There’s no doubt that flying in business and first class to Europe is one of the smartest ways to put your American Express Membership Reward points to work. With the help of hefty points bonuses when you sign up for a credit card, accumulating Membership Rewards points could be the ultimate hack to nabbing a seat at the pointy end of the plane.
But…for those who travel as much as I do, recurring Card perks are where the real value lies and American Express’ Platinum Card leads the card world in this regard.
On the road, at the airport, in the air, and when checking into the world’s best hotels, we believe no card helps you level up every aspect of your itinerary as comprehensively as the Platinum Card.
I stand by this statement with evidence from our recent trip to Scotland for a week of whisky, golf, driving, and luxurious lodgings. The key difference? As a Platinum Card holder, I was privy to the perks – which included room upgrades, room credit, complimentary meals, and travel insurance – whereas John was footing the bill with cash as a regular punter.
Let’s dive into how American Express’ Platinum Card can enhance your next trip to Europe by unpacking the wild perks and privileges I was lucky enough to experience in Scotland.
On The Ground
Flying out of Sydney, we kicked off the trip with a glass of celebratory bubbles at the American Express Centurion Lounge, where I could bring John in as my guest.
Despite your class of travel, Platinum Card Members get complimentary lounge access1 to over 1,400 lounges worldwide in over 650 cities across 140 countries. You don’t have to worry about holding status or flying with the right partner airlines. The Platinum Card is your golden ticket to access all of them, with up to two guests at a time.
And while it’s not exactly the sexiest perk of the Platinum Card, it’s also worth mentioning you get a suite of travel insurance coverage2, including but not limited to Medical Emergency Expenses, Travel Inconvenience, Trip Cancellation and Amendment, and Loss Damage Waiver when you use the card to pay for your return trip.
On this hop from Sydney to Edinburgh via London, I had a special trump card to play, much to John’s dismay. By strategically redeeming my Membership Rewards Points, I’d landed myself a seat in Qantas’ A380 first class while he was stuck down the back with an economy cash fare.
It’s a wild new era of travel that we live in. If there was ever a time to dip into your points balance to nab a seat at the pointy end of the plane, now would be it.
So that’s exactly what I did. At the time of booking, John’s return economy ticket on Qantas’ QF1 to London was nearly $5,000. A first-class ticket on the same plane would have normally cost around ~$15,000 one-way. But on this occasion, it was a mere 125,000 Cathay Asia Miles + taxes to get me into seat 3A, redeemed through American Express Membership Rewards Points3 which I transferred in August 2022. What’s more, that’s substantially less than Qantas’ own redemption rate for the same seat (216,000 Qantas Points). It’s all about making your points work smarter, not harder.
Membership Rewards Points are the absolute sweet spot in the frequent flying game. With 11 different partner airlines to choose from, they’re easily the most flexible of all points programs to have in your arsenal when searching for and booking classic award seats in business and first-class to Europe.
And in the world of redeeming frequent flyer points, flexibility is the key to unlocking a world of travel.
Now for the flight itself. While John was grinning and bearing it down in 51H, I chose to board fashionably late after a delightful afternoon in the Qantas First Class lounge. I was immediately handed a glass of 2005 Pommery Cuvee Louise (which retails on Qantas Wine for $360 a bottle). A few glasses later and I’d already consumed the money spent on taxes.
The turnaround in the Singapore First Class lounge was a swift but pleasant reprieve before another 14 hours onwards to London. Back on board, I was served a delectable cut of medium rare beef which I washed down with a glass of the Yarra Yering Pinot Noir. I soon found myself stretched out on the super wide Qantas First bed, and before I knew it, I was watching the sun rise over Central London with an eggs benedict in front of me and an OJ in hand.
I’ll be the first to admit that being able to redeem Membership Rewards to fly first-class across the globe is my favourite way to redeem my Membership Rewards points from my Platinum Card. That being said, well after you’ve stepped off the plane, the Platinum Card’s explicit benefits and overall value really shine through American Express’ Fine Hotels & Resorts program.4
Our lap of Scotland started in Edinburgh with an evening at The Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian, on a delightful summer’s day. As both a Fine Hotels & Resorts partner hotel, and a member of the Hilton Group (with which Platinum Card Members get a complimentary Hilton Honours Gold Status5), I was privy to the full suite of perks including a 12 pm check-in, a room upgrade to a spacious corner suite with beautiful views over Old Town Edinburgh, and a US$100 hotel credit that could be used anywhere in the hotel. The reception staff kindly let John – who booked direct through the hotel – check-in early like I did, and I could use my complimentary breakfast for us both the next morning.
The summer twilight hours in Scotland meant dinner in the late evening seemed like the most appropriate option to start the tour and the perfect opportunity to call in an often overlooked perk of the Platinum Card – up to $400AUD worth of Global Dining Credit6. Platinum Card Members receive up to $200 locally and $200 abroad per calendar year, until 31 December 2024, at a curated collection of thousands of restaurants around the world to contribute to their final bill. The Ivy On The Square in the heart of Edinburgh was our venue of choice for the evening. A great way to kick off the tour before a late evening stroll through the old town’s magical cobblestoned streets.
