There have been various takes on the utility of American Express cards, especially the American Express Platinum Card, which continues to be one of the best cards from a lifestyle consumer’s perspective in India.
I’m often asked why anyone should consider the American Express Platinum Card. While I cannot elaborate on behalf of everyone, here is the reason why my family and I continue to retain the American Express Platinum Card.
1. The Global Perspective
Most Card issuers in India have products with an Indian audience in mind. However, only one Card has been continued around with the global perspective in India, and that has been the American Express Platinum Card.
Since American Express controls the whole value chain, including the Card and the network, it allows them to offer features and benefits far beyond just one country. For instance, earlier in the summer of 2022, I was passing through Vienna Airport. Instead of waiting in long queues for security checks, I could access the priority queue by flashing my American Express Platinum Card.
This feature was initially negotiated for American Express Platinum customers in Austria. Still, as you can see, any Amex Platinum customers from around the globe can use it. A similar fast-track for airport security is also available at major airports in Sweden, Canada, Italy, and Belgium.
The bottom line is that if there is a popular feature that works for American Express Cardmembers, it tends to be rolled out across the broader Amex Cardmember base as well, allowing members to benefit from the global network of American Express and its ability to negotiate perks for members.
2. International Airline Programme (IAP)
One of the most underrated and undiscussed features of the American Express Platinum Card is access to the Amex International Airline Programme. As one of the world’s biggest travel services companies, Amex and airlines both know and recognise the spending potential of the company’s customer base, which allows Amex to offer curated deals to their Cardmembers, usually not available elsewhere.
The specially negotiated fares can include, for instance, booking a Business Class ticket but getting upgraded to First Class, or just a discount over the usually available fare, depending on the ongoing partnership with the airline. You can book tickets for up to eight people in one go using the IAP.
The current participating airlines for the IAP in India include Air France, British Airways, Etihad, Japan Airlines, KLM, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, United Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic.
3. Lounge Network
While Priority Pass is a liberal perk handed out by most lifestyle cards, they still don’t have the reach that an American Express Card affords for its Platinum Cardmembers. As is well known, American Express has a network of over 40 Centurion lounges. This includes 40+ lounges (including Centurion Studio Lounges) spread across the US and more in London Heathrow, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Australia, and India. Platinum Charge Cardmembers with India-issued Cards can also bring guests to the lounge.
Centurion Lounges in Delhi and Mumbai are the single biggest reason for me to keep the Card going, given that they are exclusive to Amex customers and provide gourmet meals instead of buffets. Thanks to the American Express Lounge in Delhi, I am not affected by the closure of the Plaza Premium Lounge at Delhi Terminal 3.
Even in Bengaluru, Amex has had access to the 080 Lounge for a long while, and as we can all agree, it is a much more premium experience than the BLR Lounge Domestic. Overall, Amex offers lounge access across 140+ countries across the globe to Platinum Cardmembers.
4. Status at various hotel chains
If there is one thing that everyone around here in the LiveFromALounge community agrees on, it is that status makes things better for everyone. American Express Platinum (apart from the invite-only Amex Centurion) offers a variety of hotel statuses which helps when one is travelling, even if they are going to stay with a hotel chain that they don’t usually do business with. For as long as you hold the Card, you get access to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, Hilton Honors Gold, and Radisson Rewards Premier Status.
One might think this is a frivolous benefit, but it is not. For instance, when my wife had to travel to London at short notice and her preferred hotel chain was unavailable, she could easily choose to stay in a Hilton Hotel, which still fit her daily budget by the company. Not just that, with the Gold status of Hilton Honors, she was offered breakfast every day, even though not included in her basic room package.
As a service, almost all lifestyle Card issuers offer a concierge service. However, only a few premium concierge service providers can open doors for you where you need them. American Express is one of them. They usually will have tables on hold at the top dining destinations, which can be allocated to their members when needed. And even if they don’t, they will usually do a better job organising one for you than you.
For example, as I mentioned above, I was travelling to Europe this past July. It was our wedding anniversary, and if you know us, we love a good meal. I was trying to get a table at a specific Michelin-starred restaurant, but I was told it was not possible to get it, even though I was trying three months in advance and was willing to put in a deposit. After a month of back and forth, I rang Amex and briefed a request. The next day, I had a table booked.
6. Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts
Having your own travel company, one of the biggest in the world and one of the biggest lifestyle spending brands, also gives access to many curated deals that are not available to everyone. A la Virtuoso, Amex offers The Fine Hotels and Resorts collection, where Platinum Cardmembers get exclusive benefits at over 1000 properties across the globe. For instance, when I booked the St. Regis Mumbai one time via the FHR website, we were treated to daily Afternoon High Tea and a complimentary dinner at the “By the Mekong” restaurant since we booked the room via Amex.
7. Travel promotions
While almost all Cards run ongoing promotions with travel portals such as MakeMyTrip for a few hundred off, Amex runs more elaborate promotions that are more long-lasting and fruitful. For instance, discounts or one-night free on Oberoi and Taj hotels, and the ongoing 15% discount on select fare classes of Vistara. I estimate I’ve saved maybe INR 30,000 or more in a year just by booking Premium Economy tickets on Vistara domestic via Amex over booking them directly.
8. Amex Experiences
This is a hard one to match and where American Express shines over most Card issuers in India. Amex has focused on curating member-only events over the years, and all sorts of events are offered to Cardmembers from time to time. The personal high for me and my wife has been to watch U2 perform at Navi Mumbai from the Amex Lounge set up at the performance venue.
But in 2021, we also participated in a member-only lunch at the Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai. Such events keep happening from time to time and are an excellent opportunity to meet new people.
This article is published in partnership with American Express India.