By Paul Seo on The Capital
“Money is just the poor man’s credit card.” — Marshall McLuhen
If you read any of my previous credit card or personal finance articles, you probably know I am an avid advocate and consistent user of credit cards. In fact, I have nine different credit cards from several issuers. It is a topic I take pride in knowing a lot about and sharing with others (Shout out to Graham Stephan, Credit Shifu, and AskSebby on YouTube).
To address the title, I need to tell you a quick anecdote to get us on the same page. My job requires attendance for general sales meetings (GSMs) on Fridays once a month lasting the typical 9 AM-5 PM. A short while back, I was flying from New York immediately afterward in order to make a friend’s wedding down in Texas, so I booked my flight for a little after 7 PM to give me ample time to get through security and all. My office is located right near the airport, maybe a 5-10 minute drive, so I thought the timing and all worked out perfectly. The day was moving along as expected, but then to my surprise, had the meeting abruptly end at 11 AM.
I had to make a decision: I could either drive the 50ish minutes back home, pay the ridiculous toll to cross the Whitestone Bridge, and drive the 50ish minutes to the airport again or I could just wait at the airport for over 8 hours straight. I chose the latter.
I was not looking forward to paying for overpriced bland food in the crowded terminal, but then while waiting for check-in, I had a brilliant idea: I recently read online that individuals who have status (through airlines, credit cards, etc.) usually have access to fancy airport lounges. That day, I was flying United Airlines and so I waited outside the United Club glass door. In forums, people recommended finding an individual dressed for business, like in a suit, traveling with a light carry-on. This description was used because businessmen or businesswomen often fly frequently enough to hold status, but would likely not be using guest privileges on others already, like family and friends. I waited by the entrance for over 30 minutes until an elderly gentleman who fit the bill exactly walked up slowly. I gathered up all of the confidence I had and the conversation went as follows:
Me: “Hi, how’s it going?”
Him: “Fine and yourself?”
Me: “Great! I kinda have an odd request, if you would be willing to listen.”
Him: “Sure. What would that be?”
Me: “So I am an economy passenger, but I find myself having a layover lasting 7+ hours. I heard some individuals have guest access to airport lounges and I was wondering if it would be possible to share it with me. Obviously, no pressure as I am a stranger, but it would be greatly appreciated on my end.”
Him: “Honestly, I never had anyone ask me this before, but as long as you are flying United Airlines [I learned after the fact that he can only bring in other passengers flying the same airline], I would be more than happy to.”
I followed behind him and after a brief conversation at the desk and a scan of my boarding pass later, I was in. It was pretty hilarious because this generous guy stayed there for not even 15 minutes to grab a coffee and muffin. However, for hours, I indulged myself with complimentary food & beverages and sprawled out over comfortable couches & more power outlets than I could ever need. It was the most relaxing experience I ever had travelling and it was then I knew this was a lifestyle I could not live without.
After my short trip to the Lone Star State was over, I searched the internet, far & wide, determined to find the greatest travel credit card out there, and I stumbled upon it: THE American Express Platinum Card.
Right off the bat, this premier level travel credit card comes with a hefty price tag of $550 a year. Before I even get to bring up any of the amazing benefits, people already scoff at the idea of paying that much in an annual fee. I argue I receive significantly more than $550 in value, but it still does not make sense to some. No worries though, I guess more space in the lounges for me.
In terms of what I was longing for, the “Amex Platinum” offers airport lounge access to the American Express Centurion Lounge network, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta Airlines or their partners, and Priority Pass. On top of that, they give a $200 annual credit for airline incidentals (like checked bags & such), another for Uber/UberEats, and a $50 semi-annual credit to Saks Fifth Ave. Other benefits include the Platinum Concierge, elite status with hotels like Marriot Bonvoy & Hilton and several car rental programs like Avis & Hertz, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credits, 5x Membership Rewards points for airfare & hotels, travel & shopping protections, access to outstanding “Amex Offers”, free ShopRunner, and so much more…
I am not sponsored in any way by American Express to write this story, but simply enjoy my user experience, the customer service, and retention department. I also humbly understand being able to hold this expensive credit card is a blessing that not many others can enjoy.
Finally, for the few curious how they are making up for the unusable travel benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic/quarantine since flights are extremely limited. American Express has issued limited time $20 monthly mobile phone service credits, $20 monthly streaming credits, and has extended payment flexibility to those experiencing financial difficulty. Hats off to them for continuing to provide excellent value and service to those stuck at home.
It may not be for everyone, but so far, it sure is for me. Thank you for listening to my rationalization this through!
Why I Pay $550 Per Year for a Credit Card was originally published in The Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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