American Express offers ‘airline fee credits’ on several of its cards. You’re supposed to be able to use the funds for things like seat assignment fees, checked bag fees, and inflight food and drink.
- You’re not supposed to be able to use this for airline tickets. In fact you’re not supposed to be able to use the credits for upgrades, buying miles, or gift cards either.
- You select one airline to use the credit with for the year out of Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United. Your chosen airline continues as a default year after year unless you change it, and you can change it once a year in January.
- It’s use it or lose it
Clearly American Express gets value out of promoting a fee credit benefit that not all cardholders take full advantage of. Their cost to provide the benefit should therefore be substantially less than the top line advertised amount.
I’ve been buying American Airlines electronic online gift cards with my fee credits. It’s not supposed to work, but it has worked. Of course there’s never been a guarantee that it would continue to work because American Express could change this at any time.
The nice thing about American Airlines gift cards is that I’m going to use them anyway, so if they ever weren’t reimbursed I am not out any money. They’re just credit that I’m going to use towards a paid ticket.
Reports have been that the following work:
- American Airlines electronic gift cards in amounts not greater than $100
- Delta Airlines eGift Cards in amounts not greater than $50
- Southwest Airlines gift cards up to the full value of your available credit
United hasn’t been an option since the airline stopped allowing purchases of gift registry funds.
Recent data points suggest that American Airlines has changed the way that gift cards are coded. It appears that gift cards purchased February 6 onward have not been reimbursed using the fee credit.
This has happened before and worked itself out, so there’s nothing definitive yet, but it may be the case that American Airlines e-gift cards will no longer work with the Amex fee credit. Developing but I’m not super optimistic.
American Express has been well aware of this path consumers have had, I heard folks talk about it 5 years ago for instance. And if the benefit is changing it doesn’t appear to be a function of any change American Express has made, but a change in how the American Airlines gift cards appear. In other words, cardmembers have benefited more than they’re supposed to because of the way the automated system worked and that’s possibly what has changed.