Gift Cards No Longer Trigger Amex Airline Fee Credits

Filed Under: Credit Cards
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One of the awesome features of several American Express cards is the annual airline fee credits they offer, which range in value from $100 to $250. Well, it looks like for a lot of people this benefit has just gotten less valuable.

Which Amex cards offer airline fee credits?

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

What are Amex airline fee credits?

Some Amex cards offer an annual fee credit as part of the suite of benefits. You designate a US airline every calendar year, and then eligible purchases are automatically reimbursed.

The fact that these are specifically airline fee credits is limiting, since normal airline purchases don’t qualify (unlike on some other cards). Per the terms, the following aren’t eligible to be reimbursed:

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.

Gift card purchases have historically been reimbursed

In the past, purchasing airline gift cards has typically been reimbursed as part of this benefit. The terms clearly stated that it shouldn’t be that way, though when gift card purchases were made in small increments, statement credits typically automatically posted for that.

So it was never supposed to be that way, though for years that’s how it was.

Gift cards no longer seem to be reimbursing

Over the past several months there have been quite a few data points about gift card purchases no longer being reimbursed. That didn’t seem to be the case consistently, though, so it was hard to draw too many conclusions.

Well, that no longer appears to be the case. Reports suggest that all airline gift card purchases are no longer being reimbursed as part of the Amex airline fee credit benefit.

This is fair enough, in the sense that the terms have stated that long enough, and they’re only now enforcing this.

This changes the value proposition of some cards

For many, this will no doubt change the math on some cards. Many viewed the airline fee credits as almost being worth face value. So for example on the Amex Platinum it lowered the annual fee for many people by ~$200, in terms of how people did mental math with this benefit.

A lot of people will have to do some number crunching following these changes, because the math sure does change. How much value can you really get out of a credit that can truly only be used for airline “fees?” Does this lower the value of that credit by 50%? More? Less?

I don’t know. I’ll have to crunch the numbers for myself, and I know others will too.

How will this change impact the value you get from Amex cards?

(Tip of the hat to Doctor Of Credit)

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), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).

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Comments
  1. Hey Lucky, I was thinking instead of reassessing the value as if you could not use the credit at all, you might be able to make a list of what would bring most value to the card proposition, in your opinion for each airline. Meaning, for AA, for example, use the credit on seat upgrades into Econ Plus or better to use at Admirals club. Certainly an opinion but I’d be curious on seeing where you see the most value to be had, assuming someone had not selected their airline or had not used any of their credit yet. Cheers!

  2. It’s really a useless benefit unless they can be used for gift cards.

    The idea that you have to pick an airline where the credits are valid credit is silly enough, but in theory, you’re picking an airline that you fly a lot. Of course, if you fly that airline enough to have status, you likely aren’t needed reimbursement for the “legitimate” reimbursement.

  3. The one nice thing is, with the Amex Plat offering 5x on airfare, it has become the card I reach for automatically for airline purchases anyway, including if I should happen to need to pay a change fee or any other expenses that are legitimate uses of the fee credits. So I’ve started waiting until later in the year to buy gift cards because I’ve found I often manage to get use out of the credits without having to go through the extra hassle of buying and using gift cards. In the past, when the Platinum card only offered 1x on everything, I just wouldn’t have remembered to use it and ended up needing to go the gift card route.

    The one annoying thing is that change fees don’t always trigger the credit automatically, especially more expensive ones, though Amex will credit them manually without much trouble. But, certain other technically-not-qualifying fees (like taxes on award tickets) do seem to still credit most of the time.

    For truly infrequent travelers it may be hard to find uses for this credit, but truly infrequent travelers were probably a stretch to be getting value out of the Amex Plat anyway.

  4. Those of us who travel exclusively in first or business however don’t benefit from this stupid credit. I say just make it a blanket credit for any type of airline purchase. Amex needs to get this right or come up with a better benefit.

  5. Ultimately the math now becomes how much would you spend for an annual subscription to purchase a credit towards airline fees for one assigned airline. I have no use for it and would value $200 of few credits at about $25-50.

    How am I supposed to know in advance exactly how much I will be flying with a single airline? And if I have status with that airline, the frequency of incidental fees goes way down. So unless something changes, I absolutely will be dumping my Amex cards with this credit. That’s a shame as I previously highly valued my Amex cards and used them quite frequently.

