A New Year Of Credit Card Airline Fee Credits!

Filed Under: American Express, Citi
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Update: This article contains mentions of the Citi Prestige® Card whose terms have expired and are in the process of being updated. All other offers reflect accurate offer terms. Learn more about the current offers here.

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While the beginning of the year is a positive time for many (well, until January 2 rolls around and new year’s resolutions have already been broken), it can be a bit tougher for those of us who are airline and hotel status obsessed. For many programs, elite qualification counters reset on January 1. So while yesterday I had still more than double qualified for top tier status with my three favorite programs, today isn’t looking quite as accomplished.

Here’s my American AAdvantage account:


And my Hyatt Gold Passport account:


And my Starwood Preferred Guest account:


The good news is that January 1 is also the date on which credit card airline credits reset, which takes the sting out of a new year a bit. In my case it means I just picked up $500 in American Airlines gift cards plus $250 in airline tickets.

Here are the four cards I have which have annual airline credits:

American Express airline fee credits

American Express offers a $200 annual airline fee credit on their Platinum Cards. The “counter” for this resets on January 1 of each year, so if you have the card you’re now once again eligible for a credit.

Each year you have to designate an airline for your airline fee credit, which can be done at americanexpress.com/airlinechoice.


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:


The terms and conditions state that airline fee credits exclude 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, last 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 AlaskaAmerican, Delta, HawaiianJetBlueSouthwest, 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.

Personally I just purchased American Airlines gift cards for all three cards totaling $500 (in increments of $50 and $100), and will report back as to whether they reimburse. The key seems to be to purchase them in smaller increments, so not $200+ at a time, for example.


Citi Prestige® Card airline credit

This fee credit is even more straightforward than the one offered by American Express. It’s $250, and it applies on any airline and for any purchase processed by an airline. So it doesn’t have to be a “fee,” but rather can be a ticket purchase, upgrade, etc.


For more on the airline credit see my previous post.

What also makes the Citi credit different than the American Express credit is that it isn’t based on a strict cardmember year. Instead the 2016 credit became valid as soon as the December 2015 statement closed, which for me was several weeks ago. So I’ll report back when that posts as well.

This card is so awesome all around, between the airline credit and all the other amazing perks it offers:

Bottom line

While I hate when the year “resets” in terms of elite status, I do love picking up ~$750 to spend on airlines thanks to the credit cards I carry. If you have any of the above cards, you can go ahead and maximize the benefits whenever, just make sure you’re using the credit for the correct airline (at least with Amex).

Anyone else redeeming their 2016 credit card airline credits already?

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  1. Hi Ben, Having just got back from a NYC Time Square New Year stay, I wondered if you thought the Prestige Card 4th night free would work if you booked a Ball Drop View room at the Doubletree Time Square, where the rate is literally $10,000 for New Years Eve? It seems like it would be an enormous risk to take to try it, because if they came up with a way to wiggle out of it after the fact, I’d be stuck with that huge bill.

  2. How about a post noting programs that allow some of the prior year’s qualifying activity to “roll over” to this year, if such a thing exists.

  3. @Debi

    The Citi Prestige card does have a $450 annual fee. Lucky was referring to a $250 airline credit which you can use to purchase tickets for any airline, which effectively reduces your annual fee to $200 annually.

  4. @Ben

    I thought about that as well, but it says that the annual fee is $250 in this article. So the math doesn’t work :-/

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