American Express Airline Fee Credits: No Longer Reimbursing Airline Gift Cards?

Five years ago this month American Express introduced a $200 annual airline fee credit to their Platinum and Centurion card products.

There’s been a lot of ebb and flow to American Express Platinum and Centurion benefits over the years.

That airline fee credit, though, was a real boon. It was effectively $200 almost as good as cash per calendar year, a huge offset to the card’s annual fee, because even though it wasn’t supposed to work that way, American Express would reimburse most gift card purchases such as $50 and $100 electronic gift cards from American Airlines.

Since it was contrary to rules, it’s always been possible for this to change. Doctor of Credit believes it has finally changed. And indeed, I purchased a $50 American Airlines e-gift card on my Premier Rewards Gold gold (that card had a $100 airline fee credit added this year) on August 29 and at this point it hasn’t yet been reimbursed.

While still under ‘developing’ reports seem more credible than in the past. American Express benefits change, this wouldn’t be a change in benefits per se but a change in practice so that things worked de facto the way they are described de jure.

If accurate it will make the Premier Rewards Gold and Platinum cards more expensive for me to keep.

The fee credits are good on your choice of one airline for the year from amongst:

The airline fee credit is available for your choice of:

  • Alaska
  • American
  • Delta
  • Hawaiian
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • United

And will cover things like checked bag fees and onboard purchases. But perhaps, it seems, no longer gift cards which spend like cash towards airfare — something you can specifically buy with Citi Prestige’s $250 airfare credit, making that card a relatively better value than before even.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. This is a very disappointing development. As a UA 1K and AA EP, I pretty much never pay fees of any kind when traveling. This makes this benefit next to worthless for me and makes me less likely to get a Platinum card (which I was planning to do the next time a 100k offer came around).

  2. This will be a big blow to those of us who are elites with one airline and primarily only fly that one airline domestically. Most of us in that category don’t pay for checked bag fees, seating fees, and with good success with upgrades clearing, don’t even have the opportunity to make in-flight F&B purchases. (Not to mention that if one holds the airline’s cobrand card, it’s actually cheaper to use that card for inflight F&B purchases, b/c many of those cards offer discounts on such purchases.)

  3. I have lifetime Gold on AA, which is my husband’s and my preferred airline. In any case, we fly in business or first basically all the time (paid or award). So we never have baggage fees and we never need to buy food on board. The gift cards really helped to offset the cost of our Platinum Amex cards. Now I’m questioning whether we should drop the Amex cards and use our Chase Sapphire even more than we already do. If it weren’t for FHR and the Centurion lounges, it would be a no-brainer for us.

  4. I swear, every week I read about something new Amex is doing to make their cards even worse. Come on, what’s going on over there!?

  5. Terrible news if true. I never thought I would say this (as a long time Platinum cardholder), but I think Citi has really taken the mantle in the premium travel card category.

    The Prestige card offers a more-generous $250 credit that can be applied to airfare directly. Plus, the Prestige’s version of Priority Pass allows guests. The golf benefit seems lame, but there looks to be some value in the 4th Night Free program.

    This will probably be my last year with the Platinum card.

  6. It might be one thing if you didn’t have to pick an airline, but given that you have to choose one (vs being used towards any airline’s fees), this makes it even more difficult to see this as a real benefit. Doesn’t the Citi $450-ish annual fee card (Prestige?) give $200 towards any airline purchase including airfare?

    My guess is they felt the need to tighten this after giving a $100 credit to the much more common gold card.

  7. I canceled my Platinum Card the other day. I got it for the sign-up bonus and still don’t understand what all the fuss is about. It was the worst card in my wallet for earning points and, I’m still scratching my head about their “you give us money so we can give it back to you” benefits. The card has an outdated business model that needs a reset.

  8. Yeah definitely a test to see if Amex will continue to reimburse the $200 via the UA Gift Registry – it has worked fine for the past two years in increments of $100.

