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Spreading good cheer: TPG reader uses her airline fee credits to play in-flight Secret Santa

Dec. 29, 2019
3 min read
Spreading good cheer: TPG reader uses her airline fee credits to play in-flight Secret Santa
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Raise your hand if it's the end of the year and you're scrabbling to use one of your travel credits. From the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to the The Platinum Card® from American Express, a number of different credit cards offer reimbursement for costs associated with travel.

Unfortunately for American Express customers, however, that credit can be quite restrictive. While Chase has a broad definition for what qualifies as "travel" expenses, American Express will only reimburse qualified airline fees for things such as baggage fees and seat selection.

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Enter TPG reader Mary C., who recently wrote in about her experience taking advantage of Amex's airline fee credit after the TPG post "How to make sure you’ve used your Amex airline-fee credit before the year ends." With no further plans for flights and the ability to purchase gift cards gone, Mary, who was flying home to Houston from San Francisco on Dec. 28 after a visit with her daughter, found herself with some spare cash at the end of the year. Enrollment required for select benefits.

(Photo by BraunS/Getty Images)

So, she decided to play Secret Santa to an entire United 737-900’s worth of passengers. She had two full up to $200 annual airline fee credits to use thanks to The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. (Enrollment required).“I usually pay for that junk with my United Explorer Card,” Mary told TPG in a phone interview. “I thought to myself, ‘What can I do with this?'”

According to Mary, she called over a flight attendant and said, “I got all this money I need to spend today and I’m looking for help doing it.” The flight attendant was definitely, ahem, on board. “They were super excited about it,” said Mary. The caveat was that the bill had to remain under $388 because she had just purchased internet for the flight. Mary also wanted to remain anonymous — only her seatmate knew what was up.

“I heard the flight attendant come over the loud speaker and say, ‘We have a Secret Santa on board who wants to take care of snacks and drinks for you guys,” says Mary.

The final bill came in at $198 on her personal Amex and $115 (+$12 for internet) on her business card. The kicker? In addition to the crew gifting her a few free stroopwafels and bags of snack mix, the flight also confirmed Mary's United Premier Gold status for next year.

Logistically, Mary said it was an easy feat to pull off but that if TPG wouldn’t have put the story out, “it never would have happened.”

An awesome way to spread the holiday cheer, Mary. Great job!

Additional reporting by Jane Frye.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
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.

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Best starter travel card
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

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
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 Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
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

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases