Potential Change for American Airlines Gift Cards Triggering Amex Airline Fee Credit
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
One of the ways that many American Express card holders help offset the pain of the annual fee on some of the more premium rewards cards is by maxing out the corresponding annual airline incidental fee credits. As the name implies, these fee credits were designed to cover airline fees — think checked bag fees, seat assignment fees, change fees, lounge access or even an onboard snack or drink. These more specific airline fee credits are not the same as the annual general travel credits you get with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
However, in many cases, the Amex airline fee credits have been more useful than just covering incidental fees like snacks and seat assignments.
In fact, it is quite common for TPG readers (and staffers) to choose an airline for the annual fee credit based on whether or not gift cards historically get reimbursed “off-label” (i.e., an unadvertised perk) using the Amex airline fee credit.
Changes to how things like this are coded or programmed can happen at any time, and we are getting some reports from readers that a change may have impacted the coding of American Airlines gift cards as they relate to the Amex airline fee credit.
Before we dive into the reported change, here are the American Express cards that award annual airline fee credits up to a certain amount (enrollment required):
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (up to $250)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (up to $200)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (up to $200)
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.
Reports of American Airlines Gift Cards Coding as Gift Cards
In January, when many people were putting their 2019 airline fee credits to use, American Airlines gift cards were coding as “Misc Fees/Taxes.” In turn, they were pretty reliably automatically reimbursed by the Amex airline fee credits. However, more recent reports both from TPG readers and on FlyerTalk point to American Airlines gift cards now posting as: “Document Type: GIFT CERTIFICATE.” Which, of course, is an accurate description of the purchase.
This isn’t a brand-new issue unique to American Airlines as there is precedent for airline gift cards not coding in a way that triggers the Amex airline fee credit on other airlines, such as Alaska and Hawaiian. On Delta, whether or not a gift card purchase triggers the airline fee credit depends on how it was purchased. And, of course, United, Spirit and Frontier don’t sell gift cards at all. However, such a change with how gift cards code on American Airlines would be a major shift in the strategy behind using the Amex airline fee credits.
TPG has some test purchases of both American Airlines physical and e-gift cards pending, but it will be at least a few days before we know for sure the fate of those purchases as they relate to the Amex fee credits.
In addition to conducting our own in-house tests on American Airlines gift card purchases using an Amex Platinum, TPG has reached out to American Airlines to confirm if there has been an internal change to the way that gift card purchases are coded. A spokesperson promised to look into it for us. We will post an update if we receive an official comment.
We will also share an update when the results of our tests are known, but in the meantime, I’d hold off on making an American Airlines gift card purchase if the sole purpose is triggering the Amex airline fee credit. I’d also hold off on selecting American Airlines as your Amex fee credit airline for the year if the basis of that selection was related to how gift cards code.
Finally, if American Airlines gift cards indeed now code as gift cards and don’t trigger the Amex airline fee credit, there isn’t really anyone to complain to as it was a nice off-label perk, not an actual card benefit.
If you have purchased an American Airlines gift card this month, we’d love to know how the purchase coded for you.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees