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For the avid traveler, The Platinum Card® from American Express could quickly become a favorite. With a range of travel-related credits, Hilton and Marriott Bonvoy elite status (enrollment required), and access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, the card could make your jet-setting dreams a reality. 

If all that wasn’t enough, there’s even a way to avoid the hefty annual fee of $695 (see rates and fees), making the card free to hold. But it’s not without a few hurdles along the way.

Let’s look at how to get a free Platinum Card from American Express.

American Express Platinum Cards

As if choosing a credit card isn’t enough of a challenge, American Express offers four different versions of the Platinum Card. You have the following options:

All four cards are geared toward travelers, offering a range of hotel, flight and travel-related perks. Likewise, all cards come with an annual fee of $695 and don’t charge any foreign transaction fees. The annual fee on the the Business Platinum Card® from American Express is also $695 (see rates and fees) However, they have their differences.

Let’s take a look at what makes each card stand out.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express is the core Platinum Card. It’s a great option for a personal credit card if you can take advantage of the travel and lifestyle perks.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

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It offers the American Express standard range of travel-related perks and features, such as:

  • Up to $200 hotel credit on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection (requires a minimum two-night stay) bookings through American Express Travel 
  • Up to $240 digital entertainment credit, issued in $20 monthly statement credits for eligible purchases on Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock and the New York Times (enrollment required)
  • Up to $300 Equinox credit, issued in $25 monthly statement credits when you use your Platinum card to pay for a membership to any Equinox club or toward an Equinox+ subscription
  • Up to $189 per year in statement credits toward a CLEAR® Plus membership
  • Up to $200 airline fee credit
  • Up to $200 Uber Cash, issued in increments of $15 per month with a bonus $20 in December
  • 5X points on eligible flights booked with American Express Travel or directly with the airline, on up to $500,000 in charges per calendar year
  • 5X points on eligible prepaid hotel reservations when booked with American Express Travel
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold and Hilton Honors Gold elite status (enrollment required)
  • Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • Airport lounge access (Airspace Lounge, The Centurion Lounge, Delta Sky Club, Escape Lounges, Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounges, Plaza Premium, Priority Pass Select)

The more of these credits you can offset organically, meaning if you already pay airline incidental fees, use Uber and subscribe to the mentioned digital entertainment channels, the quicker you’ll offset the hefty $695 annual fee of the Amex Platinum Card.

These are just some of the many perks the Platinum card has to offer, which all three cards share. The difference is that the other cards offer some additional benefits and features.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express 

For small business owners, the Business Platinum Card® from American Express (see rates and fees) has a lot to offer. Aside from the travel perks that come with every version of the Amex Platinum Card, the business card throws in some additional benefits specifically for businesses.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

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You get access to:

  • 5X points on eligible flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • 1.5X points on purchases over $5,000 and on eligible purchases in certain business categories (on the first $2,000,000 per year, 1X after that)
  • Up to $400 statement credit on Dell purchases, issued as $200 statement credits semi-annually (enrollment required)
  • Up to $360 statement credit on Indeed purchases, issued in increments of $90 per quarter (enrollment required)
  • Up to $150 statement credit toward annual prepaid business plan purchases with Adobe (enrollment required)
  • Up to $120 statement credit on purchases made through U.S. wireless telephone service providers, issued in increments of $10 monthly statement credits (enrollment required)

On top of this, if you book a flight through American Express Travel and use the Pay with Points feature, you’ll receive 35% of your points back on eligible flights. You can receive a maximum of 1,000,000 points annually on economy flights on your preselected airline and business- and first-class tickets on any airline.

The Platinum Card® from American Express for Charles Schwab

If you want to transfer Membership Rewards into your investment account, the Platinum Card® from American Express for Charles Schwab could just be what you’re looking for.

To apply for this card, you first need to have an eligible Schwab account, such as Schwab One®, General Brokerage, Traditional, Roth or Rollover IRA.

You can earn up to 1X Membership Rewards point per eligible dollar spent using the card. These can then be redeemed into your investment account, allowing for more freedom in how you use your points.

A standout feature of this card is the Schwab Appreciation Bonus for those with significant balances in their investment account. If you have $250,000 in your eligible Schwab account, you’ll receive a $100 statement credit. And if your holdings are in excess of $1,000,000, you’ll get a statement credit of $200.

This card combines many of the standard American Express Platinum Card perks with increased point redemption freedom and statement credit.

The Platinum Card® from American Express for Morgan Stanley

If you’re a Morgan Stanley customer, or willing to become one, the Platinum Card® from American Express for Morgan Stanley boasts some impressive features.

With the Morgan Stanley Card, you can add a second authorized user free of charge. Not only does this mean your second user can enjoy all the hotel and travel perks of the card—all their eligible spending will earn points. As a result, you’ll be able to rack up points much faster, leading to more perks and redemption opportunities.

A second major benefit of this card is the annual engagement bonus. If you’re eligible, you’ll receive an annual engagement bonus of $695, effectively offsetting the card’s membership fee.

Given the annual engagement bonus as well as the ability to add a second authorized user at no cost, this is arguably the best American Express Platinum Card on offer. 

Let’s now look at how you go about getting yourself a free American Express Platinum Card through Morgan Stanley.

How to Get the Platinum Card from American Express for Morgan Stanley for Free

Be warned: Getting your Platinum Card from American Express for Morgan Stanley for free is not the simplest process, but it’s one that pays off. You’ll have access to all the perks of the card without paying anything in annual fees.

