Reminder: now is a great time to apply for a credit card with an annual airline fee credit

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Several cards offer a $200 annual airline fee credit, and this time of year I think it’s always worth posting a reminder about how to maximize this.

To start, here are the cards I know of that offer a $200 annual airline fee credit:

The idea is that the fee credit can be used to offset airline fees charged to the card. But here’s the kicker — while credit card annual fees are charged on a rolling 12-month basis (meaning if you apply for a card now and pay the annual fee right away, you won’t pay another one till next November), these fee credits are based on calendar years. That means if you apply for any of the above cards you could take advantage of your first $200 airline fee credit as soon as you get the card, and then take advantage of the second $200 airline fee credit in January, for a total of $400 in airline fee credits just a couple of months after acquiring your card.

All of the American Express cards above come with airline lounge access, so look at this as paying $150 for an airline lounge membership with AMEX Centurion Lounges, Delta, and Priority Pass (not even factoring in all the other benefits). With the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card the airline fee credit more or less wipes out the annual fee, and you get a very nice welcome bonus plus Ritz-Carlton Gold status, which is more or less equivalent to Marriott Rewards Gold status.

Also keep in mind that in most cases the airline fee credits can be used to purchase airline gift cards, which to me are good as cash. The American Express forum on FlyerTalk has individual threads dedicated to reimbursement reports for each airline, including Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, and United. As you can see, 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.

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).

Filed Under: Advice, American Express
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  1. @ Milesquest; can you cancel after the anniversary without a fee if you’ve been using the card after the anniversary

    @ Lucky; Do all of these pay for Global Entry?
    Also, have you gotten two calendar year credits on one card? Seems like an unusual loophole.

  2. @beachfan – when I had the Amex Plat I used airline credit on Jan 1, credit showed up Jan 3, cancelled Jan 7 which was within my billing cycle to pay annual fee

  3. @ Milesquest

    Do you suggest waiting another few weeks if I want to do 3 credits within the annual cycle?

  4. I purchased 200$ on Oct 26th in 50.00AA gift card denomination and have not been credited. Maybe AX does not do that anymore.. 🙁

    AA MISC SALE/ TAX/ FDALLAS TX 200 dollars and.00 Cents

    Doing Business As
    Merchant Address

  5. I think it’s important to note that the Amex Platinum (or Rewards Gold) bonuses are unavailable to anyone who currently holds an Amex Green or Gold card or has in the last 90 days. If I was to cancel my Green acct, I would lose all my membership rewards points, right? So really, the only way to upgrade to the Gold/Plat products is to forego the bonus…. I gather the MB Amex is one way around this.

  6. @ Milesquest — First time I’ve heard that — wow!

    @ Jorge — I’d give it a few more days.

    @ Adam — Right, the MB Amex is one way around it, or otherwise you can apply for a business card before canceling the personal card, and then the points could be transferred to that Membership Rewards account.

  7. @ Adam

    Well that saves me a lot of trouble. I got rid of my Gold Card on 9/25. Seems unlikely that I could apply and receive a card in the last week of the year.

  8. @ jipjip — There’s no airline where you can book refundable tickets and be reimbursed, though with some airlines you can buy gift cards and be reimbursed. If you check the above linked threads you can see which airlines it seems to work on. They seem to include Alaska and American among others.

  9. @ Lucky;

    Are you saying that even though I cancelled an AMEX Gold business card within 90 days, and still have an AMEX Corp green card, the MB card will still give me a bonus?


  10. Like MilesQuest pointed out, December is a better month to get it. My plan is to get it the first week of December, to make my billing date around mid-December.

  11. Lucky, I got an AMEX Platinum in Oct of 2011. Bought $200 worth of USAirways cards and was reimursed, maybe in December of 2011. Through the rest of 2012, I was reimurbursed for $200 in baggage fees on USAirways. Now I have renewed. Could I do the same for this cycle with the card? Thank you, Jim

  12. @ beachfan — If it was a business card you’d be out of luck. Sorry, assumed it was a personal card you canceled. And the personal AmEx cards do come with the Global Entry fee waiver, by the way.

    @ Jim — Now that you’ve renewed you can use the credit for next year — you already used your credit for this year.

  13. I don’t see in the application link for the Mercedes Benz card where it states that it will also include $200 airline fee credit. Does this card actually offer the airline credit?

  14. @ Kris Ziel — Except award ticket taxes and gift cards are often reimbursed. I don’t usually pay fees either, but that doesn’t make the benefit useless.

  15. Hi Lucky,
    Do you know if award change fees get reimbursed? e.g. UA charges non-elite $75 for change in routing.

  16. Ameriprise World Elite MC also offers a credit, although its only $50 and then goes up to $200 once you meet a certain annual spend.

  17. I currently have a amex gold business and wanted to apply for the benz plt card. would i be able to receive the bonus?

  18. My Amex Plat is up for renewal later this month, and I need to act on it soon to figure out what I should do. I received the credit for 2011 and 2012, so I’m only out $50 right now. I love the lounge access so I could keep it and pay net $250 for all other benefits after the credit in 2013, or I could switch over to the MB card to get more MR points and get a second $200 credit in 2012….

    Would I sign up for the MR card and then cancel my regular plat card after I receive it? Or what should I do?

  19. @ Matt MSP — You’d definitely want to apply for the other card before you get rid of your current one, or else you would potentially forfeit your Membership Rewards points. I’d probably go for the Mercedes Benz Platinum card, as it gets you the $400 in credits over the next two years, and you should be eligible for the bonus again.

  20. Does the 200 spent on airline fees count towards the minimum spend, or does it get canceled out because of the credit/reimbursement?

  21. I have a question and am hoping you can offer some guidance-would you suggest the Amex premier gold or the platinum card? My main travel is to Japan-I have United and some ANA miles. It looks like I can transfer points to ANA? I couldn’t find an active link to the gold premier on your site but it looks like the platinum one works. Thanks for such a great blog

  22. @ Lola — Both are great cards. If your goal is to earn the greatest number of points possible I recommend the Premier Rewards Gold card. If your goal is to get those extra benefits like lounge access and the fee credit, I recommend the Platinum card. I have both precisely because of that — I find the Platinum card to be worthwhile exclusively for the benefits and virtually never spend money on it, while I use the Premier Rewards Gold card for spend, since it earns more points in virtually every category.

    So the short answer is that if earning the most points is your goal, I recommend the Premier Rewards Gold card, while the Platinum card cans till be worth it for the benefit.

    I should have an active link to the Premier Rewards Gold card here:

    It’s the fourth one down, just be sure you’re logged out before applying.

    Thanks and let me know if you have any other questions!

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