How Can I Spend The $200 Airline Reimbursement From The Amex Platinum Card Before It Expires At The End Of The Year?

by on December 29, 2013 · 69 comments

in Amazon, American Express, Sunday Reader Questions, United, Video Blog Post

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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.

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)

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.

A $50 American Airlines gift card is a great way to use up your reimbursement.

A $50 American Airlines gift card is a great way to use up your reimbursement.

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.

Automatic Hilton Gold Status: This was announced back in November as a new perk with status good through 2014. You must call the number on the back of your Amex Platinum card to enroll.

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • BAB22

    Is the one year of Amazon Prime membership only for new sign ups? I got the card (through link on your site) in November when the Amazon Prime deal was not listed as a benefit, or at least I did not notice it at the time.

  • Mike

    Me too. Where is this?

  • hess

    I also have never heard about the Amazon Prime membership. So, I went back and looked at your 11 posts about the card and nothing mentioned there either. I went to the American Express website and re-read all of the benefits of the card and nothing is said about it there either. Do we need to call in to activate this benefit?

  • Ben Powers

    Will the gift card trick work with JetBlue? I mistakenly selected JetBlue last January and have had no chance to use the credit but these would make great gifts.

  • Jim

    I’m assuming that since we have to ‘pick’ an airline to get reimbursed from, we should purchase vouchers/gift cards from those carriers? I had picked United back in 2012, and the program worked flawlessly for our family trip to Bermuda. Although with 5 of us, it went pretty fast.

    I couldn’t use the program in 2013, since I mostly flew Delta and AA, so it’s just sitting there. But it’s a ‘use it or lose it’ scenario, so it should be used up.

    So bottom line, I guess I should buy United Airlines Gift cards, right??

    Happy New Year!

  • Josh

    If I buy gift cards today the expense likely won’t be reimbursed by Amex until a few days into 2014. Will the reimbursement be for 2013 since that is when I made the purchase or for 2014 since that is when I received the credit?

  • Allen

    Info about Amazon Prime/ American Express can be found here:

  • Graydon

    I was going to post about AMEX not reimbursing me for $50 for a Delta e-certificate purchase a week ago but I just checked and it worked this time! I had the entire $200 still available so I am headed back to to purchase 3 more at $50 each. I tried this same thing in April of this year and it didn’t work then, who knows what happened this time. It still posted as “travel – airline”. Guess I got lucky and I hope my luck holds!

  • Diotallevi

    I had $100 left to spend on the $200 reimbursement perk, so earlier this month I went online to United’s website and purchased a $100 United gift card with my Amex Platinum, and saw the $100 credit on my card less than a week later, so it worked for me.

  • FlyingJoey

    I haven’t had a chance to use this benefit yet on my card. The other day I attempted to purchase vouchers on AA and at the last minute the transaction didn’t go through because residents of the state of New Jersey for some reason aren’t allowed purchase airline gift cards. I may have to take a trip into NYC to purchase the vouchers. A real inconvenience.

  • thepointsguy

    You can find details here:

    It’s for new card memberships, and I’ve clarified that in the post.

  • Fred

    Yes, the gift cards/vouchers need to be from the same airline you picked for reimbursements previously.

    Just as a point of reference, I was successful with Amex reimbursing a $150 United voucher ($200 may be dicey, as TPG pointed out). I got impatient after receiving the first $50 voucher reimbursement, and the second voucher for $150 was also reimbursed, no problems.

  • Suzanne Gwinn

    Went to go buy some gift cards from US Airways as that is the airline I designated but they charge $15.00 shipping per purchase…I wonder if I will get the $15.00 back or just the $50.00 for the gift cards?

  • Jim

    Thanks, Fred! I thought that was the case, since I was unable to use the credit this year.

    After reading this, I went to UAL and saw that they had “gift certificates” which were kind of like e-certificates. Just wanted to make sure this was the case before I bought them.

    I have been weaning off United Mileage Plus since they don’t fly anything but 145′s out of STL – whereas Delta and AA fly 757s and MD-88s. BUT, since I have about 130K “spend” miles accrued on United, it would make sense to purchase these and use them toward award travel.


  • Marie

    Do you know if the additionall reimbursement offered to some card holders for the departure of the american airlines lounge benefit could also be used for gift cards? I was sent an email offering $200 additional for next year and didnt know if it would only work for AA fees or if anyone had utilized dor gift cards.

  • Eric

    Anything special you had to do this time for it to work? Going to try for the same this evening.

  • Graydon

    Nothing special. Selected the egift certificate option from the main screen on and purchased in $50 increments.

  • Dustin

    I was able to purchase egift cards from American for $50 and $150. AE credited for both a couple of days later.

