Amex airline fee credit: What it is and how to use it

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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 up to $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.

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

What is the Amex airline fee credit?

The Amex airline fee credit is an up to $200 credit you can use for incidental travel expenses. These credits can save you money on things like checked bags, day passes to airport lounges and inflight food and drinks.

You don’t have to use the entire credit at once — you can split it up In any increments. And once the qualifying charge posts to your account, you’ll see the credit within four weeks. 

Amex cards that offer an annual airline fee credit

These Amex travel credit cards come with airline incidental fee credits:

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 choose from these airlines:

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

If you previously selected an airline, you have until the end of January each year to choose a new one, or it will stay the same as before.

(Photo by Bignai/Shutterstock)

What can the credit be used for?

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
  • 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

Just be sure that your purchase is separate from your airline ticket so that it shows up as a different transaction.

How to select your qualifying airline

If you have an American Express card with an airline incidental fee credit, you’ll need to choose the airline the credits apply to before you make an eligible purchase. 

You can make this selection when you open the account, and you can change your choice once per year in January. Although I have been able to get Amex to change my selection mid-year as a courtesy, so it’s always worth asking if you’re in that situation.

Log in to your Amex account

To begin, log in to your Amex account and click on the card you want to access in the upper right corner of the page. Then, select “Benefits.”

Pick your airline

Afterward, you’ll see a screen with info boxes detailing your card’s benefits. Scroll down until you see the airline credit perk, which will include a tracker showing you how much of the credit you still have available to use. In the screenshot below, you can see I’ve already made my selection for the year, but if you haven’t, there should be a link there for you to click to make your airline choice or just click “Learn More.”

Then click the big blue “Select An Airline” button to make and confirm your choice.

Or you can click this link and log in to your account to be brought directly to the above page.

Adjustments Amex has made due to COVID-19

Many 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

The Amex airline fee credits can be valuable perks, but to take full advantage, you’ll have to jump through some hoops. First, be sure to select your airline before you make any qualifying purchases. And be aware that these credits don’t apply to airfare. Instead, you can get a statement credit for purchases like inflight snacks, seat assignments and checked baggage.

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

This is an easy way to save some money on an airline you fly often. If you have experience with reimbursement for airline-fee credits, please share.

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Featured photo by Nattapol_Sritongcom/Shutterstock.

Jason Stauffer 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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