Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
It’s no surprise that The Platinum Card® from American Express is packed with premium benefits. One of the most generous perks of the premium card is the annual statement credit for up to $200 in airline incidental fees. When fully maximized, this perk can reduce the sting of the card’s $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). Enrollment is required.
This credit operates on a calendar year basis, which means you have from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 to use the credit. Additionally, you usually need to select your airline for the year by Jan. 31, though anecdotally, we’ve heard Amex has been somewhat flexible with this if you call or chat with a representative.
Usually, it’s pretty easy for a traveler to fully maximize an annual airline fee credit of $200 over 12 months. However, the last couple of years have been anything but ordinary. With some travel patterns not quite fully returned to normal, some may wonder how to use the Amex Platinum Card’s $200 airline fee credit in 2023.
To stay on top of all of your credit card perks and rewards in 2023, be sure to download the free TPG App.
Today, we’ll walk you through some typical rules and some timely use cases. First things first: Note that enrollment is required in advance before you can receive credit for this benefit.
5 suggestions on using the airline fee credit this year
Here are some ideas for using your Amex Platinum airline incidental credits throughout 2023:
- Pay for seat assignments, checked bag fees, and food and beverages on future flights.
- Purchase airline lounge day passes for future use. These are often valid for one year from purchase, but be sure to check the exact terms before buying any passes. You can purchase single-use passes from United and American for $59.
- Pay for guest passes when visiting the Delta SkyClub lounges. Starting Feb. 2, guest passes will cost $50 per visit.
- Allow an authorized user to put the fee credit to use on one of their flights.
- Purchase Southwest EarlyBird boarding for future Southwest flights.
Enrollment is required in advance for select benefits.
Choose the right airline
If you have an Amex Platinum, you can click here to select or change your airline choice each January (you’ll need to log in to access your Amex account). You also can access the airline selection screen by scrolling to your online account’s “Benefits” section. Either way, you’ll see that you can choose from the following airlines:
- Alaska Airlines.
- American Airlines.
- Delta Air Lines.
- Frontier Airlines.
- Hawaiian Airlines.
- JetBlue Airways.
- Southwest Airlines.
- Spirit Airlines.
- United Airlines.
Amex has been pretty lenient about permitting airline selection changes well beyond the usual Jan. 31 deadline for those who call or use the online chat feature to ask. There’s no guarantee that it will work for you, but it’s worth trying if you want to change your airline later in the year and haven’t used any of the credit yet.
Generally speaking, you might assume that the airline you most frequently fly with is the one to choose. However, picking your primary airline automatically isn’t always the best choice. That’s because many fees are waived if you have elite status or a cobranded credit card with that airline, so having credits to reimburse you for checked bag fees or seat selection with that airline may not be useful.
Instead, consider an airline with which you’re likely to incur at least $200 in fees each year.
For example, imagine that you fly United most frequently and also hold elite status with that airline, but you also fly American a few times each year. In this situation, you might be better served choosing American for your airline fee credit. You could use that credit for things like seat assignments, extra-legroom seats, bag fees, onboard drinks or food. Remember that enrollment is required in advance to use this benefit.
Designating one of those carriers as your airline of choice could be a smart strategy since they charge extra fees for amenities that come automatically with some other airlines. This includes checked and carry-on bags, seat assignments and onboard snacks and drinks. Maximizing the Amex Platinum airline fee credit should be really easy if you designate and fly on a carrier that charges a high number of add-on fees.
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 make these purchases separately from the airline ticket itself (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 typical year.
For example, you could select Spirit Airlines as your airline and then use the credit to purchase Big Front Seats or snacks and to check bags. Additionally, if you fly with your pet, based on the pet fees on most — but not all — airlines, you might 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.
According to the terms, the Amex Platinum airline fee credit is not applicable for the following:
- 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 the 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. The terms say to allow six to eight weeks after each charge for the statement credit to post to your account (though, in our experience, it is often faster). If the credit hasn’t posted after that time, you can call the number on the back of the card to get the credit manually approved for valid charges.
It’s also worth highlighting the bullet point for “fees not charged by the cardmember’s airline of choice.” If you book a ticket through your preferred airline but will fly on a partner airline, expect that you won’t be able to use your incidental credits. Here’s an example. Say that your preferred airline is United, you book a flight through United’s website, but you will actually fly on Air Canada. When you check-in at the airport with Air Canada, checked bag fees would be charged by Air Canada — not United — so you wouldn’t be able to use your Amex Platinum incidental credits here.
As with most things, there are clear-cut cases when the credit reliably does and does not work while there also are some grey areas. For example, we have heard reports that the airfare credit kicks in when you pay for a portion of a Delta ticket with a gift card and then charge the remainder to your Amex Platinum. This happens because the remaining airfare becomes an “additional collection” and triggers the reimbursement credit.
Sometimes, other small airline ticket purchases and even the taxes/fees on award tickets also trigger the credit, as have some purchases of smaller ($50-ish) amounts of future airline travel credit. For example, we’ve seen this work with smaller United TravelBank purchases.
However, those are off-label uses that could change at any time. Additionally, remember that only purchases with the airline you selected will trigger the credit.
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 (advance enrollment is required):
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (up to $250).
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (up to $200).
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 Amex Travel (up to 1 million points back per calendar year) or when using Pay With Points to book travel on their preferred airline — the same airline associated with the $200 in annual airline incidental credits.
Because of that, Business Platinum cardholders may want to select an airline for which they use points to purchase economy tickets for their annual airline credit, instead of one where they’ll incur fees that the credit can offset.
The $200 Amex airline fee credit is one of those use-or-lose benefits that is only worth what you make of it.
Normally, it’s pretty easy to maximize this airline fee credit if you understand how it works and have a plan for the year ahead. At this point, you should have a good understanding of what does and doesn’t work for the Amex Platinum card’s airline incidental credits and how you can use these credits even if you aren’t traveling right away.
Official application link: Amex Platinum
Official application link: Amex Business Platinum
Additional reporting by Stella Shon, Madison Blancaflor and Ryan Smith.