Last January, I applied for the American Express Platinum credit card because it had a limited-time 100,000 point sign-up bonus. 100,000 point bonuses are pretty rare and, as such, are extremely valuable, even balanced against the $450 annual fee.
What can 10o,000 American Express Membership Rewards (MR) get you?
100,000 MR points could turn into 4 LA/SF-Hawaii flights on American Airlines if transferred to British Airways Avios program. For East Coasters, 100,000 MR points could be 9 – yes, 9! – roundtrip flights from New York to Washington, DC, Montreal or Toronto using the same BA program. Additionally, once the AA-USAir merger completes, you can add all the USAir routes that are less than 1,000 miles to the second list, as well (NYC-Charlottesville or NYC-Pittsburgh, for example.)
100,000 MR points (well, 101,000) could be one roundtrip economy flight (38,000 ANA miles) and one roundtrip business class flight (63,000 ANA miles) on any one of ANA’s Star Alliance partners, like United, from New York to Paris or London.
100,00 MR points could also be turned into $500 in American Express gift cards.
As you can see, the card has been extremely valuable to me just off the signing bonus alone. The other benefits I have used are the Text Concierge – which I absolutely love, the $200 annual flight credit which I put towards a United gift certificate, the reimbursement of the $100 Global Entry application fee, complimentary Priority Pass membership and Delta and American Airlines lounge access when possessing a same-day ticket. Unfortunately, the American Airlines lounge access is going away March 22, 2014, but check your email – AmEx is offering statement credits of $100-$500 to certain cardholders as a gift for keeping the card. I got $200! (Here are all the benefits.)
It’s January again and the annual fee of $450 will be due soon, so I figured I would call up and see if I could score a retention bonus. A retention bonus is a “Thank you for doing business with us!” bonus from the credit card company to the credit card holder. They are offered because consumers are extremely allergic to the idea of annual fees – which seems logical at first. Why would you pay someone else – in this case a company – to let you spend your own money?
However, in some cases, it makes sense. I recently received 10,000 United miles for keeping my United Explorer credit card and I value 10,000 miles more than I value the $95 annual fee.
With that recent success in mind, I called the number on the back of the Platinum card and asked to speak with the retention department, where I was asked what was my issue with the card. I stated that I didn’t know if I could justify spending the $450 again and the phone rep went over the benefits of the card. I said I appreciated the rundown, but the annual fee is still the annual fee. The rep then offered a statement credit of $100, which is a decent offer. I then asked if there were other offers and the rep offered 15,000 MR points, which sounded better. I then said I had spent a lot of money on the card, which I think is true, and asked if the rep could bump it to 20,000 MR points. The rep declined, which meant that the two offers were immediate hard limits from AmEx corporate and therefore, immutable. I then confirmed that the points would post within 1-2 billing cycles.
So, I’ll be 15k MR points richer. Great! I can put those 15k MR points in my British Airways Avios account and have enough for a NYC-Miami flight….Hmmm….
Continuing in this vein, I will soon buy another $200 United gift certificate and be reimbursed, since it’s a new year. Then, I will use my $200 American Airlines statement credit to buy 2 $100 gift certificates, or potentially 1 $200 gift certificate. I will have to monitor Flyertalk for word on what folks are doing in my situation.
Added up, that’s $400 of gift certificates and 15k MR points, which I would value at $120 – so that’s around $520 in real value.
Additionally, AmEx allows you to cancel your card whenever you want and will prorate your annual fee. In this case, I’m going to cancel the card in February or March, depending on when the points post. If I cancel in February, the annual fee is $75 and for March, add another $37,50, so $112.50. (I got these numbers by dividing the annual fee of $450 and then multiplying it by the month number.)
In other words, I’ll be paying from $75-$113 for $520 of value – a steal, in my and my wallet’s opinion. On top of this, I’m going to call the retention department again in February or March and ask for more points or a statement credit, just for kicks.
To sum up, if you applied for the American Express Platinum card last January, don’t forget to call up the retention department and ask for a retention bonus – it’s free money and miles!