American Express Airline Fee Credit Guide [Platinum, Gold, Aspire]

The American Express airline incidental fee credit, which is a benefit of the Platinum, Gold, and Hilton Aspire cards, can be difficult to use each year.

This post will cover everything you need to know about the annual fee credit and potential loopholes to take advantage of to ensure you can utilize the credit before the end of the year.

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    Choosing an Airline for Fee Credit

    You are required to choose an airline from the following list for American Express airline fee credit: 

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

    To select an airline, click this link and sign into your American Express account. 

    That link will take your directly to the page to choose your airline fee credit.

    You can switch between cards in the top right if you want to select the airline fee credit for your other eligible cards (Platinum, Hilton Aspire, or Gold). 

     

    Amex Select Card

    Charges to your account before selecting an airline are not eligible for the airline credit.

    The credit resets every calendar year, so if you don’t use the credit, it gets reset on January 1st.

    You can change your airline choice in January, but after January, you are stuck with your previous airline choice.

    But if you have never made an airline choice, you can make an airline selection at any time.

    The requirement that you are stuck with an airline for a year is one of the biggest disadvantages of the airline fee credit, especially when compared to the travel credits offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve or U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve, which work on anything travel related (flights, hotels, rental cars, tours, etc.).

    Delta A350
    Photo: Delta

    What Amex Cards Offer an Airline Fee Credit?

    There are several American Express cards that offer the airline fee credit including:

    American Express Platinum ($200 Credit)

    There are five versions of the American Express Platinum that offer an annual $200 airline fee credit: 

    The Platinum cards have a $550 annual fee, but offer valuable benefits airport lounge access at Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, Escape Lounges, Plaza Premium, and Priority Pass.
     
    Plus, the Platinum cards offer a $200 Uber/UberEats credit, $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, Global Entry credit, and valuable travel protections.
     
    The Business Platinum is slightly different with an annual fee of $595 and a $200 Dell credit instead of the the Uber and Saks credit.

    American Express Hilton Aspire ($250 Credit)

    The American Express Hilton Aspire Card offers an annual $250 airline fee credit.

    The Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee, but it comes with other valuable benefits such as Hilton Diamond elite status, a $250 Resort Credit, Priority Pass airport lounge access, and a free weekend hotel night.

    American Express Gold ($100 Credit)

    The American Express Gold Card offers an annual $100 airline fee credit. 

    The Gold Card has a $250 annual fee, but also comes with $120 dining credit and 4x points on dining and at grocery stores.

    American Express Gold Card

    What is Officially Covered by Fee Credit

    American Express does not provide a full list of the eligible charges considered “airline incidental fees,” but the charges below are typically covered by the airline fee credit.

    It is always best to pay for the fee separately from your airline ticket, which allows for automatic reimbursement by American Express. 

    You may still request manual reimbursement if American Express fails to automatically reimburse the fee.

    For example, it is cheaper to buy a carry-on or checked bag for Spirit, Allegiant, or Frontier upon booking, but those charges are typically bundled as a single charge with the airfare. You could then request reimbursement from to American Express of the charge via their Live Chat.

    Seat Assignment Fees

    Seat assignment fees for economy seats or premium economy seats are covered by the airline fee credit. 

    These premium economy upgrades that are covered are to:

    • Alaska’s Premium Class
    • American’s Main Cabin Extra
    • Delta Comfort+
    • JetBlue’s Even More Space
    • United’s Economy Plus
    • Spirit’s Big Front Seat
    However, upgrades from economy to first class are generally NOT covered by the annual fee credit.

    Bag Fees

    Checked bags and overweight bag fees are covered by the American Express airline fee credit.

    However, most airline credit cards already offer free checked bags for you and your travel companions. Below are the cards that offer free checked bags.

    The Bank of America Alaska cards get free bags for you and six travel companions on the same reservation:

    The Citi and Barclays credit cards get you a free checked bag for yourself and four travel companions on the same reservation:

    * You plus eight travel companions get free checked bags.

    The American Express Delta cards gets you free checked bags for yourself and eight travel companions on the same reservation:

    The primary cardholder of the Barclays Hawaiian Airlines Card gets a free checked bag when using the card to purchase a ticket directly from Hawaiian Airlines.

