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Sunday Reader Question: Maximizing the Amex Platinum $200 Airline Rebate

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TPG reader Ken asks:

“I have an American Express Platinum card and as the end of the year approaches I did not want to waste the $200 airline incidental expense credit.  Do you have any recommendations on how to best utilize this credit.  I have thought about trying to use the credit to pay a portion of the fee charged by the airline to use the club lounge.  However, I am concerned about whether this would be the best use of this credit because I have a family (wife and 2 kids) and I wouldn’t leave my family behind to use the club lounge.  The cost to purchase family airline club lounge access for a year is very expensive.”

To learn more about the Amex Platinum’s $200 airline credit and how it is one of many perks that make paying the card’s $450 annual fee worth it, you can check out the post I wrote last year about Maximizing the Amex Platinum $200 Airline Credit.

But to run you through the details again…

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, 2012, 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’s 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 credit is automatic and you will be reimbursed for the following items:

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

Although there are a lot of “not applicables” on that list, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence on Flyertalk that people have in fact been able to use their $200 reimbursement to purchase cheap airline tickets (under $200), 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. Flyertalkers have reported getting reimbursed for sundry expenses including upgrades using miles and cash where they paid for the charge with their Platinum card, annual airline lounge membership in some cases, and even a US Airways elite status challenge, so have a look at that Maximizing post and the Flyertalk thread to get some ideas – and be creative!

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