The Amex Platinum Card: How To Best Use Your $200 Airline Credit [Every Year]

American Express Logo At A Centurion Lounge

Full Disclosure: We may be financially compensated when you click on links to credit card products from our advertising partners, such as American Express, Chase, Citi & Capital One. Opinions and product recommendations on this site are ours alone, and have not been influenced, reviewed or approved by the issuer. See our Advertiser Disclosure for more details. Thanks!

U.P. Rating for The Platinum Card® from American Express: ? The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the most premium travel credit cards on the market, but also one of the most expensive. The card’s annual fee is substantially higher than other cards on the market, but the card also comes with an extensive list of benefits like airport lounge access, complimentary Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy status, 5x points flights booked with airlines, and more.

While the card’s annual fee may seem like a shocker at first, it’s actually not so bad when you take a look at the 3 different annual rebates offered by the card: the $200 airline incidental credit, $200 Uber credit (dispersed in monthly increments), and $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit.

The latter 2 rebates are pretty self-explanatory, but many travelers often aren’t sure on how to take advantage of the airline incidental credit and it can cover. After all, it doesn’t let you cover paid plane tickets, but does let you cover other fees incurred from an airline—whether inflight or at the airport.

In this article, you’ll finally get clarity as to what exactly the Amex Platinum card’s airline incidental credit is and your best options for redeeming your card’s $200 annual credit. What use is a benefit if you don’t know how to use it, right?

What is the Amex Platinum’s Airline Incidental Credit?

Both the Amex Platinum Card and the Business Platinum Card® from American Express include a $200 airline incidental fee credit. This credit is, according to American Express, to be used to cover inflight expenses on one specific airline. Some of the items American Express lists as eligible for reimbursement include inflight refreshments and checked bag fees.

Unfortunately, things like airline tickets, gift cards, and points purchases aren’t eligible for reimbursement.

Here’s what the terms and conditions have to say:

“Incidental air travel fees charged prior to selection of a qualifying airline are not eligible for statement credits. 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. The airline must submit the charge under the appropriate merchant code, industry code, or required service or product identifier for the charge to be recognized as an incidental air travel fee.”

Once you’ve selected your airline, you can simply charge these expenses to your Amex Platinum card and you’ll automatically be reimbursed in the form of a statement credit within 4 weeks of the charge posting to your account.

Hot Tip: You receive the airline incidental once per calendar year. The credit is dispersed on January 1st of the year and doesn’t rollover.

Selecting an Airline for Your Airline Incidental Credit

Alaska Airlines Plane Flying Overhead
You have to choose a single airline for your airline incidental credit. Image Credit: Allie Smith / Unsplash

Unlike the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card’s travel credit, you’re limited to using your Amex Platinum’s incidental fee credit on a single airline. You can select your airline when you receive your card and change it once per year thereafter. However, we at Upgraded Points have had luck changing the airline more than once when chatting (nicely) with an American Express representative.

You can pick from the following airlines:

You must select an airline before you can use the airline incidental credit. Charges made to your account before selecting an airline are not eligible for reimbursement, so select your target airline as soon as you receive your Amex Platinum and have a trip booked.

Click on The Benefits Tab At The Top of The Screen
Select your Platinum Card and click on the Benefits tab at the top of the screen. Image Credit: American Express

Thankfully, selecting your Amex Platinum’s airline choice is easy. Just head over to the American Express website, log in and select your Platinum Card (should you have more than one Amex card). Then, click on the Benefits tab on the bar at the top of the screen.

Remaining Airline Incidental Fee Balance
View your remaining airline incidental fee credit on the Benefits page. Image Credit: American Express

Here, you’ll see a list of benefits included with your Amex Platinum card. Scroll down until you see an option labeled $200 Airline Fee Credit and click on the Learn More button underneath the header. You can select your airline choice using the drop-down menu at the center of the screen.

To check your remaining balance, return to the $200 Airline Fee Credit infobox on the Benefits page. You’ll see a gauge underneath the header that shows your remaining balance.

The Best Ways to Use Your Airline Incidental Fee Credit

Like mentioned earlier, the Amex Platinum Card’s airline incidental fee credit cannot be used towards plane tickets, points purchases, or gift cards. There’s no doubt that this is frustrating, but thankfully, there are still plenty of great ways that you can spend the credit over the year.

Here are our favorite ways of utilizing the flight credit. We’ve split this section up into 2 parts: official and unofficial ways to redeem the incidental fee credit.

Official Ways to Redeem the Incidental Fee Credit

American Express Incidental Fee
You can use your airline incidental fee credit to purchase day passes to the American Airlines Admirals Club. Image Source: American Airlines

Airport Lounge Day Passes and Annual Memberships

While the Amex Platinum Card includes extensive lounge access, it doesn’t include access to all of the U.S. carrier’s lounges. You can use your Amex Platinum’s credit to buy day passes to:

Just remember that you have to select the applicable airline for the lounge charge to be covered. So if you select Delta as your selected airline, your charges to the Admirals Club won’t be covered by your incidental fees.

