Middle Age Miles

Our Cheap AA Flights Did *Not* Trigger the Amex Airline Fee Credit – Experiment Failure!

aa american airlines amex american express airline fee credit cheap fare airfare trigger use credit


In light of American Airlines gift cards (AA GCs) no longer triggering the Amex airline fee credits (see our article here: 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]), we decided to embark upon a research-and-experiment project to figure out the best use of the airline fee credit on AA. We detailed the results of our first round of research in this recent article:

In that article, we recognized some recent (2019) data points (DPs) where people reported receiving credits for cheap AA airfare. There seemed to be positive DPs for a cheap fare in and of itself, as well as for the situation where someone used AA GCs to reduce the remaining airfare to a small amount. In any event, there were enough positive data points for us to experiment.

Our Experiment

On June 18, we purchased a one-way AA ticket from DFW to Seattle (SEA). The purchase was made directly through aa.com. We had selected AA as our airline of choice for the airline fee benefit on our recently-upgraded Amex Hilton Aspire card.

The total fare for the ticket was $235.30. We applied $200 of AA GCs, reducing the balance to $35.30. We then paid for the remaining $35.30 in fare using our Aspire card.

In the one week since making this charge, we have not received any airline fee credit from Amex.

And, all indications are that we will not received credit. First, take a look at the detailed information from the charge:

The transaction detail clearly shows this as an airfare purchase – that is, a type of charge that is expressly excluded from the credit. It even includes my name as the passenger and my ticket number.

And, the Benefits tracker for the airline fee credit on my Aspire card shows that I have not used any of the credit for 2019:

At this point, it appears quite clear that we will not receive any airline fee credit for this purchase. The experiment has failed.

Additional Data Points on Cheap AA Fares

In response to our earlier article, reader Shaun commented that a charge of $80.30 in post-GC AA airfare in March 2019 on his Amex Gold personal card did not trigger the credit. Unfortunately, Shaun’s experience is consistent with ours.

We also went back and checked the AA airline fee credit FlyerTalk thread for additional DPs:

  • “jamebond” commented that he purchased a $54.30 AA ticket on 6/8/19, and he did receive credit from Amex 3 days later on 6/11/19

And that’s about it, save for Shaun also discussing the same negative DP that he reported to us.

What Do We Conclude?

Clearly, our own experiment was a failure. And there’s nothing in our experiment to give any hope that even a cheap AA airfare would trigger the credit – the transaction detail for the charge very clearly showed that it was for airfare, which is ineligible for the credit by its terms.

Based on what we see, we certainly wouldn’t recommend that anyone pay for airfare expecting to get credit, even a cheap fare. And we don’t see any hope for getting a different result by continuing the experiment and trying again.

That said, there do appear to be a few positive DPs on this, and we don’t dismiss those lightly. However, we can’t discern any common thread to the positive DPs or characteristics that would differentiate them from our own. So we don’t see anything obvious that we could try to do differently that might trigger the credit.

I guess we’d conclude that there’s some element of YMMV to this, but you definitely should not expect any airfare to trigger Amex airline fee credits, regardless of how small the airfare component may be.

Where Do We Go from Here?

At this point, the decision point seems to be whether to change our airline selection to Delta or Southwest and buy GCs from them, in hopes of using the credit for some one-off flight sometime in the future, or keep trying other ways to use the credit on AA for something useful.

As a reminder, here is the list of charges that are expressly approved by Amex to trigger the credits:

As Executive Platinum elite members with AA, we simply don’t incur any of these types of fees on a regular basis. And we get Admiral’s Club membership/access through Philly’s Citi AA Executive card.

So, are there any remaining useful ways to trigger the credit on AA? As a reminder, in our previous article we reported these potentially useful DPs:

  • 3 FT posters reported that charges for the cash portion of miles + cash upgrades triggered the credit
  • 2 FT posters reported that charges for purchasing AA miles using the “Mileage Multiplier” (offered when purchasing a ticket through AA.com) triggered the credit

In addition, there are a few interesting more recent DPs in the FlyerTalk thread that are positive, relating to different types of AA charges:

  • “lotrbfme” reported that taxes/fees on an award ticket, $50.65 each for 2 passengers, automatically triggered the credit (6/21/19)
  • “zip10001” reported that they used a SWU to upgrade a LHR-JFK flight, which incurred fees of about $120, paid with an Amex Platinum card; this charge coded as a “Passenger Ticket” and was not automatically credited, but “zip10001” was able to get a manual credit by calling Amex customer service (6/20/19)
  • “vh_bu98” reported that they changed a flight date and used an Amex Platinum to pay the fee; this charge coded as a “Passenger Ticket” and was not automatically credited, but “vh_bu98” was able to get a manual credit by calling Amex customer service and telling Amex that the charge was for a change fee

Bottom line, we haven’t reached a final decision on where we’ll use our $250 airline fee credit on our Aspire card for the rest of 2019. In the short term, we’re going to keep AA as our chosen airline and see if any opportunities arise in the next few months where we might incur charges organically that would trigger the credit (or at least semi-organically; for example, if we had an opportunity to do a miles + cash upgrade, we might be inclined to take it even if we might not do so in the totally “normal” course). If we get close to the end of the year without any such opportunities coming up, then we’ll make a final call in late November or early December whether to bite the bullet with a low-value “Mileage Multiplier” purchase on AA or switch over to Delta or Southwest to pick up GCs that we could hopefully use on a one-off flight in the future.

Do you have any additional DPs, insights or strategies for using the Amex airline fee credit with AA? If so, please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments – thank you!

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4 thoughts on “Our Cheap AA Flights Did *Not* Trigger the Amex Airline Fee Credit – Experiment Failure!

  1. Sue

    I have been successful in “chat” in having the CSR manually credit a GC. I bought a $100 Delta GC, obviously a no-no and was not credited for it. Chatted and told them it was for “something on that list”. It was credited immediately. Did the same for P2 credits. Maybe give the chat a try and tell them the $35.30 was for inflight amenities. (If you feel comfortable with that.)

  2. HS

    Thanks for taking one for the team…

    Unfortunate but timely info as I am about to get hit with the AF for Amex Platinum. Hard for me to believe, but absent a very substantial retention offer (30,000 MR or $300), I am going to have to bite the bullet and get rid of the card. Raising the AF $100 was bad; “small stuff” like getting rid of the ability of going to a Centurion Lounge on arrival (half the fun of a trip to LAS!) was annoying; and now having to hustle to get $200 worth of real value makes the thing — the card — start feeling like work.

    Whereas with the Amex Aspire, what with the free night and the $250 resort credit and the Diamond status (especially if I would no longer be able to get Gold through Amex Plat), I’m already in the black before I start mucking around with the airline fees reimbursement. But that’s a story for another time!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi HS – Hope you’re doing well and enjoying some summer travels 🙂 I agree with your assessments on both the Platinum and the Aspire. And yes, having to hustle to use the airline fee credit is very much work. Makes for a few interesting articles – but I like reporting experiment successes much more than failures!

      Fortunately, taking one for the team didn’t hurt too much. The AA spend is counting toward meeting my MSR on the Aspire upgrade, plus it’s earning 7x HH points. That combo at least makes it a good time to run AA experiments. ~Craig

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