Time to Use Your 2016 Airline Fee Credits!

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Back in 2010 American Express introduced an annual airline fee credit to the their Platinum Card. That was at the same time they announced the coming end to their Continental Airlines relationship as a result of the United merger. (It was around the same time they brought on US Airways lounge access — since lost to the American merger — compensating for the loss of Continental lounges.)

Benefits come and go, recently they added Hilton Gold status as a Platinum Card benefit and of course American Express has started building their own network of lounges.


Entrance to the American Express Centurion Lounge San Francisco

The airline fee credit is an interesting one, you have to select a participating airline for which to have fees reimbursed. And you can only change once a year in January. Presumably this contributes to breakage, not everyone uses their benefit.

Here are the airlines:

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

Fees are credited on a calendar year basis, not your cardmember year. During your first cardmember year you can thus obtain a fee credit twice.

This year the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express introduced a $100 airline fee credit and it works the same way. What’s neat is that the card has a $0 fee the first year (then $195) so you actually make money on the card in year one with this benefit.

If you’ve already selected your airline of choice, you do not need to do anything it stays the same by default. But you do need to select it a first time prior to making a qualifying purchase in order for it to be reimbursed. And you can change your 2016 selection now that it’s a new calendar year (for Premier Rewards Gold or for Platinum).

Though it isn’t supposed to work this way, in practice I have been able to have American Airlines gift cards reimbursed. For American it has to be electronic gift cards and not more than $100 (and I’ve purchased $50 gift cards using the Premier Rewards Gold card). Details on what seems to work and what doesn’t varies by airline. For instance, reports have been that $50 Delta e-gift cards have worked, though not larger amounts. And United gift registry purchases have worked, while gift cards haven’t.

As I say this isn’t how the fee reimbursement is ‘supposed to’ work, and there’s no guarantee that it will always work this way.

Citi Prestige offers a $250 airline credit that works for airfare, no machinations to go through. More costly for them to offer, less breakage.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

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. I disagree with the advice seen in many blogs about using the credit so early in the year.
    If AMEX clamps down on the gift card reimbursement, then hundreds (or thousands) of readers will be stuck with something they would not have bought in the first place. Why not wait a bit to see if there is an actual trip when that credit will come in handy? Your only deadline then becomes almost 12 months full from now or account cancellation, whichever comes first.

  2. @NIck – Amex could change at any time. If you wait, you may not be able to use it for a gift card later. Nothing special about a calendar year for their updating their systems. A gift card can always be liquidated from most of its purchase price even if you aren’t going to use it for airfare. But most people will buy airfare at some point in the future.

  3. Blogs only care about one thing: making money off of the suckers who sign up for credit cards using their affiliate links. Bloggers have a basic, unavoidable conflict of interest: ALL their so-called “advice” is colored by their financial interest. ALWAYS. Reader beware.

  4. Can I get the card and use the bonus points to book tickets for someone else? How does this change things compared to using it for my own travel? I would love to use it for my cousins travel

  5. All of what you say is true. But if a person waits a bit and then uses it on an actual incidental expense, then there is a 100% chance of reimbursement per the terms and conditions. Using the reimbursement for a gift card now produces worry (and perhaps a bit of guilt), as is seen in countless FT posts almost daily. And even if the reimbursement for a gift card posts, it doesn’t mean that AMEX cannot and will not do a clawback since the charge violated the terms and conditions for qualifying as an incidental expense. In that instance, a person has lost his or her $100/200 reimbursement (until if and when it is reinstated) and then gets charged anyway. So, once again, it’s only Jan 2nd. What in the world is the rush?.

  6. Already bought $250 in gift cards for Citi Prestige and $200 for Amex Platinum. Always good advice to get these early. Charges will be credited before I ever have to pay….

  7. FYI I wanted to use my wife’s Platinum benefit so tried AA e-gift certificates in early December. I did so in four $50 purchases (but I did them on the same day.) I did not get the credit. I suppose it might still come – but in the past it was within a day or two. Sigh.

  8. My wife and I have 6 platinum and 2 gold between us so 1400 in free airline money a year ain’t bad.

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