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:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a $200 annual airline fee credit (full card review here)
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express offers a $200 annual airline fee credit (full card review here)
- The American Express® Gold Card offers a $100 annual airline fee credit. (more details here)
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 Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, 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 Card, Amex 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
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.