Use your Amex Platinum airline-fee credit to upgrade to a better seat
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
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 …
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!TPG READER ADAM
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
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. “
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.
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.
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.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.
For the rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees