How Many Airline Gift Cards Can I Use at Once?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
Even if you don't have enough points and miles to book your flights for free, you might be able to save a considerable amount of money by using airline gift cards to reduce the cost. TPG reader Zach wants to know just how many gift cards he can use at once ...
[pullquote source="TPG READER ZACH"]How many AA gift cards can I combine when booking a single reservation?[/pullquote]
There's an important reason Zach might be asking this question. With the calendar turning over into 2019, many annual travel/airline credits on premium credit cards have reset for the new year. Some credits, like the $300 annual travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, are easy to use and might be better spent booking travel directly. Others, like the up to $200 annual airline incidental credit on The Platinum Card® from American Express are more restricted. Technically, this credit is meant to be used for incidental charges like bag fees, seat assignment and lounge access, but many TPG readers have had success getting reimbursed for airline gift cards. You can check out this guide for some recent data points on what works, but remember YMMV.
While the annual fees add up, it's entirely reasonable for someone to have both the personal Amex Platinum card and the Business Platinum Card® from American Express for their overlapping perks. Throw an American Express® Gold Card into the mix, and you could easily end up with $500 worth of airline gift cards every year.
Of the US-based airlines that Amex allows you to select for this airline fee credit, only three are relevant here. United's Travel Bank gift registry is currently down, and gift cards from smaller airlines like Hawaiian and Alaska don't trigger the Amex credit. So if you want to use your Amex credit to purchase airline gift cards, here are the three options you have:
|Airline||Max # of Gift Cards per Transaction|
The good news is that gift cards for these three airlines never expire, so even if you can't use them all in a single transaction you can always save them for your next trip. You can also try some creative options like booking two one-way flights instead of a round-trip to create a second transaction. Ultimately if you travel enough to hold a premium card like the Amex Platinum, these gift cards should be as good as cash with your preferred airline — if it's one that works with gift cards, that is. The $200 annual airline credit is one of the most important arguments to justify the Platinum's hefty annual fee, so make sure you're maxing out this perk every year, one way or another.