How to use your Amex airline fee credit — Now working for United TravelBank purchases

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One of the best American Express credit card perks is the annual credit for airline incidental fees. This is a valuable benefit that comes with cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

With it, you can get up to $200 or $250 toward incidentals on your airline of choice, and the credits renew each calendar year. You can choose which airline the credit will apply to when you open the card, but it has to be used by the end of the year — which is approaching quickly.

Normally you can only use the credit towards incidental purchases, but there’s now a new way that you can essentially use your airline credit towards United flights. More on that below.

Here’s how to select your airline and a look at what types of fees do (and don’t) qualify for these credits.

Too many bags to haul through the airport? Use an Amex airline-fee credit to help cover the cost of checked-bag fees. (Photo by ULU_BIRD/Shutterstock.)

How to select your airline

You can change your selected airline by logging into your Amex account or calling the number on the back of your card. You can choose one of these airlines for your credit:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • Spirit
  • United Airlines

Step 1. Log into your Amex account

To begin, log into your Amex account and click on the card you want to access.  Select the “More” tab and then click “Benefits.”

Under the section titled “Airline Fee Credit,” click “Enroll Now.”

Step 2.  Pick your airline

Afterward, you’ll see a screen with a drop-down menu with all your airline options.

After you set your airline, the terms state that you can’t change it until the following January, so be certain you select the one you want most. (Some cardholders have been able to change it at other times by chatting with an Amex representative.)

Step 3. Confirm your selection

Once you’ve made your choice, click “Submit Selection.”

Step 4.  Remember your selection

You can start spending on your selected airline right away. Should you forget which airline you chose, you can always log in to find out.

Amex says qualifying fees will be reimbursed within two to four weeks, but in our experience, it’s much faster – usually two to five business days.

If you made a qualifying charge and haven’t received a statement credit after a few weeks, call Amex at the number on the back of your card to see if they’ll manually apply the credit for you.

Amex cards that offer an airline-fee credit

These Amex cards come with airline-fee credits that reset each calendar year (terms apply):

If you have The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, choosing the right airline is even more important because you’ll get an extra benefit: Using the Amex Pay With Points feature to purchase airfare through the Amex travel portal, cardholders get a 35% points rebate on all business- and first-class tickets (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year). And you’ll get the same 35% points rebate on all coach flights booked with your selected airline through the Amex travel portal using the Pay With Points feature.

You can use the credit for fees including:

  • Checked baggage fees (including overweight/oversize)
  • Itinerary change fees
  • Phone reservation fees
  • Pet flight fees
  • Seat assignment fees
  • Inflight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones)
  • Inflight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet because it’s not charged by the airline)
  • Airport lounge day passes and annual memberships
  • (New!) United TravelBank funding

You cannot use fee credits for fees including:

  • Airline tickets
  • Upgrades
  • Mileage-points purchases
  • Mileage-points transfer fees
  • Gift cards
  • Duty-free purchases
  • Award tickets

Unofficial ways to use the Amex Airline credit

While airline tickets are officially not recognized there are reports that indicate Southwest, Delta and JetBlue flights under $99 will be reimbursed. However, this is not guaranteed as the purchase codes as airfare. It’s worth looking at Flyertalk threads to see data points on what is and isn’t working.

Purchasing a Delta flight partially with a Delta gift card and the rest with an Amex card will sometimes trigger the reimbursement credit. Spirit’s $9 Fare Club membership and Frontier’s Discount Den membership have also been reported to work.

That being said, it’s very important to note that it’s not guaranteed for these methods to work. Reaching out to Amex won’t help either since these things are not on the official list of reimbursable items.

Using the Amex airline credit to load your United TravelBank

In the past, it was possible to get these fee credits to work for things like gift cards, but that is no longer true.

However, Dan’s Deals reports the option to load your United TravelBank with funds to trigger the airline fee credit is working again. Loaded funds won’t expire for five years and can be extended beyond for another five years that by having any TravelBank activity (funding or usage). You can use United TravelBank funds for United flights purchased on United.com. What this means is that you’re essentially able to use your airline credit towards United flights!

Once you charge a qualifying purchase to the card, you should see the fee credit within one billing cycle. If they don’t, you can always call an Amex representative and have the credits applied manually.

If you already selected your airline for the year, but want to change it United, you can connect with an Amex representative and request a change. They will sometimes make exceptions if you’re trying to change it outside of January. Dan’s Deals reports that the United TravelBank will be available for MileagePlus members to make contributions this year, but it’s unclear when that will be, as the promotion page is a bit funky.

Adjustments Amex has made due to COVID-19

A lot of people aren’t traveling right due to the coronavirus pandemic, so you may be feeling as though your airline fee credit is a lost cause. Unfortunately, Amex hasn’t made it any easier to use your fee credit (like Chase and Citi have). But they have added limited-time credits and bonus categories to select cards. Plus, they’re offering courtesy credits on many of their premium cards as a “thank you” to cardmembers who decide to keep their account open.

For example, I received a $200 appreciation credit after my The Business Platinum Card® from American Express came up for renewal just last month. I didn’t even have to do anything to earn the credit!

In addition, The Platinum Card® from American Express now comes with up to $320 in statement credits on select streaming and wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S (up to $20 per month on each, from May through December 2020). 

Check out our full guide to these limited-time adjustments here.

Bottom line

Amex cards with airline incidental credits include (terms apply):

These fee credits reset each calendar year and can be used for incidentals like checked bag fees, seat assignment fees, airport lounge day passes and more.

If you have experience with reimbursement for airline-fee credits, please share.

Meghan Hunter is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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