American Express’s twin top-of-the-line travel credit cards, the Platinum Card and the Business Platinum Card, are considered to be among the most powerful points-earning cards in the Canadian marketplace; however, they can also appear quite intimidating from a newcomer’s perspective due to their high annual fees.
One common approach is to start out by choosing between either the personal or the business version of this card in order to test-drive the many significant benefits on these cards and build your comfort with those $499 net annual fees. If you’re in this position, which card should you choose?
In this edition of the Head-to-Head series, we compare the personal and business Platinum cards in all the ways that matter to help you figure out which one is the better fit for you.
We’ll start with the most basic criteria that should be considered when applying for any credit card: the signup and referral bonuses, the annual fee, and the rate at which you earn points on your daily purchases.
As the signup and referral bonuses for both cards are temporarily lowered due to challenging economic circumstances, we’ll focus on all the other aspects of these two cards for now, and we’ll update this section to compare the bonuses once they’ve recovered to their previous steady-state levels.
1. Annual Fee
On the surface, it appears that the Platinum Card’s annual fee of $699 is far higher than the Business Platinum Card’s $499. However, one should also factor in the $200 Annual Travel Credit perk on the Platinum Card, which can be used against any travel purchase booked through American Express’s in-house travel agency and can be redeemed once every membership year.
Taking into account the $200 travel credit, what we refer to as the Platinum Card’s effective annual fee is also $499, bringing it on par with the Business Platinum.
As a minor point, the $499 annual fee on the Business Platinum may also be tax deductible if you’re using it for your small business purchases.
Verdict: The two Platinum cards are pretty much equal in this regard, with the caveat that you may need to put in a bit of extra effort to take full advantage of the Platinum Card’s $200 travel credit and bring the effective annual fee down to $499. Combine that with the potential tax deductibility on the Business Platinum, and I’d say the business version holds a very slight advantage here.
2. Earning Rates
Both the personal and business Platinum cards previously rewarded you with a flat 1.25 MR points per dollar spent on all purchases; however, in March 2019, the Platinum Card underwent a significant change to the earning structure.
Nowadays, the personal Platinum will reward you with 3 MR points per dollar spent on dining purchases in Canada (including restaurants, coffee shops, and drinking establishments), 2 MR points per dollar spent on travel purchases (excluding local transit), and 1 MR point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Meanwhile, the Business Platinum continues to offer 1.25 MR points per dollar spent across the board.
Which of these earning rates is more favourable will depend on your regular spending patterns. If you’re a city-dweller who goes out to eat and drink a fair bit, then the 3x earning rate on dining on the personal Platinum can add up especially quickly.
Meanwhile, if most of your spending falls into non-bonused categories, then you’d definitely prefer the Business Platinum’s 1.25x earning rate to the Platinum’s 1x return on general purchases (indeed, given how valuable MR points are, I’d consider the Business Platinum to be one of the strongest Canadian credit cards for general non-bonused spending).
It’s also worth noting that you might not ultimately choose to get the Platinum Card for its “3-2-1” earning structure alone, because similarly high returns can also be achieved by holding a different portfolio of cards: the Cobalt Card offers 5 MR Select points per dollar spent on dining (with the added bonus that groceries are included as well, and the caveat that MR Select points, unlike regular MR points, cannot be transferred to airlines), while the Gold Rewards Card also offers 2 MR points per dollar spent on travel as well.
Verdict: This will depend on the spending patterns of the specific individual. As someone who travels and goes out to eat and drink a fair bit, I’d personally place a greater value on the Platinum Card’s “3-2-1” earning structure; however, I could just as easily see a justification for choosing the Business Platinum’s flat 1.25x earning rate as well.
Perks & Benefits
The Platinum card series is globally renowned for its outstanding travel perks, so let’s see how the personal and business versions of the cards might differ in this category.
1. Hotel Elite Status
Both versions of the Platinum card reward you with an instant status bump to Gold Elite within the Marriott Bonvoy hotel loyalty program. You may enroll online under the “Benefits” section of your Amex dashboard upon receiving your card, or you may enroll via the contact centre as well.
Note that this perk is simply an automatic status bump up to Gold Elite and doesn’t actually come with the 25 elite qualifying nights required to qualify for Gold Elite. Therefore, it won’t be too beneficial if you’re pursuing Platinum Elite status the next level above.
Beyond Marriott Bonvoy, there are a few more hotel status benefits granted by the personal Platinum but not the Business Platinum: Hilton Honors Gold status, Radisson Rewards Gold status, and Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade status.
Hilton Gold will be quite beneficial in entitling you to room upgrades and free breakfast at Hilton hotel stays; meanwhile, Shangri-La Jade can be leveraged to earn one year of Star Alliance Gold by taking advantage of a status match program between Shangri-La and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and taking three flights operated by Singapore Airlines within a 90-day period.
Verdict: The Platinum Card is the clear winner in terms of the hotel status benefits; while both versions of the card provide you with Marriott Gold Elite, the personal Platinum also provides favourable memberships in Hilton, Radisson, and Shangri-La’s programs as well – with the potential to participate in a status challenge to earn Star Alliance Gold.
