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:
- Middle Age Miles: Do Cheap AA Flights Really Trigger Amex Airline Fee Credits? (6/11/2019)
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.
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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