Amex Card Airline Fee Credits 2020

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Cards
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Happy 2020! There are many things I don’t like about the new year on the miles & points front, including my elite status being reset with most programs.

One of the positive things about the start of the new year, though, is that American Express airline fee credits are also reset. One of those is the airline fee credits that are offered by several American Express cards. Based on the cards that I have, this is an opportunity to get hundreds of dollars of value per year.

In this post I wanted to talk a bit about the current state of Amex airline fee credits, given that it’s a new year, meaning that a lot of peoples’ credits have just reset.

What Are Amex Airline Fee Credits?

Cards offer a variety of benefits, and in the case of several American Express cards, one of those is an annual airline fee credit. The credit is intended to be used towards airline fees (as the name suggests), and for many of us, benefits like this help offset the annual fees on cards.

When Are Amex Airline Fee Credits Valid?

In the case of all American Express cards offering airline fee credits, the validity is based on the calendar year. This is a strict calendar year definition, so it’s not like some other cards, where it’s based on your cardmember year.

With Amex, airline fee credits are valid January 1 through December 31, and it’s a “use it or lose it” situation.

Which Airlines Are Eligible For Amex Airline Fee Credits?

You can designate one of the following airlines as your airline of choice for this benefit:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

You could designate Frontier as your airline for the Amex fee credit

Which Amex Cards Come With Airline Fee Credits?

The following cards offer airline fee credits, in the following increments:

What Can Amex Airline Fee Credits Be Used For?

Per the terms, the annual airline credit can be used for purchases made directly with airlines, excluding the following:

Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.

As you can see, this excludes quite a bit of stuff. In the past purchasing airline gift cards would often automatically be reimbursed, though as of mid-2019 that’s no longer the case, so you won’t want to buy gift cards hoping that they’re reimbursed.

The American Express forum on FlyerTalk has individual threads dedicated to reimbursement reports for each airline, including AlaskaAmerican, Delta, HawaiianJetBlueSouthwest, and United. So it can be worth looking there for inspiration on some of the best uses.

While it varies by airline/situation, often baggage fees, award ticket fees, change and cancelation fees, seat assignment fees, lounge passes, inflight food and beverage purchases, etc., would qualify for reimbursement.

Lounge passes could be reimbursed with airline fee credits

How Do You Register For Amex Airline Fee Credits?

Your eligible airline purchase should be automatically reimbursed when charged to a qualifying card, assuming you’ve designated an airline for this benefit.

Each year you have to designate an airline for your airline fee credit. You can change your designated airline once per year, in January, so you can now change your designated airline, if you’d like.

To verify or select your airline of choice, log into your Amex account, and then click on the “Benefits” tab along the top. Then scroll to the section that talks about the airline fee credit, and you’ll see the link to “select an airline.”

They could really update their descriptions, eh? AirTran and US Airways are still being mentioned.

If you already designated an airline last year, that will be the default one this year, so if you want to keep it you don’t have to do anything. But if you haven’t designated an airline in the past or want to change your selection, you’ll want to edit it.

Keep in mind that for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, the airline you choose is the same one for which you’ll get 35% off when redeeming points with the “Pay With Points” feature. So you’ll want to choose your airline carefully.

Bottom Line

While I hate when the year “resets” in terms of elite status, I do love picking up new annual airline fee credits thanks to the Amex cards I have. If you have any of the above Amex cards, you can go ahead and designate your airline of choice, and then start taking advantage of your 2020 credits.

How do you plan on using your 2020 Amex airline fee credits?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
  1. I typically use my airline fee credits for economy plus/main cabin extra seats (I typically fly economy for domestic flights and save my points redemptions for international flights). Having the extra leg room and seats toward the front for quicker on/off access is the best use of the credits, imo.

  2. Unlike the real travel credit offered by Chase, the Amex credit is essentially the worthless to many frequent flyers. How many make an incidental travel purchase on an airline where they lack status or don’t get free baggage via a credit card? I expect that Chase nearly fully distributes $300 to each CSR card holder. I bet Amex, on average, distributes very little. And the fact that you continually suggest that readers can get full value from the Amex travel credit seems less than forthright. Even in the past, people had to look for loopholes, like gift cards. I value the Amex travel credit at $0, which is why I moved from an Amex Platinum to Hilton Aspire Card. Please be more complete when you describe the difficulty most encounter in capturing the full Amex credit.

  3. @ Ben — These credits have become effectively useless, unless you are very clever and willing to do a bit of extra work. I predict that will end soon, so if recommend being clever and doing your extra work ASAP. 😉

  4. Do we have the month of January when we can change? I think my family will cancel three Amex cards because of the change, and maybe we should cancel four of the affected five. I’ll keep the Aspire for the diamond status.

  5. Left on the table $240 of Aspire card’s $250 credit for 2019 because AmEx refused to reimburse AA ticket cancellation fees. They would not reimburse even after I disputed. I reopened the dispute again on the basis that ticket cancellation fees are not specifically mentioned in the T&C as an excluded incidental fee. We’ll see what happens.

