Happy new year!

One of the few good things about the new year in our part of the world (given that most elite counters are reset) is that those of us with American Express Platinum cards get a new $200 airline fee credit.

Here are the American Express cards with annual airline fee credits:

You have to designate an airline for your annual fee credit, which can be done at americanexpress.com/airlinechoice. Once you log in it will give you the option to change your preferred airline. If you want to keep the same airline as last year, then you don’t need to do anything.

The terms and conditions state that airline fee credits exclude the following:

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.

Anecdotally, however, many report having luck purchasing airline gift cards and having those reimbursed. For example, last year I purchased two $100 American Airlines gift cards, and they were reimbursed three days later.


I had similar luck the year before, whereby the amounts were reimbursed within a few days.

The American Express forum on FlyerTalk has individual threads dedicated to reimbursement reports for each airline, including Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, United, and US Airways. As you can see, anecdotally these credits can be used for a wide variety of things, from lounge memberships, to cancellation fees, to status challenge fees, to (in many cases) gift cards.

Anyway, I just purchased two $100 American Airlines gift cards and will report back on whether they get reimbursed. This is why the $450 annual fee on the Platinum card is no big deal to me for the first year — the airline fee credit is based on a calendar year, while the annual fee is based on the card member year, so it’s easy to squeeze two airline fee credits out of a single annual fee. And beyond that it essentially lowers my out of pocket on the Platinum Card to $250 per year after that, which I find worthwhile for all the benefits.

(In the interest of full disclosure I earn a referral bonus on some of the above links — thanks for your support!)

  1. January 1st, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Kevin said,

    The $450 fee is a no-brainer if you use the Amex Fine Hotels program. Free late checkout (eliminating half-day fees at resorts), free breakfast at all hotels, usually a $100 meal or spa credit, room upgrade if available. I offset that $450 by the end of January each year. The gift card is an interesting idea – I’ll try if you report it works.

  2. January 1st, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Jason said,

    Words of warning: I switched to American Airlines this year, and I tried buying gift cards today. It said they’re no longer selling gift cards to New Jersey residents. I was also burned last year with United. You can’t use more than one gift card on a purchase so the $200 can’t be used all at once unless you can manage to get a single $200 gift card reimbursed.

  3. January 1st, 2014 at 9:49 am

    MilesAbound said,

    There is a 25k signup link for the Business Plat, just go to open.com and click on View all Cards.

  4. January 1st, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Leonard said,

    I think this Amex award is worthless. I don’t want to play games with choosing which airline to get a one time 200. Credit. I have an Amex card for the perks ,the status having a more expensive card provides. I have lost more in terms of value over the past few years than I have gained. If the $200 was importanti would not have the Amex card to begin with. My favorite Amex card and as long as there are no changes will not give up is the SPG card. I also have a centurion card and if they don’t find something other than a 200 credit this card has lost too much value. Maybe they should consider offering double points on all purchases on the centurian card. The platinum card was eliminated long ago and chase with the ultimate rewards has a much better set of options. (In my opinion)

  5. January 1st, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Carlos Mendia said,

    I got reimburse by AMEX on my Delta gift cards purchased last week

  6. January 1st, 2014 at 11:41 am

    mangoceviche said,

    Lucky- it is true that if i cancel my amex plat and open a no annual fee points earning card, i get to keep my membership rewards points? then in the future if i have another membership rewards card, those points can be transferred to mileage programs?

  7. January 1st, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Will said,

    Terms and Conditions

    “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”

    Anyone know if this has changed from last year?

  8. January 1st, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    lucky said,

    @ mangoceviche — You do get to keep the Membership Rewards points, but if it’s a no annual fee card then they’re “basic” Membership Rewards points which can’t be transferred to airlines. If you later get a “premium” card again those points once again become transferable.

  9. January 1st, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Will — Nope, as far as I know those are the same terms as last year.

  10. January 1st, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    mo said,

    Does it matter if its regular (physical) gift cards vs. e gift cards? Thanks

  11. January 1st, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Sean said,

    Don’t know about new year but just last week I bought delta e-certs and apx 72 hours later were reimbursed.

