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How To Use Your Amex Airline Incidental Fee Credits

- Nov 30, 2020 Credit Card Info0 comments

Update 03/11/21: AA airfare under $100 not working

Updated 02/2121: United Travel bank working again

Updated 01/19/21: As per many reports United Travel Bank is no longer working.

So the year’s almost up and we’re getting lots of questions about how to use the airline fee credits quickly, before they expire. Let’s “fly” right in!

Many Amex cards offer a credit called “airline incidental fee reimbursement”.

Incidental charges- what are they?

Incidental fees are costs of items and/or services that are not part of the main bill. There are fees that you pay out of your own pocket that you can get covered through your credit card provider. (No, you can not purchase the cockpit. Nor the plane, for that matter. Hey! Don’t “fly” off the handle!)

Amex travel credit

American Express Platinum Personal and business cards offer up to $200 per year in airline fee reimbursements. Similarly, the Amex Gold card offers up to $100 per year in airline fee reimbursements and the Hilton Aspire offers up to $250 per year in airline fee reimbursements.

Amex airline fee credits are offered by calendar year. For example, Platinum cardholders can get up to $200 in fee credits for charges made up until December of this year, and $200 more for charges made from January of the next calendar year. It’s a “use it or lose it”  situation. (Which is why, as mentioned above, the question coming in now is “How can I use my credits quickly, before the calendar year is up?”).

Let’s discuss how they can be used:

Before getting started, you need to make sure to select the airline where you would like to redeem the credit. These credits will only work on the one airline of your choice, which you can choose once per year- in January. (As a courtesy, Amex will very often allow you to change the airline even mid-year). 

To choose an airline, go to www.americanexpress.com/airlinecreditchoice.  

You can choose any of the following US Airlines

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

Legitimate & eligible purchases

Legitimate incidental fees can be any of the following:

  • Baggage fees (extra luggage, overweight, etc)
  • Flight change fees or award redeposit fees
  • Airport lounge passes or memberships
  • Seat upgrades
  • In-flight beverages and food
  • WIFI -only with United Airlines. 
  • Pet fees
  • Phone reservation fees

What purchase will get reimbursed, even if they are not included in incidental fees?

In the past, it was very easy to maximize the credit – even on non-incidental fees. How? Purchasing airline gift cards (or some other non-incidental fees) triggered the incidental fee credit, for some reason. You were able to max out the credit without even stepping foot onto a plane. (For ex, you were able to buy a Delta gift card and cash it at Cardpool)

Now, before you start building castles in the “air”, just know that Amex has cracked down on most non-legit ways of using the credits.  

Here are some non-incidental fees that STILL work. (Listed per airline)

American Airlines

  • Award taxes and fees under $5.60
  • AA 5 star service ($350 for the first person; $100 per additional adult; $50 per child)
  • Mileage multiplier purchases
  • Purchased AA 500 mile upgrade

Delta Airlines

  • Delta gift cards of $50 or less purchased in a Delta lounge (according to some data points)
  • Award fees 
  • Companion fare taxes
  • Mileage booster
  • Small-dollar amount airfare or split airfare purchases (less than $200)

Alaska Airlines

  • Award redeposit fees 
  • Split fare purchases of less than $100 (paying part by gift card and less then $100 by credit card)

JetBlue Airlines

  • Airfare under $150
  • Award taxes and  fees

Spirit Airlines

$9 Spirit Fare Club membership

United Airlines

  • Award fees
  • (Update 02/21/20 it’s working again) Funding your United Travel bank account
  • Inflight Wifi

Southwest Airlines

  • Airfare or split airfare under $100
  • Awards fees

Frontier Airlines

  • Discount Den membership
  • Airfare under $100

Hawaiin Airlines

Airfare or split airfare under $50

Why you should NOT redeem the credits with the airline you fly most with

You may assume that the airline you fly most frequently with, should be the one you select when redeeming your credits. Not necessarily! The reason why it’s not recommended is because many fees are waived if you have elite status. You might want to consider an airline that you don’t use too often, but where it’s still possible to incur at least $200 in fees each year.

For example, let’s say you fly most often with United and here and there, you fly with American Airlines. Although you might end up getting a $200 reimbursement from United, you may have gotten it either way, if you have elite status. 

Donating extra credits

In the past (and this year as well), I donated my Platinum and Gold extra credits to a great organization called Miles For Life. The credits benefit sick kids who need to fly for medical emergencies. They will cover the airfare through donated miles and use these incidental fee credits to cover expenses like extra baggage seat upgrades etc, to help the sick fly more comfortably, for free. For me, personally, this is the best thing I can do with my unused credits. If you want to donate your credits visit them on the web milesforlife.org

Good luck redeeming your incidental fees!

Frequently asked questions
How can I use the Amex airline fee credits when I can’t travel?
You can donate it to the organization Miles For Life. They use the credit to help sick people fly comfortably, for free.
Can I use the Amex airline credit for gift cards?
This option used to be available, but unfortunately, it no longer is (since mid-2019). See the above question for options on using the credit fee if not traveling.
How do I select the airline to redeem credits with?
Log in to your Amex account a. Select Benefits b. Select Airline Fee Credits c. Click Learn More d. Select airline All done! Every January, log in to your Amex account and select the airline of your choice.It will automatically use the airline you checked off the previous year, unless you change it manually.

Was this article helpful?

Sam Sam has nearly a decade's worth of experience educating his many readers on everything credit. Sam spends his days checking out credit cards for a full report, from the minute benefit details to the shebang of welcome bonuses. Plus studying the ins and outs of building proper credit. It’s his favorite pastime and he loves sharing it with others.

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