “Keep or Cancel – Amex Business Platinum card – and Did We Get a Retention Offer?

  1. Bill

    Don’t forget the excellent travel insurance provided by the Business Platinum any time you are more that 100 miles from home.
    We used to buy extra insurance for our trips but AMEX covers so many possible problems during our travels that we no longer need that added expense.
    In addition to the normal travel insurance provided by most cards, AMEX’s Premium Global Assist program covers us whether we’ve used the card to pay for the trip or not. Such things as emergency medical transportation & evacuation, repatriation of remains (we hope we don’t need this one), medical assessment, coordination, & monitoring of treatment if needed.

    1. Craig Post author

      Good call-outs, Bill. Thankfully (knock on wood), we’ve never had to use any of those benefits. Definitely steer clear of using the “repatriation of remains” benefit!

  2. Lew

    Just got 20,000 Mr offer to retain platinum personal CC for $3000 spend. Makes it worthwhile if you count the $200 airline, $100 Saks, and $200 Uber credit for the $550 AF.

    1. Craig Post author

      Congrats on the good retention offer on the Personal Platinum card, Lew. And thanks for letting us know. That offer and the other benefits definitely make it worthwhile to keep the card. Hope you can knock out the spend easily and go somewhere fun with the points! ~Craig

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