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Some people wait until the end of the year to use the airline travel credits that several premium credit cards offer.
For instance, one passenger decided on December 31 that the only thing they could do with the remainder of their $200 American Express Platinum credit would be to buy $150 worth of alcohol on a flight. Apparently they wanted to buy the booze for themselves to take home, which isn’t ok. They would have been better off buying drinks for the plane.
I prefer to use my fee credits right away.
Amex Platinum Airline Fee Credit
I have a Platinum Card® from American Express.
My wife has an Enhanced Business Platinum® Card which has a limited-time offer to let you earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points as a signup bonus. The bonus, plus lounge access, and elite status, is worth the $450 annual fee. (Offer expired)
The fees go down much more easily with the $200 airline fee credit that comes with each card each calendar year. (And since the fee credit renews each calendar year, you can generally get the fee credit twice in your first annual fee year — use the credit right away and then at the very beginning of the next calendar year.)
Select your airline although if you did this last year and don’t want to change your existing choice carries over.
The fee credit is officially not available for
Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.
However in practice I have been able to use my fee credits for American Airlines $100 electronic gift cards.
Terms and conditions say that gift cards shouldn’t work. Straight gift cards reportedly don’t work for United, though gift registry purchases seem to. Recent reports are you want to keep Delta purchases to $50 or less.
All of this could change at any time of course since it’s something you’re not entitled to under the rules. That’s one reason I like to act earlier rather than later.
My American Express Platinum fee credit (for purchase of 2 $100 American Airlines electronic gift cards) posted already:
The fee credit on my wife’s Business Platinum for the same thing did as well.
The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offers a $100 airline fee credit and it works in much the same way as the fee credit for the Platinum cards. This one is especially interesting because the card has a $0 annual fee the first year (then $195). During the first annual fee year it’s possible to get the $100 fee credit twice (once in each of two calendar years). So you’re actually making a profit on the card in my view.
Citi Prestige Airline Credit
The Citi Prestige Card — probably best known for its 4th night free benefit on hotel bookings — has an even easier to use credit.
This is a $450 annual fee card, however the credit is $250 (not $200 like with the Amex Platinum cards) and it is an airline credit — not an airline fee credit.
The difference here is that you can use the credit directly for purchase of an airline ticket, so I bought my first paid ticket of the year using my Prestige card. The credit doesn’t post quite as quickly as American Express’, rather it posted right before my statement close which is great.
Other Cards With Similar Credits
The Ritz-Carlton co-brand $300 travel credit is restricted to “airline lounge day pass, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight Internet/entertainment; in-flight meals.” Whether or not you can get the credit applied more broadly is very much ‘your mileage may vary’ when requesting the credit.
On the other hand the $300 credit for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is probably the easiest to use since it’s applied to travel spend more broadly — air, hotel, even Uber. As a result it takes little effort at all to use, just buy a plane ticket or pay for a hotel at check-out.