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 American Express® Gold Card.

With it, you can get up to $100, $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). And the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express’ up to $250 annual Hilton resort credit can now be redeemed for purchases at U.S. restaurants (takeout and delivery included) from June to August 2020. Both of those are incredibly valuable perks.

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, he 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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Barb C
17 hours ago

Just added to the Travel Bank at United today (it’s working!) Think the airlines are so desperate now they will take your money any way you want to give it to them. Waiting to see on my Amex credit coming thru.

Kartheek
1 month ago

FYI, I was able to purchase a $100 Funds for my Travel Bank Account on August 7th, 2020. I got the Airline Fee Credit From Amex Platinum for the $100. Now, there is not ability to purchase the funds anymore. Looks like there was a small window open

Christine
1 month ago

United’s website says they are phasing out the Travel Bank and you can no longer add money to your account. That’s not new news.

Sneaky Steve
1 month ago

Covid is your friend ! With most airlines policy being bookings refunded to voucher/credit with a minimum of 12 months expiration, I’ve been booking cheap fares (+/-$100) with, for example, $55 gift card and $45 on Amex Plat. So far (3 for 3) of the Amex charges have been refunded. I’ve then cancelled the flights (Covid policy) and have +/- $300 of ecredits on account with Delta. Yes, I’ve tied up $165 of my own money, but I’ve made sure none of my Amex benefit is lost.

Jay
6 months ago

Have there been any data points on getting reimbursement for seat assignment (such as Main Cabin Extra for AA) for someone other than yourself?

If so, do they have to be on the same itinerary? I’ve been searching flyertalk and other blogs but haven’t seen anything about it.

Katie
6 months ago

I have also successfully used the credit to purchase an annual Discount Den membership, both for myself and for a friend. That is the loyalty program for Frontier Airlines which unlocks reduced fares and in some cases, tickets where kids fly free. Normally this costs $60 for one year. It is an especially good way to use a credit that is going to expire at the end of a calendar year as you do not have to have specific travel plans yet to purchase it, and then it will be good for a whole year rather than just letting it go to waste.

Aby
9 months ago

How come comments are showing from Feb 2019 and this article is having a date Nov 2019

Mike
Reply to  Aby
6 months ago

It is a recycled article. Noticed that MMS blog rarely has anything new and exciting nowadays. It is owned by the same company that owns the The Points Guy, so not really a competing blog. Used to be better when Darius ran it.

Brad
9 months ago

Could I use my Amex fee credit to renew my status on aa for next year? I’m not going to qualify for plat again but I can buy it. Wonder if this will qualify for the Amex fee credit

TT
1 year ago

Signed up Delta within Aspire and purchased gift cards in three transactions: $100×2, $50×1 in May 2019. The $50 reimbursement came the next day, the $100s didn’t. I waited near two weeks and called AE customer service line, they told me I had to wait at least two weeks before calling. I called them again after few more days waiting, they manually reimbursed me.

Travis Fuerst
Reply to  TT
9 months ago

Hi, I still have my 200$ of annual airline incidental credit on my Platinum card (not business platinum). So you were able to get gift cards with that money?

If you don’t mind me asking do you know what those gift cards are elegance for being used for, if they expire, and do you have to have a airline picked out and a flight booked before you are able to receive/use the cards, and if the reimbursement goes back onto your Amex card?

I know that’s a lot but if you could help answer any of those questions in any way, even just quick short anser(s) I’d really appreciate it =)

JohnB
1 year ago

The credit works for Delta taxes on award tickets.

Zhongyi
1 year ago

I purchased a Southwest Gift card on Mar 2. I didn’t receive the credit after 8 days. The purchase was made on their official website on Chrome, showed up in the bill as ”
Southwest Airlines – DALLAS, TX”.

Karen
1 year ago

United’s reimbursement worked in January 2018 to buy additional miles to keep my silver status. Bought the miles for $200 and it was reimbursed by Amex.

Andrew W
Reply to  Karen
1 year ago

Thanks for sharing! I haven’t read many people doing this, purchasing miles on United and being issued a credit from AMEX. Good to know it works!

Andy
1 year ago

This needs updated. I can confirm that any amount gift card from American Airlines triggers the credit on AmEx. I successfully received the credit for 6 $200 gift cards, and 2 $250 gift cards.

Harlan Vaughn
Reply to  Andy
1 year ago

Hey Andy! Thank you for sharing your datapoint. I’ve seen folks report it both ways and your experience seems like the exception instead of the rule. I’m glad it worked for you at the higher amounts! For most folks, especially beginners, I’d still recommend starting with smaller amounts just to be on the safe side.

Thanks again for reading and commenting!

Brett Ray
1 year ago

I just recently signed up for the AMEX Platinum Business and I wasn’t able to use my airline credits, however on December 29th I was flying I asked American Airlines, “What can I buy on this flight? Sell me something!”

