Maximizing the Amex Platinum $200 Airline Fee Credit

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.

To ease the sting of Continental leaving Membership Rewards, American Express added a bunch of benefits to the Platinum card this year, including a $200 yearly airline fee credit on your airline of choice. If you are a Platinum cardholder and haven’t already selected your airline, you can sign up here.

There is a link for a 50,000 point sign-up bonus circulating the internet, but I’ve been told that offer is targeted. If you do decide to go that route (here is the link), make sure to take lots of screen shots in case you need to prove you applied for that offer. If anyone has any recent experience applying for the 50k offer, please comment below.

This benefit is for all Platinum card members and runs on a calendar year – so if you don’t use it all by December 31, you lose it. So this means that if you got a Platinum card now- you’d get $200 until December 31 and then another $200 on January 1. Those $400 in credits basically pay for the first year annual fee of $450. Also, if you ever decide the Platinum card isn’t the right choice for you, you can always downgrade to a lower/no fee card or cancel and Amex will refund prorated your annual fee.

The fee credit is automatic- as long as you purchase any of the following items directly from an airline, the charge should get automatically rebated from your statement.

Approved items:
Checked baggage fees
Overweight/oversize baggage fees
Change fees
Phone reservation fees
Pet flight fees
Airport lounge day passes and annual memberships
Seat assignment fees
In-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, etc)
In-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet)

This credit is not applicable for the following charges:
Airline tickets
Charges processed by merchants other than the airline the Cardmember is enrolled in (for example, inflight Internet services providers such as GoGo)
Charges made by airline partners (for example, Cardmember purchase ticket on enrolled airline Delta, but purchases food on an Air France flight)
Trip insurance / baggage insurance
Ticket upgrades (Including American Airlines Upgrade Stickers)
Travel agent fees
Point transfer fees
Duty free purchase
Award ticket fees
Gift cards issued by Airlines

There seems to be a ton anecdotal evidence on Flyertalk, however, that people have in fact been able to use their $200 reimbursement to purchase airline tickets, upgrades, and even elite status through a variety of methods that have to do with the amount a ticket or airline voucher costs in addition to the way it is coded on their credit card bill.

It seems as though, if the charge is quoted as “Travel – Airline,” that the chance of reimbursement is pretty slim. The operative factors here seem to be both the way a ticket is charged, or the amount of money spent on a fare, as well as a variety of sidestepping methods that include purchasing airline vouchers (usually at the $100 mark or under) that can then be used pretty much for any expense on the airline, including tickets.

Here are some examples from the Flyertalk thread – note: none of this means it will work for you so proceed with caution.

Buy a Cheap Ticket

Back in February, one flyer who had selected US Airways as his carrier was reimbursed for cheap one-way tickets on the airline–something about the fare code or price level triggered the Amex system to credit him. Another flyer, this time on US Airways, had two tickets reimbursed, one for $65 and another for $135 that came up on his statement as “Travel-Airline,” and suspects that it’s because the tickets were under a certain price threshold. That seems to be backed up by a Delta flyer who had a $99.70 ticket charge refunded. The same story with another person who purchased six one-way tickets on Continental from SFO-LAS under a single record locator and was reimbursed $200 from the total amount.

Combination Payments

Another way that seems to confuse the system is to pay for a ticket using a combination of accounts–namely e-vouchers or credits and then your Amex card for the remainder. One person was issued a compensation e-voucher on American Airlines for a delayed flight, and used it to purchase part of another ticket on the airline, then used their Amex Platinum to pay for the difference, and when the statement came, that balance had been refunded as part of the $200 credit. This same passenger also booked four one-way award tickets on AA and paid the taxes and fees using his Amex Platinum, and when the statement came, these too had been refunded. And a flyer on Delta used vouchers to purchase tickets and paid the difference between voucher value and ticket price (about $94 per ticket) using the Amex, which then reimbursed him for the $94 on each ticket. And another example of someone who purchased an $80 one-way fare on Delta.com that was reimbursed as well.

Vouchers

One way many Amex Platinum customers seem to be finding success at reimbursement is to purchase small-amount airline vouchers. Though one AA flyer didn’t get reimbursed for a $200 travel certificate he bought on AA.com,  another who purchased four $50 certificates was reimbursed immediately, and he could use them to purchase airline tickets, so a lot of people conjecture that the amount of each purchase has a lot to do with whether the reimbursement goes through. This seems to be the method of choice–quite a few people reported being reimbursed for buying several $50 airline certificates, and for a couple, it has worked with two $100 gift cards. On Continental, a $25 gift card and a $75 gift card were reimbursed, but not one over $100, and on Alaska, a $50 gift voucher was also reimbursed. The key seems to be purchasing gift vouchers of under $100, and of just $50 each to be safe.

Lounges and Elite Status

One person got $200 their Alaska Boardroom annual lounge membership reimbursed after a series of emails and calls, though most of the posters seem to find that annual membership fees are not reimbursed. And if elite status interests you, one person reports charging the $200 US Airways Trial Preferred, where you are pre-granted elite status while you complete a trial challenge period, and being reimbursed without incident.

Upgrades

Another person purchased discount economy tickets on United, then used 15,000 miles and $50 in cash each way to upgrade to first class, and both $50 charges were credited back by Amex within 24 hours of his check-in, when the charges were originally incurred. Similarly, one person flying on Delta used SkyMiles to book tickets to Paris, and paid $176 in taxes, which were reimbursed on his statement by Amex. These upgrade fees and award tickets charges are part of what is supposed to be reimbursed, but that’s not always the case. If you have any problem with your reimbursement on such charges, be sure to call in to Amex and complain.

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