Our First Real Travel Credit Card

Over the past few years, the amount of time we’ve been able to spend traveling has significantly increased. In fact, last year we realized we spent at least one day of each month in another state or — more often than not — a different country. As a result, it seemed it was high time that we got serious about making the most of our travels and allowing our trips today to help fund our adventures of tomorrow. In other words, we recently obtained our first ever travel credit card.

Actually, our selection is technically a credit card at all — it’s a “charge card.” While I had always assumed that the two terms were interchangeable, it turns out that a charge card requires you to pay off your complete balance each month. Of course, this is how we’ve always operated with our cards so there’s really not much of a difference for us.

So what card did we go with? After much research and consideration, we landed upon the Platinum card from American Express. Admittedly, we were initially intimidated by the card’s $550 annual fee. However, once we assessed the benefits a bit more closely, we determined it was the right choice for us.

Perhaps the perk that put the Platinum above other beloved options such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve in our minds was the lounge access that it offers. In addition to the Priority Pass membership that comes with the card, the Plat includes access to Amex’s Centurion lounges and, more importantly, Delta Skyclubs when you’re flying Delta. As luck would have it, Delta is our airline of choice in most cases, so this option made the card extremely appealing.

On the one hand, while we saw card’s $550 annual fee almost as purchasing an annual pass for these airport lounges, there are other perks that help bring the effective fee down. Among them is the $15 a month ($35 in December for a full $200 a year) Uber credit, which we’ve been able to use both for rides as well as Uber Eats deliveries. Similarly, the card offers a $50 statement credit for Saks Fifth Avenue that cardholders can earn twice per year. Granted, we don’t shop at Saks very often and some of their selections are highly overpriced, but we did manage to find a nice pair of shoes on sale $54 after tax, making for a great use of our credit.

Speaking of credits, the Amex Platinum also includes $200 toward airline incidentals. Unfortunately, this credit can be a bit difficult to take advantage of — especially when compared to Chase’s far looser rules — since Amex doesn’t allow it to be used for things like gift cards, upgrades, or airfare itself. Nevertheless, we’ll be able to use it for SkyClub day passes, Mileage Boosters, and in-flight meals when we’re flying domestically.

Meanwhile, another benefit that’s already managed to come in handy (to my surprise) is the automatic Gold Elite status you earn with Marriot Bonvoy and Hilton as an Amex Platinum cardholder. On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I ended up staying at a Marriott-owned hotel that charged $15 a day for WiFi! Luckily, as a gold member, they were able to waive these for my stay. IT also seemed that they upgraded by room, although I couldn’t really have told you the difference having never stayed at this property before. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I should mention that, prior to obtaining our Plat, our “travel card” was the Uber Visa. That’s because it offered 3% on travel expenses like airfare and hotel bookings while also boasting 4% back on dining. Sadly, Barclays recently decimated the appeal of this card by not only lowering some of the rewards categories but also switching it from earning regular cash back to only accruing Uber Cash. The changes are disappointing to be sure but c’est la vie.

Having recently met the minimum spending requirements for our sign up bonus and, in turn, received an injection of points, it’s safe to say we’re pretty excited about our decision. At the same time, we’ll have plenty more choices to make in the future as we determine what to do with the points we accrue. Given the number of travel partners Amex works with, the transfer bonuses that different airlines offer from time to time, and all kinds of other minutiae that need to be considered in order to obtain maximum value, we have a lot to learn before we can even be considered beginner “travel hackers.” Still, we’re definitely looking forward to all of the ways our American Express Platinum card can come in handy as we explore the ‘verse.

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