Your guide to using the Amex Platinum $200 airline fee credit in 2021

Jan 27, 2021

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The Platinum Card® from American Express is packed with premium benefits. In normal times, one of the most generous perks of the premium credit card is the annual credit for up to $200 in airline fees. When used properly, this perk can take out a decent chunk of the sting of the card’s $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) when fully maximized.

This credit operates on a calendar year basis, which means you received a fresh up to $200 airline credit on Jan. 1 — and technically have until Jan. 31 to select your airline for the year.

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Usually, it’s pretty easy for a traveler to fully maximize an annual airline fee credit of $200, but of course, the last year or so has been anything but normal. With so many cardholders staying firmly on the ground right now, using this credit has been harder than usual. So we’ll walk you through some typical rules and some timely use cases as we plan for 2021. Enrollment required for select benefits.

In This Post

Choose the right airline

If you have an Amex Platinum, each January you can click here to select or change your airline choice — you’ll need to log in to access your Amex account. You can also access the airline selection screen by scrolling to the “Benefits” section of your online account. Either way, you’ll see that you can choose from the following airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

In 2020, Amex was very lenient about permitting airline selection changes well beyond the usual Jan. 31 deadline for those who called or used the online chat feature to ask, but there’s no guarantee that will happen again this year.

Generally speaking, you might assume that the airline you most frequently fly with is the one to choose. However, I wouldn’t always recommend picking your primary airline, since many fees are waived if you have elite status or a cobranded credit card with that airline.

Instead, consider an airline with which you’re likely to incur at least $200 in fees each year.

For example, if you fly United most frequently and you hold elite status, but also fly American some during the year, you’ll potentially be better off choosing American for your airline fee credit. You could use that credit for seat assignments, extra-legroom seats, bag fees, onboard drinks or food, etc. Enrollment required for select benefits.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Don’t forget about the low-cost carriers either.

You can designate ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier (where Kids Fly Free) or Spirit (with its new Saver$ Club and revamped frequent flyer program) as your selected airline. That’s not a bad strategy if you fly those carriers. With all of the fees charged by these airlines, using the Amex Platinum credit should be really easy. Seat-assignment fees, checked and carry-on bag fees, onboard snacks and drinks and more could use up the annual credit in a hurry.

What’s covered by the airline fee credit

Generally, the following incidental fees will be reimbursed by using the Amex Platinum credit, as long as you purchase them separately from the airline ticket (so the purchase will show up as a different transaction):

  • 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
  • Inflight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, etc.)
  • Inflight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet)

As you can imagine, it’s not difficult for many travelers to use the airline fee credit in a normal year.

You could select Spirit Airlines as your airline and then use the credit to purchase Big Front Seats or snacks and to check bags. Or, if your plans frequently change, choose an airline where you incur significant change fees each year. Or, based on the sky-high pet fees on most — but not all — airlines, you may use up your airline fee credit on just one or two flights with your pet.

If American Airlines is your selected airline, check out this post on which American Airlines expenses trigger the Amex airline fee credit. And here’s a real-world look at what triggers the fee credit across more airlines.

Enrollment required for select benefits.

spirit big front seats
Splurging for Spirit’s Big Front Seats can make your kids happy and be a great use of your airline fee credit. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

According to the terms, the Amex Platinum airline fee credit is not applicable for the following fees:

  • Fees charged to other card accounts (besides authorized user accounts)
  • Charges that aren’t separate from airline ticket payments (for example, you may pay to select seats when purchasing a ticket but that may not trigger the credit)
  • Fees not charged by the cardmember’s airline of choice (for example, wireless internet and fees incurred with airline alliance partners)
  • Incidental air travel fees charged prior to selection of a qualifying airline
  • Airline tickets
  • Upgrades
  • Mileage points purchases
  • Mileage points transfer fees
  • Gift cards
  • Duty-free purchases
  • Award tickets

The airline must submit the charge under the appropriate merchant code and required service or product identifier for the charge to be recognized as an incidental air travel fee. Allow two to four weeks after each charge for the statement credit to post to your account. But if the credit hasn’t posted after four weeks, you can call the number on the back of the card to get the credit manually approved for valid charges.

In the past, there were ways to get gift cards for some airlines reimbursed through the airline fee credit. However, most gift card or credit type of options are no longer working as of July 2019, based on tests from TPG staffers and data points from TPG Lounge.

One other option that does appear to be working is to pay for a portion of a Delta ticket with a gift card, and then charge the remainder to your Amex Platinum.

As reported and confirmed personally by TPG’s Richard Kerr, the remaining airfare becomes an “additional collection” and triggers the reimbursement credit. Sometimes other small airline ticket purchases also trigger the credit, as have some purchases of smaller ($50-ish) amounts of future airline travel credit.

However, those are off-label uses that could change at any time.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Other Amex cards with airline fee credits

The Amex Platinum isn’t the only Amex card that offers an annual airline fee credit (up to a certain amount). The following Amex cards also offer credits:

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The details of the airline fee credit on these cards and the Amex Platinum are similar. But there’s one important wrinkle for the Business Platinum Card. Business Platinum cardholders receive a 35% rebate on any points redeemed for business- or first-class travel on qualifying airlines when booked through (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year).

(Photo by The Points Guy)

So Business Platinum cardholders may want to select an airline for which they use points to purchase economy tickets for their annual airline credit, as opposed to one where they’ll definitely incur fees that can be offset by the credit.

If you don’t already have the Business Platinum Card, with its $595 ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022) (see rates and fees), now is an excellent time to apply. The card is currently offering 120,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.

How to use the Amex airline fee credit if you aren’t flying

Unlike the annual $300 Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit that can be used at grocery stores and gas stations through the end of 2021, the annual Amex Platinum’s airline fee credit hasn’t become more flexible during the pandemic.

However, Amex has introduced other new benefits to Platinum cardholders. In 2020, Amex offered streaming and cellphone credits, and now in 2021, it has introduced a monthly $30 PayPal credit.

As for using the airline fee credit itself, there are a few ways to use it even if you aren’t yet flying in 2021.

Enrollment required for select benefits.

Bottom line

The $200 Amex airline fee credit is one of those use-or-lose benefits that is only worth what you make of it. In a normal year, it’s easy to maximize this credit, but admittedly it’s been a harder credit to fully use during the pandemic. However, with a fresh year kicking off, it’s time to hope, dream and come up with the best plan you can for your Amex airline fee credit. 

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

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

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

Featured image by Chris Rank/Rank Studios 2017.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 100,000 Points Terms Apply.


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber Cash annually (only for use in the U.S.)  (Enrollment required for select benefits)

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
  • $695 annual fee.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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