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The Platinum Card from American Express has a hefty $695 annual fee that might deter people from applying. However, there are a few ways to get the Platinum card for less, and potentially down to $0 depending on your situation.
1. Active Duty: Military Lending Act (MLA)
The Military Lending Act (MLA) waives the annual fees for personal American Express cards, but not business cards.
MLA is not to be confused with Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which no longer qualifies for waived fees.
Under MLA, you can get the Platinum (vanilla), Platinum Schwab, or Platinum Morgan Stanley -- or all 3 -- and the fees should be waived.
Before canceling the Platinum cards, you would want a solid foundation of cards with no annual fee downgrade paths to preserve your credit history. Once you stop qualifying for MLA, your annual fees will hit upon renewal. The Platinum cards can only be product changed to the American Express Gold Card and the American Express Green Cards, which both have annual fees.
2. Retention Offers
For non-service members, retention offers are a strategy to recoup some of the annual fee costs.
A retention offer is a targeted reward that’s typically offered to cardmembers who are up for renewal. The intention is to give you an incentive to retain you as a customer.
A few guidelines before asking for a retention offer:
- Don’t cancel/downgrade a card within 12 months of accepting a retention offer. This can get you banned from American Express for “abusing rewards.”
- You can’t get a retention offer RIGHT away — for some reason people think they can get a retention offer immediately after opening a card (or even 3 months after opening). Don’t do this. At a minimum, wait until the 11-month mark to ask for a retention offer.
- The general rule is that you can get a retention offer every other year for a card. Your mileage may vary.
Check out retention offer data points from our community here: https://www.asksebby.com/retention-offers
View our retention offer script in this post: https://www.asksebby.com/blog/how-to-get-credit-card-retention-offers
3. Amex Platinum Charles Schwab Strategy
The Platinum Card has a few variations, including a co-branded Charles Schwab card. It offers the same benefits as the vanilla Platinum Card, but also gives you the ability to cash out Membership Rewards at a 1.25 cents per point rate via Schwab.
You’ll need to have a lot of money with Charles Schwab to qualify for the annual fee credits:
- Get a $100 statement credit if you have qualifying Schwab holdings are >$250,000
- Get a $200 statement credit if it's > $1 million
As a reminder, these statement credits only apply if you have the Schwab version of the Platinum card. If you want the Schwab Platinum, you’ll need to apply for it directly (and have a Schwab account).
Find the Schwab Platinum application here: https://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/investing/accounts_products/credit_cards
You can NOT product change from a regular “vanilla” Platinum to a Schwab Platinum. You also can’t product change from the Amex Schwab Investor Card since it’s a limit based credit card vs. “no limit.”
4. Amex Platinum Morgan Stanley Strategy
What if you make good money, but aren't at the Schwab level? Enter the co-branded Amex Platinum Morgan Stanley card.
To qualify for the Morgan Stanley Platinum, you’ll need a Morgan Stanley account. The Access Investing is the easiest pick given the reasonable requirement of $5,000. You are paying 35 basis points (0.35%), but this can be mitigated.
I opened an Access Investing account last year with $5,000, and my account is doing fine. Disclaimer: your mileage may vary. My results might not represent the average account holder.
Why is the Morgan Stanley Platinum card interesting? You can get the whole $695 annual fee waived if you meet the qualifying requirements.
- In the past, you needed to get:
- Access Investing $5,000 => Morgan Stanley Platinum => Premier Cash Management
- Morgan Stanley will issue a debit card
- If you spent $100,000 on the debit card, then you would get a $695 engagement bonus
$100,000 of spend on a debit card is definitely an aggressive number, but maybe possible if you've been playing poker with friends or paying a ton of taxes.
View the Premier Cash Management terms here: https://www.morganstanley.com/wealth-disclosures/premiercashmanagementtermsconditions_2018.pdf
Amex Platinum Morgan Stanley Strategy
In early 2020, Morgan Stanley replaced the Premier Cash Management program with CashPlus. If you still have a Premier Cash Management account, you might be able to request a transition to the CashPlus if it’s a better fit.
The Platinum CashPlus will give you a $695 engagement bonus, which effectively pays for the Morgan Stanley Platinum card annual fee if you have:
- $5,000 in monthly deposits of any amount, and
- $25,000 in average daily balance
For most people, the $5,000 in monthly deposits might be easy, but the $25,000 balance might not be worth it since the account doesn’t earn interest.
You’ll need to do the math to see if it’s worth parking $25,000 in the account to get $695 in value. It’s effectively the equivalent to 2.2% APY, which is a competitive rate given the current economic environment.
For people who already have Morgan Stanley Platinum card, there's a big problem. On page 7 of the terms, it says that they will only pay an annual engagement bonus to NEW cards opened in connection with the Platinum CashPlus account.
View the Platinum CashPlus account terms here: https://www.morganstanley.com/wealth-disclosures/cashplusaccountdisclosurestatement.pdf
"You will not receive an Annual Engagement Bonus for an American Express Platinum card not issued in connection with your Platinum CashPlus Account."
Since I have an existing Morgan Stanley Platinum card, I wouldn’t be eligible for the CashPlus Annual Engagement Bonus. There’s mixed comments in the YouTube video we published, so please leave a data point/comment if it works for existing cardholders.
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