The Morgan Stanley Platinum card from American Express is the most underrated card out there because of Morgan Stanley’s new Platinum CashPlus account, which offers a $550 Annual Engagement Bonus to cover the entire annual fee on the card.
The Platinum CashPlus account normally carries a $45 monthly fee, but the fee can be waived with a $25,000 average cash balance and $5,000 in monthly transfers into the account.
This method could be a great way to receive the $550 annual engagement bonus, which can be used to pay the annual fee on the card.
In addition, the Morgan Stanley American Express Platinum card also comes with one free Platinum authorized user.
The $550 Annual Engagement Bonus
There are a few steps to get the $550 annual engagement bonus.
First, you need to open an investment account with Morgan Stanley, which is a requirement to get the card. The most popular way is to invest to at least $5,000 with the Morgan Stanley Access account.
This automated investment account comes with a 0.30% annual fee ($15 per year for $5,000 invested), but Morgan Stanley helps you balance your portfolio based on your goals and risk tolerance.
This investment account also qualifies you to open a CashPlus bank account. The CashPlus debit card has unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide and no foreign transaction fees.
You can get a “$550 Annual Engagement Bonus,” which can be used to pay the annual fee on the card.
The Platinum CashPlus account is fee-free if you maintain $5,000 in total monthly deposits AND a $25,000 average daily cash balance.
Morgan Stanley broadly defines monthly deposits to include payroll, social security, Zelle, mobile check deposits, wires and any external transfers, so that requirement should be fairly easy to meet. Plus, any amount of social security benefits deposited each month will waive the $5,000 monthly deposit requirement.
The one disadvantage of the CashPlus account is that it only pays out almost no interest.
But you are better off with the $550 annual engagement bonus with the CashPlus account as long as a different checking account doesn’t earn more than 2.20% APY ($550/$25,000 = 2.20%).
If you don’t meet the monthly requirements, there is a $45 monthly fee. But even if you don’t meet the requirements, you are still $10 better off by signing up for the Platinum CashPlus account ($45 x 12 = $540). Or if you only meet the requirements half the time, it would cost $270 ($45 x 6).
Additionally, there is a two month fee-free grace period for your first two months of your CashPlus account.
- Open a Morgan Stanley Access investing and maintain at least $5,000 in the account. (Or have another a Morgan Stanley investment account)
- Open a Morgan Stanley Platinum CashPlus account. The fastest way is to open one over the phone or at a Morgan Stanley branch because opening an account online may require you to wait at least 30 days after creating a Morgan Stanley investment account.
- Register both accounts for online access.
- Sign up for the Morgan Stanley American Express Platinum card.
- You will get the $550 Engagement bonus during your first year after a month if you meet the fee avoidance criteria and within three months if you don’t meet the fee avoidance criteria. For subsequent years, the annual bonus will be paid in the month after your American Express Platinum account anniversary.
- Spend at least $1,000 per year on the American Express Morgan Stanley Platinum to keep the $550 annual bonus tax-free.
The fine print for the $550 annual engagement bonus is:
- You must be the primary cardholder of American Express Morgan Stanley Platinum (does not apply to any Additional Card Members)
- Your Platinum CashPlus Account must be open and your American Express Platinum Card must be opened in connection with your Platinum CashPlus Account and must be open at the time the Engagement Bonus is paid.
- The Annual Engagement Bonus will be paid in the month following the month you open your American Express Platinum Card (“the Card Anniversary Month”) with the exception of the first year you open your American Express Platinum Card.
- In the first year you open your Platinum CashPlus Account, and apply for the American Express Platinum Card, there may be a three month grace period (“the Grace Period”) before you receive the Annual Engagement Bonus, but only if you do not meet the Fee Avoidance criteria for the Platinum CashPlus Account during the Grace Period. If you meet the Fee Avoidance Criteria prior to the expiration of the Grace Period, you will receive the Annual Engagement Bonus the following month. If you do not meet the Fee Avoidance Criteria during the Grace Period and are charged a monthly fee at the expiration of the Grace Period, you will receive the Annual Engagement Bonus the following month.
- We will only pay an Annual Engagement Bonus to new American Express Platinum cards opened in connection with your Platinum CashPlus Account. You will not receive an Annual Engagement Bonus for an American Express Platinum card not issued in connection with your Platinum CashPlus Account.