  6. I always valued them at 50% – I only bought gift cards with them once over the past few years. I primarily use the credits for Admirals Club access and other fees when flying American. I haven’t even set my Amex Gold airline yet – I will likely set it to Delta and use it for an upgrade. So for me, it doesn’t impact Platinum and Gold valuation that much. The Amex Platinum is a benefits card and the Gold is a dining card, and those are intact. However, it is admittedly a blow for those that used them for gift cards.

    There is one card that I think takes more of a hit than others – Hilton Aspire. The Hilton Aspire credits are:
    – $250 Airline Credit
    – $250 Resort Credit
    – $100 On-Property Credit

    For a $450 fee. The resort credit and property credits only work on a small subset of stays, and the airline credit may be worth 50%. Compare that to the Bonvoy Brilliant, which has a $300 Marriott credit that works for any kind of Marriott spend. So it is basically a net $150 fee Marriott card with a free night – pretty simple.

    If you don’t need Diamond status, at $95, the Ascend/Surpass is actually a competitive card with Aspire as it earns 6x on groceries and has comparable earn on Hilton stays and dining.

  7. I guess I can use it for day passes at lounges, but as others have said, I already have enough status to get free checked bags. I don’t change my plans or incur change fees, and I don’t get liquored-up on a ninety-minute daytime flight, so those options are out for me.

    Maybe this will thin the herd of Amex Platinum users, and maybe that’s a good thing. Those lounges are insanely overcrowded, and it really seems like a lot of American consumers are too irresponsible to properly manage a charge card anyway.

  8. liquidate the MR points and dump the amex plat.

    Citi prestige offers 5x on airfare/hotels/travel agencies + 4th night free (albeit being more restrictive) + has a reasonably usable travel credit.

  9. in the past AMEX was always very good at changing my Airline for me via a phone call or a chat with an online agent. Yes its a pain to have to pick an airline, but if your plans change after you pick the airline – you can still make a change if you ask nicely.

  10. But Citi Prestige just dumped most of their insurance, even rental car coverage, so it’s not the good card it once was.

  11. @jd, Was my first thought too, but I use Delta and AMEX lounges quite a bit. So not yet ready to 86 it.

  12. I have both the Prestige and the Platinum and I have had both for years. I have decided in the next year one has to go. I have been switching back and forth as things have changed but at this point I am leaning to keeping the Prestige at least until one of these companies changes something again.

    +Amex
    Cent Lounges I have used them 3-4x nice but not enough to keep card.
    Access to Delta lounges when flying Delta (never used this but could theoretically).
    Uber credit–Nice but I have to liquidate using Eats and growing fees are making this wash.
    Sak credit–Nice but not great.
    FHR access–Never used it.

    +Citi
    Easy to use airline credit
    Still has access to non-lounge PP locations
    Gutted but still potentially useful 2x fourth night free
    Slightly lower fee
    Better bonus categories over Plat

  13. This especially changes the value proposition of the Aspire Card. Like many others who would be reading this blog, without the gift card option I value the airline credits at zero because I already receive free bags (but usually do carry-on anyway) and the other benefits either via status and/or airline co-brand cards. I put no spend on the Aspire card except Hilton reservations because there are better cards for almost every other category. Between the airline gift card reimbursement, resort reimbursement (including actual room rate), and extra Hilton points, the $450 fee was at least a break even proposition. Then any stays at a Hilton with lounge access were a nice bonus. Now I would have to value that lounge access at $250 annually to make up for the missing airline gift cards. That’s a tough sell. May have to downgrade back to Surpass.

  14. I am seriously weighing whether to keep the cards (biz and personal) since I rarely get any value out of the airline credit. It is so much easier with Sapphire Reserve…I always get the $300 credit from Chase while I rarely take advantage of the full $200 credits with AmEx. Please AmEx, just give us a travel credit and be done. No naming the airline in advance and limiting the types of charges that qualify.

  15. I get that this is bad news for the Aspire, but everyone seems to be forgetting that it comes with a free annual night benefit every year upon card renewal. Even if you use that somewhere cheap it’ll return at least 150 bucks. Between that, Diamond status, the resort fee reimbursements and the little bit of airline fee reimbursement I’ll still use (though I highly doubt I’ll get anywhere close to 200+), I’ll easily break even.

