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I Chose Southwest as a Preferred Airline for My Amex Incidental Credit!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


You read that correctly. I picked Southwest — the “no fee airline” — as the preferred carrier of an American Express card’s annual airline incidental credit perk.

I hold three American Express cards with annual airline incidental credits:

The Platinum Card from American Express.Platinum Card from American Express ($200 annual airline incidental credit)

American Express Business Platinum card

Business Platinum Card from American Express ($200 annual airline incidental credit)

Delta was my preferred airline for all three cards during the past several years.

But I changed it up this year after writing yesterday’s post. I’m experimenting with Southwest as my preferred airline on the American Express Gold Card.

Why Didn’t I Choose Delta For All Three?

I fly Delta for about 85% of my travel.

Now that purchasing Delta gift cards is officially done-zo for statement reimbursement, the Amex credit is harder and harder to use.

Why?

Between my Medallion status and Delta Amex credit cards, I never pay for checked baggage.

I usually upgrade to Comfort+ right after booking (at least, if an exit row falls into C+ or a good bulkhead is available). And I end up in first class from time to time. So I rarely pay for cocktails.

The Amex credit on those items is thus unnecessary.

However, I kept Delta as the preferred airline for my Platinum Card from American Express and Business Platinum Card from American Express. Because my daughter is now two years old and gets charged for Sky Club admission, I’ll use the Platinum cards to offset those entrance fees. (We’ll burn through our personal Delta Reserve and Delta Reserve for Business cards’ Sky Club guest passes before summer.) Plus, we’ll use the credit for Flight Fuel snacks on longer flights.

About $25 of my Amex Gold $100 credit went unused last year on Delta. That’s why I made a slight change this year.

Why I Selected Southwest for My Amex Incidental Credit

The other 15% of my travel is mostly aboard Southwest. A couple of my clients (who arrange their contractors’ travel) love the airline of LUV. Southwest’s prices and flexible-ish cancellation and rebooking policies are very business-friendly.

Plus, my wife and I have family in the San Francisco Bay Area and close friends in Las Vegas. As much as we love Delta, it’s far easier for us to fly Southwest from Burbank than LAX.

Southwest 737s are parked at gates at Hollywood Burbank Airport / Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California. (BUR)
Southwest 737s at Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR)

I usually don’t check bags when I travel alone. Even when flying Southwest — which allows two free checked bags per paying passenger — I almost always carry on. Even when I fly with my wife and daughter, Southwest’s baggage allowance is more than enough for the three of us. So the Amex airline incidental credit can’t help me there.

I also won’t need the Amex incidental credit to cover cancellation or change fees. Southwest doesn’t charge them. The only amount one pays when modifying a reservation is a fare difference — if any.

I’ve read reports that inflight WiFi doesn’t credit, so I’m on the hook for those purchases.

So where exactly will the $100 go?

EarlyBird Check-In

Per a post I saw on Frequent Miler, EarlyBird Check-In fees should credit back to my Amex Gold Card.

EarlyBird automatically checks you in beginning 36 hours prior to a trip, as opposed to the standard 24 hours. This usually gives you a leg up on scoring a good boarding position and, thus, a seat you like. However, I know people who’ve checked in an hour before their flight and gotten better positions than I did when I bought EarlyBird.

I’m pretty vigilant about checking in 24 hours before a flight and usually score an aisle or a window seat. And most of my Southwest flights are quick hops: trips from the Los Angeles area to Vegas, SFO, or Oakland.

Exit rows are nice, of course. But for my 45-55 minute flights, I can put up with almost anything.

Seat 12A, row 12, exit row on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft.
Gotta love seat 12A on the Southwest 737-700s!

For longer flights, though (LAX to San Antonio, BUR to Dallas Love), I desperately covet exit row seats. EarlyBird Check-In is a must (if not buying up to “Business Class” boarding). I’ll happily let Amex reimburse me for those charges this year.

Inflight Beverages

I love a tasty adult beverage. So I’ll also use the airline statement credit for onboard cocktails.

Wild Turkey bourbon is served during a Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas.

Southwest’s drinks are fairly cheap (at least by airline standards): $7 for spirits and premium beers, $6 for wines and “well” beers.

Not to mention, my in-laws are big Southwest fans. One of them is an authorized user on my Gold Card, so they can enjoy free drinks for a few Southwest flights.

Did I Make a Good Decision?

I guess we’ll find out by the end of December. In the meantime, what do you think of my choice?

— Chris

 

 

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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8 Comments

  1. My work usually books Anytime fares for me, have you seen any data points regarding being reimbursed for the upgrade fee to Business. When I check in at the airport, the computer kiosk sometimes offers the upgrade for $16 – $24.

    • @Jonathan: The Frequent Miler post I linked above has a positive data point about the upgrade fee, so there’s hope!

  2. I thought the Amex credit would apply if you upgraded your seat to Comfort+ or bulkhead after booking.

  3. Due to a miserable Delta year as a Diamond last year I switched almost all my domestic to Southwest flights. So easy to redeem flights (no hidden charts), easy to change flight etc. Will miss the rare upgrade I received. I also dumped the Delta Amex and switched to this card with Southwest. Will still have one or two Delta flights for International but don’t suspect I will miss them. Will have to see how the year goes with the transition as well.

    • @Marcos: Do you have status with Southwest? If so, how satisfied are you with your boarding position and seat selection? I’m tempted every so often to pursue A-list with WN.

  4. You can also purchase fares under $100 and it will code as incidentals this is documented in flyer talk and i verified it works as of 1/10/2020

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