Amex Annual Airline Credit Guide [2020]

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Several American Express cards offer annual airline credits that can help provide you with some savings on various purchases related to your air travel. For the most part, using these credits is pretty straightforward but there are a number of restrictions that you need to know about so that you can maximize the credits. In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Amex airline credits.


What is the annual Amex airline credit?

The annual Amex airline credit is a credit offered by several American Express cards that can be used on various airline incidental purchases, such as baggage fees. The credit amount ranges from $100-$250 and is issued on a calendar year basis meaning that it expires at the end of the year each year.

These credits help to offset the high annual fees of American Express cards, helping to make them some of the most valuable travel credit cards out there.


What cards offer the annual Amex airline credit?

The following Amex cards offer an annual airline credit:

By the way, if you want an easy way to keep track of all of your credits attached to your different credit cards, be sure to check out the free app WalletFlo, which will provide you with a breakdown of all of your credits as well as automate your eligibility for different credit cards.


How do you use the annual Amex airline credit?

After you select your airline, you simply make a purchase on your Amex card and the credit will be automatically applied against your statement balance. You should be able to view it on your online statement a few days after your purchase although sometimes it can take longer to process.


How do I select my airline for the Amex airline credit?

Before you make any purchase, you need to select the airline that you’ll be making the purchase with. When you receive your card you can go online at www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice or call the number on the back of your card to select an eligible airline for the credit.

If you made your purchase before selecting your airline you might still be able to get the airline credit to work. I once made a purchase several hours before selecting my airline and the credit still applied. I suspect that this could be highly YMMV and that you need to select your airline ASAP after making your purchase for this to work.


What airlines qualify for the Amex airline credit?

Qualifying airlines include:

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

As you can see, this is a benefit designed to be used on domestic airlines. So if you do primarily international travel, these credits may not be as useful to you since you’re limited to specific airlines.

You’ll need to stick to domestic airlines when using these credits.

Can authorized users select the qualifying airlines?

Authorized users will not be able to select the qualifying airlines unless they are an authorized account manager. The primary card member will need to authorize that individual in order to make them an authorized account manager which you can do by calling the number on the back of your card and inquiring with an agent.


What is a qualifying purchase for the Amex travel credit?

Purchases that qualify for the credit are airline incidentals, such as baggage fees and in-flight entertainment.

American Express officially states that the following qualify for the airline credit:

  • Checked baggage fees (including overweight/oversize)
  • Itinerary change fees
  • Phone reservation fees
  • Pet flight fees
  • Seat assignment fees
  • In-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones)
  • In-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet because it’s not charged by the airline)
  • Airport lounge day passes & annual memberships

If you’re wondering about some of the prices for these, here are some potential prices you might encounter:

Baggage fees are typically $30 for your first checked bag for a one-way flight with most domestic carriers like United.

For United domestic flights, you will likely be paying about $200 for the flight change and for some United international flights you could be paying up to $400.

The price for in-flight amenities varies but you can expect to pay something like $7 for a beer.

Day passes to a lounge may cost around $60 (I once used my Gold Card for a day pass to an Admirals Club for $59).

For pet fees, American Airlines will charge charge a $125 fee per kennel for routes within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.


What does NOT count as qualifying purchase for the Amex travel credit?

The following items are explicitly excluded:

  • Airline tickets
  • Mileage points purchases or mileage points transfer fees
  • Gift cards
  • Upgrades
  • Duty–free purchases
  • Award tickets

I personally think Amex is way too strict on what they allow to qualify for a purchase, especially since they already restrict you to choose a single qualifying airline.

However, some people still have luck purchasing excluded items like gift cards, upgrades, and even cheap airline tickets. The trick is usually just to keep your purchase at a lower amount, such as under $100.

(Gift cards are virtually impossible to get to work now.)

It’s best to do some research on FlyerTalk to see what the most current qualifying purchases are for a respective airline since it can differ dramatically between airlines.

FlyerTalk has individual threads for different airlines with specific breakdowns of the different types of purchases that were successful and it usually provides a date that they were last successful. For example, here is the latest thread on United Airlines purchases.

What works and what doesn’t changes a lot so always stay up to date on the relevant thread before going forward with a purchase that might be excluded by the terms and conditions.

Seat assignments are reimbursable with the Amex airline credit.

How long does it take for the Amex travel credit to apply?

Amex states that you’ll receive a statement credit covering your incidental fees typically 2–4 weeks after you pay for them. In reality these credits usually only take a couple of days to hit my account. (In some cases, it’s almost like a back-log occurs and it takes longer.) 

If you do not see a credit for a qualifying incidental purchase on your eligible card after 4 weeks, simply call the number on the back of your card.

Note that if you’ve used your credit for a purchase that is excluded by the terms and conditions, it’s obviously not the wisest move to call in and inquire about that purchase.


Can authorized users use the Amex travel credit?

Yes, eligible purchases made by both the basic and any authorized users will trigger the credit.

However, authorized users are not issued an individual credit for their cards. Think of the credit as a pool of funds that any primary cardmember or authorized user can use.

So if you have a $100 credit and an authorized user uses $80 of that, there will only be $20 left over for the primary card number and the authorized user.


Can I change my airline for the Amex travel credit?

Cardmembers who have not chosen one qualifying airline will be able to do so at any time.

So if this is your first time to have a card with an airline credit, you shouldn’t have an issue being able to select your airline at any time during the year.

Card Members who have already selected one qualifying airline will be able to change their choice one time each year in January at www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice or by calling the number on the back of their card.

So if you already had a Platinum Card or Gold Card then you would only have the month of January of the next year to change your airline. If you do not select a new airline or change it then your airline selection will remain with the current airline.

While the terms state you only have the month of January to make a change to your airline, Amex will often allow you to change your airline in the middle of the year. Some people have even had success changing their airline after they’ve used a portion of their airline credit!

To change your airline, you could use the chat feature on their website or you could just call into the number on the back of your card.

I would prefer to call in on the number and just try to “charm” an agent into making the change. It’s possible that they might tell you that they can’t change your airline but if that occurs, simply call back and try again with another representative. Eventually you should have success.

I wouldn’t rely on this method more than once, though, as they might not be as understanding if you’re calling in to change your airline every other month of the year.


When do the Amex travel credits expire?

The credits expire at the end of each calendar year on December 31. If your purchase does not post until the next year, the credit will apply in that following year. Therefore, to be safe be sure to make your purchases a few days before the end of the year.

Don’t forget, if you want an easy way to keep track of all of your credits attached to your different credit cards, be sure to check out the free app WalletFlo!


Final word

Overall, the Amex airline credits are a bit more strict than I would like but if you know how to be a little bit crafty when using them, they can be a little more valuable.

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