Guide to Credit Cards and Loyalty in India.

Update [15 July 2020]: Amex now offers Reward Multiplier 5X offer on select merchants, capped at 25,000 MR points in a calendar month.


Widely known as The Platinum Card, the American Express Platinum Charge card is considered the holy-grail across the world when it comes to travel perks. Here's my attempt to give you an in-depth analysis of the features and whether it justifies the massive annual fee of ₹70,000+.

The Platinum Card in India comes with roughly twice the annual membership fee of its US equivalent. In the US, the Platinum Card comes with an annual membership fee of US$550, with each renewal you get US$200 in Airline credits and US$200 in Uber credits. Which brings the cost of holding the card down to US$150.

I've held the Platinum card in the US briefly and will soon write a comparison review of the cards.

Application Process:

Three Coins Rating

I didn't see any change in the application process since my review on Platinum Reserve Card. After getting rejected the first time I applied, American Express offered me an upgrade from the existing Gold Card, after estimated spending of 12 Lakhs in a year. After providing the consent to upgrade online, the card got delivered within four business days.

The new American Express Platinum metal card
The all new metal Platinum Card.

Overall, my experience with the upgrade process was pretty smooth, and the card arrived sooner than I expected. Given that they use a multi-channel process for new applications, I expect it to be much longer for fresh applications.

Welcome Bonus:

Four Coins Rating

Depending on the offers you get different signup bonuses, all the fresh applicants get to choose between 100,000 Membership Reward points or ₹40,000 in Taj Hotel and Resorts vouchers.

However, they offer additional 25,000 Membership Reward points if you are upgrading from a Gold Charge card. Another reason why I went ahead with the upgrade.

I'd suggest you go with the membership reward points instead of Taj vouchers, as you can get better value out of the MR points.

Emirates First Class Experience: If you book a flex business class ticket, you can upgrade it to First class by using 35,000 skyward miles or 70,000 MR points.

The one-way business class from Delhi -> Rome costs ₹73,000/- whereas the first class on the same costs roughly ₹163,000/-

You can also redeem the same number of miles for Economy to Business class upgrades.

Emirates upgrade using miles.
Emirates Business to First class upgrade using miles.

The Magical Maldives Experience: A night at St. Regis Maldives is priced at about $1900 (₹130,000) a night, you can book the same for 85,000 Bonvoy Points (1:1 with American Express Membership Reward points). This gives you high points-to-rupee value.

The St.Regis Maldives price in USD
Price for one night at The St.Regis Maldives in USD.
The St.Regis Maldives points redemption
Points required for one night at The St.Regis Maldives.

I assume for most people it wouldn't make sense to go for these options, but American Express Platinum for me is all about going for the things that I can't afford. I rarely use these points as cash replacement as they give rather low value.

Rewards on Spend:

Three Coins Rating

American Express Platinum in India offers 1 MR point per ₹40 spent, except for spend at Fuel, Utilities, Insurance, and Cash Transactions. They have recently started offering 3X points on overseas spend, but Citi Prestige still rules that segment offering 8 miles per ₹100 spent in comparison to 7.5 MR points offered by American Express (roughly equivalent to 4 miles).

The trick here is to always use the right card for category bonuses to maximise your points earning. If you're earning 1X points on your spends on credit cards, you're losing value.

Always keep an eye on bonus category rewards like these to accelerate your earnings:

  • 10x points on all spends at DLF malls, I added 5,000 bonus points in a month utilising this offer.
  • 10x points on all hotel bookings using American Express Travel website. (Not available anymore)
Amex Transfer Partners
Amex Transfer Partners

Except for the accelerated earning categories, American Express doesn't offer a good enough earning rate with the Platinum Card. I prefer using Diners Black or Citi Prestige for my day-to-day expenses.

Reward Multiplier

Now get 5x MR points when spending on select merchant portals. The points are capped at 25,000 in a calendar month. I beleive they added this offer to make the Platinum Card more beneficial in the times when travel spends have declined heavily.

Here are some of the participating merchants, you can find the completed list here.

Amex 5X Reward Multiplier Partners.
Amex 5X Reward Multiplier Partners.

There are some restrictions for some of the merchants. You can find the complete terms and conditions here. None the less, this is a great offer and can help you accelerate your earnings.

The only downside to this feature is that the additional MR points are credited in 120 days.

On-Going Benefits:

Five Coins Rating

Hotel Privileges

The Platinum Card offers all the elite-tier statuses you'd need. These come handy if you travel frequently. Here's my take on each one of them:

  1. Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite: This is the one that I've used the most, Marriott properties value their elite tier status customers. Unlike Taj, Marriott automatically upgrades the room without having to ask for it. I get a category upgrades whenever I stay at any of the Marriott properties (excluding ITC) except when there was no suite available on my Birthday, but the manager was kind enough to offer me a 70% discount on the Presidential Suite.
    Though after the SPG merger there has been some devaluation to the tier statuses and the points redemption. However, you still get 25% more Bonvoy points, 500 Bonvoy points as a welcome gift, and 2 PM late check-out with each stay.
  2. Hilton Honours Gold: There are very few Hilton properties in India. I couldn't make use of their elite tier status. With Gold tier, you get a complimentary upgrade to the next category room (excluding suites), 80% more points, which is valuable if you travel to countries with better Hilton properties, and free Breakfast.
  3. Shangri-La Jade Tier: This is exclusive to the Indian variant and offers excellent value. You get 25% more GC points for each stay, pay single occupancy price for double occupancy, complimentary breakfast, early check-in and late check-out (11 am - 4 pm), and next category upgrade.
    Another advantage of Golden Circle's Jade tier is, you get a status match to Taj InnerCircle Gold. Though it's not specified on their website, you get the status match to Gold after the tier revision (end of the year).
  4. Radisson Rewards Gold Elite: You get room upgrades, early check-in late check=out, and in-room welcome gifts with each stay. I'm not a fan of Radisson properties in India, most of them are dated and doesn't quite feel like 5-star properties.

Fine Hotels and Resorts:
It's a unique program offered to the Platinum cardholders which grants some excellent benefits to go along with your stay like:

  • Take advantage of noon check-in, when available, so you can get a head start.
  • If an upgrade is also available when you arrive, it’s yours.
  • 4 pm late check-out is guaranteed.
  • Breakfast for two is complimentary, and so is your Wi-Fi.
  • Each property will additionally offer you a unique amenity valued at $100, which may include anything from spa credit to a food and beverage credit.

Talk with the concierge, and they can directly book a higher category room instead of waiting for an upgrade at the time of check-in.

Below is a comparison between the best offer I could find on a third party website and Fine Hotels & Resorts for a two day stay in Delhi.

FH&R Price: ₹31,360
Booking.com Price: ₹32,300

Booking.com price
Price offered by Booking.com with breakfast.
Fine Hotels & Resorts price
Price offered by Fine Hotels & Resorts with additional benefits.

Airline Privileges

American Express offers preferred airfares on the world’s finest airlines to destinations around the world. From my experience, the airfare provided by them at times can be more expensive than booking it directly with the airline.

However, they do have some on-going offers that are promising like 20% discount on AirIndia Business Class, and First Class ticket when you book a Flexi Business with Etihad Airline.

Example Itinerary: I asked the concierge to find me the best fares they have available for a flight from Delhi to Singapore in Business Class. Below is what was sent by them and the best airfare I could find online:

Delhi to Singapore on Singapore Airlines Business Class:

American Express Concierge Price: ₹89,428.37
Singapore Airlines Price: ₹96,711

Singapore Airlines Amex price
Price offered by American Express Concierge for Singapore Airlines Business Class.
Singapore Airlines official website price
Price offered on the Singapore Airlines official website.

❌ Delhi to Singapore on AirIndia Business Class:

The Air India offer is nolonger available for the Platinum Card holders. Hopefully they'll soon come up with a new airline partner offer. They had a similar offer going on with Air France - KLM.

American Express Concierge Price: ₹65,716.32
AirIndia Price: ₹75,906

AirIndia American Express Price
Price offered by American Express Concierge for AirIndia Business Class.
AirIndia official website price
Price offered on the AirIndia's official website. I used Google Flights for the screenshot*

The airline offers are a hit or miss, sometimes the business class fare is almost 50k cheaper than other options, but there are times when the fare is equivalent or more expensive than booking it directly from the airline.

Dining Privileges

The concierge is helpful when you need to make reservations for dining. I always offload the headache of finding a place to eat and making a reservation on them. The team does a decent job when it comes to finding the right place for the occasion.

Similar to Platinum Reserve Card, you get a complimentary Taj Epicure membership (read the review here) and EazyDiner Prime with the Platinum card too.

There has been some changes made to the dining benefits you get with the Platinum Card, they're discontinuing ITC Club Culinary membership starting from 22nd June 2019. To replace this, they've coming up with some exclusive dining privileges at select restaurants.

Platinum Dining Programs:

  • Global Dining Collection: It's a list of specially curated dining experiences for Centurion and Platinum card holders across the world. You may read more about the benefits here.
  • Platinum Fine Dining: With this you get exclusive discounts and special offers such a complimentary wine and/or dessert. You may find the list of ongoing offers here.

