I am a frequent business traveler, an entertainment junkie (jazz hands!) and a big fan of not cooking on special occasions when a great restaurant can do it for me. That’s why I’ve been an American Express Platinum holder for a long time.

I know, I know, it sounds totally fancy. But for me, it’s always paid for itself; I have heard the Platinum Card referred to as a “benefits card” and not a charge card, which seems pretty apt. And since becoming a parent, I’ve realized there are a ton of benefits just for families–like an upcoming special event with Annie on Broadway that goes way beyond scoring seats.

Annie on Broadway | photo via Vanity Fair

With the holidays coming up, I was thinking this might be a good time to consider upgrading from the green card–but only if you think the admittedly hefty fee will pay for itself in perks and benefits that you actually use. Here’s a breakdown of what I get out of it, so you can see whether it’s worth it based on your lifestyle.

There’s something sweet about
getting an email announcing the Yo Gabba Gabba Live! advance tickets Yo Gabba Gabba Liveare on sale
and that you get first dibs at the best seats. Or that you get special
access to something like a Taylor Swift concert, or a meet and greet with Chicago Bulls legends in the spring if you want to spend serious dough on a gift for your boss for example.

right now this very second, if you’re a Gold or Platinum Card holder,
what I would jump on is the Annie Premium Access Experience if you’re up for a splurgey once-in-a-lifetime holiday gift for your kiddo that includes a chance for your kid to learn a dance number from the show from the actual cast. Whoa.

As far as American Express travel rewards and perks, this is where I find the fee really pays for itself–but remember, I do travel a lot.

hideo roller suitcaseThis
year they launched a free annual $200 airline credit, meaning I apply
it to whichever airline I fly the most, and any checked baggage fees,
upgrades, or in-flight purchases are automatically deducted. I
get access with guests to the business lounges of plenty of airlines, including
international ones through the Priority Pass Select Program which I had
just signed up for in September–and turned out to be very convenient a
month later when I had a six-hour delay on my recent trip to Africa!

I also
get a the free membership in premium rental car programs and hotel perks like upgrades and super late checkout (4 PM, whoo!).
And for more peace of mind, I love that my entire family gets medical coverage for
international travel; plus automatic trip cancellation refunds, and $3,000 baggage loss coverage.

See? Fee paying for itself.

[hideo suitcase via flight 001]

I travel abroad, I always alert my credit card companies so that they
won’t freeze my cards. (Good tip for international travel anyway!) I was
surprised recently to find out my bank was charging me a significant
fee on any purchase or withdrawal overseas, while Amex doesn’t. Not a huge savings, but still.


If you’re the type who flies First or Business, maybe for work, buy an international plane ticket through Amex and you’ll get a companion ticket free
(I know!) plus taxes and fees. I haven’t had the pleasure of taking
advantage of this yet, but friends who have say it totally rocks.

Amex purchase protectionThe other benefit I’ve had to use from time to time is the buyer protection program.
Amex essentially gives a free extra year on a manufacturer’s warranty
up to 5 years, for free. So it not only saves you money buying those
extended warranties, but it’s super nice to be able to look the
aggressive TV salesman in the eye and be like, “Nope. Not interested in
paying another $300.”

You also get purchase protection if an item
is damaged–seriously. If your kid drops your new watch into the toilet
a week after you buy it, Amex will repair it or get you a new one,
free. I did it once with a new watch and they totally made my day. Also,
if a store won’t take an item back that you don’t want (like if they’ll
only give you store credit), send it to Amex and they’ll get you the
purchase price refunded.

Joining Membership Rewards is free (ordinarily $35/year after the first year) and man, I love my points. If you’re not using them for shopping or travel, you can also donate your Membership Rewards Points to charities, like those that provide relief from Hurricane Sandy.

obviously a Platinum card isn’t for everyone–you have to have a good
credit score to qualify, and then you need to decide if you think the
$450 annual fee will come back to you in memberships, deals and perks.

Yes, $450. Which is definitely not cheap. But for me it pays for itself every year.

And if you’ve got any big electronics purchases
coming up this holiday, that warranty program alone might make you think
twice about it. –Liz

See this easy chart to compare the benefits of American Express Cards. And for the Annie Experience tickets or more info, call 1-800-445-7374.

For another great credit card benefit, check out the Citi Rewind Program, which is the sponsor of our 2012 Holiday Gift Guide. I have both cards, so I get both benefits. Lucky me!