I kind of gave away the punch line in the title, right?
The annual fee recently posted on my Amex Business Platinum card. Unfortunately, my renewal came a few days too late, and my annual fee (AF) was at the new and higher $595 level – an extra $145 from the $450 AF of previous years.
You may recall that we published a “Keep or Cancel” article for the Amex Business Platinum card just a few weeks ago. That one was for Philly’s Business Platinum, and the annual fee was still “only” $450. We decided to keep her card, which was clearly the correct decision under those circumstances. You can review that article here – Keep or Cancel – Amex Business Platinum card – and Did We Get a Retention Offer?
Today’s article, chronicling why I decided not to keep my Amex Business Platinum card, is a perfect case study in why credit card advice is not one-size-fits-all. My circumstances were different than Philly’s. Hence, as clear as the decision was to keep her card, it was equally clear that I should not keep my card.
With that introduction, let’s take a look at the decision-making process for my Business Platinum card.
We first got this card in January 2016, as an Amex Business Rewards Gold card (no longer available to new applicants). In August 2016, we accepted an offer to upgrade the card to Business Platinum (I believe it was 50,000 MR points), and it has remained a Business Platinum ever since.
In our most recent cardholder year, we spent a little over $10,000 on this card. The spend pattern was sporadic. The majority came from 2 payments – a $3,000 Plastiq payment in February 2018 to earn a spend-based retention bonus from last year, and a $6,500 tax payment in November 2018.
Beyond that, some other background facts that are relevant to our decision include:
- We have previously received 10,000 MR points for enrolling this card in Amex’s “Pay Over Time” feature.
- We have already used all of the $200 annual airline fee credit for 2019 on this card.
- My 10 free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes for 2019 have already loaded to my Gogo account.
- I have an Amex personal Platinum card, so many of the benefits of a Business Platinum are duplicative.
- I currently hold an Amex Business Green card; thus, I can product change to that card without giving up any sign-up or referral bonus.
- I do not have and have not held the new Amex Business Gold card.
- I do, however, hold a legacy Business Rewards Gold (BRG) card. Limited data points (DPs) to date suggest that a BRG card precludes me from receiving a sign-up bonus on the new Amex Business Gold card under the Amex once-per-lifetime rule. That said, I’m still not anxious to product-change into a Business Gold card with no sign-up bonus and therefore ensure that I’ll be precluded from a future bonus under Amex’s current language (“Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this card.”).
And finally, one more relevant background fact is that I currently have a MR balance of about 200,000 points. We primarily use our MR point balances to “pay” for airline tickets through the Amex Travel Portal at 1 cent per MR point, with the 35% pay-with-points rebate from holding a Business Platinum card. This gives our MR points a value of at least 1.54 cents per point, which usually becomes 1.6 to 1.7 cents per point, with “Insider Fares” discounts and some MR points-earning by running the payment/credit through my personal Platinum card.
200,000 MR points could be used for $2,000 in airfare without the Business Platinum card. But with the 35% pay-with-points rebate, those same points are worth $3,080 – more than a thousand dollars’ difference. Thus, the 35% pay-with-points benefit an extremely valuable feature of the Business Platinum card to us. On the other hand, if you primarily use your MR points by transferring them to airline partners for mileage redemptions, the pay-with-points rebate could be almost meaningless to you.
Benefits of the Amex Business Platinum Card
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 we feel are most useful:
- $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. To date, we have always been able to successfully redeem this credit for $100 gift cards on American Airlines purchased online through aa.com, but this seems to have recently changed (which will hurt us, even though it seems that Delta and Southwest GCs are still available). This is a nice offset to the annual fee.
- 35% rebate when you redeem MR points for airfare on AmexTravel.com (as discussed above)
- 1.5x MR points earning on purchases of $5,000 or more
- Centurion & Priority Pass lounge access
- Because I hold a personal Platinum card and Philly holds a Business Platinum, Centurion access on a third card is of limited or no use to us.
- 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
- Not useful to us, as I have higher status with both chains.
- Access to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program
- Again, this is of no use to us given that I hold a personal Platinum card.
- 10 Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes per year
- I will use some or all of these to work during flights. As noted earlier, I have already received my Gogo passes for 2019.
In addition, Amex recently (in Feb 2019) introduced 2 new benefits to the Business Platinum card:
- Two semi-annual $100 credits at Dell.com, for a total of $200 annually
- We don’t typically purchase from Dell. We actually ended up using the $100 credit for the first half of 2019 for an interesting purchase that we’ll discuss more below. On an ongoing basis, presumably we could 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
- This has some potential value as an optional work space for me. But, given that I have a fully-operational home office, it’s certainly not a benefit that I’d pay extra for.
Before we dive further into the keep/cancel/product change analysis, let’s recap my retention calls to Amex on my Business Platinum card.
In short, I made 2 retention calls to Amex and I did not receive any retention offer at all.
