American Express Airline Fee Credits Appear Not to Be Working for American Airlines Gift Cards Anymore

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:

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.

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, 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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  1. Similar experience with me for Delta. I bought a gift card on 2/2 and the $50 reimbursement posted. Others on 2/8, have not. Same with my BOA card, where the charge appeared as “Delta Gift Card”. YMMV.

  2. I’m still waiting on a credit for an actual fee credit for a delta purchase two weeks ago. There might just be a slight backlog right now? Unsure

  3. I have been waiting on my $250 AA GC charge from 6 days ago to trigger my CNB Crystal Travel Credit, which in the past has taken 2-3 days to post. This would seem to be consistent with some categorization change on AA’s end.

  4. @Gary Leff “Clearly American Express gets value out of promoting a fee credit benefit that not all cardholders take full advantage of.”

    No kidding. You need to jump through so many hoops to get that credit that I can’t even think how few outside our community are getting *any* reimbursements for this. Also, as a side comment, I noticed that the Amex offers are getting less and less interesting. Amex must be bleeding so they’re cutting costs as much as they can …

  5. Rob- in my recent experience the CNB Crystal Visa credits have posted approximately 7 calendar days after purchase.

  6. Do you think AA, or any of the airlines, share in any of the liability of the $200 credit….or does Amex shoulder the entire cost? If it’s 100% Amex, why on earth would the airlines change the way gift cards are coded? AA will probably see a noticeable drop in GC sold this year if this ends up being a permanent change.

  7. AMEX needs to drop this silliness and make the credit a broad air travel credit.

    I’d be happy to give up this lousy Saks benefit to get $200 credit valid on ticket purchases.

  8. I have not received a Southwest $75 GC reimbursement purchased on Feb 1; curious as to whether AMEX has expanded this to other airlines/charges. i may just be impatient.

  9. Glad I used mine already for both Gold & Platinum. I don’t mind changing to Delta, but if they crack down across all airlines then it’ll get a lot harder to justify paying the current annual fee, at least for the platinum (improvements to the Citi Prestige have eliminated all my spend on platinum, its basically a lounge access card now). The gold still has good value based on bonused earnings.

  10. I have 3 Amex cards with the benefit, I split up the AA gift card charges throughout Jan. They all posted, most recent one on Jan 13.

    If this holds true and isn’t a glitch, it will make it hard for me to keep all these cards next year.

  11. @Jaq. Agree completely. AMEX offers are now pretty lame. A lot of wine clubs, mattress offers and retailers I’ve never heard of. Every now and then there is an excellent offer(AT&T, Gas stations to name a couple), but by and large the offers are borderline useless.
    All that said, I got all of my $50 Delta GC’s reimbursed but I did them in very early January.

  12. Other than 500 mile upgrades for companions, what would still be of value for elites?

    Checked bag fees for traveling companions not in the same PNR? I check my wife’s bags under my name anyway (I get 3 bags) because of better treatment in the case of loss/damage.

  13. Call me a fuddy duddy, but I use them for legit purposes (inflight, lounge passes, etc.). I have bought gift cards in the past but now don’t assume that will work so I can justify my annual fees “purely” and not based on a scheme.

  14. I’m an AA Gold and use the $200 credit for MCE seating (yes, I know MCE is free at T-24 but I’m always paranoid about it.)

  15. All relative I know but, first of all, these seemed to me like a loophole that was never intended by Amex so not surprised it was closed. To me you shouldn’t view it was a “loss” since it was basically taking advantage of something that wasn’t intended. I’ve been Platinum for many years (also lifetime status on DL and AA) so only used credits when I checked a bag for my daughter flying back to college or used for in-flight purchases. I get great value out of Centurion Lounges (one under construction at CLT my home airport) and also Priority Pass. Enough that I’m cancelling Citiback Executive MC and picking up Barclays card to save $350 a year (and get bonus miles). If need to use Admirals Club can pay w Amex and get credit back so that is covered as well for a few times a year. I use Uber credit and get full $200 worth of that. Do agree that Sak’s $100 a year ($50 every six months) is basically worthless (at least for me). Also, like travel services and international flight/hotel options available for Platinum.

    Again – to each his own and we all have to make our own determination if something is “worth it” or not.

  16. 3 of my Delta gift cards posted right away. The 4th however took a while to even hit my account. The reimbursement took even longer. Eventually it worked out by itself.

  17. @Gary Is there any incentive for AA not to have these Amex credits reimburse?

    I would think these credits would lead to HIGHER revenue for AA, but does AA pay Amex a percent of the redemption as they do when Amex buys points from airline partners? If so, maybe AA is estimating the marginal revenue isn’t high enough (presumably what United figured when cancelling their giftcards).

  18. We have AS as our airline on Plat card. They DO NOT allow GC for airline since beginning 2018.
    There is a very complicated way to get the airline credit for Alaska.
    Called yesterday to cancel Plat card as new AF just posted. Was told as part of closing by account they are charging back the Airline Credit we had claimed for the year. VERY UNHAPPY about this.
    I objected as this was a benefit I had as part of the card. Did not use Uber or Saks credits. Not much use for card, going forward. Was using it just for lounge access and figured Airline Credit made the final cost reasonable. Use CSR for most travel points, redemption etc.

  19. Agree with Golfingboy, drop this silliness and just give a $200 travel credit. I LOVE that my SaphRes credit has already posted for 2019 without any of the angst associated with picking an airline then waiting to see if I can actually use the credit. Keep it simple AE and make us happy!!
    and of course, I just changed to AA for my airline this year….figures. I should have warned everyone before I did it…sorry!

  20. I’m United Gold and Mosaic, and I chose AA for this benefit a while back when I was going for AA elite status. I don’t find a good use for the AA GC now since I mainly travel UA/B6, and I can’t think of much use for $200 to cover fees on either airline so I didn’t make the switch in January.

    I let my kids use the Uber and Saks credit, and I only use the lounges 3-4 times a year.

    The Marriott and Hilton Gold is ok, but I don’t see too many upgrades from that either.

    I’m tempted to cancel right now so I can get pro-rated 2/3 AF back since I live in Massachusetts. I’d probably keep it if it were a straight travel reimbursement like Prestige.

  21. Don’t ignore the Saks credit! Buy a $50 gift card and give it to any lady who uses makeup. I buy mascara with my Saks credit.

  22. I use the AA travel credit for various charges (one-day lounge pass, upgrade fee, etc). I’ve gotten use out of it every year as an occasional AA traveler.

  23. I tried to use an AA gift card to pay for luggage and was told that it can only be used for a ticket. Needless to say I will not be buying any future gift cards as they have limited usage.

  24. I guess I was really lucky. I used my 2 * $100 for AA in early Feb and got reimbursed on the day of Feb 6th. Then this news come!

  25. How many Amex Platinum cardholders don’t have airline status (so they already get many incidental fees covered) or aren’t traveling for business (where an employer may be paying for lounge access, etc.)?

    I can’t understand why Amex makes this so complicated!

  26. Transaction from 7th feb for AA gift card worth 100$ was reimbursed(Classified as Misc. charge), but transaction from 11th wasn’t – classified as gift card.

  27. Feb 15 4 $50 DL egift cards purchased
    Feb 16 4 $50 statement credits issued

    FWIW, I used the Dell $100 statement credit on my biz Plat card:
    Feb 17 spend $106.74
    Feb 18 credit for 10% off AMEX offer posted
    Feb 20 shop w/Dell biz credit

  28. Has anyone bought $50 Delta Gift card at the airport? Will be there tomorrow anyways and wondering if there are datapoints on how gift cards bought at ticket counter show up on AMEX Aspire.

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