Middle Age Miles

Are AA Gift Cards Really Triggering the Amex Airline Fee Credit Again? As of Now, We Don’t Think So [UPDATED 6/25/19: Dead; No Credits for AA GCs]

aa american airlines gift card does not trigger amex airline fee credit
[UPDATE as of 6/25/2019, 2:30 pm Central time – Numerous data points found in Comments to the Doctor of Credit article we referenced in this article as well as in this FlyerTalk thread indicate that, after 6/14/2019, AA GCs consistently have not triggered the Amex airline fee credit. This is consistent with our own experience as reported in this article.]


For several years leading up to 2019, it was possible to redeem the airline fee credit offered as a benefit of several Amex cards (personal & business Platinum cards; personal Gold card; Hilton Aspire) by choosing American Airlines (AA) as your preferred airline and then purchasing AA gift cards (GCs) through the AA website. This was an extremely useful way to cash in the credits and receive face value or close to it.

But then, as of that fateful day of February 8, 2019, AA GCs stopped triggering the Amex airline fee credit. The coding for the charge changed – from “Misc Fees/Taxes” to “Gift Certificate” – in a way that stopped the credit from applying. In fairness, the express terms and conditions of the Amex airline fee credit had always excluded GCs. But they had worked for a long time until 2/8/19.

Fast forward to last Friday, June 14, 2019. On that date, Doctor of Credit posted an article that AA GCs were again working to trigger the Amex airline fee credit:

We were excited to hear about this apparent change. Most pertinently for us, we had just upgraded an Amex Hilton Ascend card to an Aspire, and thus we had a fresh new $250 airline fee credit to use sometime during the remainder of 2019.

To be clear – We are not criticizing Doctor of Credit or their article in any way here. The DoC article was based on two presumably reliable data points. And in the body of the article, DoC made clear that we “need to wait for more confirmations” before concluding that AA GCs would indeed be an option for the airline fee credit going forward.

Our Own Experiment with Purchasing an AA GC to Try to Trigger the Airline Fee Credit

Buoyed by DoC’s article, we decided to experiment by purchasing a $100 AA GC on our newly-upgraded Aspire card on Saturday, June 15. We purchased a Virtual Gift Card at https://giftcards.aa.com, just as we’d done many times in the pre-2/8/19 past to trigger the airline fee credit.

Unfortunately, as of mid-day on Tuesday, June 18, we have not received any airline fee credit for this charge.

At this point, we don’t expect to receive any credit, either. The charge for the AA GC clearly coded as “Gift Certificate”:

[At the time we’re writing this article, the “Benefits” page for our Aspire card is not working. Thus, at the moment, we’re unable to check whether our credit meter still shows $250 credit remaining for 2019.]

Our experience seems to be consistent with that of others. By our count, there are at least 7 additional data points in the comments to the 6/14/19 Doctor of Credit article where people have purchased AA GCs that have not triggered the credit (and some commenters expressly mentioned that the purchase coded as “Gift Certificate” like ours). There are no data points from 6/14 or later in the comments to the DoC article where an AA GC purchase did trigger the credit. [UPDATE as of 6/18/2019 at 2:10 pm (shortly after we published this article) – the DoC comments now show 1 data point where a person purchased an AA GC on 6/16/19 and the “Benefits” credit meter shows that the credit has been used; however that commenter has not actually received a credit yet. Maybe there’s hope of success yet.]

For comparison purposes, here’s how an AA GC purchase from earlier this year coded with Amex (on a Platinum card) – “Miscellaneous Tax(s)/Fee(s)”:

At this point, we’re calling this experiment a failure. Of course, we’ll report back if anything changes.

What Do We Do Going Forward?

By coincidence, last week we published an article about Amex airline fee credits. This article was motivated by our recent upgrade from Ascend to Aspire and the need to use a new $250 airline fee credit during the remainder of 2019.

In that article, we presented the results of our research on what types of AA charges may trigger the airline fee credit. There are definitely some positive data points of cheap AA tickets triggering the credit. We concluded that the results were inconclusive, and YMMV (your mileage may vary). But there was enough support that we vowed to experiment with cheap AA tickets (either directly, or by reducing the charge by applying GCs to part of the fare). At this point, we will continue that experiment and report back as we obtain results.

In addition, our research revealed data points that these types of AA charges triggered the Amex airline fee credit: (1) the cash portion of miles + cash upgrades; (2) purchasing AA miles using the “Mileage Multiplier” offered when purchasing a ticket through AA.com; and (3) the purchase of an Admiral’s Club membership.

Do you have any other recent data points (6/14/19 or later) on whether the purchase of AA GCs has triggered the Amex airline fee credit? We appreciate it if you’d share them in the Comments!

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6 thoughts on “Are AA Gift Cards Really Triggering the Amex Airline Fee Credit Again? As of Now, We Don’t Think So [UPDATED 6/25/19: Dead; No Credits for AA GCs]

  1. Kevin Freier


    Any data points for gift cards on other airlines not working any more with the AMEX Hilton Card or is it just tickets on AA that don’t work. I know in the past gift cards for other airlines have worked and allowed the credit back to the account. Thanks JV13.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Kevin/JV13 – Great question. The current state of affairs is: Delta GCs of $50 trigger the credit when you purchase using a PC (not mobile) direct through the Delta website. Southwest GCs purchased direct from Southwest using a PC, apparently in any amount. There was a bit of a scare/glitch a few days ago about Southwest GCs, but that seems to have been straightened out.

      No other airline GCs trigger the credit.

      Hope that helps – thanks for the good question! ~Craig

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Hao – Thanks for reading Middle Age Miles and commenting. I hope you can get some solid use out of the credits by using them for Delta GCs! ~Craig

  2. Nun

    With so many changes to Amex reimbursements last year, I’m curious if you plan to change your selected airline for the Aspire this month. AA isn’t so great now, especially if you already get free bags and seat selection from status.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Nun – We’ve stuck with AA as our airline. That’s a necessity on our Biz Plat cards, because we need AA to be our airline of choice for the 35% rebate. On other cards such as Aspire, I suppose we could change airlines. But we don’t fly any other airline regularly enough to make it worth it to try anything else. We end up with some seat selection fees where we can use credits, particularly for the kids. But I sure miss the GC reimbursement!!! It changes the value proposition on the Amex cards for sure.

      What are you planning to do?

      Have a great weekend! ~Craig

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