  • thepointsguy

    I don’t believe this works with JetBlue unfortunately

  • thepointsguy

    That $200 is just a statement credit I believe- not a reimbursement. So you don’t need to do anything at all!

  • thepointsguy

    Likely the whole there not an e-gift certificate option?

  • thepointsguy

    It will count as a 2013 reimbursement as long as the charge processes in 2013

  • John

    There is also an annual $200 airline incidental reimbursement for the Ritz- Carlton Rewards Visa credit card. Will it reimburse for Delta (or any airline) gift cards?

  • Sheldon Swift

    I’ve been waiting for a welcome bonus > 25,000 Membership Rewards points for quite some time…here’s hoping.

  • Bill

    I believe you may have missed the main aspect of the question — Will the “gift cards option” work for that extra $200 Amex is giving out because AA lounges will not be a card benefit after March, 2014?

  • Nic

    I’ve used about $155 of the credit thus far, so I only have $45 left… AA gift cards start at $50. If I buy a $50 gift card, will Amex reimburse me up to the $200 (meaning they cover $45 and I pay the $5 out of pocket)? Or will this not qualify since the gift card amount is larger than what I have left of the benefit??

  • thepointsguy

    They will reimburse you up to $200, so you’ll be fine

  • greg_the_engineer

    Do you purchase in one transaction or 4 separate transactions?

  • FlyingJoey

    @thepointsguy:disqus HELP! I selected AA as my designated carrier for 2013 on my amex plat. Never got around to spending the $200. As the new year approaches I attempted to purchase AA Gift cards online and over the phone to then be informed that “AA does not sell gift cards to residents of
    New Jersey.” What other options do I have? Should I purchase a full fare ticket, apply a couple of upgrades to it and then call in to cancel it?

  • Brian C. Lee

    The Mercedes-Benz Platinum has 50,000 points for spending $3000 in 3 months.

  • IERF

    Any knowledge as to whether this perk is applicable to the Corporate card or is this only available for the Personal and Business card?

  • HC

    I called SPG with the number provided and they wouldn’t give me gold status. They said I needed to provide a code

  • Sheldon Swift

    Thanks Brian. I was hoping to net 75,000-100,000 for each, but perhaps those days are gone. The $1000 MB certificate would be more valuable if I wasn’t a loyal Audi owner :)

  • lookcle

    I have this question as well. Could you please clarify if we can use that extra $200 for AA in gift cards? Thanks

  • thepointsguy

    Corporate cards not eligible unfortunately

  • Jim

    I just bought 4x$50 UAL gift e-certificates. Hope all works out! Although whilst logged into AMEX, I saw charges pending to “Continental Airlines!” LOL

  • Jae Shim

    I just bought 4 $50 UA gift cards also. Is here a way to use all the gift cards on one transaction? I read you can only use one at a time.

  • Jae Shim

    Go through the number on the back of your card. They transfer you to a SPF rep who will take care of it. I got a confirmation email as I was on the phone with them of gold status.

  • Jonathan

    Purchased Delta gift cards as you suggested, and they were not covered under the $200 reimbursement. Bummer!!

  • Jonathan

    so odd… I bought them a few days ago and they still show as normal charges. How long did it take before the reimbursement happened?

  • Graydon

    I just checked and all 4 of my $50 purchased were refunded. My test purchase was on 12/26 and was credited on 12/28. My next 3 were purchased on 12/30 and credited on 12/31.

  • Dscott

    A quick question for Jonathan. Did you buy four cards or one for $200.00? Also, I can’t seem to locate where to buy the gift cards on Delta’s Website. Do they have to be purchased at the Airport?

  • SubscriptionSeeker

    Have people successfully used the $200 rebate to purchase any of the United “Subscriptions”? I know you’re not a fan of the subscriptions, but if I could get one half-off (using the credit), might be worth it.

  • surreptitious

    I bought 4 e-certificates from Delta over 4 days, in $50 increments. Worked like a charm.

  • Kismet Traveler

    I purchased a $200 gift certificate from United Airlines and sent it to my husband. Paid for through Am Ex platinum (Dec 30th) and have not seen the credit on my card yet. Does it take a few days? And can you really purchase 4 ($50) gift certificates on different airlines to use up the $200? I thought you had to designate which airline to spend the $200 incidental fee? Thanks

  • Jim


    I purchased 4 X $50 gift certificates on UAL…however, it looks like they were put into the cart before I checked out completely and I ended up with $350 worth. Oops!

    I think if I recall, it might take a month or so for the credit to hit your AMEX bill. While writing this, I thought I’d check into AMEX to see if the reimbursement hit, and YES, I have 4 X $50 credits against my account.

