There are lots of implications to the new year when it comes to loyalty programs and credit cards, including some benefits being reset. That includes with American Express, where those with an eligible card can receive a new airline fee credit. 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
Which Amex cards come with airline fee credits?
The following three premium cards offer airline fee credits, in the following increments:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (review), which has a $695 annual fee (Rates & Fees), offers a $200 annual airline fee credit
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review), which has a $695 annual fee (Rates & Fees), offers a $200 annual airline fee credit
- The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review), which has a $450 annual fee, offers a $250 annual airline fee credit
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.
While there are no guarantees that this will continue to be possible, historically some items outside of those categories have been reimbursed.
The American Express forum on FlyerTalk has individual threads dedicated to reimbursement reports for each airline, including Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United. It can be worth looking there for inspiration on some of the best uses, as you might be surprised by what some people report having luck with.
While it varies by airline and situation, often baggage fees, award ticket fees, change and cancelation fees, seat assignment fees, lounge passes, inflight food and beverage purchases, etc., qualify for reimbursement.
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.”
Amex could really update its 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. You’ll want to choose your airline carefully.
Should Amex update the airline fee credits benefit?
When I write about the Amex airline fee credit, there are often comments from readers about how it’s time that Amex update this benefit. The Amex Platinum was the original premium credit card, though it’s interesting to see how much less restrictive travel credits are on other premium credit cards:
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review) offers a $300 annual travel credit that’s valid towards any travel purchase charged to the card, with no registration required
- The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review) offers a $300 annual travel credit that’s valid towards any purchase through Capital One Travel, with no registration required
By comparison, the Amex credit is highly restrictive, given that it only applies towards fees, that you need to register, need to designate an airline, etc. This benefit has gotten even less valuable during the pandemic, since most airlines have eliminated or cut change fees, which these credits apply towards.
While all of that is true, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the Amex Platinum offers an incredible number of credits, and it’s pretty clear that these benefits are designed to have a lot of breakage, or else the economics wouldn’t work out.
The Amex Platinum potentially offers over $1,800 in credits annually, and the intent is presumably that not all cardmembers maximize each of those perks. In other words, the restrictions around all of these benefits are likely by design. I wouldn’t expect Amex to ever replace a $200 airline fee credit with a flat $200 airline credit, for example.
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 2022 credits… if you can figure out uses.
How do you plan on using your 2022 Amex airline fee credits?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).