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Update: American Airlines gift cards no longer trigger the AMEX airline incidental credit as of mid-February 2019.
Looking for an easy way to use your AMEX airline fee credit? With certain AMEX cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card, you get up to $100, $200, or $250 to use for incidentals on an airline you choose. These credits renew each calendar year.
If you don’t have plans to fly, that means you won’t check bags, pay for upgrades, or have spending to trigger the credit. However, some folks report success buying airline gift cards. This way, you can take your time to travel, and use the gift cards for air travel expenses when you’re ready.
But it only works for 3 airlines.
I’ll share what works!
Use Your AMEX Airline Fee Credit Before It Expires
These AMEX cards come with airline fee credits that reset each calendar year:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (read our review) and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (read our review) – $200 airline incidental credit on your selected airline
- American Express® Gold Card (read our review) – Up to $100 airline incidental credit on your selected airline
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express – Up to $250 airline incidental credit on your selected airline
You must select one of these airlines to use the credit:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- United Airlines
You can use the credit for:
- Checked baggage
- In-flight food or beverages
- Lounge day passes
- Change or cancellation fees
- Seat assignments or upgrades
- And many other airline fees
Buy Gift Cards to Fly on 3 Airlines to Use Your Credits
Anecdotally, you can use the airline fee credit for gift cards to fly with:
- American Airlines (update – this no longer works as of mid-February 2019)
- Delta (when you purchase through the desktop site, NOT the mobile site)
This works in practice, even though AMEX explicitly says:
This benefit doesn’t offer credit toward airline tickets, mileage points purchases or mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, upgrades, duty-free purchases, or award tickets.
However, many folks have had success anyway. Team member Meghan used her credits for Delta gift cards. And I had luck getting two $100 Southwest gift cards reimbursed.
This is useful if you don’t have travel coming up because you don’t have give up the airline fee credit. Instead, you can use the gift card toward airfare whenever you want.
These credits help offset a card’s annual fee. And for Southwest, you can get an even better deal if you have the Companion Pass, because you can fly with a partner for only the cost of taxes and fees.
Plus, these airlines offer digital gift cards that arrive by email. So you can search your email for the card number when you’re ready to redeem them. Or, you could send them to someone else to use.
When you apply gift cards toward airfare, you’ll earn miles and elite status credit for your flights. I’d almost rather redeem my credits this way instead of other incidentals. Although if you have to pay a change or cancellation fee for a last-minute change of plans, these credits ease the sting of paying out-of-pocket.
Keep This in Mind Before You Buy Gift Cards!
Everything we know about this is hearsay, but a huge tip is buy small denominations to trigger the credit.
Folks say to purchase Delta gift cards in $50 increments (and never through the mobile site). And to stick to $100 or less for American Airlines gift cards.
I bought my Southwest gift cards for $100 each, and spaced them out a few days, to be on the safe side.
In the past, I got American Airlines e-gift cards. My credits always clear without issues. (Note: American Airlines gift cards no longer trigger the credit as of mid-February 2019).
If you have a $200 airline fee credit with The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, or a up to $250 credit with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, buying a $200 or $250 gift card will most likely NOT work for reimbursement.
Instead, stick to lower denominations spread over a few transactions for the best chance of success.
Again, this is an unofficial benefit that just so happens to work. Buy at your own risk, and check to see if a small amount is reimbursed within a couple of weeks before you spend the full credit.
What About the Other Airlines?
If you don’t fly American Airlines, Delta, or Southwest, folks say the incidental fee credit sometimes works for cheap flights, too!
Here’s what I found for the others:
- Alaska Airlines – Flights under $100 trigger the credit
- Frontier Airlines – Only works for true incidentals, like upgrades or other fees
- Hawaiian Airlines – Flights under $50 trigger the credit
- JetBlue – Flights under $100 trigger the credit (and they don’t sell gift cards)
- Spirit – Small charges work, but it’s usually bundled with airfare, so you may have to call AMEX for manual credit
- United Airlines – Only works for true incidentals (and they don’t sell gift cards)
You might get cheap flights credited back. So instead of buying a cheap round-trip flight, you could try to book 2 one-way flights and try your luck, especially if the flights are under $100.
And other incidentals, like upgrades or seat assignments, should clear within one billing cycle. If they don’t, you can always call and have the credits applied manually.
AMEX cards with airline incidental credits include:
- Up to $200 with The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
- Up to $100 with the American Express® Gold Card
- Up to $250 with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
Keep in mind, AMEX terms & conditions specifically exclude this, but it works in practice. And it’s an easy way to turn your credits into future air travel. Just space out your transactions and give the credit time to post. And remember, there’s no guarantee this will work for everyone.
If you have a data point on whether or not you got reimbursed for airline fee credits, please share!