AA Airline Credits Gift Card Alternatives
If you haven't guessed it by now, I made a huge mistake this year with several of my beloved American Express Cards. Disregarding almost every principle that governs my travel reward style, I put every single one of my eggs in the same basket by selecting American as my airline for each and every Amex card's airline credit choice. 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.
This year I hit Executive Platinum with AA and I thought I'd be able to get the most out of the elite milage bonus by using gift cards to purchase paid flights. Well, American Airlines Gift cards stopped working to trigger Amex credits this year, so now what? While I believe my reasoning was sound, I've seen enough things change in this biz to ruin even the best laid plans that I should have at least made one non AA election. As of June 14, Doctor of Credit has reported gift cards may be working again to trigger the credit, but there aren't enough data points to know for sure at this point.
What's the Big Deal?
Many of the fees and charges covered by the Amex fee reimbursement are often free If you have elite status. 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, so a gift card is really the perfect compromise.
Amex Platinum Airline Credits: AA Charges Still Being Reimbursed
- Mileage Multiplier
- 500 Mile Upgrades
- Seat Upgrades
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.
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.
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.
It's always a good idea to diversify a bit more than I did but if you're stuck in a tricky spot, just being creative is often the solution. If you're unsure of whether certain expenses will qualify for a credit check out the specific airlines' thread on Flyertalk.