The best personal finance mistake I ever made

Receiving my new Platinum Card in a fancy box. I guess that’s what I get with spending $695?

I had been drooling about the American Express Platinum Card card for a while, since it came with so many benefits and, to be honest, is quite a status symbol. However, the $695 annual fee was steep and I was doubtful I would make use of its benefits.

One night in early November 2021, I decided I wanted to see if I would be pre-approved for the Amex Platinum. I wasn’t sure at all if I would be eligible as a 21 year old without a long credit history. The title of this post is foreboding what’s about to happen. Don’t judge me for what I’m about to say! I went onto their website and I thought I could apply and see if I would be pre-approved before I could go through with the application. It was unclear to me that the website was for applying for the card rather than just a pre-approval form designing to give me my odds. So I filled it out and got approved, and immediately it said that my card was coming in two days.

Wait, what?!

I didn’t want this card! I didn’t think I wanted to spend $695 on a card. Sure, the ability to go to the Centurion Lounge for my flights and use Priority Pass lounges was excellent, but did I really have a use for this? I really doubted it, but when I looked up how feasible it would be to cancel, it said that the hard inquiry would remain on my account even if I wanted to immediately cancel it. This meant that I couldn’t “undo” my mistake completely.

Because of my idiocy, I now had to contemplate whether I wanted to keep the card or not. I decided to enumerate the benefits of the card that I would use and the dollar value it would carry for me. Ultimately, I found the following would be valuable to me:

  • Global Entry credit
  • Clear credit
  • $200 hotels credit (for The Hotel Collection and Fine Hotels and Resorts hotels)
  • $200 airline incidental fee credit
  • Free Hilton and Marriott Gold statuses
  • $200 Uber credit per year
  • $240 digital entertainment credit
  • Walmart+ membership
  • Centurion Lounge access
  • Priority Pass

These benefits stacked together vastly exceeded the $695 annual fee, so I relented and decided to keep the card. The biggest reason was because I was planning a big, expensive trip to Europe in early 2022, and I would need to pre-book all of my travel expenses in advance.

The sign-up bonus was again 100,000 points. This time, the threshold was $6,000 in the first 6 months, which I easily met with all the traveling I did. For the first six months, I would also get 10x points for dining and shopping at Amex’s “small businesses”, which is an insane and absolutely amazing offer.

The regular points back amount was 5x on flights booked directly through the airline or on Amex Travel, 5x on hotels booked through Amex Travel, and 1x on everything else. The limitation of 5x back on hotels booked on Amex Travel, while understandable due to the lower margins of the hotel business, was quite limiting because I had to book through their travel portal, which meant not being able to easily enjoy the Hilton and Marriott benefits, nor would I earn any Marriott Bonvoy/Hilton Honors/World of Hyatt points. The flights benefit was particularly helpful though; Amex Travel is its own travel agent, so it can actually get me discounted rate flights that aren’t available to the general public. The downside to booking flights with Amex Travel is I have to use their phone service to change flights and it’s very difficult to do this because it’s not possible to do this online and I have to call them and wait on the phone to make a simple change.

Anyway, TL;DR, it was worth it, so I kept it.

During my trip to Europe, I made full use of the following benefits:

  • $200 The Hotel Collection credit (for my stays in Barcelona and Rome)
  • $200 airline incidentals fee (for the copay of my upgrade to business class on my transatlantic flight back from Paris)
  • Hilton Honors Gold (literally got me about 30 days worth of free breakfast at Hiltons, as in the 4-star hotels named Hilton that usually charge €30 for each morning of breakfast. I consider the savings for this to be over $500)
  • Priority Pass for so many lounges! (It was an absolute lifesaver!)
  • Temporary 10x points on dining (where they accepted Amex, that is; over half the time, my Amex was not accepted)
  • 5x points on flights (I used this for Air France, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Vueling)
  • 5x points on hotels booked through Amex (I used this to book my hotels in Barcelona, Rome, Zurich, Nice, and my second stay in Paris)

Despite the insanely high price of the card, I think the benefits are worth it, as long as I use them. Apart from the 120,000 points I need to now use for airplane tickets sometime in the future, I’ve already been to the Centurion Lounges at least 8 times and I think they are really helpful for relaxing in the airport; it makes the travel experience a lot more bearable and dare I say somewhat more fun (unless your flight gets delayed, then not so much).

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