- “You may be subject to tax and information reporting with respect to any Annual Engagement Bonus. If you do not meet a minimum spending requirement of $1,000 on your American Express Platinum Card within the calendar year of receiving the $550 Annual Engagement Bonus, then Morgan Stanley may be required to report the $550 Annual Engagement Bonus as taxable income on your Form 1099. You should consult your tax advisor regarding the tax implications of any awards, including the $550 Annual Engagement Bonus, based upon your specific circumstances.”
Morgan Stanley says eligible deposits include:
- Direct Deposit of payroll
- Incoming Transfers
- Mobile Check Deposit
- Branch Check Deposit
- Incoming Send Money with Zelle®
- Incoming Wire
- Any Social Security Deposit
- Distributions from a Morgan Stanley Retirement Account
Additionally, the $5,000 monthly transfer requirement is waived if any amount of Social Security benefits are deposited into your account (e.g., if $1,000 in social security benefits are deposited into the account, then you don’t need to meet the $5,000 transfer requirement).
- “If Social Security benefits, in any amount, are directly deposited into any eligible account in your CashPlus ALG, the $5,000 monthly recurring deposit requirement for fee avoidance will be satisfied for all CashPlus Accounts in your ALG.”
“Transfers from a Morgan Stanley non-retirement account do not qualify as a monthly recurring deposit into your CashPlus Account.”
Morgan Stanley’s Disclosures state:
“In order to avoid the monthly Platinum CashPlus Account fee, you must open and/or maintain an additional eligible Morgan Stanley investment account. Eligible investment accounts include, but are not limited to, a AAA Account, Self Directed Brokerage Account, Morgan Stanley Access Investing Account, or a discretionary/ nondiscretionary Advisory Account or program through Morgan Stanley’s Advisory Program. Retirement Plan accounts, including IRAs, are currently not eligible.”
If you have questions about whether a specific account qualifies, please contact Morgan Stanley.
We believe that existing American Express Morgan Stanley cardholders don’t qualify because the Morgan Stanley’s Disclosures state:
“We will only pay an Annual Engagement Bonus to new American Express Platinum cards opened in connection with your Platinum CashPlus Account. You will not receive an Annual Engagement Bonus for an American Express Platinum card not issued in connection with your Platinum CashPlus Account.”
“Your Platinum CashPlus Account must be open and your American Express Platinum Card must be opened in connection with your Platinum CashPlus Account and must be open at the time the Engagement Bonus is paid.”
Morgan Stanley Platinum Card Information
Application Link: American Express Morgan Stanley Platinum. (Morgan Stanley brokerage or investment account is required.)
Current Sign Up Bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards points.
Recommended Bonus: At least 60,000 Membership Rewards points. (The bonus of 60,000 points hasn’t changed in the last 3 years.)
Annual Fee: $550 per year.
Earning Membership Rewards Points:
- 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5x points on prepaid hotels booked on AmexTravel.com.
- 1x points everywhere else.
One unique benefit of the Morgan Stanley Platinum is that the first authorized user is free. Normally, it would cost $175 for other Platinum versions.
You can add three additional authorized users for $175 in total. Any additional authorized users over four cost $175 each.
Platinum authorized user cards earn points and enjoy all of the benefits below including airport lounge access except the $200 airline incidental credit, $200 Uber credit, and $100 Saks credit.
Alternatively, you could also add free authorized user Gold cards. Gold cards earn points and get the Global Entry credit every five years but they don’t get:
- Airport lounge access at Centurion, Escape, Plaza Premium, and Delta Sky Club.
- Priority Pass.
- Marriott and Hilton Gold elite status.
- Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program.
Morgan Stanley Platinum Benefits
The Morgan Stanley Platinum card comes with a ton of great benefits including $200 airline incidental credit, $200 Uber credit, $100 Saks credit, Global Entry credit, amazing airport lounge access, and much more.
$200 Airline Incidental Credit
The Platinum card comes with a $200 airline incidental credit per calendar year, which includes fees for checked bags, seat selection, pet transport fees, and in-flight refreshments.
The downside is you have to select one U.S. airline for the credit, so you can’t mix and match fees from different airlines.
Things that are generally not reimbursable are airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty-free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.
There are some loopholes, but American Express has previously clawed back credits for items that should not have been reimbursed.
We have an ultimate guide on all the ways to use your American Express airline fee credit.
$200 Uber Credit
The Platinum card gets $15 in Uber credits each month and a $35 credit in December. These credits can be used for both Uber and Uber Eats.
However, unused credits do not roll over each month. You have to use them or lose them each month.