  16. It definitely changes the value. I fly first class so I don’t have bag fees or meal feels or seat upgrade fees, etc. Internationally I get free lounges. There’s nothing to use it on.

    If they would let the credit apply to ANY airline, rather than just a SINGLE airline, then maybe I would have a prayer. But as is, my $200 Hilton Aspire just became a $450 Hilton Aspire. Definitely not worth it for a free weekend night which I never seem to get a ton of value out of, and Diamond status (when I can get Gold for $95 and only lose the lounge access.) I suspect very few will keep the Aspire.

  17. I use them for luggage fees when my daughter flies home from college (and last year her pet fee). As for me lifetime on DL and AA so don’t typically have fees.

    Ben – is there a list of what fees do qualify? That would be helpful

  18. Purely as a straightforward $ proposition, this move gives the Citi Prestige card the edge because the airline credits are straightforward and, if I recall correctly, automatic.

  19. This sucks, and the benefit is definitely gimmicky unless you consistently need it for things like change fees. But AmEx is betting (probably correctly) that many of us still value the 5x on airfare enough to make it not matter. I’ve booked ~$20k in airfare and airline-processed mile purchases in the past year. Net of Uber credits, that’s $350 for 100k MR points. 0.35 CPM acquisition is pretty sweet. Even if I factored in the opportunity cost if that spend had gone on my CSR instead (i.e. earning “only” 40k points), that’s still 0.88 CPM, not too shabby. (Someone correct me if I’m looking at this the wrong way.)

  20. Ditto with qufmiwok… I only fly first and business class and therefore do not need a “fee reimbursement” offer. I suppose I could use it to upgrade, but my reasons for buying first class are very specific, so I don’t take chances. I also only fly one airline for the most part and have my status with them, so therefore, don’t have fees applied to me. If we were allowed to use it on any airline, maybe, but I think I will be downgrading my AMEX Plat card now. I hardly use their lounges anymore, the crowds are just too much. And the 5x airlines miles is not enough of an incentive to pay $550 annually. And I used to use their Uber credit monthly, but that reason no longer exists, so really, what do I need it for? I have the Sapphire Preferred (just downgraded from the reserve) and that handles my needs. I do have the Aspire, mostly for the Diamond status, but also for the resort credit and free night. Oh well, AMEX may have to come up with something else.

  21. Ironically, I recently received an email giving me the option to upgrade my Surpass to the Aspire and earn 150,000 points after $4,000 spend. Not now!

  22. In my travel, the only useful application of the Amex credit, now that gift cards are no longer reimbursed, is for the Early Bird check-in fee on Southwest. That I will use several times a year.

  23. @Jay @Robert

    Does that mean you fly 1st/business exclusively with points. Because for the past several years whenever I buy a plane ticket, I get the airline credit applied to my card. Now if that goes away as well then the cards are dead to me.

  24. Amex relies on a certain % to never use the airline fee credit or to forget about it.

    There’s a time value component to playing this game. One of the benefits of the CSR was not having to “think” about the $300 travel credit. It’s going to get used up automatically by the vast majority of cardholders.

    I was seriously considering the Aspire card but now I’m thinking maybe Surpass instead for thr free night sign up bonus.

  25. Well as darkness descends upon us, I have both the Plat and Aspire and was gladly doing $50 AA GCs and enjoying Diamond Status. But I am an infrequent flyer so Have to be up front about what this luxury of paid status cost.
    I’ve been an AmEx holder since 1983, but The big benefits of the Plat were the credit and the lounges. Now the credit is no good on Gift Certificates and I’m Plat on AA so little fees – unless it would cover the $200 cancel change fee 🙂 I am not impressed with the Lounges I been able to visit.
    But I have the AA Exec Card for Admirals Club access and now I WAIT so Admirals club entrance fee is credited? I see some black-market over and above your 10 card holders 😉
    Lord, it’s getting complicated I do want to note that we got great use of the Aspire Resort credit at the DoubleTree North Redington Beach, FL in Feb great unpretentious friendly family place And we’ll go back next year – family thing Although the prices are higher this year That $250 isn’t a big dent for 5 days 🙂
    Well now I’m just rambling – it’s what happens if I comment after 4:20 in the afternoon. I’m retired you see, and it’s legal here 🙂
    Safe Landings, everyone.

  26. This is one of several reasons why the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has now garnered more of my attention.