  6. I never have a problem using the credit. I am AA elite So I have a ton of miles. and when I burn them the fees trigger the credit. If you make a few redemptions over the year you should be able to trigger the full amount.

  7. Among all Amex cards I have $650 of fees to generate. All on SW. Likely uses are trips to Detroit and Las Vegas on SW.

  8. @Jane – and how did moving from the Platinum to the Hilton Aspire help you even a bit? As the airline credits offered on the Aspire are as worthless as they are on the Platinum…

  9. I used the credit towards extra legroom in economy last year. Didn’t realize it’s not every airline so this year I’ll probably move to an extra legroom seat on my American flights between DFW and YVR. Better than nothing but I wish I had a long haul flight for some extra legroom or exit row. For those of you with status remember people that don’t get charged for seat assignments so I like this perk.

  10. Used to buy SW gift cards. I do not see myself eating $200 of fruit and cheese plates on AS. So I am uncertain about what to do…

  11. I refuse to get any credit card that has an annual fee partially offset by a credit for airline incidentals. A portion of the annual fee is, in effect, a prepayment for those incidentals. Since I would never purchase any of these incidentals otherwise, this system is forces me to spend money frivolously to get “value” out of a credit card.

  12. The fee credits are effectively worthless to me.

    Flying Southwest tomorrow and I’m going to order drinks for the first twenty five who want one. I’ll take an Uber home from the airport and buy a $50 pair of socks at Saks. After that I’ll be cancelling the card.

    Effective costs of premium cards IMO.
    Platinum $350
    Reserve $150
    Prestige $200

  13. Easiest fee to use for frequent business travelers. One change fee is $200, which I easily pay 1-3 times a year and I don’t even travel enough to hit more than the 2nd tier of elite status.

    Thanks for the reminder, Ben.

  14. Spirit airlines big front seats very good use of AMEX credit.I used this twice last year,IMO Spirit big front seat much more comfortable than AA Oasis J seat

  15. This “benefit” is pretty much useless to me. I travel a lot for work, but I know my schedule far in advance and never need to change (so no change fees). I fly domestic F or international business, so I already have free bags (and I have status anyway), and no need to buy any snacks or drinks on board. So what’s there left to use it on?

    Click on Lucky’s links to the FlyerTalk forums for each carrier in his post. It’s a huge mess to navigate which charge will get credited and which won’t. AmEx makes this intentionally complicated so that few will use it. The Southwest Gift Card was a good deal — we used that when buying family trips, but now that “loophole” is gone.

    Compare that to the CSR card — anything loosely related to travel is credited. I use up that credit within a week or two of receiving it.

  16. I downgraded my Amex Plat after having the card for 13 years and I was an authorized user before I had my own card. The card is too pricey with not sufficient benefits. Amex has too many restrictions and I am tired of maintaining spreadsheets for credits or leaving unused credits on the table. CSR is easier to use the trave credit and the insurance isn’t tied to r/t fares. It is disappointing. I do like Amex’s customer service.

  17. @ssss I basically treat the airline credit as worthless to me. But I do get a lot of value from the other benefits, in particular International Airline Program (usually save $1,000+ per year with that), and the elite status for Hilton and Marriott. Free breakfast and frequent room upgrades have really been worth it.

  18. I use the airline credit, the saks credit. not the uber yet. I use the club benefit. They have excellent stealth benefits (some they publish, some they don’t) I know this, if I am on a road trip and shit hits the fan, one call fixes it.

  19. For those that say these credits are worthless you are not correct. I agree the CSR credit, which covers anything classified as travel, is much more valuable but I get full value from my Amex Platinum credit even though I’m lifetime Platinum on AA and lifetime Gold on DL so don’t pay bag fees, seat fees, etc.

    I live in Charlotte so designated AA as my airline. For what it is worth here are the ways I use the travel credit:

    1. book cheap basic economy plus trips (have some great ones including Las Vegas r/t for $94 and often r/t tickets to Philly or NY for $50-$75. Since I’m lifetime Platinum I can still check a bag free and preboard in group 3 so the only thing I miss is seat assignment and chance at an upgrade (good luck w that as Platinum now that I’m retired and not EP anymore so no huge loss). I use the credits to pay for seat assignments (fully credited) and end up with basically a coach seat (even main cabin extra) for less than half the cost of buying a “main cabin” ticket.
    2. Admirals club day pass – I had the Citibank Executive card for years but dropped it when I retired since I couldn’t justify the fee for basically Admirals Club since other cards had better earning ability and features. Also with Amex Platinum I will be able to get into the new CLT Centurion Lounge (when it finally opens) which is much better than the Admirals Club so likely won’t be paying for a day pass, at least in CLT, much longer.
    3. Pay for checked bag for my daughter to fly back to college. She doesn’t have status so this is a good use of it. However, may get her cheapest Barclays or Citibank card that has this feature since this only covers one instance when she may check a bag.
    4. Finally at the end of the year I burned my last $39 in credits by paying for a “mileage multiplier” on a future trip. Fully credited and, while paying around 3 cent a mile is something I would NEVER usually do, it added a few “free” miles to my account while burning the last of the credit.

