Amex Eliminates Airline Fee Credit for Gift Card Purchases

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In its efforts to cut costs, American Express closed a loophole that allowed cardholders to use their airline fee credit to reimburse gift cards purchased directly from the airline. Although the terms and conditions have always stated that gift cards are excluded from the credit, this had never been enforced for gift cards purchased in small denominations.

Reports first surfaced last month that Delta and Southwest gift-card purchases had stopped being reimbursed, and now American Airlines purchases are no longer triggering the credit. As far as we know this policy now applies to all airlines; however, if you know of an airline that has yet to be affected, please let us know in the comments.

Same Rules, New Enforcement

Not surprisingly, there has been no formal announcement or acknowledgment from American Express about this change. Since the gift card exclusion has always been explicitly noted in the terms and conditions, this is really a case of a new enforcement strategy rather than a policy change. On its page explaining the benefit, Amex states the following:

This benefit doesn't offer credit toward airline tickets, mileage points purchases or mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, upgrades, duty–free purchases, or award tickets

Before you can receive your fee credit, you need to select a preferred airline.

Based on data points reported on FlyerTalk—a popular points and miles forum—it seems that Amex has new systems for identifying gift-card purchases.  In several cases, cardholders made two airline purchases on the same day, one of which was an eligible airline-incidental fee and the other, a gift card. Several days later, the eligible fee was classified as an airline incidental, while the gift-card purchase earned no credit at all.

Cards Affected

Although reports are still coming in, it's safe to assume this applies to all Amex credit cards that provide some form of airline incidental credit as one of its perks. Popular cards in this group include:

$250 Airline Incedentals Credit

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Annual Fee$450
Welcome Bonus Earn 150,000 Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card
  • You'll receive complimentary top-tier Hilton Diamond status
  • A free weekend night certificate when approved for the card and each year after account anniversary, you'll also receive a second free weekend night certificate after spending $60,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership
  • $250 airline incidentals credit, $250 Hilton resort credit, and $100 credit at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties when booking an Aspire Card package
  • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly through select rental companies, and at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card

$200 Airline Incedentals Credit

The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms Apply)
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Annual Fee$550
Welcome Bonus Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Rates & Fees
  • 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms Apply)
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
Annual Fee$595
Welcome Bonus Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points. Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
  • Rates & Fees
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year
  • 1X point on other purchases
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.

$100 Airline Incedentals Credit

American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Gold Card
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms Apply)
American Express® Gold Card
Annual Fee$250
Welcome Bonus Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Rates & Fees
  • 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide.
  • 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X)
  • 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • 1X on other purchases
  • Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.

Our Take

This is disappointing news, and it takes a little of the shine off Amex cards offering these fee credits. When you consider that card issuers paid out 22.6 billion in travel rewards in 2016 (and Amex reported a 36% increase in rewards costs that year), it's not surprising they've stepped up their enforcement of the existing rules.  For many, it shouldn't be hard to burn through these credits—there's no shortage of “legitimate fees” like checked bags that should trigger a reimbursement. But Amex knows many won't bother to keep track.

If you add your Membership Rewards account to AwardWallet, you'll see your remaining Amex airline fee credit (and expiration date if you're an AwardWallet Plus member) in your list of accounts.

Looking for a card premium benefits and an easy-to-use airline fee credit? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a $300 travel credit that gets automatically reimbursed for any travel purchase.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Annual Fee$450
Welcome Bonus Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Chase's flagship Ultimate Rewards card. You get a $300 travel credit, airport lounge access courtesy of a Priority Pass membership and industry-leading travel insurance benefits. New cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening..
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit
  • 3X points on dining at restaurants
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Source: Doctor of Credit

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees)

Amex Eliminates Airline Fee Credit for Gift Card Purchases
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Comments

  • Even though his closes a loophole, the credit still remains to not all bad news

  • David Stone says:

    So what’s a good use of this credit now? I used it for Southwest gift cards before which was really nice. What do people use it for now? I already get free checked bags. In the last year of travel I haven’t had to pay incidental fees. I know people usually plan on paying them but in this case you have to pick an airline so you almost have to plan on it.

    • Exactly. If you’re a frequent traveller, chances are you have status and/or status benefits with the co-branded credit card. Amex either needs to make incidental credits apply to any airline and/or still make you select one airline but let it apply to any charge. CSR’s travel credit is so much easier – goodbye Amex.

    • In the past I have used the benefit to purchase lounge access on itineraries where I otherwise would not have had it.

  • First they go away with GCs purchases point and now this. Although there are many other perks, I’m finding less and less reasons to keep my Amex cards.

  • It sounds like Amex has just updated their systems to follow their already existing policy.

  • Pretty disappointing but shouldn’t really be surprising to anyone

  • Time to cancel…$550 a year was worth it with the AA gift certs and the Dell credits but without it isn’t worth the fee…have 3 cards that have priority pass

  • This really devalues amex’s benefits… I loved this benefit!

    • To be fair it wasn’t a benefit but tather a loophole. I still fully agree with you though that it certainly devalues the card.

  • This was a huge dissappoment by amex. This really devalues the Aspire card that is coming up for renewal in December.

  • Now I’m going to have to rethink the value I’m getting from my Amex cards… Thanks for the update!

  • This makes Amex too lucrative and restrictive to use the credits. Goodbye! CSR is now the only premium card in my wallet once the next annual fee comes due.

  • I was certainly only a matter of time. I certainly got plenty of mileage out of this deal to be happy. And I’ll have plenty of legitimate charges going forward for this to continue to be a useful benefit.