I was extremely surprised to get no offer at all. Our spend on this card was nothing crazy, but it was a solid $10k. (Not to believe anything you hear from phone agents, but we’ve been told multiple times by retention reps that $10k is a magic number to receive a retention offer.) My total spend across all of my Amex cards was much higher, of course. And Amex had just raised my annual fee by $145 – surely they would offer me something, right?
Not to mention, just a few weeks earlier, we’d received a (modest) retention offer on Philly’s card, with almost exactly the same spend level, less total spend across all Amex cards, and with her annual fee still being at $450.
So … ouch.
Analysis – Keep, Cancel or Product Change?
Under the influence of my hurt feelings over not receiving any retention offer, I analyzed whether to keep my Amex Business Platinum card, cancel it, or product change.
For starters, I really don’t want to cancel Amex cards. Despite being 10+/24 and holding numerous Amex cards, Amex has continued to approve me for new cards and has not denied me sign-up bonuses with the dreaded pop-up (unless I was clearly ineligible). I wrote a fair bit about this in more detail in my “Keep or Cancel” article on my BRG card – Keep or Cancel – Amex Business Rewards Gold card (legacy) – and Did We Get a Retention Offer?
Was the card worth keeping at $595? Maybe. Recalling our analysis from earlier, most of the benefits of the Business Platinum card are duplicative and unnecessary for me. I can get some value from the $200 airline fee credit, but not until 2020 as I’ve already used the credit for 2019. And I could get some value from the 2 x $100 Dell credits, but not nearly face value.
So far, we’re a long way from justifying a $595 annual fee.
The biggest value to us, by far, is the 35% pay-with-points rebate on airfare. As we noted above, this benefit could be worth $1,000 or more to us given my current MR points balance. That could be worth paying the $595 annual fee, despite the fact that the other benefits couldn’t get me close to that value.
But, how about this strategy instead – product change (downgrade) my Business Platinum card to a Business Green card?
- The Business Green card has a $95 annual fee compared to $595 for the Business Platinum, so my immediate savings are $500.
- Note, however, that the Business Green card has absolutely no benefits that are useful to us.
- I already hold a Business Green card, so I’m not precluding myself from any sign-up bonus.
- In the short-term, I won’t want to make any pay-with-points redemptions of MR points for airfare, but:
- Right now, we have plenty of other points available for airfare, including 6-figure-plus balances of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Philly’s MR points (with a Biz Plat for the 35% rebate). We can easily get by in the short term without needing to use my MR points for airfare.
- I would then have 3 Amex business charge cards that would be eligible for offers to upgrade to the Business Platinum
- I haven’t received an upgrade offer in 2-3 years, but I may have been blocked from receiving upgrade offers since I’ve had one or more Business Platinum cards that entire time. Downgrading this card would clear the field and perhaps put me in line for an upgrade offer again.
- My 3 Amex business charge cards would be:
- My legacy BRG card, which I’d be happy to upgrade as discussed in the earlier BRG Keep-or-Cancel article.
- My Business Green card, which I got recently (we’ll call this one the Aug 2018 Green card).
- The Business Green card I’d receive in this product change.
- Upgrading either the BRG card or the Aug 2018 Green card would give me a fresh set of airline credits and Dell credits for 2019
- Even if I don’t get an upgrade offer, it may make sense to upgrade one of these cards before the end of 2019, to take advantage of the airline credits and some Dell credit, plus re-gain access to the 35% pay-with-points rebate.
We liked this product change (downgrade) strategy – a lot.
We had already redeemed our airline credit for 2019, but we hadn’t spent our Dell credit. We studied the options on Dell and came up with a fun way to use our credit. We could purchase a Samsung Gear S3 Frontier watch, which had a list price of $299.99. Between the $100 credit on my Business Platinum before product changing, Philly’s $100 Biz Plat Dell credit, some Amex Offers and a shopping portal, we could get the cost down under $100. And this would be a fun product to have – we can set up Samsung Pay on the Gear watch and use its magnetic stripe emulation feature with our US Bank Altitude Reserve card to earn 3x US Bank points on even more mobile wallet purchases! (Hat Tip to Greg the Frequent Miler for helping to inspire us.) And besides earning us some extra points, this may provide more interesting content for Middle Age Miles readers!
So now, I’m Business Platinum-less for the first time in several years. We’ve completed the product change and we’ll anxiously wait, keeping our fingers crossed for a juicy upgrade offer or two to come along soon!
We were pleased to come up with this creative strategy to product change my Amex Business Platinum card rather than pay a full $595 annual fee with no retention offer. We should be able to save several hundred dollars while still capturing most if not all of the benefits.
I also enjoyed writing this article. It provides a great contrast with our other recent “Keep or Cancel” article on Philly’s Business Platinum card. The card is the same, but the analysis and conclusion are quite different. This is the kind of “dive deep” thought and analysis that we like to provide to Middle Age Miles readers.
What do you think about the Amex Business Platinum card and our “keep/cancel/product change” 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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