The first link in the chain is having an investment relationship with Morgan Stanley. There’s no way around this. Self-Directed Brokerage, Discretionary/Non-discretionary Advisory and AAA accounts are all eligible investment relationships.

However, if you don’t already have an eligible investment relationship with Morgan Stanley, you’ll want to look at their investment brokerage account options and choose what’s best for you.

That’s the first step. The second step is enrolling in Morgan Stanley Online.

Morgan Stanley Online is the online portal from which you can monitor and manage all your accounts. However, if you have a Morgan Stanley brokerage account, you can skip this step as you’ll have already been enrolled automatically in Morgan Stanley Online.

The advice from here is to wait about 30 days. This gives Morgan Stanley the time necessary to recognize your investment brokerage relationship with them.

Once you’ve given it a month, you’ll now be eligible to open a Morgan Stanley Platinum CashPlus account. It’s through this account that you’ll be able to apply for the American Express Platinum Card.

The Morgan Stanley Platinum CashPlus account comes with a monthly fee of $55, but you have the ability to waive this fee if you meet certain requirements. Namely, you’ll need to have a recurring monthly deposit of $5,000 as well as an average daily cash balance of $25,000. 

Technically, there’s nothing stopping you transferring $5,000 into the account and withdrawing it within the same month to meet the recurring deposit requirement, as long as the average daily cash balance minimum is met. 

You’ll also need to have a second eligible Morgan Stanley account that isn’t your CashPlus account. Thankfully, your brokerage account will satisfy this requirement.

The penultimate hurdle is linking your Morgan Stanley accounts together in the same Account Link Group (ALG). The ALG groups accounts with the same mailing address together for online access and statement mailing practicalities.

Once your accounts are linked, you’ve effectively made it. The last step is applying for your Platinum Card from American Express for Morgan Stanley.

It’s with this card that you’ll receive the $695 annual engagement bonus. The only catch is that you’ll begin receiving the annual engagement bonus after your first year of having the card.

Free American Express Platinum Card

Despite the somewhat long process, everything comes together in the end.

Your American Express Platinum Card charges an annual fee of $695 while your Morgan Stanley CashPlus engagement bonus gives you back $695 annually. So one cancels out the other, leaving you with a free card and all its accompanying perks.

Does the Effort Pay Off?

Although a free American Express Platinum Card sounds like a great deal at face value, it does come with some factors to consider.

Firstly, it may be that you can’t meet the minimum requirements to waive the Morgan Stanley CashPlus account monthly fee. In this case, you’ll still receive your engagement bonus, but you’ll also be charged $55 a month, totaling $660 per year.

Would this still be worth it?

Financially speaking, yes. You’ll still save $35 on the annual card fee, which is better than paying the full price.

However, the more important consideration is the opportunity cost involved in the required minimum deposit. Keep in mind that you need a minimum monthly recurring deposit of $5,000 in addition to the average daily cash balance of $25,000 for the Morgan Stanley CashPlus account. 

This locks up a significant amount of your funds in an account with an APR of just 0.01%. So with $25,000 in your balance, you’ll be getting an annual return of only $2.50—not exactly the best investment. The question is if this is worth doing simply to avoid paying the American Express annual fee of $695.

To answer this, we can calculate the break-even interest rate. In other words, the interest rate you’d need to receive elsewhere to offset the annual fee. That comes out to 2.78% APR that you’re effectively earning when you receive the $695 engagement bonus in exchange for the $25,000 deposit.

So if you can invest your money somewhere that will earn you a return greater than 2.78%, then the opportunity cost involved in locking up $25,000 isn’t worth it. But if you can’t find a better return, then it may well be worth the large deposit.

Final Verdict

Overall, the Platinum Card range from American Express comes with a range of attractive perks at the cost of large annual fees.

When it comes to justifying the cost of holding these cards, keep in mind that the more perks you can use and points you can earn, the more you’ll offset the annual fee. Although only the Morgan Stanley Card comes with an annual engagement bonus of $695, you can effectively cancel out the annual fee on the other three cards through point and perk redemption.

The standard Platinum Card from American Express is the logical choice if you’re wanting a personal card that rewards the traveler. 

The Business Platinum Card from American Express is a great choice for small business owners. It earns points and issues statement credits on specific eligible business purchases. 

Additionally, you’ll get 35% of your points refunded on eligible flights booked through American Express Travel and paid for using the Pay with Points feature. This means you can redeem more often, retain more points and fly cheaper all while doing so.

If you have an eligible investment account with Charles Schwab, then the Platinum Card from American Express for Charles Schwab may likely be your best bet. You’ll be able to redeem your points into your investment account, allowing for greater point redemption flexibility in comparison with the other three cards. 

The Schwab Appreciation Bonus also rewards those with high balances in their eligible Schwab account, with a $100 statement credit for holdings of $250,000 and a $200 statement credit for holdings greater than $1,000,000. This card is geared toward the investor.

In addition to the travel and lifestyle benefits offered by the other three cards, the Morgan Stanley version directly cancels out the annual fee and enables you to add a second authorized user free of charge. So not only is the card free—point-earning is effectively accelerated, allowing you to take even greater advantage of its travel perks. 

And as we saw, as long as you can’t earn a return greater than 2.78% anywhere else, the extra steps involved in getting the card are totally worth it.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!


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