  • I canceled my Amex Platinum after 20 years because it just isn’t worth it anymore. Losing Admiral’s Club for me and family was huge, and I almost cancelled then, but I could justify it with the American gift cards even though other useful benefits are mostly duplicated with my Sapphire Reserve. And the Uber credit was useless since I only need Uber when I’m overseas, which isn’t included. Raising the fee was the final straw. Simply not worth it, especially when compared to the no-hassle Sapphire reimbursement of ALL travel expense, without me having to ask for it and the 3x miles for all travel and dining. Even Centurion Club was losing its lustre as Amex lets in all Golds who pay $50 so the clubs are usually packed. I miss the AAdvantage miles, but have another card for that. Disappointing and kind of sad to cut ties with Platinum after so long, but I’m extra glad I did now that the gift card loophole is closed.

    • I would be surprised if there are a bunch of Gold’s in the lounges. $50 seems a little too much to pay for a lounge even if it is Centurion. I always thought its all the Platinum card holders filling up the lounge since its so much better than the other ones we have access to. Though definitely cancelling my Platinum when the next annual fee hits too

  • I hope no one is upset over this. It was never allowed per the terms.. ya’ll just got away with it for a while.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    Sad for me. I have saved a lot of money on checked bag expenses in the past.

  • Andrew Choi says:

    I would also like to know if there are any airlines that have yet to be affected. thanks for the update on amex.

  • This is disappointing news. Guess I will use the credit on mileage boost.

  • Major devaluation here. Really reduces the value of the benefits

  • I wish Amex could just lower the annual fees on the cards and get rid of the airline fee credits altogether.

  • I only have one card this affects but it does affect me not being able to buy the gift cards. I do not need checked bag, and do not buy anything onboard – basically only seat assignment and just did that – but going from main cabin regular seat to purchasing a preferred seat – came up with Delta coding it as an upgrade and Amex does not pay for upgraded seat. I was able to call in and get the credit for it – but what a hassle if I have to do that each and every time.

  • In response to those who feel the card is no longer worth it, let me suggest, there are still many reasons to benefit from the card, that are within the program rules! My preferred airline is Delta, the value of the card is very apparent, especially, if, you use the Sky Club when traveling. As an added bonus, the Centurion and Escape Lounges are an extra bonus. This is especially true for ONT with its excellent Escape Lounges!

    • I think that really depends on which airports you fly out of. At larger hubs, you can use other lounges or PP restaurants so for me its mostly a nice add-on but not really must have. Given the other premium cards out there, AMEX really has to justify the Platinum’s fees and this just makes it a lot harder to do

  • This was bound to happen. Typical Amex Platinum holders happily use the credit only for actual incidentals and are ok leaving some on the table every year — this change only punishes those of us pushing the edge, who Amex doesn’t particularly want anyway.

  • M
    Amex took this AND Priority Lounge Restaurants away!!!
    Not sure it’s worth keeping Aspire🙄

  • It’s unfortunate that you can no longer by airline gift card. With the withdrawal of PP dining perks.
    I think it’s time to cancel the AMEX and seek alternative options ?

  • I think the statement in the article that most people would be able to burn/use the credit is not entirely correct. Most folks who have the platinum card are frequent travelers in which case they probably aren’t paying for baggage fees or seat fees so its pretty hard for them to use the credit. To me, this is just one of those things that doesn’t make sense as AmEx is actually punishing the frequent flyers/road warriors here who incidentally would actually put more spend on the cards.

  • Leonardo Cattani says:

    Really reduces the benefits 🙁

  • Shouldn’t really “take the shine” off a card when that was never the intention of AMEX for that to be an eligible way to get reimbursed. Can’t cry that they are actually enforcing the rules. Still shouldn’t be a problem to utilize the credits if you travel at all.

  • I wouldn’t say fixing something that they didn’t intend to have exist in the first place is really “eliminating”.

  • Amex has announcement about the gift card exclusion which has always been in place. It is a good reminder to so that we do not get surprise.

  • Terrible change. They should have let users use travel credit for any travel purchase-including airline ticket purchase on any airline.
    This credit was useless, to begin with. Amex will lose more customers.

  • Little by little they are going to tighten up

  • This is a huge blow. This has really offset my annual fees as I’m not traveling as much as I used to. Hopefully, we don’t continue to see other changes to the program as well.

  • another reason to leave amex

  • no problem with them enforcing the rules as stated

  • I was certainly one of those who used to use this for gift cards. It’s disappointing but not the end of the world. It can be used for change fees for flights (I don’t need it for bag fees or seat selection since I have status.) I also have heard it might be used for pet fees if I ever need to take my cat somewhere. I was going to wait until the end of the year and if I didn’t use it by then for those types of fees, I was going to figure out some way to use it –thanks to Lee Ann, I now know I might be able to use it for mileage boost: that is definitely better than letting it go to waste!

  • This is why I prefer CSR. Straightforward credit. No BS.

  • Darn — I think this is the last straw for me. The Amex fee was already hard to justify, but I rarely spend anything on airline incidentals, so keeping Amex doesn’t make sense anymore. Chase Sapphire Preferred is just more attractive in almost every way outside of Amex Concierge.

  • That is it. Now it will be Chase Sapphire Reserve for me.

  • Ouch. Looks like credit card companies are starting to tighten their belts a bit.

  • This is a major blow, I’m going to have to think twice about the value I’m getting from my Amex cards.

  • Personally, I felt like it was bound to happen…

  • Sorry to see this go but it was kind of expected, eventually

  • Thoughts on using the credit for Delta mileage booster instead?

    • Better than nothing? I’m thinking of doing the same with AA mileage boost. But going to wait until closer to end of the year to see if I can use it on another fee I’m going to pay anyway.

  • hmmm, thats a hidden benefit thats no longer available

  • Danny Nguyen says:

    It’s time to switch to the CSR. What advantage is there really left for the Amex Plat? The CSR is also primary car insurance coverage for car rentals.

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