2. Lounge Access & Other Travel Perks
In the past, the lounge access benefits on the two Platinum cards had slightly different policies, but a few years ago Amex updated the terms so that both the Platinum and the Business Platinum now have virtually identical lounge access benefits.
In particular, you’ll get access to the entire Amex Global Lounge Collection, which includes a variety of different lounge providers (such as Priority Pass, Plaza Premium, Centurion Lounges, International Amex lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, etc.), each with their own slightly different access rules.
You can refer to this post for the full breakdown of which lounges you may access and with how many guests in tow, although the relevant point here is that both the Platinum and the Business Platinum entitle you to the same level of access.
In terms of other travel benefits, both products also provide you with access to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts booking platform for luxury hotels, as well as its sister platform, the Hotel Collection, for mid-range hotels in major cities. There’s also the additional benefits when flying out of Toronto Pearson as well.
Verdict: Honours even.
Finally, we’ll take a look at the cards’ ancillary benefits and any other considerations that might sway your choice in favour of either the personal or the business versions of the Platinum Card.
1. Redeeming Points
Both cards will earn the top-level “Membership Rewards First” tier of MR points under their respective earning structures outlined above (3-2-1 for the Platinum vs. a flat 1.25x for the Business Platinum). These points can then be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners (the most common options being Aeroplan and British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles at a 1:0.75 ratio, and Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio).
You also have the option of booking round-trip flights via the Amex Fixed Points Travel redemption chart, which can provide decent but not outstanding value based on the cash fare of a flight that you’d otherwise pay.
Lastly, there’s always the option of redeeming points against statement purchases at a baseline value of 1 cent per point (cpp), and this is where the only difference between the Platinum and Business Platinum lies: the Platinum Card allows you to redeem points against travel purchases at 1cpp and other purchases at 0.7cpp, while the Business Platinum allows you to redeem points against all expenses at 1cpp.
Verdict: The Business Platinum allows you to redeem points against all statement purchases at a flat 1cpp, although ultimately this point is rather moot, because you should almost never be redeeming your MR points this way at all if you’d like to maximize their value.
2. Travel Insurance
Both the person and business versions of the Platinum cards have very comprehensive travel insurance coverage.
Most notably, both offer emergency medical insurance of up to $5,000,000 on the first 15 days of your out-of-province trip (for those aged 65 and under), $500,000 Travel Accident Insurance in the event of death or dismemberment, and full coverage for car rental theft and damage, hotel/motel burglary, flight delay, baggage delay, and lost or stolen baggage.
There are only a few small differences between the insurance terms across the two cards:
Trip Cancellation Insurance: The Platinum Card covers up to $2,500 per insured person, per trip, up to a maximum of $5,000 for all insured persons combined; meanwhile, the Business Platinum Card only covers up to $1,500 per insured person up to a maximum of $3,000.
Trip Interruption Insurance: The Platinum Card covers up to $2,500 per insured person, per trip, up to a maximum of $6,000 for all insured persons combined; meanwhile, the Business Platinum Card only covers up to $1,500 per insured person up to a maximum of $6,000.
Purchase Protection Plan: While not strictly a travel insurance item, both cards also automatically insure your eligible purchases against accidental physical damage and theft, up to a limit of $1,000 per occurrence. The Platinum Card covers you for up to 120 days after purchase, while the Business Platinum only covers you for up to 90 days after purchase.
Verdict: While both cards’ travel insurance and purchase protection benefits are excellent, the Platinum Card offers slightly better terms on a few of those provisions.
3. Supplementary Cards
Adding supplementary cards on both the Platinum and the Business Platinum can come at a rather significant expense: the two cards charge $175 and $199 for supplementary cards, respectively.
However, it’s worth noting that supplementary cardholders also receive their own Priority Pass memberships and other types of lounge access as well, which can definitely justify these expenses if your supplementary cardholders are frequent travellers themselves.
Both cards also allow you to give an authorized user their respective “Gold” equivalents as well (the Gold Rewards Card and the Business Gold Card) for $50 apiece, although this doesn’t really fulfill much purpose beyond allowing the authorized users to spend on your account as well.
Verdict: If you’d like to extend the lounge access benefits on your Platinum or Business Platinum to a supplementary cardholder, then the $175 or $199 fee may be justified; the Platinum Card wins this round thanks to its slightly lower fee.
4. Visual Appearance
Both cards are about as visually appealing as a credit card can be, having been updated to take the form of a stylish metal card in 2019 (or as Amex calls it, a precision-cut and personally engraved metal card), and both make quite the satisfying clang-clang-clang noise when you drop it on the table to pay your bill.
Verdict: There’s a bit of a fascination with metal cards in the credit card community, and the Platinum and Business Platinum both rock that slick metal look very well.
With a trio of additional hotel statuses in Hilton Gold, Radisson Gold, and Shangri-La Jade, as well as a higher 2x earning rate on travel purchases and a more comprehensive travel insurance package, the Platinum Card’s travel perks are arguably a cut above those of its business-oriented counterpart.
If you’re just starting out and are deciding between one of these two cards to try stomaching its annual fee, then you’ll want to consider which of the above strengths are a better fit for your own needs; however, once you move beyond that initial phase, the optimal strategy would likely involve alternating between both the Platinum and the Business Platinum at some point or another.