    The Barclays JetBlue cards offer a free checked bag for you and three travel companions:

    The Chase United credit cards offer free checked bags when you purchase the flight with the card. For most other airline cards, just holding the card entitles you to free checked bags, but United requires you to use the card to get the benefit.

    In-Flight Fees for Food, Drink, & Entertainment

    Charges for airline food, drinks, and entertainment trigger the airline fee credit.

    Charges for in-flight WiFi are generally only covered on United mainline flights, because all other airlines utilize third parties, such as Gogo, to process their WiFi services.

    Airport Lounge Memberships or Day Passes

    You can purchase an annual membership or day pass to an airport lounge and get it covered by the Amex airline fee credit. 

    Eligible lounges include:

    • Alaska Lounge
    • American Airlines Admirals Club
    • Delta SkyClub
    • United Club

    The American Express Platinum already offers Delta SkyClub access, so you don’t need to buy a membership if you have that card. However, if you want to bring guests, you can purchase access for $29 per person, and that fee will be covered if you selected Delta as your airline.

    Ticket Change Fees

    Fees to change your flight are covered by the American Express annual credit, but any fees for difference in airfare are typically not covered.

    Pet Fees

    If you want to fly with your dog, your American Express’ annual credit will cover the charge. Pet fees are typically $125-200, so the American Express credit can come in handy if your dog or cat needs to fly.

    Delta Comfort+
    Photo: Delta Comfort

    What is Officially Not Covered by Fee Credit

    The following fees are generally not covered by the American Express airline fee credit:

    • In-flight WiFi charges with third parties such as GoGo.
    • Incidental air travel fees charged prior to selection of a qualifying airline.
    • Airline tickets.
    • Upgrades (e.g. from Economy to First Class).
    • Mileage points purchases.
    • Mileage points transfer fees.
    • Gift cards.
    • Duty-free purchases
    • Taxes and fees for award tickets.

    What Unofficially Works for Fee Credit

    There are several different purchases that officially don’t qualify as reimbursable by the American Express airline credit, but nonetheless typically trigger the fee credit such as flights under $100 or upgrades.

    These purchases are not guaranteed to work, but we provided links to FlyerTalk forum topics on each credit, so that you can review recent data points to see if anything has recently changed.

    Alaska Airlines

    Alaska Airlines flights under $50 to $100 or flights purchased with a combination of Alaska wallet funds plus an American Express card sometimes trigger the American Express airline fee credit.

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    American Airlines

    The following charges on American Airlines typically trigger the American Express airline fee credit:

    • Main Cabin Extra seat selection.
    • Mileage multiplier.
    • 500 mile upgrades (Gold or Platinum elite status required)
    • Upgrades to first class.
    • Award fees and taxes (50% of time).
    • Admirals Club food and drinks.
    • Five Star Service.

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    Delta Airlines

    Delta flights paid with both a gift card and American Express card will sometimes trigger the American Express airline fee credit.

    Other reimbursable items include:

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    Frontier Airlines

    Frontier Airlines’ Discount Den ($59.99 per year) is typically reimbursable by the American Express airline fee credit.

    Occasionally, cheap Frontier Airlines flights are also reimbursable, but the success of that reimbursement is 50-50.

    However, if you purchased bags or other fees bundled with your ticket because its cheaper at booking, you likely will need to request manual reimbursement with American Express. 

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    Hawaiian Airlines

    Upgrades to Extra Comfort seats on Hawaiian Airlines and flights under $50 are typically reimbursable by the airline fee credit.

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    JetBlue Airways

    JetBlue tickets below $150, taxes for award flights, and Extra Legroom seats purchased separately are typically reimbursable by the American Express airline fee credit.

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    Spirit Airlines

    Spirit’s Big Front Seat and their $9 Fare Club ($59.95 per year) is reimbursable by the airline fee credit. 

    However, if you purchased bags or other fees bundled with your ticket because its cheaper at booking, you likely will need to request manual reimbursement with American Express. 

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    Southwest Airlines

    Southwest flights under $100 and “Early Bird” check-in are typically reimbursable by the American Express airline fee credit. 

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    United Airlines

    Funding your United TravelBank, which lets you use funds for flights in the future,  triggers the American Express airline fee credit.

    Other reimbursable items include:

    Recent Data Points: FlyerTalk.

    The Verdict

    The American Express airline fee credit is not as easy to use as other cards, but there are still several good options to utilize the annual fee credit. 

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