Credit card travel or airline credits are among my favorite credit card benefits. Travel credits are a great way of getting value from a card to help justify paying an annual fee. I especially love travel credits that reset each calendar year. For cards with credits based on a calendar year you could open a card toward the end of a calendar year and earn 2 annual travel credits before paying a second annual fee. Obviously these annual travel credits are only valuable if maximized. They don’t help offset a card’s annual fee unless you fully use the travel credit each year.
Maximizing annual travel credits is easy with cards like the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve. Both of those cards have automatic annual travel credits which offset qualifying purchases. From the moment you open your account each qualifying purchase is automatically offset by available travel credits. Once you use all of your travel credits you’ll no longer see statement credits on your account. For cards like these I like to use the benefit right as it comes available each year. That way I never have to worry about making sure I use the card’s annual travel credit. For cards issued by American Express I tend to wait until later in the year to maximize this benefit. I tend to wait simply because American Express makes it so darn difficult to redeem each card’s airline credit each year.
American Express Airline Of Choice Program
Unlike other premium credit cards American Express only offers travel credits for purchases made with specific airlines. American Express calls this the Airline of Choice program. American Express requires eligible card holders to elect an “Airline of Choice” each year to receive certain benefits. Those benefits are only available with one airline each year. At the start of each you card members have the option of changing their airline of choice or sticking with their previous selection. Once you’ve selected an airline of choice you must stick to that choice until the beginning of the following year. Once you’ve selected your airline of choice you’ll receive the following benefits.
American Express Platinum Card Airline Of Choice Benefit
The $550 annual fee for the personal American Express Platinum card seems high, but the card comes with a $200 airline fee credit through the airline of choice program. Each year, after card members select an airline of choice they’ll receive $200 in statement credits to offset qualifying purchases with their airline of choice. Although this seems simple enough, the fine print for the program is overwhelming! In fact, the terms and conditions language is currently 468 words long!
If you take the time to read the fine print, you’ll basically be told that the benefit resets every calendar year and that only certain airline charges are eligible. Per American Express, the following do not qualify for the airline of choice $200 airline fee credit:
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.
Obviously that basically only leaves onboard purchases, baggage fees, and potentially airline lounge access. Because of these strict limits, I often find it difficult to use my airline of choice credits each year. Luckily, there is a work around that makes using the airline fee credit easy.
An “Easy” Way To Use The Airline Of Choice Benefit
Although the above language explicitly states airline gift cards are not considered eligible purchases, many find that smaller denomination gift cards end up counting as a qualifying purchase. As I found previously if you purchase $100 gift cards directly from your airline of choice American Express may apply the $200 airline fee credits to those purchases. Keep in mind, you must process these gift cards in two separate transactions. From my experience American Express won’t count $200 purchases, but will allow 2 separate $100 gift card purchases.
The above experience is only with American Airlines. Anyone who selects a different airline should be sure to visit FlyerTalk for more information.
Hopefully this serves as a reminder to some and an introduction to others of the American Express airline fee credit. Any new American Express card members may not be familiar with the airline of choice program. Either way, make sure to use your $200 airline of choice credits before the end of the year. If you fail to use your airline fee credits you’re simply throwing money away and reducing the value of the American Express Platinum card.
Featured Image Courtesy of American Express