Just load your Platinum card into your Uber account and you should see $15 in Uber Cash each month.
$100 Saks Credit
Platinum cardholders get a $50 credit to Saks between January and June and a $50 credit between July and December. Be sure to register your card in advance in your American Express account to get the benefit.
Purchases at Saks Off Fifth (their outlet store) do not qualify for the credit.
You can usually join Sak’s email list for a 10% off coupon and combine your online shopping with a cashback portal to earn an extra 2-5% cashback on top of your credit.
Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check Credit
You will receive a statement credit when applying for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. If you already have it, you could also use the card to pay for it for a family or friend.
You can use this credit every four years. I prefer Global Entry because it includes TSA PreCheck and also gets you expedited customs on international arrivals.
Elite Status and Discounts
Platinum cardholders also get elite status with hotel and rental car programs including:
- Hilton Honors Gold
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold
- National Emerald Club Executive
- Avis Preferred (use coupon code UUNA007 for upgrades and save AWD #756900 to your Avis profile)
- Hertz (one class upgrade with CDP #211762 plus a four hour grace period on returns)
Trip Delay Insurance
American Express recently introduced trip delay insurance for several of their premium cards.
If your trip is delayed 6 or more hours, you can seek reimbursement for up to $500 per covered trip with a maximum of 2 claims per 12 months.
This coverage also includes delays for weather, which is great because airlines don’t provide hotels or food vouchers if the delay is weather-related.
Trip Cancellation Insurance– This coverage reimburses you up to $10,000 for non-refundable expenses if a covered reason cancels or interrupts your trip. There is a limit of $20,000 per 12 month period.
Baggage Insurance– This coverage reimburses you for lost, damaged, or stolen baggage up to $3,000 for a carry-on bag and $2,000 for a checked bag.
Secondary Rental Car Insurance– This secondary coverage pays for any damage to the rental car not covered by your insurance. If you don’t have collision insurance, this coverage is primary coverage.
The Hotel Collection– American Express partnered with 600+ hotels to get you a $100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities, and a room upgrade when you stay at least two consecutive nights.
Medical Evacuation Insurance– In the unlikely event for a need for a medical evacuation, American Express will spend an unlimited amount for the cardholder, immediate family, and children under 23 or under 26 if enrolled full-time in school, to be sent home. This could include American Express sending a private jet.
Cruises Privileges Program– This program gets you a $100 to $300 per stateroom shipboard credit, additional amenities, and earns you 1 extra point per dollar when booking through AmexTravel.
No Foreign Transaction Fees- You can use your Platinum card anywhere in the world without foreign transaction fees, which are typically 2.7% on most cards.
Return Protection- If a merchant refuses to take back an eligible item within 90 days, American Express will refund the purchase price up to $300 per item with a maximum of $1,000 per calendar year.
Extended Warranty- This benefit add an extra year to the original manufacturer’s warranty for warranties of 5 years or less.
Amex Offers– The Platinum card, like all American Express cards, comes with Amex Offers which you can load onto your card to save money at select merchants, such as $10 off $25.
ShopRunner– This benefit gets you free 2-day shipping at 100+ online stores.
FINE Hotels and Resorts
Platinum cardholders have access to 1,000+ hotels through the FINE Hotels and Resorts program that gets you:
- Room upgrade
- Daily breakfast for two
- Guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out.
- Noon check-in (where available)
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- A unique amenity valued at $100 such as spa or food and beverage credit.
Travel Collection Membership
This service normally costs $275 per year, but it is free with the Platinum card. The service offers discounts with certain partner airlines and special hotel benefits.
Unfortunately, you have to call 1-877-485-8053 to receive price quotes and book. There is a $39 fee to book, so be sure to find the price via Google Flights beforehand to make sure you save money after factoring in the fee.
Hotel benefits include:
- Daily breakfast for two people.
- Room upgrade upon check-in (based on availability).
- Guaranteed 1:00 pm early check-in.
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi.
- $50 hotel credit.
International Airline Program
This program offers flight discounts on premium economy, business, and first-class fares for the primary cardholder and up to seven companions.
You can book by live-chatting with an Amex agent or calling 1-800-525-3355 for personal cards and 1-800-553-9497 for business cards.
There is a $39 fee per ticket, but you can usually save at least $300 via this program.
Participating Airlines: Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, Alitalia, Asiana, Austrian, British Airways, Brussels, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Delta, Emirates, Etihad, Iberia, Japan Airlines, KLM, LATAM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar, Singapore, South African, SWISS, and Virgin Atlantic.
