Guide to the Amex Platinum $200 airline-fee credit
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The Platinum Card® from American Express is packed with premium benefits. In normal times, one of the most generous perks is the annual credit for up to $200 in airline fees. When used properly, the perk can take out a chunk of the sting of the card’s $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
You must designate your airline of choice either online or over the phone after getting the Amex Platinum. Normally, you can change your selection once each year in January. If you don’t take any action, your selection will remain the same. You have a calendar year to spend the $200, regardless of when you got your card. So, it’s possible to get two $200 airline-fee credits within your first year of card membership.
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But 2020 has been anything but normal and using this credit may be harder than usual this year, thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. So, we’ll walk you through some typical rules and use-cases and some 2020 caveats.
Choosing the right airline
If you have an Amex Platinum, you can click here to select/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
You might assume that the airline you most frequently fly with is the one to choose. Back when this benefit was launched, I didn’t think too much about it and selected United as my airline because, at the time, I flew United the most. Although I did end up getting a $200 reimbursement for miscellaneous fees, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend picking your primary airline, since many fees are waived if you have elite status.
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 often and you hold elite status but also fly American some during the year, you’ll 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.
Don’t forget about the low-cost carriers either. You can designate ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier (where Kids Fly Free) or Spirit 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.
Note that while you are technically only supposed to be able to change your airline in January of each year, there are reports Amex is allowing changes this year well past January due to the pandemic. In September, I was able to change airlines by chatting with Amex online as I hadn’t used any of my credit, and my original 2020 travel plans had moved me off of the airline I originally selected.
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 AA is your selected airline, check out this post on which American Airlines expenses trigger the Amex airline-fee credit.
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)
- 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
- 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.
If your credits don’t post automatically, you may be able to get them manually approved by calling. 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 the 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 all off-label uses that could change at any time.
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:
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (up to $250)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (up to $200)
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 amextravel.com (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year).
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, now is an excellent time to apply. The card is currently offering 75,000 points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within the first three months of account opening.
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 Dec. 31, 2020, 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. This includes an up to $20 monthly streaming credit and up to $20 cell phone credit, both valid through the end of 2020.
As for using the fee credit itself, there are a few ways to use it even if you aren’t flying in 2020.
- Pay for seat assignments on 2021 flights.
- Purchase airline lounge day passes for future use. These are often valid for one year from purchase during normal times, potentially longer in some cases during the pandemic.
- Allow an authorized user who is traveling again to put the fee credit to use on one of their flights.
- Join the Frontier Discount Den or Spirit $9 Club
- Purchase Southwest EarlyBird boarding for future Southwest flights
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.
For rates & fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
Featured image by Chris Rank/Rank Studios 2017
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