Best cards with airline-fee credits
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Call it a la carte pricing or just nickel-and-diming. By any name, air travelers are being pummeled by an array of fees for all sorts of services. Many of the best airline credit cards have perks that mirror basic elite status benefits, such as free checked bags, but other travel credit cards offer airline-fee credits to help cardholders offset or eliminate these incidental airline expenses.
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Top cards with airline-fee credits
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
Comparison of the top cards with airline-fee credits
|CREDIT Card||Bonus||Annual Fee|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. Terms apply.||$550 (see rates & fees)|
|The Business Platinum Card from American Express||85,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of card membership. Terms apply.||$595 (see rates & fees)|
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card||150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. Terms apply.||$450 (see rates & fees)|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card||50,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening.||$95|
All of these cards come with the opportunity to earn statement credits toward airline fees and incidentals. Credits for Amex cards are only valid for a specific airline that you choose ahead of time.
Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first six months of account opening. But keep in mind that you may be eligible for a higher offer through CardMatch (offer subject to change at any time).
Earning rate(s): 10x points on eligible purchases made at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (up to $15,000 in combined spending during the first six months of card membership), 5x for flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel as well as flights booked directly through the airline (up to 500,000 points per calendar year effective Jan. 1, 2021), and 1x everywhere else.
Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)
How the airline-fee credit works: Every calendar year, Amex Platinum cardholders get up to $200 in credits toward airline fees. These credits will only apply to one airline you choose from the following list:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
After you make your initial airline selection, you can change it once per year in January. Anecdotally, I was able to change my selected airline “as a one-time courtesy” by calling and asking. You can make your selection or annual adjustment on Amex’s website.
Below are the types of airline fees that should trigger the credit:
- Checked baggage fees
- Overweight/oversize baggage fees
- Change/cancellation fees
- Phone reservation fees
- Pet fees
- Airport lounge day passes and memberships
- Seat assignment fees
- Inflight amenities (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, etc.)
- Inflight entertainment (excluding wireless internet)
According to the card’s terms, the airline-fee credit is not valid for airfare, upgrades, miles or points purchases, miles or points transfer fees, gift cards, duty-free purchases or award tickets. Also, if a fee is bundled into a single transaction with your airfare purchase, then it won’t trigger the credit.
The Amex Platinum card also has other credits, including up to $200 in annual Uber credits, an up-to-$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry fee credit, and up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits every year. To learn more about the perks, read our Amex Platinum review.
Welcome offer: Earn 85,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of card membership.
Earning rate(s): Earn 5X points on eligible U.S. purchases on shipping, wireless telephone services, advertising in select media, office supplies and gas stations, with the card in the first 3 months, up to 80,000 bonus points per category. 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked at amextravel.com, 1.5x points on all purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million extra points year), and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
Annual fee: $595 (see rates and fees)
How the airline-fee credit works: The Amex Business Platinum is the business version of the Amex Platinum and comes with the same airline-fee credit. Every calendar year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31) you’ll get up to $200 in airline-fee credits. You can choose from the same list of airlines and the credit will apply to the same purchases as the personal Amex Platinum card.
The Business Platinum card also has up to $200 in annual Dell credits and an up-to-$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry fee credit. The card has exceptional airport lounge access and hotel elite status benefits, which you can learn more about from our Amex Business Platinum card review.
Welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 on the card within your first three months of account opening.
Earning rate(s): 14x points at participating Hilton properties; 7x points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, at U.S. restaurants, and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; and 3x points everywhere else.
Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
How the airline-fee credit works: The Hilton Aspire airline-fee credits are the same as what you get with other Amex credit cards, except you can get up to $250 in airline fees reimbursed every calendar year. The Aspire’s airline-fee credits are higher than any other Amex card, even the personal and business versions of the Amex Platinum card.
Once you’ve selected your airline, eligible fees will be reimbursed within two to four weeks of posting to your account. One slight difference with the Aspire card’s credit is that you won’t be able to use it for Delta Sky Club lounge day passes because you can only purchase them with eligible Amex Platinum (personal or business) or Amex Delta cards. But, the fee credit would apply to the purchase of an annual Delta Sky Club membership.
This card has an annual credit of up to $250 valid at select Hilton resorts and comes with top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond elite status. You can learn more about how to maximize this card’s many benefits from our Hilton Amex Aspire review.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.
Earning rate(s): 2x points on travel and dining, and 1.5x points on everything else. These earnings rates can be even higher if you qualify for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.
Annual fee: $95
How the airline-fee credit works: The Bank of America Premium Rewards card comes with up to $100 in airline-fee credits each calendar year. You aren’t limited to a single airline either. According to the card terms, eligible purchases made on “domestic-originated flights on certain U.S.-domestic airlines” count. These include:
- Preferred seating upgrades
- Ticket change/cancellation fees
- Checked baggage fees
- Inflight entertainment
- Onboard food and beverage charges
- Airport lounge fees affiliated with eligible airline carriers
Based on reports, it looks like most of the major U.S.-based airlines will trigger the credit, except for Sun Country and Spirit. These purchases officially won’t count toward the credit:
- Airline ticket purchases
- Miles and point purchases
- Miles and point transfer fees
- Gift cards
- Duty-free purchases
- Award tickets
- Fees incurred with airline alliance partners do not qualify
Some people have had success in getting gift cards or award-booking taxes to trigger the credit. But it varies by airline and is not guaranteed to continue working indefinitely. For more details, check out our guide to which purchases count toward the BofA Premium Rewards card airline credit.
Cards with general travel credits
Many of the top travel rewards credit cards come with credits that apply to broad travel categories and will be much easier to use for most people. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with up to $300 in travel credits every year. These credits apply to more than airline fees. They will apply to airfare, hotels, public transit, Uber and even Disney World tickets (depending on where you purchase them).
The Citi Prestige card has been devalued in recent years, with many of the card perks significantly changed and travel protections gutted. The 4th Night Free perk has been limited and all of the card’s most valuable travel protections are gone. The annual travel credit remains untouched. You’ll still get up to $250 in credit for travel-related purchases (airfare, hotels and much more). This isn’t limited to airline fees, but does include them.
The information for the Citi Prestige 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.
Holding a credit card with an airline-fee credit is a great way to avoid paying for everything from checked bags to change or cancellation fees. The airline-fee credits associated with Amex cards all work the same way and require you to select a specific airline to redeem them, but many other cards have credits that won’t be so specifically applied. If you have elite status with an airline, it’s a good idea to choose a different airline for your credits because many fees are greatly reduced or eliminated altogether for elite members.
Of course, these airline-fee credits aren’t as valuable as broader travel credits you get from cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. In coming years, hopefully we’ll start to see these airline credits become more useful and flexible to use — especially since travel has been put on the backburner for so many. But for those who do travel by air regularly, these airline-fee credits can help you save money on fees associated with flying.
Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
Featured image by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.
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WELCOME OFFER: 75,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,500
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy complimentary 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 through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees