Doctor of Credit is reporting that the ability to use the “airline fee credit” that comes with many American Express cards to purchase airline gift cards is no longer working. Back in the day you could get a gift card with almost any airline. I would frequently get Alaska Airlines gift cards and then add them to my online wallet, which was an easy way to avoid tracking all the numbers. These days I have a large number of Delta Air Lines gift cards that I’m saving up for a family ski trip.
There is now enough evidence that even these Delta gift cards–as well as gift cards for Southwest Airlines–are not working anymore. Other, legitimate credits for airline fees such as checked baggage or inflight purchases are still getting being processed. To be clear: the airline fee credit was never meant to be used for gift cards. It simply worked for long enough that those in the know baked it into their decision-making process.
It seems every few weeks that American Express comes up with new ways to devalue its products. Already we’ve seen multiple changes to the admission policy for Centurion Lounges and the removal of restaurant dining credits from customers who use their free Priority Pass membership. Now the airline gift card workaround is dead, too, when other card issuers (such as Chase) are far more liberal about how their travel credits can be used.
It’s gotten to the point that I have started to seriously reconsider my spending with American Express. I was a long-time fan of the Platinum Card but dropped it after moving to Austin, where there is no Centurion or Priority Pass lounge. (The rep on the phone suggested I make an effort to connect in Dallas. I replied that after eight years as a “loyal member” they still can’t spell my name correctly.)
I still like my Hilton Honors Business Card, with a second free night award after spending $15,000. That’s not hard to hit. My Hilton Honors Aspire card is also a good choice for the free Diamond status and resort credit. But it’s not the slam dunk it used to be with the greater enforcement of the airline fee credit, so I’ll likely have my wife close her card and keep mine.
I’m a bit torn on what to do with the Gold Card. I just convinced my wife to open a second card for herself, since we spend quite a bit on gift cards purchased at grocery stores for the 4X points (up to $25,000 per year on each card). With the airline fee credit and the monthly GrubHub credit, it made up for the annual fee.
Not so much anymore. I like to fly on airlines where I have status or when I use miles for business and first class, which means I don’t have to pay for baggage or snacks on board. We’ll swing it this year; she didn’t get her card in time to buy gift cards before the shut down. But I’ll probably have her cancel this card, too, when the first year is up.