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Use your Amex Platinum airline-fee credit to upgrade to a better seat

Jan. 16, 2020
4 min read
Use your Amex Platinum airline-fee credit to upgrade to a better seat
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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the top premium travel rewards cards on the market, though it comes with a hefty $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) to match. One of the easiest ways to recoup that upfront investment is by taking advantage of the card's up to $200 annual airline incidental fee credit, though over the years Amex has made that credit harder to use. Enrollment Required. TPG reader Adam wants to know if he can use the credit to pay for seat upgrades ...

[pullquote source="TPG READER ADAM"]I recently used my Amex Platinum to pay for an upgrade to Economy Plus for a United flight from Houston to Honolulu. It was my understanding that the $200 travel credit is for Wi-Fi, food/drink, luggage, etc, but does not include upgrades. Amex actually reimbursed me the $139 for the upgrade. Is this new or does it just depend on how the charge is coded? Thanks![/pullquote]

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Great question Adam. Unfortunately, Amex doesn't provide a whole lot of clarity on what charges are eligible for this annual travel credit. This credit is even more restrictive when you compare it to the up to $300 annual travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which gets automatically applied to a broad range of travel purchases, including airfare, hotels, ride-hailing services and more. By comparison, Amex only lists which charges are excluded for this credit, with the following list appearing in the terms and conditions under the Amex Platinum application:

"Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees. "

Related: Which American Airlines expenses trigger the American Express airline fee credit?

From this, we can see that upgrades are not eligible for reimbursement. While Adam definitely got a more comfortable seat flying in Economy Plus on the longer flight to Hawaii, technically all he did was pay to select a better seat; he didn't actually upgrade to a higher class of service. This is an important distinction, as if he'd paid to upgrade from economy to business class he would not have been reimbursed by Amex.

This means that selecting preferred seats (Economy Plus on United, Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines and Comfort+ on Delta) is one of the most consistent ways to get value out of your Amex Platinum airline-fee credit. Especially on longer flights, including transcontinental or international trips, those extra few inches of legroom can really go a long way.

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Things start to get a bit murkier when it comes to upgrading to premium economy. Some airlines will let you pay extra to select premium economy seats after booking, and depending on how the purchase codes it might trigger the Amex Platinum airline fee credit. This is much less consistent though, and unfortunately if the credit doesn't trigger automatically you won't have much luck calling in and asking for it to be manually applied to a purchase like this.

Related: Top cards with airline-fee credits: Make change, cancellation and baggage fees a thing of the past

Bottom line

One of the biggest complaints about the Amex Platinum is how hard it is to use the all-important $200 annual airline incidental fee credit. While Adam wasn't expecting to get reimbursed for his purchase of an Economy Plus seat, this is actually a great use of the credit and one of the most surefire ways to get value out of it on longer trips.

Thanks for the question, Adam, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

For the rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023