NOTE: According to multiple sources, this use of the travel credit no longer works as of June 2019.
I recently wrote about getting the Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN. One of the benefits of that card is an annual $200 airline travel credit. This credit is based on calendar year rather than membership year, so, even though I applied for the card in December, I was eligible for the credit in 2016.
What the airline credit covers
The airline credit is applicable to only one airline that you select at www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice or by calling American Express. You select an airline when you register your new card and can change it once per year starting January 1 after your initial selection. The airline credit is applicable only for the airline you select.
American Express describes the airline fee credit as:
Because I had no travel plans for December 2016, I had limited ways in which I could take advantage of the credit. Fortunately, a quirk in how American Express treats airlines charges, at least from Delta, allowed me to buy $200 in Delta gift cards and be reimbursed. In addition to allowing me to take advantage of the credits, by using a reimbursed gift card, I can use the fee credit for airfare which is not otherwise permitted.
You can be reimbursed for small gift card purchases
The fine print for this airline fee credit states that gift cards are not eligible charges for the credit: "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." However, I read on numerous blogs and in this FlyerTalk thread that small (defined as $50 max for Delta) gift card purchases would be reimbursed. Not having anything else to buy from Delta and knowing I could use the gift cards even if I had to pay for them, I decided to give it a shot. I figure I would start with a single $50 purchase and see if it was reimbursed. If it was, I would purchase three more $50 gift cards.
Buying gift cards at Delta.com was very easy. The screenshots below walk you through the steps.
1. Go to Delta.com and scroll down until you see the boxes below. The box to the right will take you to the screen for making gift card purchases.
2. Once on the gift card purchase screen, I recommend going with the e-Gift Card option (1). If you do you will receive an email with the necessary codes for using the card. Remember, you want to purchase nothing larger than a $50 gift card (2), which is actually the minimum amount you can buy. The FlyerTalk.com thread suggests that you can purchase four (3) of these cards and that each will be processed as a separate transaction, all of which will be credited by American Express. I did not try this so I can't confirm nor deny.
I made my initial purchase of one $50 gift card and waited to see if my credit card would be credited. I purchased the first gift card on December 29 and it was credited the next day. Despite the order shown on my statement below, once I saw that the credit had been posted, I bought three more $50 gift cards in order to max out my 2016 credit.
Once into 2017, with the credit having reset, I purchased two more and now have a total of $300 I can use for Delta travel. I will hold off on the last $100 since I might have to pay for guest access to Delta Sky Clubs this year. (As noted, the Business Platinum card grants Sky Club access but guests still have to pay $29.) Combined with the $250 credit on my Citi Prestige Card, that is a total of $650 I can use toward air travel in 2017!
If you take advantage of them, credit card airline fee credits help to offset the admittedly steep annual fees these cards typically carry. Given the value of the other perks of the Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN, the net $250 annual fee is well worth it if you ask me!