Concierge and Global Dining Program
American Express has created a lot of valuable connections in the world of dining and events, which they share with Platinum cardholders.
These connections can get you Broadway tickets to shows like Hamilton via their Concierge program, which you can contact by calling 1-800-525-3355 or emailing at Platinumrequests@concierge.americanexpress.com.
Platinum cardholders also get access to the Global Dining Collection, which provides special access to some of the most exclusive restaurants in the world.
Departures Magazine– Platinum cardholders get a free subscription to Departures Magazine.
Staples Center Centurion Suite– American Express has a special suite for Platinum cardholders at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I’ve been a few times to the Suite. I typically buy the cheapest ticket possible to get into the building and then get to the Suite 30-60 minutes before tip-off because there are capacity limits
Airport Lounge Access with American Express Platinum
The American Express Platinum card is the best card for airport lounge access since it gives you access to Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, Escape Lounges, Plaza Premium lounges, and several others.
Centurion Lounges are an amazing perk of the Platinum credit cards. You get free premium food and alcohol, and every lounge has shower suites except LaGuardia.
Plus, several lounges have interesting perks such as a free 15-minute massage in Dallas and Miami, and a special wine tasting area in San Francisco.
Centurion Lounges are a great place to hang out before your flight, so arrive early. Lounges also have free Wi-Fi, plenty of places to charge your devices, workspaces, large TVs, and half of the lounges have family rooms.
There are currently eleven U.S. Centurion Lounges and one international lounge in Hong Kong with three future lounges under construction.
International American Express Lounges
American Express operates several international lounges. These lounges are very nice but not as fancy as Centurion Lounges because you have to pay for premium food and drinks at some lounges.
Some airports have multiple American Express lounges including three in Mexico City and two in Monterrey.
|American Express Lounges|
|Buenos Aires (EZE)||Delhi (DEL)|
|Melbourne (MEL)||Mexico City (MEX)|
|Monterrey (MTY)||Mumbai (BOM)|
|Sao Paulo (GRU)||Stockholm (ARN)|
|Sydney (SYD)||Toluca (MEX)|
Delta Sky Clubs
Platinum cardholders get access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta or a WestJet flight booked via Delta. If you are flying any other airline, you don’t have access.
You can bring guests at a cost of $29 per person with a limit of two guests or your spouse/domestic partner and any children under 21 years old. But if one of your guests were a Platinum authorized user, they would get free access.
|Atlanta (ATL)||Austin (AUS)|
|Boston (BOS)||Chicago (ORD)|
|Cincinnati (CVG)||Dallas (DFW)|
|Denver (DEN)||Detroit (DTW)|
|Fort Lauderdale (FLL)||Honolulu (HNL)|
|Indianapolis (IND)||Jacksonville (JAX)|
|London (LHR)||Los Angeles (LAX)|
|Memphis (MEM)||Miami (MIA)|
|Milwaukee (MKE)||Minneapolis (MSP)|
|Nashville (BNA)||New Orleans (MSY)|
|New York (JFK)||New York (LGA)|
|Newark (EWR)||Orlando (MCO)|
|Philadelphia (PHL)||Phoenix (PHX)|
|Portland (PDX)||Raleigh (RDU)|
|Salt Lake City (SLC)||San Diego (SAN)|
|San Francisco (SFO)||Santiago (SCL)|
|Seattle (SEA)||Tampa (TPA)|
|Tokyo (NRT)||Washington D.C. (DCA)|
|West Palm Beach (PBI)|
Escape Lounges are some of my favorite airport lounges. They are typically quite small but offer great free food and drinks. While the lounges are not as amazing as the Centurion Lounges, their food offerings are much better than the Delta Sky Club.
Their footprint in the U.S. has been growing over the last several years with at least two lounges added each year.
|in the U.S.|
|Cincinnati (CVG)||Gate B21||5:00 am - 8 pm||Menu||N/A|
|Greenville (GSP)||Concourse B near Gate 1||5:00 am - 9 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Hartford (BDL)||Near Gate 1||5:00 am - 8 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Minneapolis (MSP)||T1 at Entrance to Con. E||4:00 am - 9 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Oakland (OAK)||T1 Across from Gate 9||4:30 am - 9 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Ontario (ONT)||T2 at Gates 209 and 210||4:30 am - 10 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Ontario (ONT)||T4 Near Gate 410||5:00 am - 9 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Phoenix (PHX)||T4 Near Gate B22||5:30 am - 10 pm||Menu||N/A|
|Providence (PVD)||Near Gate 18||5:00 am - 8 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Reno (RNO)||Between Conc. B and C||4:30 am - 8 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Sacramento (SMF)||Near Gate A10||4:30 am - 10 pm||Menu||Menu|
|Sacramento (SMF)||Term. B on Left After Security||5:00 am - 8 pm||Menu||Menu|
Escape Lounges also operated five lounges in the United Kingdom.
