Skip to content

Potential Change for American Airlines Gift Cards Triggering Amex Airline Fee Credit

Feb. 12, 2019
4 min read
Potential Change for American Airlines Gift Cards Triggering Amex Airline Fee Credit
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.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

One of the ways that many American Express card holders help offset the pain of the annual fee on some of the more premium rewards cards is by maxing out the corresponding annual airline incidental fee credits. As the name implies, these fee credits were designed to cover airline fees -- think checked bag fees, seat assignment fees, change fees, lounge access or even an onboard snack or drink. These more specific airline fee credits are not the same as the annual general travel credits you get with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

However, in many cases, the Amex airline fee credits have been more useful than just covering incidental fees like snacks and seat assignments.

Use Amex airline fee credit for onboard snacks.

In fact, it is quite common for TPG readers (and staffers) to choose an airline for the annual fee credit based on whether or not gift cards historically get reimbursed "off-label" (i.e., an unadvertised perk) using the Amex airline fee credit.

Changes to how things like this are coded or programmed can happen at any time, and we are getting some reports from readers that a change may have impacted the coding of American Airlines gift cards as they relate to the Amex airline fee credit.

Before we dive into the reported change, here are the American Express cards that award annual airline fee credits up to a certain amount (enrollment required):

  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (up to $250)
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (up to $200)
  • The 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.

Reports of American Airlines Gift Cards Coding as Gift Cards

In January, when many people were putting their 2019 airline fee credits to use, American Airlines gift cards were coding as "Misc Fees/Taxes." In turn, they were pretty reliably automatically reimbursed by the Amex airline fee credits. However, more recent reports both from TPG readers and on FlyerTalk point to American Airlines gift cards now posting as: "Document Type: GIFT CERTIFICATE." Which, of course, is an accurate description of the purchase.

This isn't a brand-new issue unique to American Airlines as there is precedent for airline gift cards not coding in a way that triggers the Amex airline fee credit on other airlines, such as Alaska and Hawaiian. On Delta, whether or not a gift card purchase triggers the airline fee credit depends on how it was purchased. And, of course, United, Spirit and Frontier don't sell gift cards at all. However, such a change with how gift cards code on American Airlines would be a major shift in the strategy behind using the Amex airline fee credits.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

TPG has some test purchases of both American Airlines physical and e-gift cards pending, but it will be at least a few days before we know for sure the fate of those purchases as they relate to the Amex fee credits.

Bottom Line

In addition to conducting our own in-house tests on American Airlines gift card purchases using an Amex Platinum, TPG has reached out to American Airlines to confirm if there has been an internal change to the way that gift card purchases are coded. A spokesperson promised to look into it for us. We will post an update if we receive an official comment.

We will also share an update when the results of our tests are known, but in the meantime, I'd hold off on making an American Airlines gift card purchase if the sole purpose is triggering the Amex airline fee credit. I'd also hold off on selecting American Airlines as your Amex fee credit airline for the year if the basis of that selection was related to how gift cards code.

Finally, if American Airlines gift cards indeed now code as gift cards and don't trigger the Amex airline fee credit, there isn't really anyone to complain to as it was a nice off-label perk, not an actual card benefit.

If you have purchased an American Airlines gift card this month, we'd love to know how the purchase coded for you.

Featured image by (Photo via Shutterstock)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023