  9. Grabbed the Plat AMEX for a few reasons. 1)travel to DFW meant a lot of use in the Centurion Lounge. 2)wanted Global Entry, might as well get the fee credit. So now that I’ve got the Global Entry completed and credited I’m not sure Centurion Lounge access will warrant keeping the card. Plus since I’ve got other AMEX cards I can buy as much access as I need ($100 buys me and spouse and four kids entry) for much less than $450…

    AMEX is making me rethink a lot of my business with them. Losing Costco and now this would mean I could drop down to only the Everyday card…

  10. I just got the Amex Plat hoping to use Delta lounges, but when I check on Lounge Buddy I can only use them when I fly Delta? I almost never fly Delta. And now it’s harder to use the $200 benefit. American/USAir lounges are gone. Even if things were grandfathered in, I wouldn’t have them.

    I don’t know, I think I made the wrong decision.

  11. Usually the credit comes fairly quickly but doesn’t the terms say it can take up to 60 days? Still may come. Would like to know the day it was charged

  12. i just did two $200 United gift registry purchases earlier this morning on two separate family plat cards. will see if credit hits or not in a few days.

  13. @Pat

    I’m with Pat on this one. Why not just skip all of the hoops and make it a $250 fee card (or for that matter, accounting for breakage in the benefits, a $295 card)?

    AmEx has stepped up their game with the Centurion lounges, but there’s just not enough of them yet. By making this $450 card a $450 card, who is really the target market?

  14. I just got this platinum amex card a week ago and was planning to get some southwest gift cards. Oh boy, i hope this can still work. Looking forward to hearing more from others.

  15. Thought it was just me…I control 2 PRG cards. Got the credit for an AA gc purchase on 8/20, but not for one on 8/24. So this must be a recent change.

  16. I haven’t been reimbursed, and it usually takes 2 days. I did get reimbursed last month, but late in August I ordered again and haven’t seen the reimbursement. 🙁

  17. American Express can only hope for better service in the United States,I claims its advancing in other countries it makes me sad that American Express only wants they high rollers in its club of membership. I hope amex find you issues within your home because they are getting really pathetic. Plus your also getting very greedy. A customer that use to care.

  18. This will suck for me if true…

    Good thing is I got the $200 for this calendar year, but I really wanted to keep this card and if I can’t offset the $450 fee by the $200 I’m probably going to have to get rid of it.

    Are there any other ways with any of the airlines that one can still get some value out of this benefit (aside from inflight expenses and baggage type fees, that is).

  19. I strongly believe this is a result of the gold card now having the same type of benefit, and that amex made this change in the computers because of them. There is probably 10 gold card users to 1 plat card user. Maybe even higher. If they did not make this change, they would be losing so much money from their gold card book of business. The gold af was previously $175 vs the “new af of $95” if this benefit were to keep working. They would be losing $80 in af for each member! That would definitely not be sustainable. This just really sucks for Plat card holders.

  20. I purchased a $50 AA gift card to use up the last $25 remaining of this year’s credit. I have yet to receive the reimbursement which usually posts within a couple of days. I am gearing up to cancel this card so I also used it for my husband’s Global Entry Application and the $100 reimbursement posted 3 days later.

    I got concerned when I read this post and comments. I am traveling in Europe and it is inconvenient to call AMEX so I chatted with someone. She insisted that it will take 2-4 weeks to post and I should not worry. She transferred my chat to a supervisor who basically told me the same thing. She saw the post from AA earlier this year for $175 so she assumed there is no reason why new credit should not post as well.

    The Gift Card charge is described as “AA Misc Sale/Tax/FD Dallas Tx” so not sure how they would know that it is specifically for a Gift Card. The $175 posted with the same description and that was for a legitimate charge for fees to redeposit miles.

    Would be interested to know if anyone is still seeing timely reimbursement for valid airline charges and if the delay is just on Gift Card charges. May just be a more systematic problem going on with airline reimbursements in general.

    We shall see. I will arrive home around the time the 4 weeks are up and if not posted by then will definitely call to see if I can get it resolved.

    I still have not used the $200 credit for this year on my personal Platinum card and would hate to loose the benefit as Gift Cards will probably be my only AA misc expense this year. I agree with all of those who noted we keep losing benefits for this card and it is no longer worth the $450 fee.

