Well, I've been working on maximizing the American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve credits. This is important as these cards are expensive at $550 per year so earning the additional bonuses really matters, so I've been working on making sure that every dollar is used correctly and not surprisingly, they make it hard.
American Express Platinum
Yes, American Express Platinum is expensive at $550, but there are some simple things that you can do to lower the effective price nearly immediately by paying attention to the benefits and signing up (which they make hard and it is a lot of work but mainly once done, it just ticks along). Of course, you have to decide if these benefits are worth it and for most folks who don't travel a lot or buy a lot, they probably aren't, so YMMV, so first the easy ones and this assumes that points are worth about 2 cents/point, but the main point is that just by using the travel credits lists the card is basically free, so here are the hard cost savings:
- $200 Airline Fee Credit. You have to specify an airline, but you can use this for things like incidental fees (these seem to be various charges), but the primary use is to reduce say a lounge fee. For example, the fee is $350 or so for Alaska Airlines Lounges (there are only 6 airports, so you probably need to be based and frequently travel to SEA, JFK, LAX, PDX, SFO, and ANC) and for $500 to Admiral clubs, they are arriving or departing that day on AA or Alaska only, so that adds a lot of airports like SNA, LGA, OHR, DFW, HON, etc.) as well as a few United and other places to cover cities like PHX, SAN, and DCA.
- $189 Clear Credit. Given how crowded TSA Precheck can be this is awesome. You want to pair this with your United elite or Delta elite status. So for instance, if you are United Silver or above then the cost per year falls from $110/year (it's free for Premier 1K by the way). Then this actually pays 2.5 people as each additional person is $60 per year, but make sure to link your United account first and then pay for it.
- $200 for Uber. This is $15 per month, then $20 in December, and becomes Uber VIP. I've actually had some trouble actually using this. I think it is IT problems at Uber (no surprise there), but the credit will sometime vanish and not get deducted. The fine print is that you have to have Uber Cash turned on when you request a ride and you have to see uber Cash above the confirmation button, it doesn't look like you need to use Amex for your travel, by the way, the credit just gets dumped int here.
- $240 Digital Entertainment Credit. You get $20 per month and must bill American Express. They have a tiny list, but the useful ones to us are Audible which for $15/month you get a free book, and also you can use Audible Plus which is a rotating library The other useful one is Disney+. The other one is Peacock, since we got Disney+ at a big discount for $80 plus a Bank of America deal, we are using Peacock at $5/month for the commercial version, but barely use it, so when that deal ends
- $75-100 for Global Entry and Precheck. This is small as it's every five years but good to remember.
- $100/year on Saks. You have to remember to spend $50 every six months, so set a calendar for this. Great for socks and hats especially from the sale section
- $156 WalMart+. Walmart sometimes has better deals than Amazon on basics like carpet cleaners, so this is nice. Also through Walmart, you get a Paramount ad-driven subscription.
- Shoprunner. You get 2-day shipping on a bunch of sites. I don't actually use this that much and I don't know what it is worth. Most notably, you can do this with Sak's which is nice
Net, net, there is probably $1K in value here, you use them and it isn't that hard.
Then there are the no-brainers that are good reasons to put Amex on your cell phone bill and when buying expensive electronics.
- Cell Phone Theft Protection. If you don't have AppleCare+, this means that your phones are covered. You have to file a police report, but that's pretty good. On the other hand, AppleCare+ is like $29 incremental, but this works pretty well for all your phones after the AppleCare+ ends.
- Extended warranty of up to a year and if it's stolen and return it 90 days after you bought. When I get AppleCare, I also buy with American Express to get another year of warranty. The stealing thing is really nice as well although I've never used it. The return protection is only up to $300, but you can return it for up to 90 days even if the merchant doesn't take it back.
Secondary rental insurance. Ok, this is also true with Amazon American Express Business cards for work so do not use your Platinum card for personal (but do use your Chase Sapphire Reserve which does have this.
