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How Amex Could Make Cardholders Happy with Airline Incidental Credit This Year

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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.


Cardholders of certain American Express products may not have ample opportunity to take advantage of their card(s)’s annual airline incidental credit benefits.

Now that airline and hotel status extensions are all the rage (which some may view as those industries throwing in the towel on 2020), yearly credit card benefits will soon find themselves under a microscope.

And a big one is the American Express airline incidental credit.

✈️ American Express Cards with Annual Airline Incidental Credit 💵

Four American Express cards give members incidental credit that may be used each year on an eligible airline selected by the cardholder.

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)

The American Express Gold CardAmerican Express Gold Card ($100 annual airline incidental credit)

Hilton Honors Aspire American Express card

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card ($250 annual airline incidental credit)

Onboard food and beverage purchases, checked bag fees, lounge entrance charges for guests, change fees, and certain other charges credit back. (Here are some of the charges that worked for me last year.)

The Tillamook Cheese & Fruit plate -- part of Delta Air Lines' Flight Fuel offerings -- and a cup of Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey are seen onboard a Delta Air Lines 737-700 flight in Comfort+.

You can select a different airline for each product. For example, I chose Southwest for my American Express Gold Card‘s credit and Delta for my Business Platinum Card from American Express.

Why the Credit is Useless for Many People This Year

There’s a dramatic decline in travel. Most cardholders don’t have the opportunity to use the perk. It’s tough to check a bag when you’re, you know, not traveling.

Plus, many airlines now offer only bottled water and simple snack service — if that — during flights. So the credit can’t be spent there.

A Delta Air Lines Connection Compass Airlines Embraer 175 empty tray table.

Finally, most airlines are waiving change fees. That’s another instance when the credit does you no good.

The coronavirus pandemic obviously isn’t American Express’ fault. But budgets are tight for many people — and likely will be for a while. Premium cards with high annual fees certainly might find themselves on many chopping blocks come renewal time.

Possible Solutions for the Amex Airline Incidental Credit

Here are some ways reasonable Amex could keep cardholders happy this year — and possibly retain them for years to come.

Make the Credit Applicable to All Travel Charges

Expand the benefit to all travel-related purchases. So this means charges on airlines (including tickets), hotels, rideshare, parking, theme parks, etc. would credit back.

In other words, mimic the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

I prefer this option. We can easily use the benefit in our hometowns; it would come in handy for parking, Lyft, Uber, etc.

Women getting out of a car.
(©iStock.com/Rawpixel)

Plus, it encourages people to book future travel.

Frankly, this makes me want to use my Amex cards. As it stands, the only times I spend on money on my Platinum Card from American Express is for airfare (5X) and Amex Offers. That’s it.

Let Members Use the Perk Across All Airlines

Some of us split our time across different airlines. An overwhelming amount of my air travel is aboard Delta. I end up on Southwest a dozen-ish times each year. I might fly other airlines here and there. But  I’d certainly appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the incidental benefit when flying any airline.

Allow Gift Card Purchases

Amex officially ixnayed airline gift card purchases long ago — yet let them slide for a long time.

Well, until last year.

Delta Air Lines gift cards

If American Express explicitly let cardholders use airline incidental credit for gift cards, people would love it.

Extend the credit through 2021

Amex could extend the benefit through 2021. So, for example, Platinum members would have $400 of incidental credit to use in 2021.

But if the credit is already difficult to fully use, this option isn’t as grand as, say, Delta extending Medallion status through 2021.

And, honestly, I see this as the most likely possibility. It seems like the greatest potential for breakage — while still throwing cardmembers a bone.

Credit Cardmembers’ Accounts

Frankly, this isn’t very realistic — and understandably so.

Simply crediting $100/$200/$250 (depending on the card) would be expensive to Amex.

Dining and supermarket purchases credit as 4X with the American Express Gold card!

Final Approach

Debating airline incidental credit is, of course, a first-world problem — especially now. The coronavirus pandemic will apparently get even worse in the coming few weeks. I hope all of us are still alive later this year to either be disappointed or pleased with whatever decision — if any — American Express makes.

Amex has several months to let us know their plans. But it’s in their best interest to do something fair — and sooner than later.

What Do You Think?

What suggestions do you have for Amex when it comes to the airline incidental credit — especially this year? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section.

— 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.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

4 Comments

  1. If they apply the unused credit toward the renewal fee it will encourage some people to renew instead of dropping, so it might be a win-win.

  2. Allow us to buy Arline gift cards. Amex could easily negotiate with the airlines to absorb some of the fees, especially if the cards were not redeemable until later this year. Airlines need cash now, and presumably would give Amex a nice discount on them. Amex in exchange would be on the hook for less than the face value of the credit. And customers would be happy to get excellent value out of their credits. Of course, by some miracle I already used both of my Amex credits this year- due to some odd scheduling I flew far more than I usually did before this all went sideways.

  3. I just canceled my Delta Reserve card. When business reopens, business travel might be down for months, or even permanently as a result of companies trying to recoup losses.

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