  12. January 1st, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    lucky said,

    @ mo — With American I purchased virtual gift cards.

  13. January 1st, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    jason said,

    not sure why the need to buy giftcards? when you book award tickets and pay the taxes, those can be covered with the $200 credit as well…

  14. January 1st, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Nick said,

    I’m concerned that they are posting differently than the “Misc Sale”. The pending payment merchant identifies it as “Air – Travel”. Any thoughts if this has been the case and it will revert once posted?

  15. January 1st, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Jorge said,

    Well this year I may buy the Admirals Club for we lose it in March (late ). I live in Miami and it is the only one we really use ( the other lounges are horrible ). Plus I fly AA.

    Will see…

  16. January 2nd, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Joel said,

    @Nick: AMEX listed my AA gift card purchase as “Air – Travel” when pending but once it posted, “Misc Sale” was the code used. This was just a few days ago as I was getting my 2013 credit.

  17. January 2nd, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Al said,

    Lucky please keep us posted on your results. I plan to do the $200 AA virtual GC like you but want to make sure you have success first. Thanks.

  18. January 3rd, 2014 at 5:37 am

    Tyler said,

    Lucky – Bought $200 in GC, got reimbursed but have no use for them because its an airline I won’t be flying this year (Delta). How do I go about selling them. Cardpool.com isn’t working right now and I want to make sure its a reputable site before I put in the GC #. Thanks!

  19. January 3rd, 2014 at 6:13 am

    Albert said,

    Also is there a reason why you went with two $100 virtual Gc instead of one $200 virtual Gc?

  20. January 3rd, 2014 at 6:15 am

    lucky said,

    @ Albert — Generally the smaller the amounts the better chance of getting a refund, for what it’s worth. Smaller amounts are viewed as “fees.” That’s not to say a $200 gift card wouldn’t have worked, but I wanted to be on the safe side.

  21. January 3rd, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Nick said,

    @Joel: Thanks.

    @Al: Just posted as “MISC SALE…” as per Lucky’s 2012/13 screenshots. Will update in two days when I expect reimbursement will post. May be delayed by weekend though.

    @Lucky, my recollection from reading is that we can use up to 8 GCs towards a single reservation?

  22. January 3rd, 2014 at 7:10 am

    lucky said,

    @ Nick — That’s correct, you can redeem up to eight per reservation.

  23. January 5th, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Ben said,

    My purchase of DL eGift Certs was reimbursed within 4 days.

  24. January 5th, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Nick said,

    @Al, et al: AA gifts card reimbursements are posting mid-day today (5th) for those who purchased on the 1st.

    I did $50 increments.

    @Lucky: Thoughts on holding this card until mid-March (and paying partial year fee of $75) to:
    A) get SPG gold for another year
    B) get another $200 in gift cards off of the AA deal

  25. January 5th, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    mangoceviche said,

    bot 2 $100 gift cards on 1/1 and reimbursement posted today.

    @Nick how do u get another 200 by holding the card until march? i thought amex reimburses up to 200 per calendar year.

  26. January 6th, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Ed said,

    How soon after making your airline designation does it “kick in”? Immediate? Same day?

  27. January 6th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Nick said,

    @mangoceviche: with the cancellation of the AA lounge benefit, I was offered an additional $200 (most were, or $500). I’m wondering if I could apply that to gift cards if it would be processed in a similar manner.

  28. January 6th, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Ed — In my experience it’s immediate.

  29. January 9th, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Andy said,

    Quick Question

    For those who purchased Delta egift cards and were reimbursed, what was the “Document Type” listed on my list of charges

    I purchased a 50 dollar egift card and it posted on 1/7 as a “PASSENGER TICKET” for document type. I have not received a reimbursement yet.

    Wondering if those were successful had a different document type listed

  30. January 15th, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    katie said,

    So if I purchased an airline ticket on my AMEX for 254.00 I will be getting reimbursed $200? Or does it have to be an exact amount of $200? Should I purchase gift cards then by my ticket with those and get the reimbursement?

  31. January 15th, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    lucky said,

    @ katie — Airline tickets typically won’t qualify for reimbursement.