- $10K Trip Cancellation, Interruption, Delay, and Baggage Insurance. Hopefully will never have to use this, but its nice to cover non-refundable tickets and expenses. So most of the time if you think it's a big trip, not a bad idea to use it. If you have more than a 12-hour delay, then they will cover up to $300 for meals, lodgings, and things like that.
These are the variable ones
- Amex Travel 5x on airline and
hotelsbooked This is a 10% discount that makes sense if you are not using something else like Easybiz from Alaska or other corporate programs. 5x points of prepaid hotels booked on Amex Travel. It is actually hard to get a hotel discount, so if you can prepay, this is a nice 10% bonus. Note that if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you probably want to route your hotel bookings for "regular" hotels through Chase as they have a 10x.
- Fine Hotel + Resorts and The Hotel Collection with $200 Credit. If you book on Amex Travel, then you get upgrades, and breakfasts with Fine Hotels. And $100 credit with The Hotel Collection. These are typically more upscale places, but always good to check and the $200 credit is nice to use.
- American Express Lounges and Priority Pass but you do need to sign up. There are not many and they are crowded, but it's nice if you travel a lot. There is also the Centurion Lounge, which you can use if you spend $75K/year for companions; otherwise, it is just for the individual cardholder.
- Hilton Gold Status. This isn't worth that much but better than nothing.
- Marriot Gold Elite Status. Same thing, better than nothing
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Ok, this is a little complicated, but suppose you wanted to go the whole hog and get both of these premium cards is it worth it, or do they overlap too much? Let's look at the benefits and see first there are the bonuses given the $550 charge and the next is that while it is less of a complete "steal" compared with American Express, the $300 annual charge the DashPass credit at $60 helps:
- $300 Annual Travel Credit. This is a pretty good deal, but you get $300 in statement credits for travel purchases, so you should definitely use this if it applies to any airline. It is good to check all this by the way by using their Rewards portal.
- 10x points for hotels and car rentals through Chase. This is actually a huge bonus that you get once you hit the $300 Annual travel credit.
- 10x points for prepaid restaurant reservations and takeout. The takeout is really cool as this amounts to a 20% discount.
- DashPass and $5 monthly credit through 2024. This is actually pretty good. The nice thing is that you can save on fees just by picking up stuff and you still get this discount.
- Instacart. You get 1 year of Instacart+ and up to $15/month of Instacart credits for a year. And if you have a Chase Freedom card, you get 3 months and a $15 credit per quarter. The main thing to do is to use all your chase cards from Sapphire Reserve to Sapphire Preferred (6 months, $15/quarter) and Chase Freedom (3 months free, $10/quarter). The sad thing is I used this and didn't realize the credit, so basically you can only use this once.
- Primary Renters Insurance. When combined with an American Express Amazon Business card which also has primary, you should use this for all your rentals.
- Roadside Assistance, you do not need AAA with this, you get $50 for 4 incidents per year.
- 10 points for Lyft. Through March 2025, so use the Uber benefit on American Express first, then flip to this card.
- Ennismore hotels, Luxury Hotel & Resorts and Relais & Chateaux. You get VIP access to Delano, Hyde, Mondrian, and SLS hotels and a $30 credit. And for Luxury Hotel and Resorts, you get late checkout, etc.
These are some overlapped benefits so to American Express:
- Priority Pass Select. This is the same benefit as the Amex so this is one that doesn't matter as much
- Trip Cancellation and Interruption, Baggage, Travel Accident and Delay Insurance. If you buy from them you get this. This is important when
- National Emerald Executive, Avis Preferred and Silvercar. You get preferred memberships and Silvercar just does Audi rentals and works for all Visa Infinite cards which is what the Sapphire Preferred is.
Quick Note: Audible Plus
One quick note is that one nice thing about using Amex Digital Credit gives you Audible and they have Audible Plus which give you library access to lots of books.