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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.
Update: The Amazon Prime benefit is no longer offered for the Platinum Card, Blue Cash Everday, Blue Cash Preferred and Business Gold Rewards card and the Prime annual membership is now $99 instead of $79.
TPG reader Subho emailed me to ask:
“I recently got the Amex Platinum Card on a whim. How can I spend the $200 airline reimbursement that comes with it before it expires at the end of the year?”
One of my favorite perks of the Platinum Card from American Express is the $200 a year airline reimbursement. As a cardholder, you get a $200 airline rebate once per calendar year on the airline that you designate. So if you just got the card recently, you have $200 to use before December 31, and then another $200 to use starting January 1 – a $400 value that almost makes up for the $450 annual fee on the card.
The rebate 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.
Checked baggage fees
Overweight/oversize baggage 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)
Subho’s issue is that he is a United Premier Gold elite, so he gets many of the fees he would use his credit on waived anyway, and a lot of elites get stuck in the same boat with leftover credit available at the end of the year.
Well, there’s not much time left in 2013 to maximize your airline fee rebate since this Tuesday is December 31, so to take advantage of that $200 reimbursement, here’s a little trick that I do every year on January 1 to make sure I don’t lose out on the value of this cardholder rebate.
Though the airline rebate will not automatically trigger when you purchase airline tickets, one way people have been able to maximize the rebate is to buy $200 worth of gift cards or vouchers with the airline, which you can then use on tickets. Often their expiration dates are well past December 31 of that year as well, so it’s a way to extend the life of the benefit, and it’s better than trying to wait throughout the year and maybe get fees back (it is kind of hard to track what you have been reimbursed).
So what you could do is to buy four $50 gift cards – with Delta, American Airlines or United – online and all four should be reimbursed to your account. A problem some people run into is buying all $200 at once in a single voucher, which does not always seem to trigger the rebate. $100-$200 seems to be the threshold, so $50 vouchers are anecdotally a safer bet, and you can still get all $200 worth by buying four.
There is a ton anecdotal evidence on Flyertalk that people have been successful getting the rebate when purchasing airline vouchers. The one thing to look out for is if the charge is listed as “Travel – Airline,” the chance of reimbursement is pretty slim. Here are some examples from the Flyertalk thread – note: none of this means it will work for you so proceed with caution, but I’ve had success purchasing Delta and American vouchers and getting my rebate.
The airline reimbursement is one of those perks of the Platinum Card that can really make it valuable. As I mentioned, it does carry a $450 annual fee, and and Amex did just announce that as of March 22, 2014, you will no longer be able to access American Airlines and US Airways lounges with it, so that’s something to consider. But cardmembers will continue to receive access to participating Delta Sky Club lounges, Priority Pass Select (which includes Alaska Airlines and a number of international lounges; enrollment is required), and Airspace lounges in JFK, CLE and BWI airports as well as Amex’s new Centurion Lounges (which will hopefully include several new ones in 2014).
Other great perks of this card include:
Global Entry Fee Rebate: The US government charges $100 to get Global Entry (which I wrote about in this post), but if you pay using your Platinum card, Amex will automatically rebate you that $100 dollars.
Airport Lounge Access: When you have a valid ticket for same-day travel, the Platinum card will also gain you access to Delta, American and US Airways lounges (for now) – potentially saving you membership fees of up to around $500 each per year if you were to join each separately – and you can even bring two guests or your spouse and any children under 21. US Airways even allows entry if you are flying on a different carrier. The Card also confers Priority Pass Select access to over 600 airport lounges in 100 countries (guests can also enter for a $27 per person fee).
Automatic Starwood Gold Status: Once you have a Platinum card, just call Starwood at 1-888-625-4990 and tell them you have an Amex Platinum card and want SPG Gold Status. Then you have to fax in proof that you have the card, but once you send it, they’ll upgrade your Starwood account to Gold status. Starwood Gold (normally attained after 25 nights or 10 stays) gets you a 50% bonus on Starpoints (so you earn 3 points per $1 spent at Starwood properties), room upgrades, 4pm late checkout and overall better customer service.
One Year of Amazon Prime Membership NO LONGER OFFERED: New cardholders who sign up for the card and meet the minimum spend can now also get one year of Amazon Prime membership including unlimited free 2-day shipping on purchases, instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows, and one Kindle book to borrow for free each month.
Fine Hotels & Resorts Program: When you book hotel stays through this program and pay with your Platinum card, you get room upgrades, free breakfast for two, late check-out (4pm) and other amenities like spa credit and free golf.Purchase Protection: I don’t think people realize how valuable this benefit can be. American Express prides itself on customer service, so if you purchase something and it gets stolen/broken/lost, Amex will refund you.
International Premium Companion Ticket: If you buy a full-fare first or business class ticket, you can get a second for free.
As you can see, there are lots of perks to the card, so make sure that if you have the Amex Platinum that you are using every single penny of that $200 reimbursement every year.
For more information on the American Express Platinum card, read my previous posts:
For more information, see these posts:
The Amex Platinum Card Review
Is the Amex Platinum Worth the $450 Annual Fee?
Maximizing the Amex Platinum $200 Annual Airline Rebate
Understanding the Amex Platinum Lounge Access Benefit
The Amex Platinum Fine Hotels & Resorts Program
My Experience Getting Refunded for the Global Entry Application Fee With My Amex Platinum Card