If you have an American Express Platinum or Hilton Aspire card, you need to choose an airline to use your Airline Fee Credit at the beginning of each calendar year. There’s some strategy when choosing an airline, because AMEX doesn’t provide credits for many charges. For example, if you’re a frequent flyer or hold a co-brand credit card, you already get many of the reimbursable expenses for free.
It can be confusing to use the credit because AMEX doesn’t publish a list of what is covered, only a list of what’s not.
Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees
I’ve even said that it can make sense to pick Frontier or Spirit as your airline because the extra fees for seats and bags added to ticket prices are covered by the AMEX credit as long as you pay for them separately from your ticket.
Instead of those airlines, I picked Delta. I figured I could use the credit to pay for Sharon to enter the Sky Club as a guest and I’d use the rest to get better seat assignments.
I should have thought it through a little more because it can be difficult to “cash out” the credits with Delta without doing a little sleight of hand when buying a ticket. There are several lists, including one from Frequent Miler, which shows what counts for reimbursement and what doesn’t.
In a series of events triggered by Hurricane Ian, our non-stop Delta flight to New York was canceled and we were rebooked on a flight connecting through Atlanta with a 4-hour layover. We were only going for a quick weekend, already cut a day short because of the hurricane, so an evening arrival wouldn’t work.
I had a backup flight on United, but I wanted to see what other flights were available on Delta. I found a non-stop with a 7 AM departure from Orlando but the only option to sit together was to pay for seats in Comfort+. Otherwise we’d be stuck in two middle seats in the back of the plane.
I paid $79 each for two seats and we flew to New York with extra legroom. Since we don’t sit up front very often and therefore don’t see what happens in the “better” seats, I was surprised so many passengers took advantage of the free drinks, even if it was 7:30 AM.
The charge showed on my AMEX Platinum account and when I saw it, I knew I’d have to do some work to get the Airline Fee Credit. That’s because Delta classified the seat assignment as an upgrade charge.
Remember that AMEX’s rules say that upgrades aren’t covered expenses. I took that to mean you can’t buy an economy ticket and pay to upgrade to first class. Despite what Delta says, I don’t consider Comfort+ as a different class of service, because it’s the same seat with a few more inches of legroom.
General advice is not to call American Express about credits but after a few days, I gave in and chatted with a rep via the website.
I was happy to see them write that the fee was eligible for the credit and that I just had to wait.
But after 2 weeks, there still was no credit. I went back to the chat and asked again.
This time the rep manually pushed the credit through.
The credit showed up on my account a few days later. It took some work but I used up the credit. I’m glad I had it because otherwise, it would have hurt to pay $160 for Comfort+ seats for the 2 & 1/2-hour flight.
Next year I’ll pick an airline where it’s easier to use the credit.
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