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Maximizing Your Amex Airline Credit: A Complete Guide

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American Airlines airport check-in line
The Amex airline incidental fee credit can reimburse you for qualifying fees on one airline you select from a list of eight US carriers.Brandon Bell/Getty
  • Several premium American Express cards offer airline incidental fee credits** as a benefit.

  • Purchases that officially qualify include checked bag fees, seat selection fees, and lounge passes.

  • You'll receive statement credits up to a maximum per year after you make a qualifying purchase.

Introduction to Amex Airline Credit

Overview of the Airline Fee Credit

One of the most valuable benefits offered by premium American Express cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a yearly airline incidental fee credit. When you use your card to pay for extras like checked baggage, seat selection, or inflight purchases on one eligible airline of your choice, you'll receive a statement credit toward the charge, up to a certain amount each year.

Benefits of the Airline Credit

The maximum airline fee credits you can receive varies by card, but in all cases, the benefit resets at the end of the calendar year. They don't roll over to the next year; if you don't use them, you lose them.

Here's where things get a little tricky: American Express only publishes a partial list of airline fees that qualify for reimbursement. And although the terms and conditions for the benefit specifically exclude certain types of airline purchases, some cardholders have had success triggering the credit with transactions that aren't listed as eligible.

Eligible Amex Cards for Airline Credit

Cards Offering Airline Fee Credit

Depending on the Amex card you have, you'll receive up to a specified amount in airline incidental fee credits on your selected airline:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express — Up to $200 per calendar year

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express — Up to $200 per calendar year

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — Up to $250 per calendar year

When you open the card, Amex allows you to choose one airline from a list with which to use the credit, and you can change your selection each January. You can make your selection under the "Benefits" section in your Amex online account, through online chat, or by calling the number on the back of your card.

Selecting an Airline for Your Credit

Changing Your Selected Airline

Unofficially, it's possible to change your airline even if it's not January — in the past, many cardholders (self included) have been able to do so easily via online chat — but there's no guarantee this will always work. This can be handy if you've had a change of travel plans, or if it's near the end of the year and you want to use up the credit before it expires.

Once you've made your choice, you'll receive a statement credit toward eligible purchases made with the card on your selected airline, up to the yearly limit. The reimbursement typically posts within a few days of the transaction, although the terms say it can take up to four weeks.

Screenshot of Amex account showing $100 United Airlines fee purchase and reimbursement from airline fee credit.
American Express

Amex relies on airline transaction data to determine if a charge qualifies for the credit, so if you don't see a statement credit after four weeks, use online chat or call the number on the back of your card for help.

Eligible Expenses Covered by the Credit

In-flight Purchases

American Express is very clear about what will not qualify for the airline incidental fee reimbursement. According to the terms and conditions, you won't receive a credit for these types of purchases:

  • Airline tickets (basically, airfare)

  • Upgrades

  • Mileage points purchases

  • Mileage points transfer fees

  • Gift cards

  • Duty-free purchases

  • Award tickets

However, these exclusions haven't always been strictly enforced. For example, until mid-2019, gift card purchases from some airlines would trigger the reimbursement even though they weren't technically allowed. And some cardholders have reported receiving the credit for cheap airfare purchases (typically less than $100) on certain airlines. That doesn't mean similar purchases will work for you, so proceed with caution if you use the card to pay for a fee that isn't explicitly included.

Officially, the airline incidental fee credit reimbursement will cover the following charges:

  • Checked baggage fees (including overweight and oversize fees)

  • Itinerary change fees

  • Phone reservation fees

  • Pet flight fees

  • Seat assignment fees

  • In-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows and blankets, headphones)

  • Inflight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet, which isn't usually charged by the airline)

  • Airport lounge day passes and annual memberships

Anecdotal reports from cardmembers suggest other incidental fees — not mentioned by Amex — are also eligible, including priority boarding, award ticket cancellation, and mileage-redeposit fees. However, be aware that because such fees are not on the official list, you may have trouble getting reimbursement if it doesn't appear automatically.

Remember, these purchases only qualify if they're with your selected airline.

How to Use Your Amex Airline Credit

Some people still aren't traveling as much as they used to, so cardholders might find themselves unable to use all of their Amex airline fee credits right now. Because these credits are a good way to partially offset the hefty annual fees on these cards, it's natural to want to maximize them before they reset at the end of the year.

Even if you don't have immediate travel plans, here are a few options (all of which are officially eligible) for using up your Amex airline fee credit:

  • Pre-pay for checked baggage fees, seat assignment fees, or pet fees for flights you've booked later in the year (note that this won't work if you pay the fees at the same time you book the ticket — it has to be a separate charge)

  • Buy airport lounge passes for yourself or as a gift to use in the future (just be mindful of expiration dates)

  • Offer to pay for a friend or family member's checked bags or seat selection fees if they're traveling soon

If you are traveling but won't have any fees or purchases to make, you could always pay for someone else's bag fee at the check-in counter or treat your seatmate to an inflight beverage or snack. You'll have the satisfaction of using up your credits, and will make someone's day a little better at the same time.

FAQs

How do I select an airline for my Amex airline credit?

Log into your Amex account and navigate to the benefits section to select your preferred airline. Note that you can typically change your airline selection once per year in January.

What types of expenses are covered by the Amex airline credit?

The credit can be used for checked baggage fees, in-flight refreshments, and Wi-Fi, seat selection fees, and other incidentals. Note that ticket purchases, upgrades, and gift cards are usually not covered.

Can I use my airline credit for international flights?

Yes, as long as the charges are from the airline you've selected for your credit and fall under the eligible expense categories.

How do I know if my purchase has been credited?

Check your Amex account statement. Credits for eligible purchases typically appear within 2-4 weeks after the transaction.

What happens if I don't use my airline credit by the end of the year?

Unused credits do not roll over to the next year. It's important to utilize the full credit amount within the calendar year.

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