  27. It lowers the value to essentially zero. I don’t incur these fees. I can probably find something to use it for if I really try, but it will be an expense that I wouldn’t have otherwise incurred.

  28. It also looks, (OR AM I WRONG ? Pls tell me) that x5 points is now only through AMEX Travel Service and not anymore when booking directly with airlines. At least, this way of getting 5X is never advertised anymore.

    I’d like the info on this as it would / will(?) be a game changer for me.

  29. Ben ….Can you buy basic economy and then use part of the Amex 200 credit to upgrade …..would that count ?

  30. Does anyone know if the airline gift cards still work for City National Bank?

  31. Between the loss of the airline credit and the change to the priority pass program Amex has pretty much guaranteed I will be dumping my plat card. It was a really stupid move on their part. I was going to get rid of my chase sapphire reserve and keep the plat but with these changes the chase sapphire reserve is now saved. Brilliant move Amex. Just brilliant you lost a customer. I am also struggling to decide whether or not I keep the aspire card. That may get tossed too as a result of all this if I can’t make the math work.

  32. @Pierre, not sure where you’re getting that from. It says on the benefits page, “Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Terms and limitations apply.‡”

  33. @ shza, I first noticed that the way to obtain the X5 via direct booking with airlines is never advertised anymore, it used to, then an Amex Plat agent on the phone was unable to confirm it still applies. In view of the general Amex Plat slippage, I saw / see ? this being likely removed. I hope not.

  34. With THIS news and my personal view that the Centurion Clubs are overcrowded and now less valuable than an Admirals Club, and the change to Priority Pass……so long Amex Plat. I will be cancelling it this week.

  35. Don’t you realize Amex is counting on these phantom $200 “credits” not being used? And why must you designate one airline? Similarly, with the stupid Uber credit. Amex is counting on lots of spoilage. Why isn’t the credit $200 ANNUALLY instead of $15 per month? Again, Amex business model is to grant benefits which lots won’t be able to take advantage of. Who wants to patronize such a sleazy company.

  36. @ Ben — I guess we will definitely not be keeping our AX Plat cards next renewal. AMEX is going to lose a lot of customers over this. They are nuts if they think their card is worth $500-$550 per year without this.

  37. Just cancelled my platinum. Downgraded Aspire to the surpass all in one call.

  38. Disappointing news, as I was planning to change my airline to Southwest next year on rumors that their gift cards were still going through. AA GCs reportedly stopped working in February (although there were rumors on FT that it briefly worked again, it certainly didn’t for me! LOL)

    I changed my return on a flight from Hawaii and recaptured my $200 AMEX Platinum credit and made changes to both legs of a trip from BKK to Tokyo and Tokyo to USA, which ate up $150 of my $250 Aspire credit. I’m still hoping to find a way to capture the other $100 credit.

    I often stay at a Hilton resort on the “$250 credit” list, so I have used it the past few years without issue. I have never had occasion to use the $100 credit, though.

    Factoring in the free night certificate, the $250 credit and the $150 that I have used on my airline credit, I think I’m still “ahead” on my Aspire fees for the year (and that does not factor in the upgrades that I have received due to Diamond status)

  39. There have been reports on other forums of people successfully purchasing tickets with a small gift card (like $50) and then using the Amex card to pay the difference and getting the credit. Apparently this payment difference codes differently than purchasing a ticket outright. As always do you own research and your mileage may vary.

  40. Has anyone tried purchasing a physical delta gift card from a Sky Club and seeing if that triggers the credit?

  41. This is ridiculous. I have Aspire, Gold, and Biz Platinum. I use Gold for groceries which is great after max out Everyday at $6K

    There really are no incidentals if eliminate baggage fees with status or charging with airline credit card. My Biz Platinum should be coming up for renewal next month, so bye bye. I will keep Aspire another year and see how many resort credits I can use.

    And a single airline to use is nuts compared with Prestige.

    If start to get many cancellations, maybe they will change their tune. Get rid of Uber, and eats and Saks and give us a real travel benefit!

  42. I could no longer justify the annual cost of the platinum card because of this. Just canceled mine.

  43. Marriott : Introducing Bonvoy! You’ll love getting shafted. Nobody screws up better than us.
    AMEX : Hold my beer.

  44. I wonder if Amex consulted with Delta before making the change. We never used to fly Delta but then ended up with a handful of Delta gift cards from the Aspire so started using them. Turns out, we like flying Delta and are choosing them more often. Best advertising Delta did for my family was allowing me to use the Amex credit for gift cards. Seems like an all around bad development for Amex’s airline partner.

