The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and benefits of 2019

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The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and benefits of 2019

Why you’ll love it: The Platinum Card from American Express offers a big welcome offer and lots of perks for travelers.

Welcome offer: 60,000 points (after spending $5,000 in the first three months)

American Express has made some big moves recently in the credit cards rewards war, starting with a refresh of the venerable Platinum Card to strike against the Sapphire Reserve.

One big change: AmEx upped the Platinum Card’s standard welcome offer. Previously, it was only 40,000 points, and now it’s 60,000. AmEx is also offering 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare directly with airlines and up to $200 in credits with Uber each year, broken into a monthly credit of $15 (which rises to $35 in December).

Like Chase Ultimate Rewards points, American Express Membership Rewards points can be used to purchase travel, gift cards, or products directly through from the issuer, or they can be transferred to certain airline and hotel loyalty programs. The best value comes from that latter use. If you redeem points by using them to book travel through AmEx, you’ll get around 1¢ per point.

The Platinum Card includes access to the same lounges as the Sapphire Reserve, plus Delta Sky Clubs and the proprietary American Express Centurion Lounges— the additions make the card more useful overall. AmEx has also announced a number of new Centurion Lounges set to open next year, as well as improvements and expansions of current locations.

It carries a number of perks similar to its rival from Chase, including purchase protections and a $200 annual credit on incidental airline fees — think checked bags, drinks, and upgrades. Cardholders also earn elite status with major hotels before staying a single night, including Hilton, Starwood, and Marriott. That can help you stomach the $550 annual fee.

AmEx Platinum cardholders also get exclusive access to major events and experiences, including once-in-a-lifetime “By Invitation Only” events.

Of course, $550 is a lot to pay out each year. The $200 airline fee credit and $200 Uber credit certainly help, but the airline credit can be difficult to use if you aren’t checking bags or buying drinks on flights. Some people have found that buying gift cards from the airline of your choice counts as a qualifying purchase.

The bonus spending categories on this card are less generous than on the Sapphire Reserve or the AmEx Gold, meaning it can take longer to earn points unless you book a lot of flights. The spending requirement in the first three months is higher than most other cards, and Membership Reward points are worth less than Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points when used to book travel through the card issuer — only 1¢ per point.

Even so, the card remains extremely valuable if you can make good use of the benefits. For example: In my first year with the card, I’ve gotten more than $2,000 worth of value, which is obviously more than enough to make up for the fee.

Pros: High welcome bonus, perks at airlines including extensive lounge access, points can go toward purchases, points are transferable to airline and hotel rewards programs, valuable benefits

Cons: High $550 annual fee, only 1¢ per point, high spending requirement, less generous earning rates than Chase Sapphire Reserve

Click here to learn more about the AmEx Platinum Card from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

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