The American Express Platinum Card is one of the best credit cards for frequent travelers. The card comes with Delta, American, US Airways, and Priority Pass Select lounge access. (American/US lounge access ends 3/22/14.) Coupled with no foreign transaction fees and $100 towards Global Entry, this is a great all around travel card.

Many people balk at this card due to the $450 annual fee. However one of the biggest incentives to get the card is you can get $400 worth of of airline fees reimbursed by American Express in your first year of being a cardholder.

That’s because the $200 annual airline fee reimbursement is a calendar-year benefit.

This fee reimbursement should apply to baggage fees, change fees, award ticketing fees, and other fees. It should not apply to purchased tickets or purchased gift cards. But American Express does code many gift card purchases as fees that it then reimburses.

For instance, I got my AMEX Platinum in November 2011. I immediately designated American Airlines as my 2011 airline for fee reimbursement and purchased three $67 gift certificates from aa.com. I received a $200 statement credit within a few days.

In January 2012, I changed my airline to United for 2012 fee reimbursement. I bought a $200 gift certificate from united.com, and again I received a $200 credit within days.

Those $400 in gift cards almost completely “eliminated” the $450 annual fee.

I just got the AMEX Platinum.  How do I choose my designated airline for the year?

After signing up for the card, you should immediately register your card with American Express through this link. You will then be asked to select your chosen airline for the calendar year. For reference, the page looks like this.

After I make my airline selection for the year, can I switch if I change my mind?

No. You must choose carefully. Your selection can’t be changed until January of the following year. Once you make your choice, you are locked in for that calendar year.

That means you should pick an airline where you will run up $200 in fees in a year or one whose gift cards AMEX reimburses.

I just made an eligible purchase with my card, what will a reimbursement from AMEX look like on my billing statement?

Most are reporting that the fee reversal posts as “AMEX Airline Fee Reimbursement.” It should post within two-three weeks of making the eligible purchase.

What is the best use of this airline fee reimbursement?

Everyone’s situation is different, but using the $200 credit for gift certificates is very handy. If you know you have travel plans on that airline, then you are essentially reducing the annual fee of the card by $200. Like I mentioned above, this is a calendar year benefit, so you can get $400 off the first year’s $450 annual fee!

Which airlines allow you to purchase gift certificates and which will American Express refund properly?

I’ve collected the wisdom of the various FlyerTalk threads on gift-card reimbursement.

AirTran Airways

As of December 5, 2011, AirTran no longer sells gift certificates. This is not a viable option. Keep in mind, though, that AirTran is merging with Southwest Airlines. Check out the Southwest Airline section below for details.

Alaska Airlines

According to this thread on FlyerTalk, there are some very recent conflicting reports about being reimbursed for Alaska gift cards. Until very recently, purchasing Alaska gift cards in $50 or $100 increments was no issue. AMEX Platinum reimbursements posted within several days. However, two recent posters note that the charge posts to their account as “ALASKA AIR GIFT CERTSEATTLE WA.” They have not received credit for these purchases most likely due to this new coding. It looks like buying Alaska gift cards and getting reimbursed is dead. If you still want to try your luck, click this link to purchase e-gift certificates for Alaska.

American Airlines

FlyerTalkers are still noting success in purchasing low denominations of e-gift certificates. AMEX appears to be reimbursing $50, $75, and $100 increments without any issues. American Airlines sells both physical cards and e-gift certificates through the same landing page here. To expedite your order, I highly suggest purchasing an e-certificate on the right side of the page.

Delta Airlines

As hard as it is to believe, Delta Airlines does not sell gift certificates (physical or e-certificates) on its website. They must be purchased at airport ticket counters in the United States. To make matters worse, Delta gift certificates are not available for purchase in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island. The FlyerTalk thread does note success with incidental charges like stand by fees, change fees, and Economy Comfort seat purchases, and checked bags.

Note that some FlyerTalkers are also reporting that inexpensive tickets (<$150) are being reimbursed by AMEX.

Frontier

There are no data points on FlyerTalk nor MilePoint about any reimbursements. I would choose another airline to use the $200 credit.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines does sell e-gift certificates here, but there are no reports on the small FlyerTalk thread about anyone using their AMEX Platinum to buy them. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence to make a conclusion either way, but I might try to talk my dad into being the guinea pig since he is a frequent inter-island flyer.

JetBlue Airlines

There have been no successful reimbursements reported in the short FlyerTalk thread about JetBlue gift certificate purchases. This does not appear to be a viable option.

Spirit Airlines

There are no datapoints on FlyerTalk nor MilePoint about any reimbursements. I would choose another airline to use the $200 credit.

Southwest Airlines

Recent posts in this FlyerTalk thread indicate that this door might be closing. Reports from 2011 and early 2012 show that getting reimbursement for $50 or $100 gift certificates was no issue. However, it appears now that the reimbursements are not automatically posting. I would proceed with caution if choosing Southwest. If a gift certificate purchase does not post, there are not a lot of other uses for the credit. Southwest does not charge for checked bags or change fees, and doesn’t have any airport lounges. To purchase physical or e-gift certificates, click this link.

United Airlines

This thread on FlyerTalk notes that many are having success with gift card purchases and quick reimbursements. $50 and $100 increments appear to have the highest success rate, while a one time $200 purchase has been hit or miss in being covered by American Express. ($200 worked for me!) To play it safe, I would purchase four $50 certificates or two $100 ones to not draw attention to the transactions. To purchase, simply go to this link and click on the Purchase button. Note that I had some trouble with a flight I purchased using my United gift certificates bought with my AMEX Platinum. For more details, read my post, American Express/United Gift Card Trouble.

US Airways

Though the thread is scarce with recent anecdotes, it appears that purchasing US Airways gift certificates will work. Some have reported success with one $200 purchase while others have been buying two $100 certificates. Be warned, though, as US Airways does not have e-gift certificates. The physical cards must be mailed, and any order you place will incur a $15 shipping fee. If you purchase two $100 certificates, the total will come out to $215, and AMEX should reimburse up to $200. To purchase gift certificates line, follow this link.

Recap

The American Express Platinum card appears to have a high $450 annual fee. However, you can greatly reduce the fee by using your $200 airline credit each calendar year on gift certificates.

This thread has summarized which airlines’ gift certificates American Express is reimbursing.

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