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Update 7/16: Based on TPG tests and other reports, we can now confirm that Delta and Southwest gift cards no longer trigger the Amex the airline fee credits. We will continue to monitor this and share updates as we get them, but we do not recommend buying any airline gift cards with an Amex for the purpose of triggering the credit.
Many of American Express’ higher end cards come with an annual airline incidental fee credit. Although these fee credits were designed to cover airline fees such as checked bags, seat assignments, change fees and onboard food or drink purchases, historically, they’ve also covered many airline gift card purchases.
However, in recent months, fewer gift card purchases have triggered the airline fee statement credits. And now, it seems that two more airlines bit the dust.
Reports on Flyertalk, tests from TPG staffers and data points from the TPG Lounge are suggesting that as of June 22 or June 23, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines gift card purchases will no longer trigger the airline fee credit. If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll know that these were the final two airlines that allowed you to use the credit to buy gift cards.
At this point, there aren’t enough data points to make any definitive conclusions, but early indications are not looking positive. And since airline gift cards are not expressly within the parameters of the Amex airline fee credit, you can’t complain to Amex if they don’t work in your case either.
We will be conducting further in-house tests on Delta and Southwest gift card purchases, but for now, your best bet is to use the airline fee credits for what they were intended for: incidentals. For instance, aside from checked bag and seat assignment fees, family travelers might want to use the credit to purchase Big Front Seats on Spirit. Or, based on the sky-high pet fees on most — but not all— airlines, you may use up your airline fee credit on just one or two flights with your pet.
Officially, once you’ve made your initial choice, you can only change your choice once each year in January, but fortunately, Amex tends to be quite lenient with this and will often let you change your choice later over the phone or via chat.
If you’re feeling daring and do still want to try purchasing a Delta gift card with the hopes of getting reimbursed, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind. Firstly, in the past, Delta gift cards purchases only counted in smaller increments of around $50. Additionally, they must have been purchased from Delta’s desktop site and not the mobile site. For Southwest, gift cards typically needed to be purchased in denominations of $100 or less to trigger the credit.
As a quick refresher, here are the American Express cards that award annual airline fee credits up to a certain amount:
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express ($250)
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express ($200)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($200)
- American Express® Gold Card ($100)
If losing the ability to purchase gift cards with your airline fee credit is a deal breaker for you, there are other premium cards that issue more flexible annual travel credits. These include the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($300 annual travel credit), US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite ($325 annual travel credit) or the Citi Prestige ($250 annual travel credit).
We’ll stay on this story and bring you more information as we get it. In the meantime, if you recently purchased Delta, Southwest or even American Airlines gift cards using the airline fee credit, let us know if you got reimbursed in the comments below!
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Featured image by Darren Murph/The Points Guy.
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