On top of this Amex has also started inviting its members to exclusive tasting events. These events are complementary but with limited capacity (registration on first come basis).

Past Events:

  • Celebrate whiskey in its 150 forms! at Whiskey Sambha.
  • Sunday brunch and cocktails at The Roseate.

Lounge Access

American Express Global Lounge Collection offers the Platinum cardholders a variety of lounge options. You get access to all American Express lounges including the Centurion lounge. For places where you don't have access to an American Express lounge, you can use either Priority Pass or Delta Sky Club lounge free of cost.

Complimentary lounge access through Priority Pass is only available outside India (within India it's US$ 32 per guest per visit), but there are great options available at airports in India. You may find the complete list here.

Mumbai now has an all-new American Express Lounge on the Terminal-2 that I'm yet to try out but have heard great things about it. They have dedicated seating for the Platinum cardholders.

Golf

American Express Offers a decent selection of golf courses across India. The cardholders can go for a complimentary round/lesson at any of the partnered Golf Courses for a maximum of 4 times a month. You only get a green-fee waiver (ranging from ₹1000 to ₹5000), but this makes up for a lot if you're a serious player. You may find the list of golf clubs and terms here.

All bookings have to be made through their concierge service about 3 to 7 days in advance. From my experience, they sometimes are able to make the reservation on shorter notice.

You also get a complimentary membership to Preferred Golf program with over 60 world-renowned golf resorts such as The K-Club in Ireland and Finca Cortesin Hotel, Golf & Spa in Spain. The membership is worth US$295 and offers a free round of golf with each consecutive two-night stay at participating Preferred Golf member resorts. You may find further information about the program here.

Platinum Concierge

The Platinum Concierge is one of the best you can get in India. I've started using it more frequently given how convenient it is. From the past two years, I've been able to extract tremendous value from the Concierge.

Here are some of my experiences with the Platinum concierge:

  • I had a bottle of wine sent to my friend's home for her birthday when all the liquor stores were closed. The concierge not only sourced a nice bottle of wine but also delivered it to my friend's place on time.
  • My friend's niece was visiting India for the first time. The concierge prepared a super detailed itinerary for her. They curated all the local hot-spots, suggested good hotels, commute options, and nice places to try-out authentic Indian food.
  • Sourced a rare bottle of Dom Pérignon for me and delivered it to my place in Delhi.

The service comes handy when planning city tours. They do a remarkable job in detailing things out and prepare a printable PDF for you.

🔥 Additional Offers and Benefits

The Platinum Card rolls out various offers that can save you some cash. I've saved almost twice the membership fee with these offers. Here's a list of ongoing-offers on the Platinum Card (I'll make sure this section is updated):

  • 35,000 Bonus Points: Booking a stay at The Postcard Hotels with your Platinum Card can bring you 35,000 Bonus MR points on minimum 3 nights.
  • 3X MR Points on International Spend: Your international trip becomes all the more fulfilling because you earn 3X Membership Rewards Points on all overseas spending. This offer also works on foreign transactions done online.
  • 25% off on Taj Hotels and Resorts: Get flat 25% discount on Taj properties (including Palace properties) when booked directly. Choose the property you like from majestic palaces and grand hotels to beach resorts and luxurious safaris, and enjoy a warm and welcoming stay. This offer is valid until March 31, 2020, and you may make the booking here.
  • Privileges at Oberoi Hotels & Resorts: Enjoy 50% off on Suites and Dining, a complimentary 3rd night when you book for two, complimentary bottle of wine, and guaranteed late checkout at Oberoi Hotels & Resorts in India. You may find the Terms and Conditions here.
  • FlyBlade Benefits: Buy 1 and get 1 complimentary flight per person on your 1st Blade booking, and enjoy every 3rd flight complimentary from January 31, 2020 and travel up to March 31, 2020.
  • Hype Car Rental Benefits: Get ₹7,500 credit once a monthon for self-drive or chauffeur driven rides, and additional 25% discount on all cars and drives from second ride onwards. You may signup for the benefits here.

You may find the detailed list of ongoing benefits here.

Final Words:

Four Coins Rating

I picked the card because of the welcome bonus of 125,000 MR Points and hotel and dining privileges. I wouldn't use this card for 1x Points, that's losing value on the money spent. (Citi Prestige offers far better value.)

American Express needs to offer more long term accelerated rewards on Hotel and Flight booking. The elevated status alone can't justify the annual fee of The Platinum Card.

I'd recommend going for an upgrade with bonus MR points, and elevated hotel tiers for the first year. The renewal decision depends on the ongoing accelerated reward offers.


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