How to Maximize Your American Express Air Travel Credit

by joeheg

One of the benefits of having a premium American Express charge card is a yearly Air Travel Credit. If you have an American Express Personal or Business Platinum, you get a $200 credit. This credit has often been touted as an easy way to offset the high annual fees of these cards, but I don’t say that as I never felt these credits were the same as cash.

AMEX has deliberately eliminated various methods to convert Air Travel credits into funds saved for later use. So, what are these credits good for, and which airlines are they most beneficial for? Surprisingly, not the airlines you might assume.

Here are the airlines on which you can use the credit:

  • Alaska
  • American
  • Delta
  • Hawaiian
  • JetBlue
  • Spirit
  • Southwest
  • United

Note that you can only receive the fee credit for one airline. You must choose the airline after card approval and can switch once a year in January.

Instead of telling you what’s covered, AMEX says that airline fees charged directly by the airline are reimbursable, except for the following expenses:

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

That leaves charges like these as ones you can use your credits for:

  • Ticket change fees
  • Lounge day passes
  • Lounge memberships
  • Checked bag fees (including overweight/oversized bag fees)
  • Seat assignments
  • In-flight fees (food and drinks purchased onboard)

If you’re buying a lounge membership with Delta, United, American, Alaska, or Hawaiian, then this might be a good way to use that credit. But if you fly any of those airlines enough to value a lounge membership, then you might already get that access for free. The same goes for checked bag fees and seat assignments.

In my opinion, the best airlines to use the credits on are JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit.

OK, OK, put the pitchforks away and hear me out.

Which airlines are more likely to charge a lot of additional fees, such as checked bag fees and seat assignments? If you come across a low-cost fare with one of these airlines during one of their frequent fare sales, it’s a good way to enhance your flight experience.

Besides checked bag and seat assignment fees, here are a few things I’d consider using the AMEX Air Travel Credit for.

For any fee to trigger the AMEX credit, you need to book your flight first. Then you can go back into your reservation to buy the additional services.

Selecting these airlines seems counterintuitive. doesn’t it? The airlines where you can get the most value from your Air Travel Credit are the airlines least likely for those with these cards to fly on.

If you have a card with an airline fee credit,  the AMEX credits reset at the beginning of the year. You have until the end of January to select your airline for the year. During the year, if you haven’t used any of the credit yet, you might be able to change airlines by asking AMEX. However, there is no guarantee that they will approve your request.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Mike B January 21, 2024 - 8:17 am

The Hilton Aspire no longer has a $250 credit.

joeheg January 21, 2024 - 9:11 am

Thanks for catching that oversight.


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