How (and why) to change your airline for your Amex fee credit this year

Nov 25, 2020

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Many credit card issuers have made a number of changes to benefits in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In some cases, this allows you to earn bonus points in new categories of purchases, while in others, you now have new perks or extended time to use existing perks.

On the other hand, some benefits remain as they were prior to COVID-19, and one of the most notable examples is the annual airline fee credits provided by several American Express cards. These credits haven’t been extended nor publicly modified in any way, so you still have until the end of 2020 to use them — even though you may not be traveling.

However, as we approach the end of the year, it’s important to take a look at any upcoming travel plans that you may have, since it’s possible to change your designated airline for this perk.

Here’s how (and why) you can adjust your selected airline this year.

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Applicable cards

As a reminder, several American Express cards currently provide this perk. Here’s a snapshot of some popular ones:

Remember that these credits typically apply solely to incidental fees on the one airline you designate, making the perk much less flexible than those on cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Related: What still triggers Amex airline fee reimbursements?

Nevertheless, you may be able to enjoy some existing flexibility this year.

Using online chat to change your airline

Under normal circumstances (read: not 2020), you select your airline when you first get an eligible card, and then you can adjust your selection for these credits once per year — in January. If you do not change it then, the system will automatically carry over your previous year’s airline.

But this year, American Express is apparently allowing additional changes — and I was able to adjust the airline for my Hilton Aspire card in just a few minutes by using the online chat feature.

RELATED: TPG exclusive: Earn up to 150,000 Hilton points and a year of the new ExpertFlyer Premium

Here’s how to do it.

Start by logging in to your account on AmericanExpress.com. Navigate to the applicable card, then click Help at the top.

View of online Hilton Aspire account

Scroll down to find the Chat With Us section, then click the Live Chat icon.

Online chat on AmericanExpress.com

From there, you’ll be asked to type in a sentence to let the automated system know what you want to do. I said, “I would like to adjust my selected airline for my airline fee credit,” and the system then gave me the following response:

Online chat with American Express

I clicked the second option and then answered two additional questions.

American Express online chat

At that point, I was connected with a representative. He reminded me of the terms of the perk, then processed the change. I immediately received a confirmation email as well.

Confirmation email from changing airline for Amex fee credit

It took less than five minutes from the time I started the chat to the time I received the email.

Why you might want to change your airline now

There are a couple of key reasons why this may make sense right now:

  1. Holiday trip(s) on an airline other than the one you selected
  2. Trips booked for 2021 with fees that you could incur now

It was the former of these two that led me to initiate a change.

In a normal year, JetBlue is my airline of choice for the fee credits offers on my American Express cards. I frequently take the carrier from my home state of Florida to New York City for both business meetings at the TPG office and to visit family in the area. It’s also my go-to airline for domestic vacations, thanks to extensive service from both Orlando (MCO) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL).

While my JetBlue Plus card takes care of baggage fees when I fly, I will typically max out the credits on my Hilton Aspire and Amex Platinum cards through seat selection on Blue Basic fares or by splurging for Even More Space seats.

RELATED: Why the JetBlue Plus card remains firmly in my wallet

This year, however, I’ve taken just a single, round-trip flight on JetBlue — and have no upcoming travel on the books. However, I do have a Delta flight coming up for a holiday ski trip, and with no Medallion status and no Delta credit card, I’d be on the hook for some hefty bag fees.

Well, not anymore. By changing my designated airline for the Hilton Aspire card from JetBlue to Delta, I now have up to $250 in credit to use on this trip. The airfare alone was quite pricey, and with lift tickets and equipment rentals, the costs will quickly pile up on this trip. Thankfully, I no longer need to worry about bag fees.

RELATED: How to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic airlines

You may find yourself in a similar situation over the next couple of months — taking a holiday trip on an airline other than the one you selected back in January. Or you could look ahead to your 2021 travel and identify an opportunity to prepay for seat assignment fees, lounge passes or other incidentals that would trigger the Amex fee credits.

Remember: This change will only apply to purchases made between now and Dec. 31, 2020 — at which point you could always change back to your typical carrier for the rest of 2021.

If you find yourself in either of these scenarios, you may want to log in to your American Express account and request a change. At this time of year and with ongoing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, every dollar counts.

Bottom line

American Express hasn’t formally adjusted the airline fee credits it offers on several of its popular cards, but I had success changing my selected airline through the issuer’s online chat. And it took less than five minutes to do so. While this flexibility isn’t a formally-published policy, other reports indicate that it’s relatively widespread.

Take a look at your upcoming travel plans through the end of the year and into next year to see if this makes sense. You could wind up saving some serious money on your next trip.

Featured photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy

All screen shots courtesy of AmericanExpress.com

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