American Express's airline fee credit is one of the most popular benefits from Amex's premium credit cards that can help offset the cards' high annual fees. This perk is intended to cover airline incidental charges, such as checked bags or in-flight refreshments. But as with many things in the points & miles world, folks have found other (and better) uses for these credits.
This ToP Guide covers everything you need to know about the Amex airline fee credits, including which cards offer this benefit, which airlines you can use it with, how the credit works, and what kinds of other purchases can trigger the credit, depending on the airline.
Which Cards Offer an Airline Fee Credit?
Currently, these three Amex cards offer an annual airline fee credit:
- Platinum Card from American Express ($595 annual fee) (review)
- Business Platinum Card from American Express ($650 annual fee) (review)
- American Express Hilton Aspire Card ($450 annual fee) (review)
The Hilton Aspire's airline fee credit covers up to $250 in incidental expenses, whereas the Amex Platinum and the Business Platinum cover up to $200. Otherwise, the airline fee credit benefit is the same for each of these cards.
Which Airlines Can You Select for the Airline Fee Credit?
Amex offers 8 airlines to choose from for using your fee credit (as of November 2022, Frontier Airlines is no longer available as an option):
- United Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- American Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Alaska Airlines
To select your airline, just click on the Benefits tab on Amex's website and find the airline fee credit. Click on that benefit and the website will prompt you to make your airline choice.
Once you have selected an airline, you cannot change it for the rest of the calendar year. You can change your airline once per year in January. In the past, Amex has allowed folks to change their airline later in the year as long as none of the credits had been used so far in the year. This is by no means guaranteed and very much YMMV. If you do not change your airline in January, then your selected airline remains the same as from the previous year with no action required on your part.
If you have multiple cards that offer the airline fee credit, you can select a different airline for each card.
You shouldn't take your selection lightly, since you can't change it for the rest of the year. One approach is to select whatever airline you fly the most. This might seem like an obvious choice, but it might not be the most helpful. If you have status with that airline, you'll likely have free checked bags, preferred seating, and other perks that you won't need to pay cash for. So what would you use the Amex airline fee credit for with that airline?
That's why some folks prefer to select an airline they fly less often. So that in the rare occasion that you have to fly a different airline, you can get such things as checked bags and preferred seating for free without relying on status.
Yet another approach is to select the airline with which the credit is easiest to use. As we discuss below, different purchases with different airlines can trigger the credit even despite not falling within Amex's terms & conditions.
There is no right or wrong approach. Just give it some thought before making your selection. Lastly, keep in mind that if you're selecting an airline with the Business Platinum card, that airline will also be your airline of choice for the 35% points rebate benefit.
How Does the Airline Fee Credit Work?
The airline fee credit itself is quite simple. Once you've selected your airline, any qualifying purchase will trigger the credit. The credit works with purchases by the primary cardholder or any authorized user or, in the case of the Business Platinum card, employee cards.
To trigger the airline fee credit, the purchase must be processed by the airline. For example, if you purchase in-flight Wi-Fi and the purchase is processed by the vendor instead of the airline, the purchase will not trigger the credit.
The terms & conditions make it clear that purchases charged before you select your airline are not eligible for the fee credit.
According to the T&Cs, statement credits take between 6 and 8 weeks to post. But in practice, they often post a lot faster; sometimes, in a matter of days. That said, they can take a couple of weeks at times.
What Purchases Does the Airline Fee Credit Cover?
According to the T&Cs, the following purchases are not considered incidental fees: “airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets.”
But in practice, this varies widely depending on the airline. Before we get into how you can maximize the credit with each airline, remember this: if you purchase something listed above and it doesn't trigger the credit, do not call Amex. That purchase isn't supposed to work in the first place, so calling Amex will do you no good. The T&Cs make clear what
doesn't shouldn't count.
Good resources for checking on the latest data points for what works and what doesn't include FlyerTalk and Reddit. Make sure to search either of these for recent data.
Southwest Airlines (WN)
Southwest is one of the easiest airlines to trigger the credit. The usual things that would trigger the credit include overweight bag fees, Early Bird Check In, Upgraded Boarding, and pet fees.
But you can also trigger the airline fee credit with purchases that are under $100. These include actual airfare. So if you find a cheap flight for under $100, you can charge it to your card directly (assuming you selected Southwest as your airline) and you'll receive a statement credit.
If you want to book a flight that costs more than $100, you can first book a couple of flights for under $100 each, and then cancel both of them for Southwest travel funds. Then, book the flight you want and pay for it with those travel funds.
You can also use the airline fee credit for award bookings with Southwest. Southwest charges $5.60 in fees for domestic award bookings. Fees for international flights are a bit higher. These fees will also trigger the fee credit.
If you have the Southwest Companion Pass, then selecting Southwest as your airline is an excellent option.
United Airlines (UA)
United Airlines is another easy option. Officially, the fee credit applies to such things as checked bags and in-flight refreshments. But the United TravelBank is by far the easiest way to essentially turn your credits virtually into cash.
United TravelBank lets you add money to your United account and then use those funds as payment on United's website or on their mobile app. You can use TravelBank Cash alone or in combination with other forms of payment to pay for flights on United.
TravelBank deposits of up $50 or $100 are known to trigger the airline fee credit. It's as simple as that.
In the past, United TravelBank has been unavailable for brief periods of time. This is a good reminder that none of these methods are ever guaranteed to stick around indefinitely. Best to avoid procrastinating with your airline fee credits!
Lastly, United Club lounge access also will usually trigger the credit.
JetBlue Airways (B6)
JetBlue is another easy option that works much like Southwest. Fares under $100 on JetBlue typically will trigger the credit, just like Southwest, even though it codes as airfare rather than an incidental charge.
Even More Space seating on JetBlue also usually trigger the credit, even though Amex's T&Cs exclude seat upgrades.
Delta Air Lines (DL)
Delta is another pretty easy alternative. The most common option with Delta is to use an existing gift card or flight credit and pay the balance with your Amex card to trigger the credit. The balance paid has to be under $250 for this to work. When the purchase is processed, Delta adds an “additional collection” to the transaction instead of showing a fare booking like regular airfare purchases.
Delta Sky Club access also usually triggers the statement credit.
Alaska Airlines (AS)
Alaska is much tougher to use. We have seen data points of award redeposit fees and seat selection fees working to trigger the credit. Alaska Lounge access also typically triggers the statement credit.
American Airlines (AA)
American is another tough airline to use your credits with, and by far the hardest among the US big 3. Day passes to Admirals Club lounges have consistently triggered the credit, as well as premium food and drink purchased at the Admirals Club. We have also seen DPs of seat selection fees purchased at airport kiosks.
Spirit Airlines (NK)
Spirit charges a fee for just about anything other than the basic fare, making it a decent option as an airline selection. In addition to fees for checked bags and carry-ons (which are covered in Amex's T&Cs), you can also use the credit to cover a Spirit Saver$ Club membership. Spirit's Saver$ Club offers access to lower fares and discounted prices on bags, seats, and other perks. Essentially, using the airline fee credit to cover a Saver$ Club membership is an indirect way to use the credit towards airfare, since Saver$ Club will save you cash on your Spirit flights.
Hawaiian Airlines (HA)
We have seen reports of airfare under $50 working. But unless you're planning on taking some intra-Hawaii flights, this is unlikely to be helpful in the long run.
Amex's airline fee credit can be almost as good as cash when you think outside the box of how to use it. As with many things in points & miles, what works today may not work tomorrow. So don't procrastinate with your airline fee credits!
What is your favorite airline for redeeming your airline fee credits? Come share your thoughts in our Facebook group!