If there is one absolute best Canadian travel credit card out there, the American Express Platinum Card might be it. The catch is, it is only the best credit card if you maximize all the perks. This card earns you Membership Rewards points that do not expire so long as you have a credit card that collects Membership Rewards. Here are the highlights of the card:
- $699 annual fee
- Earn 60,000 sign up bonus points (if your referred) after spending $1,000 in the first three months (from approval)
- Earn 50,000 sign up bonus points (without a referral) after spending $1,000 in the first three months (from approval)
- Earn 15,000 points for each approved referral that you send out
- Earn 1.25 points for every $1 purchased
- Access to airport lounges world-wide
- Receive a $200 Annual Travel Credit
- Receive a complimentary and discounted companion tickets and upgrades
The $699 annual fee is definitely very steep, especially since it used to be $499 a year. The 60,000 sign up bonus, when transferred to Aeroplan for 60,000 points, essentially gives you a free return flight to Europe. Once you add the taxes and surcharge, you actually get a great value with your 60,000 points, when you pay the $699 annual fee. You can maximize your points even more when you transfer to Avios, especially when they had the 50% transfer bonus.
Aside from the first year, the real question is how to maximize your points beyond the first year.
Right off the bat, the $200 Annual Travel Credit will credits a travel expense on your account. So at long as you spent over $200 on any type of travel expense, you already reduced your annual fee back to the $499.
In terms of how to maximize the other $499 I would start with the companion ticket. Whenever you use your Platinum Card to purchase a plane ticket with participating airlines in first class or business class, you will receive a complimentary or discounted ticket for a companion ticket. If you manage to get a free ticket on an international flight, that essentially covers the entire $499.
To add icing to the cake, you can receive complimentary seat upgrades to First Class from Business Class on certain flights. Furthermore, when using your Platinum Card to purchase an eligible ticket in specified classes, you can take advantage of special discounted prices.
The other item I find valuable is the airport lounges, where you have two options, the: Canadian Platinum Lounge Benefit and the Priority Pass. Both combined gives you access to over 1,000 different lounges around the world whenever you book any type or class of plane ticket on any airline with this credit card. Furthermore, for Priority Pass lounges, if you are travelling with a guest, he or she may accompany you to the lounge free of charge. For each additional guest thereafter, it is $27 USD per person per visit instead of whatever is the usual price, which could be anywhere from $50 and up. It goes without saying that the more you take advantage of the lounges, the more value you are getting out of this card. One thing about lounges that might not be obvious is that the employee in the lounge can help sort out your flight schedule if for example your flight was cancelled.
For sure it will take some work to figure out what qualifies for each benefit. But the more work you put in to figure out all the different benefits, the more you can take advantage of the benefits, the more value you can get out of this credit card. The value is there to be had, we just need to harness it.
In terms of the available rewards, you can either exchange your Membership Rewards, there are many options available to you. I think transferring to partners are the most valuable. The transfers work as follows:
- 1,000 (Membership Rewards) = 1,000 (Aeroplan, British Airways Avios or Hilton HHonors)
- 1,000 (Membership Rewards) = 750 (Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, Etihad Airways, MilleMiglia Miles)
- 1,000 (Membership Rewards) = 500 (SPG Starpoints)
You need to transfer a minimum of 1,000 points, in increments of 100 thereafter. There is a good variety of transfer partners to choose from. Depending on how you exchange your points, you can get a lot of value.
If you cannot maximize the perks on this Platinum Card, there is always the Gold version. Same transfer partners, 25,000 sign up bonus (regardless of the referral), $150 annual fee waived the first year. At the very least, this card is useful to have in the first year.