Why This Is The Ideal Time To Apply For An Amex Card With An Airline Fee Credit

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If you’ve been considering getting an American Express card that offers an annual airline fee credit, this might be the ideal time to do so. Let me explain.

Amex cards offering an airline fee credit

There are three especially popular Amex cards that offer an annual airline fee credit:

All three of these cards are fantastic, and have their own perks that make them worthwhile.

How the Amex airline fee credit works

With the airline fee credit, you first need to designate an airline with which you want to receive the benefit, and then make an eligible purchase. Per the terms, the airline fee credit can only be applied towards airline fees (as the name suggests), which excludes 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.

Anecdotally, however, many report having luck purchasing airline gift cards and having those reimbursed. For example, this year I purchased two $100 American Airlines gift cards, and they were reimbursed a couple of days later.


The American Express forum on FlyerTalk has individual threads dedicated to reimbursement reports for each airline, including AlaskaAmericanDeltaHawaiianJetBlueSouthwest, and United. As you can see, anecdotally these credits can be used for a wide variety of things, from lounge memberships, to cancellation fees, to status challenge fees, to (in many cases) gift cards.

I’ve never had issues using these fee credits for gift card purchases in small increments, so personally I value this perk pretty close to face value. I get $200 worth of American Airlines gift cards per year, so they’re worth just about that much to me.

But before you make any purchase, you’ll need to designate an airline for which you want to receive this benefit. Each year you have to designate an airline for your airline fee credit, which can be done at americanexpress.com/airlinechoice. You can change your designated airline once per year.


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 go to the above link to edit it.


Here are the airlines you can choose from:


Why you might want to apply for an Amex card soon

On the Amex Personal Platinum CardAmex Business Platinum Card, and American Express® Gold Card, the annual airline fee credit is awarded based on the calendar year rather than the cardmember year. This means you get an airline fee credit every January 1 through December 31, regardless of when your cardmember year is.

Why does this matter? Because the end of the year is quickly approaching. For example, if you applied for the Amex Personal Platinum Card now, you’d get a $200 airline fee credit that you can use through December 31, and then another $200 airline fee credit to use as of January 1.

A lot of people are looking to minimize their “out of pocket” with new cards, and this is a nice way to do so, since you’ll get $400 of value back within the next few months, not even factoring in the $200 annual Uber credit offered on the personal card (which is on a rolling basis, since you get a $15 credit each month, and a $35 credit in December).

Just to give a few examples of how the math works out here:

  • The Amex Personal Platinum Card has a $550 annual fee, but you’ll get back a $200 airline credit almost immediately, another one as of January 1, and a $200 ongoing Uber credit, meaning by the time your second year’s annual fee is due, you’ll already have received $600 of “value” in that way, not factoring in all the other great perks offered by the card, including the huge welcome bonus, lounge access, etc.
  • The Amex Business Platinum Card has a $450 annual fee, but you’ll get back a $200 airline credit almost immediately, and another one as of January, so by the time the second year’s annual fee is due you’ll already have received $400 of “value” through the airline credits alone, meaning your out of pocket is really ~$50 for all the great perks you’re getting
  • The American Express® Gold Card has a $250 annual fee, but you’ll get back a $100 airline credit almost immediately, and another one as of January, so by the time the second year’s annual fee is due you’ll already received $200 of “value” through the airline credits alone, meaning your out of pocket is really ~$50 for all the great perks you’re getting

The Amex Platinum Card also offers Centurion Lounge access

Bottom line

There are lots of great perks to the above Amex charge cards, though if you’re looking to get as much return out of the cards as quickly as possible given the high annual fees, applying towards the end of the calendar year is the ideal time to do so, in order to maximize your airline fee credits. With just over two months left in the year, I figured this was worth a reminder.

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  1. How long after designating an airline before its safe to buy gift cards?

    Didn’t see any advice from Amex to wait, but hard to tell if its instant or not.

  2. @Ben – if you looked up the flyertalk threads that you referenced for airline credits, then you’d notice that American Express is no longer crediting gift card purchases on most airlines. Unfortunately, these AmEx airline credits aren’t as simple to use as Chase’s and Citi’s travel credits.

