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:
Platinum Card from American Express ($200 annual airline incidental credit)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
I love a tasty adult beverage. So I’ll also use the airline statement credit for onboard cocktails.
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?
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