How to Use the American Express Airline Credit

The airline credit is not, in fact, valid for use on fares, but can be redeemed for a variety of other purchases.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Edited by Meg Lee

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American Express is a powerhouse in travel — and for a good reason. With various co-branded credit and charge cards from which to choose, finding an AmEx card that suits your needs is easy.

Some of these cards also offer an airline fee credit, which will reimburse you for certain purchases made while flying. Even if you’re not a frequent traveler, this credit can come in handy on the road.

Let’s look at which cards provide this benefit, how to use the American Express airline credit and the different types of eligible expenses.

Steps to use the American Express airline credit

1. Choose your AmEx card

The first step in using the AmEx airline credit comes in having a card that offers this credit, as not all cards do. These are a few that provide the benefit:

The value of the credit you’ll receive will depend on which card you hold: The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express both provide a $200 annual airline fee credit. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, meanwhile, provides a $250 annual credit. Terms apply.

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2. Select your preferred airline

The American Express airline credit isn’t automatic and doesn’t apply to all airlines. Instead, if you’re looking to use the credit for eligible purchases, you’ll first need to select a specific airline for which the credit will be redeemed. These include:

You can select the airline with which you’d like to use the credit once per year, in January. Once the choice is made, you’ll only be able to use the airline credit from The Platinum Card® from American Express towards purchases on your chosen airline.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Those with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express will also receive a 35% rebate on points redeemed towards flights on their chosen airline.

You’ll notice that there aren’t any foreign airlines on the list; if you’ve booked a flight with a codeshare partner, you likely won’t be able to use the credit unless the purchase is made directly through one of these airlines.

Finally, you’ll want to be picky about which airline you select. If you typically only fly with one carrier, choosing that one will likely make the most sense. If you’re unsure which airline to choose, keep in mind that low-cost carriers with many fees, like Spirit and Frontier, may offer more opportunities to redeem your credits than others.

Terms apply.

3. Make your purchase

After you’ve selected the airline for which you’d like the airline credit from The Platinum Card® from American Express to apply, redeeming the credit is easy. You’ll simply need to make an eligible purchase with your card and the credit will be automatically reimbursed to your account within two to four weeks.

Not all expenses are eligible for this credit, and AmEx’s wording on this front is vague, specifying only “incidental fees.” It does, however, outline several types of purchases that are not eligible for credit:

  • Airline or award tickets.

  • Upgrades.

  • Mileage points purchases and transfer fees.

  • Gift cards.

  • Duty-free purchases.

Terms apply.

Eligible expenses for the American Express airline credit

Not all expenses are eligible for reimbursement by the airline credit AmEx offers. There also isn’t a single decisive list that AmEx maintains for this credit, though it does mention both checked bag fees and in-flight refreshments as examples for use.

Here are a few other ways to use the American Express airline credit.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Other credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer a much more flexible annual travel credit which is applicable toward hotels, flights, toll roads and more.

Seat selection fees

Although you may score a complimentary seat assignment by having airline elite status or an eligible economy class ticket, the AmEx airline credit also reimburses these fees on your selected airline.

Happily for travelers, the AmEx airline fee credit doesn’t just apply to standard economy seat assignments. So if you’re looking for a little more legroom, fees for seat selections that put you in economy plus or main cabin extra can also be reimbursed.

However, keep in mind that AmEx explicitly excludes upgrades from this credit — that means if you want to pay for a move from economy to first class, you won’t be able to redeem this credit towards your purchase.

Lounge access and membership

Although each of these AmEx cards comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, you may find yourself in a situation where you’re still paying for lounge access. Perhaps you’re paying for a guest, or you’ve finally decided to bite on an annual lounge membership from a specific airline.

In any case, both lounge membership and lounge access fees can be reimbursed using the American Express airline credit. However, remember that the lounge you’re trying to access must be affiliated with the same airline you selected for your credit.

Baggage fees

Plenty of co-branded credit cards offer the ability to check your baggage for free, but if you don’t have (or want) one, you can also use the AmEx airline credit towards these fees. This applies both toward checked bag costs and overweight/excess baggage charges.

In-flight refreshments

Airlines may still provide some light refreshments during flights, but unless you’re flying internationally, the odds are that a complimentary meal is not on offer.

If you’re peckish midway through your flight, you can order food and drinks and have these covered by the credit. Just be sure you’ve already selected your airline to receive the reimbursement.

Pet fees

One of the best uses of the American Express Platinum airline credit for Southwest flyers and many other airlines is that pet fees can also be reimbursed entirely by the credit.

If you want to use the American Express airline credit

So what is the AmEx airline fee credit? In short: it’s a way to help lessen air travel costs through reimbursement for various charges, including checked bags, seat selection and lounge access.

There are a total of three credit cards that offer this benefit, including The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Before making any purchases you’d like to be reimbursed, be sure to select your airline, and then enjoy the fact that your trip is just a bit less expensive — and more comfortable.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

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