How to Use AmEx’s Airline Fee Credit

There are far more expenses that don't qualify for the AmEx airline fee credit than eligible ones.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Edited by Meg Lee
man using the amex airline fee credit

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The AmEx airline fee credit is a valuable perk of a handful of American Express premium travel cards. This perk can provide cardmembers with up to $200 or $250 — depending on the card — in statement credits to reimburse eligible incidental airline expenses.

However, cardmembers can be frustrated by AmEx's lack of clarity about which types of transactions trigger the airline fee credit. AmEx only lists a few types of transactions that qualify and a much longer list of transactions that don't qualify. This can leave cardmembers guessing if an unlisted expense will be eligible or not.

Thankfully, AmEx provided us with a list of 11 expenses that qualify for the AmEx airline fee credit — and 13 types of expenses that don't. So here's everything that you need to know about how to utilize the AmEx airline fee credit.

Which cards offer an AmEx airline fee credit

Only three AmEx cards currently offer an airline fee credit. That means you'll only need to learn more about the AmEx airline fee credit if you have — or are considering getting — one of these cards:

Enrollment required. Terms apply.

The American Express® Gold Card used to offer a $100 airline fee credit, but that was discontinued in January of 2022.

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How the AmEx airline fee credit works

To get started using the AmEx airline fee credit, cardmembers of eligible AmEx cards first need to enroll in this card perk. You can open this page and log into your American Express account to see if your AmEx card is enrolled.

The AmEx airline fee credit is only valid on the qualifying airline you choose when you enroll. So make sure to choose wisely. Once you select an airline, you're stuck using that airline for the rest of the calendar year.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Officially, you can only change your airline selection once per year in January. However, AmEx agents have sometimes let card members change their enrolled airline when the card member hasn't used any of the credit so far that calendar year.

To use the airline fee credit, charge an eligible purchase to your enrolled card. AmEx should automatically reimburse the fee to your card.

The terms and conditions say the credit will typically post two to four weeks after you make the purchase — although, in practice, the credit usually posts in a matter of days. If the credit doesn't post after four weeks, you can contact American Express online or via the phone number on the back of your card to request that the fee is manually applied.

Eligible expenses charged by authorized users will also trigger the AmEx airline fee credit. However, authorized users don't get their own airline fee credit allotment.

Eligible airlines for the AmEx airline fee credit

Cardmembers must select which airline they want to apply the airline fee credit to when enrolling. AmEx only lets cardmembers select from an abbreviated list of domestic U.S. airlines.

Eligible airlines for the AmEx airline fee credit are limited to:

  • Alaska Airlines.

  • American Airlines.

  • Delta Air Lines.

  • Frontier Airlines.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

  • JetBlue Airways.

  • Spirit Airlines.

  • Southwest Airlines.

  • United Airlines.

This list covers almost all of the large U.S. airlines. But, card members are out of luck if they often fly Air Canada, British Airways, AeroMexico or other airlines that aren't included on this list of eligible airlines. Cardholders must choose from the list of eligible airlines to use this credit; there's no way around this limitation.

What qualifies for the AmEx airline fee credit?

American Express doesn't list all expenses that qualify for the AmEx airline fee credit. However, in describing the benefit, AmEx summarizes that the credit is "for incidental fees such as checked baggage, in-flight refreshments and flight change fees."

Most of the rest of the terms and conditions focus on what doesn't qualify. Thankfully, an AmEx chat representative provided a much more detailed list of the expenses eligible for the AmEx airline fee credit.

Per AmEx, the eligible charges include, but are not limited to:

  • Airport lounge day passes and annual memberships.

  • Change fees.

  • Checked baggage fees.

  • Early check-in fees.

  • In-flight amenity fees (including beverages, food, pillows/blankets).

  • In-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet).

  • Overweight/oversize baggage fees.

  • Flight fees for pets.

  • Phone reservation fees.

  • Seat assignment fees.

  • Unaccompanied minor fees.

If you're struggling to use all of your airline fee credit, keep in mind that you can pre-pay some expenses before the end of the year.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You can buy lounge day passes for future use or pay to select seats for a flight you're taking next year.

As long as the purchase is charged to your enrolled card this year, it should count toward the airline fee credit.

Ineligible airline expenses

The AmEx airline fee credit details state that "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."

However, AmEx utilizes an even longer list of ineligible expenses.

Here's the list of airline expenses that are explicitly ineligible for the AmEx airline fee credit:

  • Air freight.

  • Airline tickets.

  • Award ticket fees.

  • Cancellation fees.

  • Charges processed by merchants other than the airline the card member has selected (i.e., in-flight entertainment service providers such as GoGo).

  • Charges made by airline partners.

  • Duty-free purchase.

  • Frequent flyer miles purchase.

  • Gift cards issued by airlines.

  • Point transfer fees.

  • Trip insurance/baggage insurance.

  • Ticket upgrades.

  • Travel agent fees.

AmEx provides examples for several of these ineligible expenses. One example features a charge made by an airline partner: "Card member purchases tickets on selected airline Delta, but purchases food on an Air France flight."

If you're trying to utilize your AmEx airline fee credit …

The AmEx airline fee credit provides eligible AmEx cardmembers with $200-$250 in statement credits each year. That means it isn't a perk to take lightly.

Due to the limitation on expenses that qualify for the credit and the restriction to just one eligible airline, cardmembers may find that they need to work throughout the year to use this credit. Hopefully, having this list of which types of expenses qualify for the AmEx airline fee credit will make it easier for you to utilize this credit.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

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