  45. Time for ne to cancel my cards. Thats a shame too, because my friends and I were spending one 100k a year each on them.

  46. I think people are being too hard on the Platinum and Gold. The most important benefit of Platinum are:

    1) SkyClub access for regular Delta flyers (I am in SkyClubs 20+ times a year)
    2) Centurion/Priority Pass access
    3) 5x Flights
    4) Various other status benefits (Hilton, Marriott, Hertz, etc)
    5) NPS Spending Limit
    6) Uber Credits
    7) Fine Hotels and Resorts
    8) Various AMEX Offers
    If you weren’t using these benefits, Amex Platinum was a poor value for you anyway, and you shouldn’t have been paying fees on the card

    The primary benefit of AMEX Gold is:
    1) 4x Dining and Supermarkets
    2) Grubhub Credit

    The airline credits weren’t major factors, at least for me. I guess that is why I never got an Aspire. For me, the Amex Plat improved significantly with Uber and Saks credits (I spend $500 a month on Uber, so the credit is useful). To each his or her own I guess.

  47. With the relatively easy use of Amex credits, my Amex Gold was a lock for renewal. Now, it’s on the chopping block. Even more so is the Hilton Aspire.

  48. The Platinum card was never worth it to me. Only got it for the 100k bonus

    ++ I don’t use Uber/Uber Eats
    ++ I don’t shop at Saks, even with the credit stuff isn’t worth it
    ++ I don’t have access to a Centurion Lounge in my home airport
    ++ 5x back isn’t a big deal because I don’t fly often enough to make a difference over my 3x back with the CSR

    The $200 credit was the only thing I thought I’d be able to take advantage of.

  49. “First the Prestige, now the Platinum, what next?”

    The CSR loses the $300 travel credit and becomes cash back-only.

  50. Just a reminder for those talking about the Prestige 4th night free, not only it’s limited to 2x a year, it will no longer earn you SNP as the booking moves to a third party (thankyou.com)

  51. This is the final nail in the coffin for me regarding the Platinum card…and maybe even the Gold card I just opened in October. I use the Delta Sky Club access about once a year, the Uber credit is next to impossible to redeem (if there’s some sort of tutorial on redeeming it, please let me know), Sak’s is just not a perk for me…I get a lot more value out of my Chase cards.

  52. Glad they did this now. Not worth the hassle to get gold card again as I’m not eligible for bonus.

  53. Will be cancelling my Plat and Aspire cards. I know it was a loophole but it was the only thing that for me, made paying the fees worthwhile. I can’t justify paying them. It is a shame that they don’t just give a travel credit like the CSR.

  54. I, like many people here, is incredibly disappointed in what AMEX is doing, but I don’t think this is going to end my relationship with them. It does make me 2nd think a lot of the cards I’d choose to get with them, but I still find value in their cards. I am a huge fan of the Gold card because of the x4 dining, which I do A LOT, and it rewards me for being a drunk 😀

    However, I rarely fly for over 2 hours. I use mostly Alaska and Southwest because they’re local and it’s just easier for me than having to jump on the bigger planes, so access to gift cards sucks. However, I still fly enough and plan on switching my credits to another airline next year and buy cheap seats and use the credits for seat upgrades…

    I WAS going to apply for the Hilton Aspire next month, but nevermind!

  55. I’m out on the AMEX Platinum. Horrible timing that I paid the annual fee two weeks ago. 🙁

    1. I cannot get in the Centurion lounge as I often fly Delta employee benefit non rev. Why does AMEX care? I’ve paid the annual fee haven’t I?
    2. They did away with the Priority Pass restaurants option. Which was infinitely better than the crackers and cheese offerings at the mostly lame Priority Pass lounges.
    3. Now we’ve lost the airline gift card credits (I don’t incur the any of the fees the card covers). Definitely not worth the $550

    Guess I need to do some reading on here to find out which premium card should be in my wallet.

  56. @Lucky, Delta now sells gift cards for delta inside of their lounges. I’m curious if using the Amex Platinum card to buy one of these gift cards inside the lounge would trigger the credit. Have you heard if anybody has had any success getting reimbursed this way? If so, the value proposition of the card stays the same for me as a Delta flyer.

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