  32. January 15th, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    katie said,

    @ lucky, thank you. i will purchase gift cards!

  33. January 17th, 2014 at 6:28 am

    johnny said,

    I brought $150 United Gift Certificate on Jan 13th, I showed up on Amex as
    Category – Travel Airline

    I still have not received the credit. Not sure if Travel Airline means Air Ticket?

  34. January 17th, 2014 at 6:29 am

    lucky said,

    @ johnny — Did you select United as your preferred carrier for reimbursement? If so I’d give it another couple of days.

  35. January 17th, 2014 at 6:36 am

    johnny said,

    Yup, same as last year..
    I compared how this year’s transaction posted vs last year

    In 2013: The gift card transaction posted as Document Type: SPECIAL SERVICE TICKET
    (got credit within 24 hrs)

    In 2014: The gift card posted as
    Document Type: PASSENGER TICKET

    does not look good, will start a chat with Amex and see if they can help.

  36. January 18th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Michele said,

    I purchased $200 of United Gift Certificates on Jan. 8th. No credit yet and it is 10 days later. I will wait until 2 weeks and probably cancel my card if they are not willing to issue a credit. It’s frustrating to be out $200 and then pay an annual fee of $450. Why issue a credit that is so difficult to use ? They really are not giving you anything. Last year I had no problem. My charge posted a recipient gift /passenger ticket. Please let me know if anyone else has luck communicating with Amex. They don’t seem as helpful as they used to be.

  37. January 18th, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Kara said,

    I purchased $200 UA e-GC in December and it was not credited. Without that it doesn’t look like the card will be worth me keeping it. Would love to hear if anyone has any luck with AMEX.

  38. January 19th, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Michele said,

    Has anyone has success getting United Airlines to refund the GC if American Express will not give a credit to the account ?

  39. January 20th, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Jason Chiu said,

    Bought a $200 Delta gift card last Friday (1/17). Checked my account and it shows passenger ticket as well. So I called Amex customer service. They say it would take 14 days to refund. Tell me that I can call them for help if I don’t get the refund after 14 days.

  40. January 20th, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Ivan Y said,

    For United, I got refunded three weeks ago for a Gift Registry purchase while others were not getting Gift Certificates refunded. Check the UA FT thread on this topic to see if anything has changed.

  41. January 21st, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Michele said,

    Ivan, Can you explain what a gift registry purchase is ?

  42. January 21st, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Ivan Y said,

    @ Michele — a Gift Registry allows multiple people to contribute to recipient’s Travel Bank. You want a Cash GR on this page — http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/products/travelproducts/Pages/CashGiftRegistry.aspx. It’s a simple two-step process: (1) set-up a registry for yourself and (2) contribute to it using Amex Plat.

    Besides charges being reimbursed (per http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-express-membership-rewards/1300452-200-airline-fee-reimbursement-reports-ua-only-55.html), one advantage is that you can combine purchases from multiple Plat cards into one pot as opposed to being restricted to using one $200 GC (because UA only allow 1 GC when making a purchase).

    The downside are more restrictive terms (see T&C on the page I linked). Probably the most obvious is inability to use GR to pay towards award tickets. But as long as you are going to buy a revenue ticket eventually, it should be OK.

    Also, I’d also try to make it less obvious to Amex by either splitting charges into two for some random amounts or going a bit above $200 in a single transaction. I did $21x.xx.

    Good luck! I just checked FT thread and it seems like it still works :)

  43. January 24th, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Becca said,

    Has anyone had luck using the credit for taxes on award tickets?

  44. January 24th, 2014 at 10:06 am

    lucky said,

    @ Becca — It really depends on the airline, though my guess would be no. You may want to check out the individual FlyerTalk threads for each airline to see if anyone else has had success though.

  45. April 14th, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Dylon said,

    But if you pay the $450 annual fee, then spend $200 at the airline, the credit only negates that $200 you just spent at the airline, still making it a $450 separate fee?

  46. April 15th, 2014 at 12:18 am

    lucky said,

    @ Dylon — Correct, you still pay the $450 fee.

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