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Back in 2010, American Express launched an innovative first for premium rewards cards, introducing a $200 airline fee credit to The Platinum Card® from American Express to cover the costs of checked bags, in-flight food, airfare change fees, lounge passes, and more.
While groundbreaking at the time of its release, the $200 Annual Airline Credit from Amex has been somewhat overshadowed by more lucrative offers from rival cards the Citi Prestige® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offer higher annual credits and a much broader range of eligible purchases.
We recently covered the Sapphire Reserve $300 Annual Travel Credit in detail, along with the $250 Citi Prestige Annual Travel Credit, and in this post, we’ll explain the American Express Airline Fee Credit. What it covers, which cards provide it as a benefit, and how to ensure cardholders are extracting maximum value from the travel credit to offset the higher cost of holding a premium travel rewards card.
Which Amex Cards Offer the American Express Airline Credit?
Amex offers an Annual Airline Credit (issued as a statement credit) across four separate rewards cards.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — $200 annual Airline Fee Credit
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express — $200 annual Airline Fee Credit
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — $250 annual Airline Fee Credit
While the travel credit differs between the Hilton Aspire card and the two Platinum cards, the airline credit’s do share common definitions and cover the same items. Our current number one in the Amex stable of rewards cards is the Business Platinum Card.
- Welcome Offer: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Plus, 0% Intro APR for 12 months from the date of the account opening on purchases eligible for Pay Over Time. After that, your APR will be 14.24% to 22.24% based on your credit worthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
- Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
- Earn 1.5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases in key business categories, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else. Cap applies.
- Unlock over $1,000 in value per year for statement credits on select purchases with your Card, including up to $400 with Dell Technologies, up to $360 with Indeed, up to $150 with Adobe and up to $120 on wireless telephone purchases. Enrollment required.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year toward baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
- Access to more than 1,300 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting with The American Express Global Lounge Collection®. More lounge options than any other credit card on the market as of 8/2020.
- $595 Annual Fee ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022).
- Terms Apply.
- Rates & Fees
- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
- Earn 1.5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more.
- Earn 1.5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases with U.S. construction material and hardware suppliers.
- Earn 1.5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases with U.S. electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers.
- Earn 1.5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases with U.S. shipping providers.
- 1.5X earning rates are subject to a cap of $2 million in purchases per calendar year.
What Will Amex Credit as a Travel Purchase?
The first thing to note with the Amex Airline Credit is that it will only credit purchases from your nominated airline, so if you haven’t already done so, head over to the Airline Choice page on Amex's website and select the airline with which you're most likely to take full advantage of the airline credit. You only get to change this selection once per year, so it pays to think about your decision when making your selection.
The Amex Airline Credit is not as wide-ranging as its Citi and Chase counterparts, but can still be used for a wide variety of airline incidentals and amenities. The T&C’s explicitly state that “Incidental air travel fees must be separate charges from airline ticket charges,” and list the following charges as not eligible for the airline credit.
- Airline tickets
- Mileage points purchases
- Mileage points transfer fees
- Gift cards
- Duty-free purchases
- Award tickets
In theory, that should cover any other purchase made directly with a cardholder's nominated airline. However, any charges from a third-party provider such as Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi will not be eligible for a statement credit as they aren't provided by the airline.
The benefit terms state:
“The airline must submit the charge under the appropriate merchant code, industry code, or required service or product identifier for the charge to be recognized as an incidental air travel fee.”
Airline incidentals that credit towards the Amex Airline Credit includes:
- Airline change fees
- Airport lounge day passes & annual memberships
- Booking fees
- Checked baggage fees
- In-flight fees and entertainment
- Seat assignment fees
Will Airline Purchases on Amex Card’s Credit Automatically?
Yes, as long as the transaction credits correctly from the merchant. As per the Amex website:
“Please allow 2-4 weeks after the qualifying incidental air travel fee is charged to your Card Account for statement credit(s) to be posted to the Account. We rely on airlines to submit the correct information on airline transactions, so please call the number on the back of the Card if statement credits have not posted after 4 weeks from the date of purchase.”
Historically, purchases on your Amex card that are eligible for a statement credit still count towards minimum spend and earn points, but this is not set down in the card benefits and is worth a call to Amex if you are unsure of meeting minimum spend requirements, or reaching a promotional spend threshold.
Claim the American Express Annual Airline Credit Twice in the First Year
One of the big benefits of the Amex Airline Credit is that it can be claimed twice in the first cardholder year, this is due to the credit resetting at the start of every calendar year, January 1, rather than cardholder year.
If you time your application right, the airline credit can be claimed once during the first calendar year as a cardmember, and again before the annual fee falls due on your account anniversary. For the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card card, this puts your first year as a cardholder in net positive territory as far as ‘out of pocket’ expenses go.
While the Amex Annual Airline Credit may be looking a little dated when compared directly with credits from the Sapphire Reserve or the Prestige Card, it still offers a fantastic way of claiming incidental fees and costs back via statement credits, and if used to full effect, will reduce the out of pocket expense for holding on to a premium rewards card by a significant margin.
If you have any interesting data points on purchases Amex has credited via the Airline Credit, let us know in the comments below.
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)
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