When it comes to premium credit cards, The American Express Platinum Card for Canada is top contender for its various benefits and earnings potential. Although the card doesn’t come cheap at $699 per year, it can be very easy for the frequent or leisure traveler to get many times that fee in value and rewards. The card is an absolute must for those wanting to get into the points and miles hobby.

So what makes this card worth the hefty annual fee?

The Welcome Bonus

American Express is currently offering 60,000 membership rewards points for new accounts after spending $3000 on the card within the first 3 months of membership. This welcome bonus is significantly higher than other premium credit cards on the market. Membership rewards points are worth a minimum of 1 cent per point when redeemed towards a statement credit for purchases, giving this welcome bonus a minimum value of $600. However, I generally consider that poor value for redeeming points and can easily get 2-5 cents per point when transferring to Aeroplan or Avios (1:1 transfer ratio). Furthermore, you will receive 1.25 points for every dollar in purchases charged to the card.

$200 Annual Travel Credit

Every Platinum cardholder receives a $200 travel credit that can be redeemed towards travel purchases booked through American Express Travel Services. The travel credit is valid once per calendar year, meaning that in the first year of membership a new account holder will be eligible to redeem the credit twice: once upon new card activation and once after January of the following year for a total of $400. It should be noted that travel credits do not transfer to the following year if unused.

Access to Fine Hotels and Resorts Program

One of my favorite benefits of the card is being able to book accommodation through The Fine Hotels and Resorts program. Offered exclusively to American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders, FHR gives access to over 900 properties worldwide with a range of exclusive benefits including:

  • Early check-in, subject to availability
  • Guaranteed 4pm late checkout
  • Room upgrade at check-in, subject to availability
  • Daily complimentary breakfast for two
  • Unique property amenity (usually a $100 USD property or spa credit)

I recently booked a stay at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler using FHR and received a double upgrade at check-in, breakfast for two, a $100 USD food and beverage credit, and 4pm late check out. Those added benefits are easily worth hundreds of dollars and came at no additional charge courtesy of my Platinum Card. You can also check-out my review of the Fairmont Pacific Rim; one of Vancouver’s best Fine Hotel and Resorts properties.

Insurance

The American Express Platinum Card offers a wide range of comprehensive insurance coverage for cardholders, which include:

  1. Emergency Medical Insurance
  2. Trip Cancellation Insurance
  3. Trip Interruption Insurance
  4. Travel Emergency Assistance
  5. Travel Accident Insurance
  6. Hotel Burglary Insurance
  7. Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance
  8. Baggage Delay Insurance
  9. Flight Delay Insurance
  10. Car Rental Insurance
  11. Purchase Protection Insurance

Insurance coverage such as Emergency Medical is valid for out of province or country travel regardless of whether you used the Platinum card to purchase the ticket. Some of the other benefits are only valid if you charged the entire purchase to your American Express Platinum Card for Canada. Check here for a detailed description of coverage.

Airport Lounge Access

A benefit I largely overlooked when getting into the points and miles hobby, airport lounge access has become one of my favorite features of the card. Check out my reviews of the Qantas first class lounge at LAX and The Cathay Pacific lounge at YVR to see how you could be spending your time prior to departure! American Express Platinum Cardholders enjoy complimentary lounge access across most major Canadian cities regardless of airline or fare booked. Furthermore, as a Platinum member you can receive complimentary membership in Priority Pass- one of the worlds largest airport lounge programs offering services at more than 600 lounges worldwide. This membership is worth $399 USD alone and has immense value for the frequent traveler.

However, not all lounges are created equally, and although most will offer a range of complimentary snacks and beverages and are undoubtedly better than sitting at a crowded gate, none compare to American Express’ own flagship lounges: The Centurion.

Available at select Airports in North America, The Centurion Lounges are available exclusively for American Express Platinum and Centurion Cardholders. These lounges feature a large selection of complimentary food and beverages and vast seating areas that are tastefully designed. They all feature quiet work areas with complimentary Wi-Fi, ample power outlets to recharge electronic devises and quiet areas for long layovers. In my opinion there is no better way to wait out a long connection than at a Centurion Lounge.

The Referral Program

American Express has one of the most generous referral programs for those who wish to share the benefits of membership. This can be a great way to accumulate points quickly while helping friends and family travel better.

American Express Platinum Cardholders are eligible to receive a referral bonus of 15,000 Membership Reward Points for each eligible referral up to a maximum of 15 referrals per year, or 225,000 Membership Reward Points. That is, at a minimum, worth $2,250 worth of statement credits for travel related purchases. The best part is you are eligible to receive the welcome bonus for referrals made to any American Express Card under the Membership Rewards Program and are even able to self-refer for different products and receive the bonus.

Here’s an example of how easy it could be to earn a substantial number of points very quickly:

  1. Apply for Platinum Card and receive 60,000 membership rewards points
  2. Self-refer for American Express Business Gold Rewards Card and receive 15,000 referral points plus a 40,000 point welcome bonus on the new card.
  3. Refer 4 friends or family member for any participating American Express card for 60,000 additional points (15,000 x 4).

That’s a total of 175,000 Membership Rewards points with very little effort and enough to fly roundtrip from North America to Australia in business class when transferred to Aeroplan.

American Express Platinum Canada Review: The Bottom Line

The American Express Platinum Card for Canada comes with a hefty annual fee, which can be tough for some to justify. However, the welcome bonus alone nearly covers the entire cost of the card for one year, making it a very easy decision to at least try the card for one year. Take into account all of the added benefits, including $400 in travel credits the first year of membership, and comprehensive travel and purchase protection, and the card quickly becomes a necessity for even the most leisurely traveler. For those who don’t travel much, I wouldn’t personally recommend renewing the card after the first year of membership as your may not get $699 worth of benefits and won’t have the welcome bonus to offset the annual fee. This card is, however, a must-have for the frequent traveler or the savvy points collector willing to maximize the very generous referral program.