Amex Airline Credits Without Travel
The Coronavirus Pandemic has us all stuck at home with zero plans to travel in the near future, so can we use those Amex Airline credits without travel? YUP. This has made travel reward credit cards much less valuable and caused many to consider downgrading to no fee options. Annual Travel credits can be a source of pain for people paying big bucks for premium travel credit cards like the American Express Platinum Card, American Express Business Platinum Card and the Hilton Aspire. If people can get full value from their credits, it helps to offset the annual fees. So what’s the big deal? The fees and charges officially covered by the Amex Airline fee credit are pretty much impossible to use if you aren't traveling. Let's be honest, they're not exactly easy to use even if you can travel! In this post I'll explain the issues and offer some suggestions for using your airline fee credits without leaving the couch!
UPDATE 4/12/2021 (New Data Points Added for American Airlines, Delta and Jetblue)
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What Counts for the Airline Incidental Fee Credit
Here's the official language from Amex:
- Select one qualifying airline
- Use your Card to pay for eligible incidental travel fees from that airline.
- Get a statement credit
What I can Use Amex Airline Credit For?
Incidental air travel fees must be separate charges from airline ticket charges. Fees not charged by the Card Member's airline of choice (e.g. wireless internet and fees incurred with airline alliance partners) do not qualify for statement credits. Incidental air travel fees charged prior to selection of a qualifying airline are not eligible for statement credits. 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.
To further complicate matters, elite status requirements have been reduced and current status has been extended, which will make way for many more travelers to become elite. Status factors into this equation because many of the incidental fees are free for elite members. Even low level status will often yield free bags, free drinks, lounge access and premium economy (or better) upgrades. This doesn’t leave too many incidental charges for those of us lucky enough to be elites. Additionally, if you’re chasing status you want to pay cash for some of your tickets and upgrades so that they count towards qualification.
Amex Airline Fee Credit: Non-Travel Options
Before we get into the options that have worked for me the last few months I want to point out these options preserve the value of your airline credits for future travel. These are not charges that would be refunded since Amex loves to unfairly claw back refunded transactions. If you’re not traveling you should be able to get the following charges reimbursed for Delta, JetBlue and American Airlines. In the past I spread the love for the Amex Platinum Airline Credits between Jetblue and Delta and never had any trouble maximizing my credits between seat upgrades and gift cards but as we all know gift cards are no longer an option. WOMP.
Check out: Guide: Best Way to Book JetBlue Mint
Vouchers for Changed or Cancelled Flights actually provide us with a unique opportunity to lock in the value of your credits for future travel.
While most people are not thrilled with getting a travel voucher in lieu of a refund for flight changes and cancellations they may actually be a good thing when it comes to your incidental credits because you're receiving the travel voucher in lieu of a refund. If there's no refund there's no chance of the credit being clawed back by Amex (at least on the grounds that you also received a credit from the merchant.) This means you are probably safe booking award tickets with substantial taxes and fees since those are usually reimbursed by Amex and the taxes and fees will be credited to your airline account, not your credit card.
– Amex Travel Credit AA
- Mileage Multiplier
- 500 Mile Upgrades
- Seat Upgrades
– Mileage Multiplier
When you book an AA flight you have the option to purchase additional miles at approx. 3 cents a piece. Of course, 3 cents is not a great value but you can certainly redeem those miles for way more than that, especially if they’re free. You should pay for the flight first without adding the multiplier so that the transactions are separate. For full details on mileage multiplier check out the dedicated AA page. I can once again confirm as of 11/2020 this still works.
New Data Point: Purchased Milage Multiplier for $150 (Amex Reimbursed it 3 days later)
Can I use the Amex Airline Credit for Upgrades?
– 500 Mile Upgrades
500 Mile Upgrades can be purchased from American Airlines for $40 each. AAdvantage elites and their companions can use these certificates, if available, to upgrade to the next cabin of service. Each 500 Mile Upgrade covers 500 miles of air travel per leg, so a 2200 mile flight would require 5 certificates.
– Seat Upgrades
Although expressly excluded by Amex from eligible fees upgrading a seat after the initial booking has worked for me when the upgrade price was under $200, I haven’t tried anything over that amount.
Delta Travel Credit Options
Additional Collection (think ecredits)
Any changes you make to an existing flight that require additional payments code as additional collection and have been consistently reimbursed. This is especially awesome for anyone who has an ecredit on their account because they can simply find a flight that's more expensive than the original credit amount and pay the balance with their Amex card. (Note, even if you end up having to cancel the flight, the amount is added to your e-credit, so Amex won't try to claw back the credit since no refund will show on your account.)
– Mileage Booster
When you book with Delta you have the option to purchase additional miles at approximately 2 cents a piece. Two cents is a decent value, especially if they’re free. You should pay for the flight first without adding the booster and then go back in later to purchase “extras”. This way the transactions are separate. Here's the FAQ's page for full details on mileage booster.
UPDATE: This option has been missing for months but hopefully they'll bring it back.
– Splitting Ticket Payment between Amex card and a Delta Gift Card
Flights partially paid for with a gift card code differently than straight purchases and Amex has credited me each time I've done this. NOTE: I've never tried anything over the total credit amount.
– Seat Upgrades (Manually Adjusted)
Check out my Delta Suites Video Review here
JetBlue Amex Airline Credit
– Even More Seats
This makes things a bit more interesting for me because I can put the Even More Seat on my Amex card and receive a credit for the full $70. Jetblue is a great choice for your preferred Airline Choice because of the way they charge to upgrade to premium economy. I find that it’s incredibly easy to use the fee credit with them every year because you pay the Even More Space fee separate from your ticket, which means it counts as a fee. Several other airlines do not let you upgrade separately for cash or at all if you booked initially in economy.
– Fare Upgrades
For changes to a higher fare you can call Jetblue and they'll charge you the difference, which has worked for me in the past and should work here since Jetblue crediting cancelled flights to member's travel banks.
– Cash + Points Bookings
Cash + Points is a redemption option offered to TrueBlue members during the online booking process that allows members to pay for JetBlue-operated flights using a combination of monetary payment and TrueBlue points, you can split the payment between points and put the balance on your American Express Card. I've attempted this twice and it's triggered the fee credit both times.
Last Ditch Effort: Cheap Airfare (somewhat mixed results and data points but worth a shot if the alternative is to lose the credit completely.) Many people have reported that airfare under $150 often works to trigger the credit.
Amex allows you to downgrade premium credit cards to receive a prorated annual fee. Last week I did a detailed guide on how to downgrade for each bank, the rules and best options for each premium card. It could very well make sense for most people to downgrade Amex Platinum to Amex Gold Cards since you're probably spending way more money on groceries and food delivery. As far as the incidental fees, to check whether certain expenses will qualify for a credit check out the specific airlines’ thread on Flyertalk.