  3. @Evan. It seems to be instant. I actually forgot to designate an airline the first time I did this, realized my mistake right after hitting the “submit” button on the purchase, and hurried over to choose the correct airline. When the charge posted to my account a few days later, I got reimbursed right away.

  4. Almost in response to @Debit, how is this any different from applying at any other point in the year? You can always get the $200 twice.

    What would be helpful is if this article came out in December-ish and you explained that you could get that $200 credit three times, then it would be unique.

  5. I recently purchased awards tickets and used my Amex platinum to pay the fees. Those fees counted towards my airline credit FYI…

  6. Last year I received AA gift card reimbursements. However, that wasn’t the case this year. I bought many gift cards in many different increments and got no credit.
    I already had plan to use the gift cards so it would have been nice to get the $200 credit.

  7. applying towards the end of the calendar year is the ideal time to do so, in order to maximize your airline fee credits.

    Nope. If one can wait about 45-50 days from today and apply in Dec, one can earn
    1. $200 in credit in Dec 2017
    2. $200 in credit in 2018
    3. $200 in credit in Jan 2019

    Now, if one believes in 2019 that the card is worth keeping for, you can pay the second annual fee. Else there is a 30 day window in which you could cancel and get the annual fee back.

  8. May be Lucky can use some updated information before putting out this article because it seems airline gift cards no longer trigger the statement credit.

    He really should check the latest DPs before putting out such outdated claim on the airline GCs.

    Besides as mentioned upthread that anytime of the year you would be able to get 2 calendar credits in your first year of membership except it is a bit tough to do for Jan application. And for Dec application, it is potentially 3 calendar credits if timing it right.

    The value of Lucky’s articles has really gone downhill, especially giving OUTDATED no longer true, information.

  9. @ FLL — Not sure which of this info is outdated? I explained that in the past American gift cards have been reimbursed. Data points in the American thread continue to suggest that reimbursements are happening, as most recently as yesterday. For other airlines I suggested people check the threads on FlyerTalk to see the wide range of things these can anecdotally be used for. So please do fill me in as to what’s outdated there.

    As far as the credits go, the reason this is a good time isn’t because you’re getting more credits, but because you’re getting more value out of the card sooner. Many people are intimidated by the annual fees on these cards, and the faster they can get a return on their investment, the happier they are.

    Always appreciate feedback, but I’m really not following here.

  10. @Lucky

    The only one I know that recently (3 weeks ago) stopped working is United.
    If you read the very FT thread you linked, you can read responses related to that (United gift registry stopped working). The only way to get United credit now is to actually do incidental charges on United.

  11. I really appreciate a lot of the content that gets posted on this site but sometimes the writing makes it difficult to read. Recently the over use of “let me explain” which is a phrase that is almost never needed, particularly when the whole point if your articles are to explain something.

  12. I concur with Cenyah, Bryan.

    If you apply in early-mid December (such that you have the card by 12/25 or so, giving a couple days for the purchase to post) you can get the $200 reimbursement 3x.

    At that point the 3x$200 negates the $550 AF (particularly if you are using American Airlines and can quickly use the $200 credit). And so then you get 12 months of card benefits, plus the signup bonus and can decide in January of 2019 if you want to pay the $550 AF for year two of the card or not.

  13. Just bought award tickets and the credit was applied to the award fees. Credit posted 2 days later. P.S. If you have a suggestion or critique of the content, try not to be a dick. It’s really not that difficult.

  14. Do you know if the fee reimbursement applies to dog fees? We need to travel over the holidays with a small pet.

  15. @lucky
    I designated my airline on Dec 28th
    And immediately bought 2 AA GC in increments of 100$ . Both were reimbursed within a few days

  16. Question – if I made the mistake of getting the Schwab Amex Plat this month (approved on Jan. 19th, 2018) will I still be able to get access to a second travel credit in Jan. 2019 to use up with an airline GC purchase before the second annual fee kicks in?

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