They had nothing.

So I bought a giftcard for $88.73 and then later $97.22. It worked, I got the credit already back on, it worked!

Harlan Vaughn
Reply to  Brett Ray
1 year ago

Excellent news, Brett! Thank you so much for sharing!

Victor
1 year ago

I’ve had the Amex Aspire card for about 6 weeks. On December 27 I had yet to choose an airline due to the fact that I fly various providers each year. Since my wife and I generally fly Southwest at least once per year, I decided to choose them and attempt to purchase a $250 gift card in hopes of reimbursement prior to the annual “roll-over”. After waiting 3 days, my account was credited the full amount of $250. I intend to switch my choice to American Airlines on January 1st and purchase a gift card of $100… I’ll update this post when the transactions are fully complete. I also have the Chase Reserve card which gives the $300 credit with no questions asked for direct ticket purchases. This seems to be the much easier option…

Will
Reply to  Victor
1 year ago

Quick question, did your credit come in before 2019? I made my gift card purchase on dec 30 and the credit came on Jan 2nd. I am wondering if this should still work for me?

Will
Reply to  Will
1 year ago

Worked for me since the first charge posted in 2018 (12/30) but credit received in 2019 (1/2). Did a second $250 southwest last week and another credit was posted. 🙂

Andrew W
Reply to  Will
1 year ago

Excellent, thank you for sharing!

Charly
Reply to  Will
1 year ago

Was customer service able to adjust the credits so it was credited to the past year (2018)?

Lisa
Reply to  Charly
1 year ago

Sadly no they were not able to assist because even though I did the transaction on the 29th it did not post until Jan 1, the funny thing about that was none of the others ever posted. They simply said pending until the credit was applied. So the Dec 29, was the only one that posted and was credited on Jan 4.

Jays
Reply to  Will
1 year ago

Same. Purchase 12/29. Credited Jan 2. I am wondering this too.

Lisa
Reply to  Jays
1 year ago

I purchased on 12/29 but apparently it did not post till Jan 1, 2019 so I did not get the credit for 2018. Also, has anyone tried to purchase Delta gift certificates in increments greater than $50.00 and got reimbursed?

Andrew W
Reply to  Lisa
1 year ago

Hi Lisa,

Bummer! Sorry to hear it didn’t post in time for 2018.

I have not heard of any reports of Delta cards over $50 being reimbursed.

mohini
1 year ago

Hi Harlan, I bought Delta gift cards twice with my gold (now the rose gold) card, but didn’t receive it . I tried twice- once bought a $100 card with my phone, then bought a $50 from my laptop. Would you let me know how did you make your purchase (through phone, laptop or on airport)? Thank you!

Andrew W
Reply to  mohini
1 year ago

Hi Mohini,

Make sure you’ve selected Delta as your airline. Many people online then recommend waiting a few days before making the purchase of your gift card.

I have the AMEX Platinum and Gold cards and have always received the credits within a few days after I purchase the cards online.

Let us know how it turns out!

Nina
Reply to  mohini
1 year ago

@mohini call them. Sometimes it doesn’t trigger and when that happens I’ve called and they’ve credited. Just make sure you tell them it was for bag fees if they ask.

Tirth
Reply to  Nina
1 year ago

Hi Nina,
I have a similar situation , its been 3 weeks I bought a $50 Delta gift card using Amex Rose gold card. My question is won’t they able to detect that it’s a gift card purchase since it shows as
“DELTA CSTAR GFTCD” on the purchase description and has Gift cards explicitly written under Additional information.

mohini
Reply to  Nina
1 year ago

You are the best! I called them and it worked! Amazing 🙂 Thanks for your invaluable comment!

Nina
Reply to  mohini
1 year ago

Oh thanks! I’m so glad it worked!! Xo

Daniel C
1 year ago

Hey y’all. I just got the Amex Gold. I have the Chase Reserve. I am wondering if there are overlapping airline or hotel partners where I can send points to (for example, Jet Blue?). That’d make a lot of sense to have both cards so you can pool together into one travel partner. Which also would encourage me to get that partner’s card as well. Thanks!

Harlan Vaughn
Reply to  Daniel C
1 year ago

The overlapping partners are:

– Aer Lingus
– British Airways
– Flying Blue
– Iberia
– JetBlue
– Singapore Airlines
– Marriott/Starwood

If you can focus on these programs, it’ll be much easier for you to pool your points.

Mike V
1 year ago

Quick question…Thinking about going for the AMEX Everyday or the AMEX Blue Cash Everyday which is better for earning cash or points? They seem very similar.

Bzdnk
1 year ago

Question. I have two seats booked on an upcoming flight with JetBlue. I have JetBlue as my airline chosen on my Amex Platinum card, with the full $200 incidental still available. Upgrading to Even More Space seats costs $101 per seat. Will I get reimbursed the $200 even though the charge will be $202?