    The other question, the purchases have to be on the SAME AIRLINE as you designate for your credit. In my case it was United, but in 2014 I am moving primarily towards Delta, so I will pick them as soon as I get the communication from AMEX.


  • Jim

    Bought on the 31st, reimbursed on the 2nd of January – UAL.

    Thanks, Brian!

  • William

    I had already used about $10 of my credit, so I purchased two $50 AA gift cards and one for $90 on 12.30.13. I was issued a credit for all three, but it was not issued until 01.02.14. Does AmEx count the date of purchase or date of credit as the indicator of which year your credit counts toward?

  • kismet traveler

    I designated United to be my carrier for 2013. I checked and no reimbursement yet of the $200. I purchased the gift certificate on Monday, the 30th. Also, when I went to my Am Ex account it listed it as Airline Travel….that concerns me a little. It’s supposed to by incidentals, correct? Thanks for the feedback!

  • Eric

    I did exactly the same…and it worked also….thanks!

  • Eric

    Unfortunately you cant…I did the same…figure I have 5 years to use them…and of course didnt cost anything so not about to complain

  • David Rae

    So I tried this with delta gift cards, was reimbursed for the $50 level, but looks like the $75 attempt didnt go through. Still $50 extra benefit I wouldn’t have had , so thanks for the year end puch

  • Scottman

    Any idea how long we should wait after switching airlines before making a purchase? There has been some anecdotal evidence that WN will credit gift cards, so I’m hoping to leverage that with my CP. Fingers crossed!

  • LAKnight

    Is it possible to do it this way if I use AAdvantage?

    -Get $200 reimbursement in the year end and the beginning of year (total $400) by buying AA gift card.
    -Buy Admirals Club membership with AA gift card.

    This will lower the burden on buying Admirals Club membership, I think…

  • ChrisAmm

    Still waiting and hoping for Delta e-certificate reimbursement. Purchased 4×50$ Delta e-certificates online. Transactions posted 12/31 as 4 separate charges. It’s 10 days later….

    Recipient tried to use them and Delta Website would only allow 3 to be used in one setting.

  • Denise Sottilare-Waeschle

    I called the number of the back of my card for Hilton gold status and was told that program expired dec 31 2013
    But the spg gold upgrade he did.

  • Aj

    Anyone have any luck buying $50 united airline gift cards through their $200 reimbursement?

  • Becca

    Has anyone had luck getting this credit to apply to taxes from award tickets?

  • terry

    If I book a reservation through Alaska Airlines but its for a flight operated by American Airlines, which airline should I use for the incidental fee enrollment (I suppose it would be American since presumably the charges will be through them, but wonder if anyone has encounter this situation)

  • shay peleg

    Can i sell these certificates or would that be against the rules?

  • Claudia

    Did you end up getting reimbursed, Jim? I just noticed the same after purchasing a total of $200 gift registry…

  • Jim

    Claudia, I thought I put a note out there about it, and I think it was on another thread. YES! I bought the vouchers on the 31 of December and the reimbursement hit on the 2 of January! Except I messed up and clicked the “buy” button 2 times too many and now I have another $100. Oh well, I guess it’s like an airline Savings account! Cheers!

  • Ken

    I purchased 2 $50 united gc’s with my card but the statement credits did not post. Have anyone else experience this?

  • Adam

    Based of the experiences of others, I went ahead and purchased a gift card from AA for the remainder of my airline credit ($100). I bought the gift card on July 8th and so far no credit has been posted to my account. I’m crossing my fingers hoping they will reimburse me! Will keep you all posted, does anyone know on average how long it takes to get reimbursed?

  • Stephen

    Does anyone know if this option is still available, with the giftcards?

  • Adam

    I bought a gift card from AA on July 8th and no credit has been posted to my account as of yet. I guess they caught on to the trick…..?

  • Fairways Gal

    I believed you guys when you said that I could purchase $200 worth of gift vouchers and AMEX (Platinum Card) would reimburse me for the charge. NOT TRUE! I did this and they did not reimburse me as this is not one of the “incidental” fees, After I received my AMEX bill and the charge was not reversed I called them to find out why it was not. It was explained to me that gift vouchers (purchased them on Delta) are not part of the program. Since I soon after that booked a flight I was able to use them on that purchase – so it was a wash.

  • Mahesh Sadarangani

    Hi, is this option still working? I am considering buying 4 $50 American Airlines gift cards, but I don’t know if this credit with American Express Platinum still works?

  • Mike Smith

    Just a note on buying United gift cards. I bought them in $25 increments, so as to fly below the radar. They were all reimbursed, but United doesn’t allow you to pay with more than one gift card per ticket. So now I’ve got $25 off eight tickets, and that’s a pain in the butt.

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