Hot Tip: If you purchase an annual lounge membership with your Amex Platinum that costs more than $200, you’ll be credited the entirety of the incidental fee credit at once. So in this case,  you can think of it as a $200 discount on your lounge membership of choice.

Further, note that Amex Platinum cardmembers do not receive complimentary guest access at Delta SkyClubs. However, guest access can be purchased for $29 per person (versus $50 for a standard day pass). If Delta is selected as your Amex Platinum’s airline, you will be reimbursed for their entry fee.

Change Fees

Changing a trip’s date can be expensive, but your Amex Platinum’s incidental fee credit will cover the itinerary change fee. Note that the incidental fee will not likely cover the airfare difference as this is often charged like a plane ticket.

Hot Tip: Want more information on airline change fees? Learn how to avoid airline change fees in our dedicated article. 

Checked Baggage Fees

Plan on checking a bag but it isn’t included with your ticket? Just charge it to your Amex Platinum. This is especially helpful if you’ve selected a low-cost carrier as your airline choice as these carriers generally charge more for baggage. Just remember that the incidental fee credit will only cover baggage fees on your selected airline.

Inflight Entertainment Fees

The incidental fee credit will cover inflight entertainment fees like TV, movies, and tablet rentals charged directly by the airline. A good example of this is renting an Alaska Airlines entertainment tablet inflight. The airline charges a fee to rent these in economy class.

Unfortunately, this does not cover inflight internet as this is generally billed by a third-party. However, we have heard of United inflight entertainment being reimbursed as it is generally charged by United directly. Proceed with caution though as there’s no guarantee it will be reimbursed.

Inflight Amenities (Food, Drink, Headphones, Etc)

Most other inflight purchases are covered too. Think amenities like headphones, blankets on budget carriers, food, and drink. These are almost always charged by the airline and will be automatically be reimbursed by your Amex Platinum’s incidental fee credit.

Seat Selection Fees

Seat selection fees are another great way to redeem your airline incidental fee credit. You can use this when flying low-cost carriers or are flying on a basic economy fare that doesn’t include free seat selection. Note that this does include things like Even More Space seating on JetBlue and Economy+ on United Airlines.

Pet Flight Fees

If you’re taking a furry companion with you, use your Amex Platinum’s incidental credit to cover the pet fee. This can take out a nice chunk of your reimbursement too—for example, JetBlue charges $125 per one-way flight.

Hot Tip: Some airlines are better than others when flying with Fido. Explore our data study on the best airlines for traveling with your pet

Phone Booking Fees

You can usually avoid these by booking online, but there may be instances where you need to call to book an award ticket or a flight with special routing. If you can’t get the agent to waive this fee, your Amex Platinum’s incidental fee credit will cover it.

Priority Boarding

Priority boarding purchases will work on virtually all airlines. This can be especially valuable when flying Southwest Airlines as you’ll get first dibs on the best seats. Again, just remember that the incidental fees will only cover priority boarding fees on your selected airline.

Unofficial Ways to Redeem the Incidental Fee Credit

The methods below are ways that either our staff has tried or seen work for other travelers. Proceed with caution. There’s no guarantee that these will work for you. While we try and keep this section as up-to-date as possible, these things can change on a dime and we can’t be held liable for a charge not being reimbursed.

Admirals Club Food or Drink Purchases

A number of American Airlines Admirals Club locations have premium food and drink available for purchase. These purchases have been reimbursed from American Express as they’re billed directly from American Airlines.

We do not have data for Alaska Airlines, Delta, or United lounge purchases at this time. While it’d make sense for these purchases to be reimbursed, proceed with caution.

American Airlines’ 500-Mile Upgrades

American Airlines requires Gold and Platinum elite members to use 500 miles to request an upgrade to first class on flights over 500 miles. These certificates are earned when flying, but can also be purchased for $40 each. Reports show that purchasing these certificates does trigger the incidental fee credit.

Delta Airfare Purchased Partially with a Gift Card

There are reports of Delta tickets purchased partially with a gift card being reimbursed by American Express. This is because when the purchase processes, it will add “additional collection” to the transaction instead of listing an airline route like most airfare purchases.

This means that American Express will see the transaction as if it was some sort of add-on or other inflight expense. However, this is not officially supported, and American Express may choose to not honor your incidental credit for this purchase.

Sub-$99 Airfare on Select Airlines

We’ve seen reports of sub-$99 fares on Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue being reimbursed by the incidental fee credit. But again, this is very much something you should try at your own risk as the purchase will code as airfare.