The itinerary for our express lap of Scotland is the stuff of dreams for any 30-year-old male. Across three nights and four days in a clockwise direction, we skirted around and through the highlands with enough golf and whisky in between to satisfy most for a lifetime.
Our opening pitstop was none other than the illustrious Cameron House on Loch Lomond; one of the most prized and popular destinations in southern Scotland and a summer playground for the UK’s rich and famous. The regal property sits right on the shores of the loch, a mere 45 minutes drive from Glasgow and just less than 90 minutes from Edinburgh.
Upon check-in, I was treated to a complimentary room upgrade courtesy of Fine Hotels & Resorts which effectively doubled the value of my initial entry-level room that John and I had both separately booked. My subsequent one-bedroom suite with a loch view featured a complimentary mini-bar (one of the most plentiful I’ve ever come across) as well as breakfast for two, a food and beverage credit, and even an ‘experience’ credit – which could be used on activities around the property such as jetboating, seaplane rides, or golf.
This gave us the perfect segue into our 7pm tee time at The Carrick Golf Club for our first evening in the highlands, partly subsidised thanks to this aforementioned experience credit. Friendly hotel staff organised a speedy shuttle to the course, which is five minutes up the road, for 18 sunset holes at one of the most picturesque courses in the country.
The following morning’s itinerary was one of pure appreciation for Scotland – a scenic cruise through the spectacular Glencoe Valley — which included a detour to the iconic filming location from James Bond’s ‘Skyfall’. But it was northeast of Fort William that the real Scottish Highlands started to open up as we traversed the fringes of the Cairngorms National Park, towards Speyside.
Naturally, the pool of American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts properties available in this part of the world got smaller and smaller as we ventured north, but it’s worth noting that Amex Travel’s booking platform has all your regular hotels available to book also. For our second overnight, the modest but well-appointed Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown-On-Spey was our base for the evening and allowed us to keep the trip’s itinerary all in the same ecosystem.
You might have clocked by now that we’d called in a favour from Land Rover for our stately set of wheels. The gentle purr and infinite grunt from the brand-new V8 long-wheel-base Range Rover SV made short work of the Scottish tarmac as we floated around the highlands in plush business-class-like thrones.
That being said, as a Platinum Card Member, you can actually unlock a complimentary Hertz Gold Plus Rewards7 status and Avis’ Preferred program8. Both loyalty programs offer a range of perks to make the car hire process just that little bit more hassle-free, such as discounts, one-car-class upgrades, and grace periods when returning vehicles.
In a world where car hire can be extortionately expensive, you’d be silly not to exploit these perks with Hertz or Avis and pair your reservation with the Platinum Card’s $450 annual travel credit9. This can be for you or anyone you choose and redeemed through Amex Travel for pre-paid airfares, hotel bookings, or the aforementioned car hire.
For our final full day, we took the scenic route over the Cairngorms via The Old Military Road to The GlenDronach, one of the oldest and most celebrated distilleries in Scotland. Praised for their sherry-matured spirit and traditional distilling process, The GlenDronach is set to celebrate its upcoming 200th anniversary in 2026. It’d be wise to drop in before the distillery finishes its major aesthetic overhaul and springboards to the top of every tourist’s wish list when in Speyside.
The Home of Golf
They say all roads lead to Rome. In Scotland, the home of golf, all roads lead to St Andrews.
As a lifelong fan of golf, it was quite the surreal experience pulling into the driveway of The Old Course Hotel, our final Fine Hotels & Resorts stay for the trip. A quick chat with the golf concierge confirmed our worst fears – a tee time for the revered Old Course itself was well and truly out of the question, so John and I ventured to the famous Jigger Inn attached to the hotel to work out the game plan over a pint of Guinness.
We were blissfully unaware that St Andrews Golf Links actually comprises six championship courses in total. Directly adjacent to the Old Course is actually the aptly named ‘New Course’ – the oldest new course in the world, built by Old Tom Morris (The Grand Old Man of Golf) himself in 1895.
Pro-tip, if your dreams of playing the Old Course don’t become a reality, this New Course welcomes walk-ons throughout the day with minimal fuss and open arms. We waltzed right up to the first tee after arriving at the starter’s box at 7am for a momentous but turbulent round on the hallowed grounds of the St Andrews Golf Links peninsula.
This is part one of our Platinum Card Challenge with American Express. Looking beyond Scotland? We’ve curated our favourite Fine Hotels & Resorts properties from all across Europe. And of course, you can learn more about the American Express Platinum Card at the link below.
Fast Facts – The American Express Platinum Card
- Card type: Charge Card
- Annual Fee: $1,450 p.a.
- Cash Flow Period: Up to 44 cash flow days10 and no pre-set spending limit11
For the full breakdown of the Terms & Conditions, click here.