Tips for Maximizing Your American Express Airline Credit This Year

Few benefits exceed yearly Amex airline credits when it comes to helping to balance the high annual fees on the best American Express travel credit cards. However, utilizing these airline fee credits is more difficult than it first appears, at least without some advice.

That’s our main purpose here. The best available Large annual fees on American Express cards are mitigated by the $200 or $250 annual airline credit that is included with The Platinum Card® from American Express and even co-branded products like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. However, because these credits are primarily meant to pay for extra costs like luggage and seat assignments, it has become more difficult for customers to use them to book flights over time.

Even with the added complexity, there are still ways to get a lot of value out of these travel credits, such as when using them to purchase tickets on United, Delta, and Southwest Airlines. Before the year is over, here are some suggestions for using these credits.

All About Your Amex Airline Credits

Travel cards from Amex are a pretty simple way to acquire airline credits until they aren’t. Both the American Express Business Platinum Card and the Amex Platinum earn you $200 annually. The greatest annual credit, $250, is offered by the Hilton Aspire card. Before 2022, holders of the American Express® Gold Card received $100 in airline credits annually.

Instead of being dependent on the month you started your account, all of these travel credits reset every calendar year. Consequently, you have until December 31 to use all of the credits. Remember that these credits expire at the end of the year. Use them or lose them, that’s the rule!

These credits aren’t as comprehensive as the $300 you receive when you use your Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is applied immediately to any purchases made for travel. Amex airline credits are only valid on specific purchases made on specific airlines. Additionally, each year you can only select one airline; however, there are rumors that American Express will let you switch midway through the year by contacting Amex.

Simply sign in to your American Express account, choose your favorite airline, and then navigate to the “benefits” page. You can easily monitor how much of your Amex airline credits you’ve used using American Express’s handy meter.

  • United Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Alaska Airlines

Which airlines therefore pass muster? Every major American airline is qualified. What purchases will result in the credit, too? Quite a bit. However, it’s crucial to emphasize that, although there are a few exceptions, purchasing flights directly won’t usually work.

Additionally ineligible are purchases of miles, upgrades to cabins, and various other such items. It also usually won’t work to purchase in-flight Wi-Fi because airlines have outsourced their connectivity to outside businesses.

These travel credits are intended to pay for incidentals, to put it briefly. That leaves us with a few fantastic ideas for utilizing these credits each year. However, you can utilize these credits to fly for free by using the workarounds you’ll find below.

Cover Award Taxes and Fees

You’re not exactly flying for free when you use frequent flyer miles. However, that can be altered by these travel credits.

Cash fees and taxes are applied to each reward ticket. These range greatly; they start at $5.60 for all one-way domestic flights in the United States and go up to $1,000 or more for most business or London Heathrow (LHR) flights.

Airlines may levy different fees, but generally speaking, you should be able to charge such costs to your American Express travel credit card and have the credit applied to cover the costs. Just keep in mind that choosing your airline must come before using your Amex rewards to make the purchase.

If you choose to pay with your American Express card and designate Delta as your preferred carrier, for instance, the $86 in taxes and fees could be automatically covered.

To activate your Amex Platinum Travel Credits, use Delta Pay with Miles

There is no longer a way to use these credits to purchase gift cards from certain airlines. However, you can still use your American Express airline credits to purchase flights on Delta.

One simple method is to use our preferred method of using Delta SkyMiles, the Pay with Miles travel function. This travel strategy has been tried and tested numerous times, and it is reliable. This is how it works:

Pay with Miles lets American Express cardholders apply SkyMiles to the cash cost of their ticket; this feature is available to those who also own one of Delta’s co-branded American Express cards. With this strategy, a SkyMile is worth one penny, so if you have five thousand SkyMiles, you save fifty dollars. Once you charge the remaining amount to your Hilton Aspire or Amex Platinum card, you can put some miles toward your transaction and the credit should automatically appear.

For this strategy to be successful, according to our testing, the total amount charged to your Amex travel card (after utilizing Pay with Miles) should be less than $250. You should use at least 15,000 SkyMiles to reduce the cost of your $350 aircraft tickets to $200. The credit should start to appear a few days later.

Use of a Delta eCredit!

This pandemic-specific trick to optimize your American Express airline credits was created.

After postponing travel or taking advantage of price reductions after booking, thousands of customers are still stuck with Delta credits and travel vouchers. The same is true for applying a Delta eCredit when making a new flight reservation—you can utilize Delta Pay with Miles to initiate an Amex airline credit.

Over the years, we have verified through several tests that this approach is effective. A recent instance entailed paying with a $266 Delta credit for a $411 flight, resulting in a balance of approximately $145. We charged it to an American Express Platinum Card with $200 in unused credits, and sure enough, the credits started to accrue after a few days.

The following rules are applicable: Make sure you charge your Amex travel credit card with less than $250, regardless of the card you’re using or the remaining amount of Amex airline credits. Your mileage may differ, just like with all of these workarounds: This one might not last indefinitely, though. However, as of earlier this month, things were still going well.

Utilize Your Amex Travel Card to Purchase Low-Cost Tickets on Southwest

Southwest was one of the last airlines where you could use your airline credits to purchase a gift card until recently. But one travel snag closes, and another one arises.

Numerous studies have shown that as long as the amount is less than $100, purchasing airfare directly from Southwest will result in a credit report. It may grow complicated and would usually mean purchasing individual one-way tickets instead of a round-trip ticket.

Nevertheless, it’s a classy way to spend these credits toward Southwest airfare. Remember to select the correct airline by signing into your American Express account before checking out.

Get Your United TravelBank Loaded

Perhaps the simplest approach of all is this one. But take note: You may simply use your Amex airline credits for a ticket through this on-again, off-again loophole. It might work in certain situations and not in others.

TravelBank is a unique program offered by United Airlines that lets you store money in an account for use on subsequent United trips. The best part is that, unless you go 18 months without using your account, whatever money you deposit into a TravelBank account won’t expire for five years.

Nevertheless, this is a simple method of using your airline credits to pay for travel. Simply pick United as your preferred airline and load your TravelBank dollars using your Amex card. There are six different amounts that you can buy: $50, $100, $250, $500, $750, and $1,000.

Lower Baggage Charges

This is what these credits were intended to cover—the standard airline fee. Additionally, it’s not a terrible way to save some cash, as domestic checked luggage on planes costs at least $30 each way.

Nonetheless, there are more effective approaches. Specifically, free checked baggage is a perk of using a co-branded credit card on the majority of major US airlines’ itineraries. Many of them even let you receive the benefit without even using that card to pay for your ticket.

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