  21. So much for the “Make $100 on the American Express Premier Rewards Gold, Plus New Card Benefits!”

    How are you going to pimp the Amex cards now?

  22. Just tried to buy GC online with Alaska AIR . received error message that transaction could not be completed. Stated that credit card must be used for purchase. Used personal Plat Card. Guess it really Is dead for gift certificate purchases. Funny, purchase was blocked, not reimbursement denied.

  23. I’ve got the Citi Prestige and was strongly considering the Amex Platinum. This devaluation, if true, would be another reason to forego another $450 annual fee. My son, an authorized user on a couple of my Amex cards, has gotten a 100,000 point offer for the Platinum card and a 50,000 point offer for the Gold card. All I can get is the standard 40,000 point offer for the Platinum card and I don’t think it is worth it. The biggest added benefit the Platinum card gives me is the Centurion lounge. There aren’t many of these lounges, and from my one courtesy visit to the one at DFW, overcrowding seems to be a real problem. Will Amex offer a sign up bonus greater than 40,000 points that might make getting the Platinum card worth it?

  24. I acquired an Amex Platinum and then, a month later, my wife did the same. The United gift registry worked perfectly for me. It did not work for her at all. I believe that the United gift registry Amex reimbursement idea is dead.

  25. All you have to do is purchase in 150 or 350 dollar amounts and call in say you did a seat upgrade (which is covered) for an international flight and they will manually process the credit.

  26. If the $200 “rebate” goes away that will be a big hit. If it weren’t for the Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, and Amex Offers it wouldn’t be worth keeping the card.

  27. Just as a data point: I used my Platinum card to buy 2 $50 AA gift cards on 8/18. Both reimbursements posted on 8/21.

  28. Time to dump AMEX Plat. The $200 AA gift card purchase was real value. Now gone, sadly. With the loss of Costco perhaps the first time in my professional life I will have no AMEX product in my wallet. Chase Sapphire Preferred will be my go-to card, and possibly Citi Prestige.

  29. This card is not the best for points accumulation, especially when Everyday Preferred performs such a strong undercut. But that is not its forte.

    FHR free nights/credits, concierge reservations, and priority security clearance at YYZ, for example, are the meaningful benefits.

  30. “All you have to do is purchase in 150 or 350 dollar amounts and call in say you did a seat upgrade (which is covered) for an international flight and they will manually process the credit.”
    really? is that it? can any one confirm?

  31. To Kevin: Haha was that a joke?

    Just read that Smisek just left UA! !eek!

    Anyway, canceling our 2 different Amex Plat cards. Too bad, had them for awhile. At least I’ll get some of my $450 back! Citibank all the way now!

  32. Does anybody know if you forfeit the sign up bonus if you cancel the card after 6 months or so. Then you would get 1/2 the fee to make up for the $200 loss.

  33. Ditto to the last comment. I cancelled mine yesterday, cancelling my wifes as I type this. Got a prorated refund on the annual fee for mine. Getting a full refund on the annual fee for my wife’s. Wonder if AMEX even notices all of a sudden alot of people canceling?…and if they do, I wonder if they have any idea why? Probably not on their radar…but soon AMEX won’t be on my radar. I only have the everyday and I’m thinking of cancelling it because I just burned all my MRs and suddenly Citi has better products and a compelling points currency…wow how times have changed.

  34. After waiting several weeks I called AMEX. The rep made it sound like the problem was caused by my actual airline charge being more than the $25 remaining credit I had for the year. She did a manual adjustment and in a few days the $25 credit appeared on my account labeled as Airline Fee Credit.

    Seems like from other posts the problem is bigger than mine of having a charge larger than the credit but it is good to see that a call got my problem corrected. Worth a try to call?

  35. Gary- have you had anymore updates on this? My card renewal date is coming up, if this loophole is no longer open, I will probably cancel the card and shift the points to my Everyday card.

    Thanks.

  36. I just got reimbursed for Southwest GCs that I purchased 4 days ago. A lot of people report that they are just getting reimbursed. There just may have been error in systems past month.

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