Several American Express cards include an annual airline fee credit as a benefit**. With this perk, you select a qualifying airline (it’s limited to US-based carriers), and then when you use your Amex card to make purchases like baggage fees, ticket change and cancellation fees, and in-flight food and snacks, you’ll be reimbursed up to a certain dollar amount per year (it varies by card).
This airline fee credit benefit is available on the following cards:
- Platinum Card (up to $200 per year)
- Amex Business Platinum Card (up to $200 per year)
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card (up to $250 per year)
The credit has never worked for buying airfare outright, but it’s been possible to use the credit to purchase airline gift cards with a handful of airlines.
Airline gift cards no longer trigger a statement credit
In the past, you could buy four $50 Southwest gift cards, for example, and get the $200 reimbursed as a statement credit if you paid with an eligible Amex card. You could then use the gift cards for airfare purchases at any time in the future.
The list of eligible airlines, as reported by card users who have used this perk, has dwindled over time, and Doctor of Credit reports that the remaining two airlines that worked for this credit, Delta and Southwest, are no longer triggering the credit.
So this loophole now appears to be completely closed, and you should avoid trying to buy gift cards for the incidental fee credits across all airlines.
Does this move the needle?
If you used the airline fee credit to purchase airline gift cards rather than to pay for things like checked bags, this is unwelcome news, especially for holders of the Platinum Card, since that card charges a $695 annual fee.
If you were going to get this card solely because you could use the fee credit for airline gift cards, it isn’t worth it for you any longer. But that probably isn’t the case for most people, and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card (with a $450 annual fee (See Review)) offers a larger airline fee credit anyway.
Do the math on cards with high annual fees
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which charges a $550 annual fee, the first $300 you spend each year on travel is automatically credited back to you for a wide swath of purchases including airfare, hotel nights, cruises, train tickets, and more. That’s much less restrictive than the terms for using the Amex Platinum airline incidental credit.
Plus, the recent announcement that Amex will withdraw non-lounge options like restaurants from its Priority Pass access benefit is another unfortunate cut to the Platinum card’s benefits. With non-Amex cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® that offer a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, you’ll still be able to get $28 in credit at airport restaurants that participate in this program, and that value adds up quickly if you use it even a handful of times a year.
The overall value of premium cards like the Amex Platinum comes down to how you use your points, take advantage of lounge and elite status, and how you use the suite of credits for airlines, Uber, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, and other perks.
The Platinum card isn’t as good of a value as it was a few years ago, but you can still get plenty of value from its benefits, especially if you frequently travel through an airport with a Centurion Lounge and can take full advantage of its various annual statement credits. That said, if you find the terms and conditions of the Platinum card too restrictive for your needs but you still want to enjoy luxury travel perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® may be a better pick.
Use caution when mixing credit cards and gift cards
Going into gift card purchases with your eyes wide open is essential for savvy credit card users. It would be a shame to make a purchase, expecting a fee credit, only to find yourself stuck with the bill.
While airline gift cards now appear to be out for the Amex airline fee credit, some cardholders still look to gift card purchases to meet minimum spending requirements for sign-up bonuses or to pad their rewards accounts. Some credit card users report that this works fine at a local grocery store or mall, but some cards won’t earn points or cash back on gift card purchases, and in the worst cases gift card purchases could show up on your statement as a cash advance, triggering a hefty fee.
In short: Don’t try to game the system, and refer to your credit card’s terms and conditions when in doubt.