    I agree this is tougher to use than CSR but IMHO it is easy, even for people with elite status, to get value if you just look at ways to optimize the credit.

    People say the same thing about the Uber credit but I get full value for that as well.

  20. @Lucky

    You are incorrect in saying the Business Platinum refund only comes with the chosen airline on pay with points.

    If book economy – then yes only chosen

    But if book business or first and pay with point get the 35% points back on any airline as I just booked a business class ticket on Emirates and got email say I qualified for the point refund

  21. Good to know the early bird boarding on Southwest is reimbursable as they do not accept gift cards to pay for that.

    Maybe I can use some of these credits as mostly 2019 wasted as I did not order AA gift cards soon enough before they stopped being accepted.

    The $250 credit on Citi Prestige is easy as includes tickets

  22. I agree with Jane. You don’t discuss the difficulty using the travel credit. There’s only a handful of participating airlines and most fees aren’t included. The title of the article also suggests that it will be about the Amex credits but only the travel credit is discussed.

  23. Has anybody had any success buying a delta gift card inside of a skyclub at the airport and having the purchase code such that it counts for the airline fee credit? I am curious if this might be a work around to continuing to redeem the airline fee credit for gift cards since Amex has cut off the online redemptions last year.

  24. @D3King- are those not upgrades? Buying economy, and buying up to EC would be a great use of my $550 in credits, but I assume they won’t qualify. Clarify? Tx

  25. FYI with Southwest, you can buy refundable award tickets and charge the taxes to AMEX and then wait until airline credit fee posts and then then cancel the ticket and either get the money back as future credit or you can refund it back to card and AMEX doesn’t take away the airline reimbursement. I did it in 2019 and got full $200 back. There are a few international flights where you can get $50 in taxes. Book 2 tickets and do it twice and you have yourself $200.

  26. @mbh Not an upgrade. How to clarify? When you are flying economy class on a US airline and don’t have status you get the most basic seat assignment. If you want to chose a seat in an exit row or with extra room then you must pay anywhere from $10 up to $150. If that makes sense. But gold members, platinum members, elites, etc usually get this option for free.

    Economy cabin is rarely covered on this blog and most aviation geeks tend to focus on first class and business class trip reviews. All economy seats are not created equal and the way airlines have monetized them over the past few years has changed exponentially .

  27. It’s patently obvious that Amex hopes its premium cardholders will not be able to (fully) utilize these airline fee credits. For example, what is the purpose of restricting these credits to just one airline? The only answers I can come up with all benefit Amex and not the cardholder(s). That is but one example of the needless hoops that Amex makes people jump through, all the while advertising the credit as a valuable cardholder benefit. Amex plays their cardholders better than a Las Vegas casino.

  28. I forgot that I had this until a few weeks ago. I picked Alaska early in the year when I unexpectedly had to check a bag, even though I didn’t fly them often. Later in the year I got the Alaska card, so the next few flights (and bags) were on that. However, after scanning the forums linked above, I realized I could upgrade the seats (because they’re seat fees, not upgrade fees) I have on existing reservations before the end of the year. I wish I’d had this thought on the SFO-BWI or OAK-HNL flights rather than the OAK-YVR and OAK-PDX flights, but oh well I managed to use all $250. I’m thinking I’ll switch to Southwest this fee despite having their card, because it covers early bird and reward booking fees.

  29. Something I found out this week on a end of year trip to London is that the AMEX Platinum has some other things that make it hard to use the credit. For starters, internet is not part of ways to use the credit. As for change fees on American, well if you book the flight through AMEX, they have an agreement with the airlines that they do not charge for change fees, so long as you call back AMEX to make the changes. Another interesting fact, while British Airlines is not one of the airlines you can use your credit, AMEX does have a great perk with them too! If you book through AMEX, they have a code they can use which unlocks the seat fees. My parents booked and they have to pay $140 for the upper deck seats on the airbus while my wife and I got to select the seats for free. After the booking, the agent told us we could log in and select where we wanted to sit, NO CHARGE!!!

  30. Paying for extra legroom seats worked for me.
    The only downside is I have to choose at the beginning of the year where I’m not always 100% certain which carriers I’ll be taking. The first year wasn’t a problem since I had an upcoming AA flight right after I got a Gold card, but now I have to choose between AA, DL, or B6.

  31. I am a UA LT 1K but playing around with using Spirit in certain markets to save money. Does anyone know if adding the “bundle” which includes baggage charge, early boarding and a pre-chosen premium seat assignment (and for $15.00 more, a big front seat) is eligible for the Amex credit? How does Amex separate out the charge from the basic ticket price?


  32. Can someone clarify what the difference is between an upgrade (which is not applied toward the incidental credit), and paying for an Economy Plus or exit row? Is that something that has to be done at the airport, not when booking, to count as an incidental? Thank you much!

  33. Mark S

    It is eligible
    We used our credits on Spirit last year

    We bought the “bundle” (big front seat, carry on bag)
    Initially it coded all as airfare and we did not get the credit

    Called Amex and they credited it correctly

    This year we are buying the seat first
    Then immediately going in and paying for Big Front Seat and bag bundle separately so that we don’t have to call Amex

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