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One of many exciting things about a new year, from a points and miles perspective, is that various credit card fee credits reset, so you can use them anew.
The Platinum Card from American Express, for example, offers $200 toward incidental airline fees — defined as purchases such as checked bags and in-flight meals — and since it’s based on the calendar year 2018 is a fresh opportunity to put it to use — or the similar credit offered by the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN, or the $100 credit on the American Express® Gold Card.
How It Works
If you have an Amex card that offers an airline incidental fee credit, you can change your airline selection once each year in January at this link. (Note that you may have success switching your selected carrier at a later date by calling Amex and asking politely, but that’s definitely not guaranteed.)
Here’s a look at the available options for using your Amex airline fee credit:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
Why This Credit is Valuable
The Amex incidental airline fee credit is a hot topic among frequent travelers for a couple reasons. It offsets your Amex card’s annual fee by getting you up to $200 in value each year, which is obviously great. But what makes it even more valuable is that you aren’t necessarily limited to using the credit for things like checked bags and flight change fees.
While it’s not technically allowed based on Amex’s terms and conditions, purchasing a gift card for an airline that qualifies for this credit (see the list of participating carriers above) often triggers the incidental fee credit, resulting in a statement credit to your account.
If the gift card trick works with your airline of choice, you’re essentially bypassing this perk’s restrictions; once you have a gift card, you can use it to purchase airfare, even though the Amex incidental fee credit in theory excludes actual ticket purchases. This is great news for those of us with airline status, since checked baggage allowances and even the occasional onboard snack and drink are elite perks.
Which Airlines Does This Work With?
There are plenty of data points about which airline gift card purchases work over on FlyerTalk, but luckily at TPG we also have an office full of Amex cardholders. We made test gift card purchases with the participating carriers — our results are below. Keep in mind that Frontier, JetBlue and Spirit don’t offer gift cards and, as Brian Biros explained, United’s TravelBank gift card registry is down, so UA flyers are currently out of luck.
|Airline||Gift Cards for Sale?||Gift Cards Reimbursable With Amex Airline Fee Credit?|
|United||No (TravelBank Gift Registry unavailable since 9/2017)||N/A|
Again, since the Amex incidental fee credit doesn’t technically work with airline gift cards, nothing is guaranteed here and you don’t have much recourse if you buy a gift card and it doesn’t result in a statement credit to your account.
Also, according to some reports the following caveats apply:
- American: The maximum gift card value that will be reimbursed is $100.
- Delta: The maximum gift card value that will be reimbursed is $50.
In those cases, to get the full value of your annual incidental fee credit through airline gift cards, you’d want to make multiple transactions.
Unless you check a lot of bags and/or make a lot of in-flight purchases, it can be challenging to get the full $100 to $200 in value from the annual airline fee credit offered on select Amex cards. That’s why the ability to get reimbursed for gift card purchases with several of the participating carriers is so awesome.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees