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The FYI on Airline Gift Cards & Amex Charge Cards

The FYI on Airline Gift Cards & Amex Charge Cards
Anya Kartashova

If you hold either The Gold Card or The Platinum Card from American Express, you know about the annual $100 / $200 airline fee credit. Each January, you must select a qualifying carrier from the available options, and the credit will automatically apply to your statement if you rack up incidentals, such as luggage fees, in-flight meals or entertainment, with that specific airline later that year.

Over the years, card members have discovered that eGift cards trigger the statement credit, which allows you to utilize the credit to its full potential. However, not all gift-card denominations trigger the credit equally. Furthermore, purchasing airfare with gift cards isn’t as straightforward as it sounds because some carriers limit how many you can redeem per transaction. Here’s what you should know about buying / redeeming airline gift cards with Amex charge cards before selecting the airline.

American Airlines

Although American Express officially excludes gift cards from the list of incidentals covered by the airline fee credit, anecdotal evidence suggests that they do, in fact, trigger the credit. However, buying one $200 eGift card won’t do it. You have to split up your purchase into two gift cards with $100 on each. So, over the course of year one of holding either the Amex Gold Card or the Amex Platinum Card, you should obtain between two and four $100 denomination gift cards, worth $200 to $400 (because the credit renews every January).

Now, can you redeem that many gift cards toward airfare? American Airlines lets you use up to eight gift cards on its website each time you make a purchase. Keep in mind that it’s not possible to redeem a gift card toward upgrades, taxes on award travel or Admirals Club membership / day passes.

Delta Air Lines

Delta eGift cards are a little more sensitive, and only small denominations trigger the airline fee credit, as per this FlyerTalk thread. In my experience, $50 eGift cards have done the trick, and it’s possible to buy four at a time—there’s no need to split up the purchase. Simply put 4 in the quantity box and $50 in the value box. You can try buying one the first time to ensure the credit is applied. Make sure to purchase gift cards via Delta’s website and not the mobile app as the gift card processing seems to be handled differently via the app.

As far as redeeming gift cards online, Delta Air Lines is rather strict. As per terms and conditions, a maximum of three gift cards can be used per transaction. In other words, you can apply no more than $150 worth of gift cards toward payment, no matter how many tickets are purchased. You can split up your round-trip into two one-ways to avoid this limitation, but make sure your trip is a sure thing because two cancelations will incur double the change fees. Additionally, Delta gift cards can’t be applied toward taxes on award tickets, baggage fees or other services besides the cost of air transportation.

Southwest Airlines

Gift-card purchases on Southwest Airlines seem to be giving the least amount of hassle to Amex cardholders. Data points show that purchasing a single $200 denomination gift card triggers the credit, which means you don’t have to worry about buying and keeping track of multiple gift cards.

On the redemption side, Southwest has its own rules. A maximum of three gift cards per passenger can be applied to each booking, and if the gift-card balance doesn’t cover the cost of the entire trip, you must use two gift cards plus one credit card to cover the rest of the cost. Southwest gift cards can’t be applied toward vacation packages, EarlyBird Check-In, merchandize or group tickets. However, it’s possible to cover taxes and fees on flights purchased with Rapid Rewards.

Other Airlines

You might find that other airlines are eligible for the fee credit. So, why don’t we include instructions for buying gift cards with them, too?

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United Airlines

The problem is, some of these airlines don’t sell gift cards online, and others don’t code for a reimbursement on Amex cards for whatever reason. Keep in mind that even the three aforementioned airlines aren’t a sure thing as these things can change at any time.


Which airline is your preferred carrier on the Amex cards? Have you received your statement credits for 2019 yet?

View Comments (3)


  1. bradpitch92

    January 11, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    If you call delta you can apply more than 3 GC’s.

  2. FlyingHighlander

    January 11, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    It would be of more use to write about what non-gift card purchases are reimbursable. For example, purchasing an E+ UA seat is reimbursed, however upgrading to F is not.

  3. zoey59

    January 12, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Ok i thought the amex plat was only good for food/drink/internet and one day lounge on united. Yes good for an E+ Upgrade not for F and not to buy more miles. It’s also good on the travel club for $25.

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