In a surprising, not so surprising move, American Express has dropped the welcome bonus on both of their Platinum Cards. New American Express Platinum Card applicants will now get a welcome bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $2,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership.
If you’re signing up for the American Express Platinum Business Card, the offer is now 35,000 points when you spend $7,000 in the first three months of card membership.
For reference, the old offers were 50,000 points on a $3,000 spend for the Platinum Card and 40,000 points on a $5,000 spend for the Platinum Business Card. That represents a 50% and 8% devaluation respectively.
Why the changes?
Normally, a change in the welcome bonus for credit cards isn’t news unless it’s positive. These offers change all the time as credit card companies try to attract new potential customers. However, this is a massive devaluation and the move comes right after American Express had a promotion for new American Express Platinum Card applicants where they would earn up to 60,000 points as their welcome bonus.
American Express has been doing an incredible job recently giving value to their customers by offering double points and rewards for Platinum cardholders. I just got an email yesterday that I would be getting a $100 statement credit for my Platinum Business Card. However, this change in the welcome bonus truly is shocking considering the Platinum Card has an annual fee of $699.
I can only speculate that they’ve lowered the welcome bonus because they don’t want to attract too many new clients. COVID-19 has affected everyone, so I’m sure American Express has analyzed their business and made some difficult decisions at this time. I’m really hoping this is just a temporary change.
What about American Express Platinum referral links?
One of the reasons that Canadians loved the American Platinum Cards (besides their generous travel benefits) is the additional points when you used a referral link. Platinum Card applicants would get an extra 10,000 Membership Rewards points while Platinum Business Card applicants would get an additional 15,000 points. The person making the referral also got a generous bonus of 15,000 and 25,000 points respectively.
Now when you use a referral link, you get no additional points for the Platinum Card. The Business Platinum has a referral bonus of 10,000 points so you would get 45,000 points as your welcome bonus. The person making the referral gets 5,000 points for both cards.
An alternative card where you do get a bonus when using a referral link is the Gold Rewards Card where you get an additional 5,000 points (30,000 total) when you add an authorized user.
What card should you get instead?
For frequent flyers, the American Express Platinum Card is still one of the best travel credit cards in Canada, but who’s flying these days?
The truth is, the generous welcome bonus is what justified the $699 annual fee in the first year. Many people would sign up for the bonus but then quickly realize that all the additional benefits including unlimited airport lounge access, travel insurance, travel credit and hotel status made it worth keeping the card.
In my opinion, those benefits are still worth $699, but try telling that to people who have yet to see the value. You’re basically trying to sell them on a dream but they have no way of telling if that dream is worth it.
I suspect there will be more demand for cards such as the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite and BMO World Elite Mastercard as they both give you some good travel benefits with a reasonable annual fee.