$9 Fare Club (Spirit Airlines) and Discount Den (Frontier Airlines) Memberships

Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines both have members-only discount clubs under the names $9 Fare Club and Discount Den respectively. These programs provide access to discounted tickets and include other perks, but have an annual fee.

We’ve seen reports of both $9 Fare Club and Discount Den memberships being reimbursed by American Express. Definitely keep this in mind if you’re a frequent ultra-low-cost carrier as it can save you a nice sum of money as you travel throughout the year.

$5.60 TSA Passenger Security Fee on Award Tickets

Our team has had the $5.60 TSA Passenger Security fee reimbursed on multiple award tickets as recently as August 2019.

Purchases that Do Not Trigger the Airline Incidental Credit

Now that you have a full list of things that do (or might)  trigger the airline incidental fee credit, here’s a quick look at the things that don’t trigger this credit.

Award Taxes And Fees

Aside from the $5.60 TSA Security Fee mentioned above, our team has not had luck having other award fees reimbursed. This is likely because of the fact that these purchases code as airfare when posted to your American Express card.

Airline Gift Card Purchases

Airline gift card purchases were a long-time favorite for redeeming the airline incidental fee credit. However, as of this summer, our team has had no luck getting these reimbursed.

Class of Service Upgrades

Unfortunately, cabin upgrades are not eligible for reimbursement.

Inflight Wi-Fi

Like mentioned earlier, inflight Wi-Fi generally does not trigger the incidental fee credit as it’s billed by a third-party like Gogo or Panasonic. However, we’ve seen reports of United Airlines Wi-Fi purchases being reimbursed as United does bill Wi-Fi purchases on its own, or if purchased through the airline application prior to your flight.

What if my Purchase isn’t Automatically Reimbursed?

While American Express states that it will reimburse eligible charges within 4 weeks, some charges make it past American Express’ system. If you’re not reimbursed for an eligible charge, you can either call the number on the back of your card or use American Express’ live chat service to request reimbursement.

Final Thoughts

While the Amex Platinum card’s airline incidental fee credit is limited when compared to travel credits offered by other premium credit cards, it still offers a ton of value. When you use the methods listed above, you’ll not only save money, but also have a better travel experience with extra checked bags, lounge access, and more.

How do you spend your Amex Platinum Card’s airline incidental fee credit? Let us know in the comments below!


FAQ

What airlines can I choose from?

You can pick from the following U.S. airlines. Note that you can only redeem your credit on the airline you choose, and you can only change your selection once per calendar year.

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

What American Express cards come with an airline incidental fee credit?

The following 4 American Express cards come with an airline incidental fee credit. Note that non-Platinum cards have different reimbursement amounts, so we’ve listed the credit about alongside the card.

  • The Platinum Card – $200
  • Business Platinum Card – $200
  • American Express® Gold Card – $100
  • Hilton Aspire Card® – $250

Can I use my airline incidental credit towards airfare?

Generally speaking, no. The terms and conditions prohibit this and it has not worked in practice for a majority of Amex Platinum cardholders. However, there are reports of sub-$100 airfare triggering the credit when booking on select airlines.

Can I cash out my incidental fee credit if I don't use it?

No, you must use the entirety of the incidental fee credit before the end of a calendar year. Otherwise, the credit will expire.

When does the airline incidental credit renew?

You will receive $200 per year in incidental fee credit. The credit renews on January 1st of the calendar year.

Will I earn points on purchases reimbursed by the incidental fee credit?

Yes, you will still earn points on reimbursed purchases.

Andrew Kunesh

About Andrew Kunesh

Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City. He’s a lifelong traveler and took his first solo trip to San Francisco at the age of 16. Fast forward a few years, and Andrew now travels just over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt.

Advertisement

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Bonus Valuation*: $1,150+

Why We Like It: This card is our #1 recommended rewards card (especially for those getting into points and miles) because it’s easy to earn points, they’re extremely valuable and the bonus is worth $1,150 in our valuations!

*Our bonus valuation is calculated internally by experts at Upgraded Points, not the card issuer. See our latest valuations here.

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

2 comments

  1. Jeremiah Davis · October 19, 2019 · Reply

    Great article.
    I have a follow-up question:
    Does anyone know if the $200 can be used to cover Unaccompanied Minor Fees?
    Thanks
    Jeremy

    • Hi Jeremiah,

      It’s difficult to tell in-advance. The only way to know for certain is to use it and see if you get it credited back. As it looks right now, it should qualify, as it is not specifically excluded from Amex’s terms and conditions. Thanks for reading.

Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

Email needed if you'd like comment updates. It will NOT be published.

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive financial compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). However, the credit card information that we publish has been written by experts who know these products inside out, and what we recommend is what we would (or already) use ourselves. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers that are on the market. For more information on our advertisers, see here.