There are a lot of things to keep in mind as the end of the year is approaching, and one of those is that the annual airline fee credit on your American Express cards will be expiring soon, given that they’re awarded on a calendar year basis. If you have one of the cards you’ll want to use the credit ASAP. If you don’t yet have one or all of these cards, it’s not too late to apply and still receive a credit for 2017, which will get you a huge return in a short period of time.
Here’s what you need to know about these benefits:
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)
- 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, just a couple of weeks ago Ford 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. Your experience may vary, of course.
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, and anecdotally that choice is active as soon as you make it, so there’s no lag.
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
Not only is this useful if you’re an existing cardmember, but the end of the year approaching means that you can also potentially apply for the Amex Personal Platinum Card, Amex Business Platinum Card, and earn two fee credits in a pretty short period. That’s because 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.
What this means is that 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. Within three weeks you’d potentially have $400 worth of airline credits.
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 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
If you have an American Express card with an airline fee credit, be sure you’ve used your 2017 credit, as the clock is ticking. If you don’t yet have one of these cards and are looking to get as good of a return as soon as possible, 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 weeks left in the year, I figured this was worth a reminder.