|in the U.K.|
|East Midlands (EMA)||Near Gate 17||4.00 a.m. - 6 p.m.|
|London (STN)||Main Dep. Lounge||4.00 a.m. – 8.30 p.m.|
|Manchester (MAN)||Terminal 1||4:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.|
|Manchester (MAN)||T2 near Gate 209||M, T, Th, F, Sa.: 4:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.; W 4:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.; Sun. 4:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.|
|Manchester (MAN)||T3 on Level 3||Sun - Fri. 4:15 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.; Sat. 4:15 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.|
Priority Pass is a collection of 1,300+ airport lounges all across the world. Most major U.S. airports have at least one, but Priority Pass’s footprint is quite large outside of the United States.
It even includes some interesting options such as the Sleepbox in Washington D.C. and Minute Suites at several airports.
The one downside is that the American Express version of the Priority Pass does not include Priority Pass restaurants, which gives you a credit for $26-30 per person. (Other cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve still have access to restaurants.)
Plaza Premium Lounges
Plaza Premium Lounges are really nice lounges located mainly in Asia, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and India.
The lounges typically have really good food and drink for a lounge, and shower rooms. Some lounges even have spas and massage therapy available for an extra cost.
There is only one Airspace Lounge and it is located in San Diego. There were previously locations at Cleveland and New York, but both of them closed down.
The location in San Diego has showers and you get a $10 credit for food and alcohol. There is a selection of complimentary snacks, coffee, tea, and soft drinks.
One very interesting partnership is American Express’ partnership with Lufthansa, which started in 2017. The partnership is set to expire on July 31, 2020, but it frequently is renewed.
Platinum cardholders get access to Lufthansa Business Lounges (regardless of ticket class) and Lufthansa Senator Lounges (when flying business class) in the Satellite area of T2 in Munich Airport, and T1 Concourse B in Frankfurt Airport.
Just present your Platinum card and your same-day boarding pass from Lufthansa, SWISS, or Austrian Airlines for access.
Redeeming Membership Rewards Points
There are a few different ways to redeem American Express Membership Rewards points, but the best way is to transfer to the airline or hotel points programs below.
Our favorites are ANA, Aeroplan, LifeMiles, and Iberia Avios. American Express also occasionally offers transfer bonuses, which increases the value of their points by 20 to 50%.
|Membership Rewards Transfer Partners [1 to 1]|
|Aer Lingus Avios||AeroMexico [1 to 1.6]|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Air France/KLM Flying Blue|
|Avianca LifeMiles||British Airways Avios|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||Delta SkyMiles|
|El Al [1,000 to 20]||Emirates|
|Iberia Avios||JetBlue [250 to 200]|
|Hilton Honors [1 to 2]||Marriott Bonvoy|
A couple less valuable options that we generally do not recommend are:
Transfer to Morgan Stanley– Morgan Stanley Platinum cardholders can transfer Membership Rewards points to Morgan Stanley for 1.0 cents per point. I am not a big fan of this transfer because you can typically get at least 1.5 cents per point with airline or hotel programs. Plus, the American Express Schwab Platinum card allows you to transfer to Schwab at 1.25 cents per point.
Redeem for Travel– You can redeem points for travel via the Amex Travel portal, but you only get 1.0 cents per point for airfare and 0.7 cents per point for cars, hotels, vacations, and cruises.
Gift Cards– The points required for gift cards vary, but typically provides only 0.7 to 1.0 cents per point.
Use Points for Charges– You can redeem points directly for charges on your billing statement, but you only get 0.6 cents per point.
Shopping at Amazon– You can link your Membership Rewards to Amazon and get 0.7 cents per point.
The Morgan Stanley Platinum card is a great deal if you can get the avoid the monthly fees on a Platinum CashPlus account to get the $550 Annual Engagement Bonus.
The American Express Platinum card has a ton of great benefits especially for frequent travelers who can take advantage of the airport lounge options.