The death of the Amex Platinum gift card loophole might be exaggerated. And I strongly emphasize might.
About a week ago our good friend Will at the Doctor of Credit wrote about a troubling development that has recently been bubbling on Flyertalk, Reddit, and elsewhere. Specifically, the loophole that had long allowed certain airline gift card purchases to qualify for airline fee reimbursements on the Amex Platinum appeared to have come to an end. For all the details, check out Will’s post here for his take on the situation and suggestions on what to do and what not to do (hint: don’t call!)
However, as the Devil’s Advocate it’s my job to question every assumption, and as it happens, in the last several days another trend has become clear. Fortunately, it’s one that gives us a sliver of hope that this situation might be temporary. Gift card credits might not actually be dead yet.
And even if they are, is this truly a major impact to the Amex airline reimbursement benefit? Should we all be so upset about it? Or if we look at the other options, can we still make good of a bad situation?
Yeah, yeah, I know, you want the “sliver of hope” part first. OK, fine. Here it is…
There’s more missing than just gift card credits.
The reason to still hold out hope is that, as of the date of this post (9/10/2015) if you go through all the various Flyertalk and Reddit threads as well as the comments on Will’s post and elsewhere, it appears no one has gotten an airline credit reimbursement for any Amex Platinum airline charges, even legitimate ones, since roughly August 24th.
Now, let’s be clear on this. Global Entry credits are posting. Amex Offers are posting (including the recent one for airline purchases). $50 statement credits on the Amex Delta card are posting. It’s only the airline reimbursement credits for the Amex Platinum and the Amex Premier Rewards Gold that don’t seem to be showing up. For anything.
What does this mean? It means the current situation might have nothing to do with gift cards. It might just be an IT issue with the overall Amex airline reimbursement credit that will eventually be fixed. If that’s the case, it might be true that at some point all will be well again.
Multiple commenters have also noted that Amex has been having a number of IT problems across the board in the last 10 days. Their website has been down multiple times, sometimes returning an error message from just attempting to login. Several people report their Membership Rewards points aren’t posting correctly on recent statements. There’s even been a few instances of Global Entry credits being accidentally doubled.
Does it all point to this being a temporary IT hiccup? Maybe.
The fact is, we don’t really know for sure what’s going on yet, and we won’t know until we start seeing a stream of legitimate airline fees being reimbursed but gift card purchases not being credited (or being credited, in which case we’ll all be very happy). All the speculation about how gift cards are being categorized now and whatnot is just that for the moment: speculation.
I’m not promising or predicting anything. This loophole might turn out to be dead after all. I’m just pointing out that the jury is still out. So for the moment, just hang on. And once again, DO NOT CALL.
But what if it really is over?
If we do eventually confirm that it’s bad news and gift cards are no longer reimbursed, what do you do if you were counting on those fee reimbursements to offset the $450 annual Amex Platinum fee?
When you’re playing the points and miles game, it’s important to have a backup plan, because the game is always changing. In some areas, things change so quickly that you should have several backup plans. In fact, my fellow Travel Codex writer Tahsir — who is a master of manufactured spend — spoke at the recent FTU Advanced conference in Washington about the fact that when liquidating you should have a Plan A all the way to a Plan Z, lest you get caught with a bajillion dollars in unredeemable gift cards.
So what are the options for using the Amex Platinum airline reimbursement credit? Well, Amex’s terms and conditions actually only lists the items that can’t be credited. As per the Amex T&C’s…
That leaves some obvious possibilities, such as baggage fees, change fees, and in-flight purchases. But for those who don’t tend to check bags, change tickets, or eat lousy airplane food, a better option might be to use it for seat upgrades, especially on international flights. It’s not as good as a premium cabin, but it’s certainly better than sitting in a cramped seat for 8 hours.
There’s several other less common options as well — fees for lounge access, unaccompanied minors, pets in the cabin, or even the cost of a a status challenge should all be reimbursable. Perhaps you can find something in that list (or one of the other benefits) that makes the Amex Platinum still worthwhile.
What if none of those options are useful?
There’s a final “Plan Z” alternative if you’re not happy with any of the other possibilities. If you cancel your Amex Platinum or Amex Premier Rewards Gold, Amex will issue you a pro-rated refund of the annual fee based on when you cancel. So if you’re only a few months into your cardmember year, cancel and get the majority of your annual fee back.
Then apply for a Citi Prestige, which offers a $250 annual airline fee reimbursement that applies to both gift cards and actual airline tickets, and you won’t have to worry about this problem ever again.
But don’t go cancelling just yet. Let’s all just hang on and see how this ends. Monitor the relevant Flyertalk and Reddit threads, along with the Doctor of Credit post and our own Travel Codex comment section below. You can skip posting about how you haven’t gotten your gift card credited yet — everyone already knows that part isn’t working right now — but if you get an actual airline fee reimbursed (not Global Entry or an Amex Offers), definitely let us know.
And did I mention do not call? It won’t help. Trust me on this one, folks. It won’t.Devil’s Advocate is a bi-weekly series that deliberately argues a contrarian view on travel and loyalty programs. Sometimes the Devil’s Advocate truly believes in the counterargument. Other times he takes the opposing position just to see if the original argument holds water. But his main objective is to engage in friendly debate with the miles and points community to determine if today’s conventional wisdom is valid. You can suggest future topics by following him on Twitter @dvlsadvcate or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Posts by the Devil’s Advocate:
- While Chase is Tightening Approvals, Ultimate Rewards is Slowly Dying
- Do I Even Have To Ask Whether 5,000 Extra SPG Starpoints Are Worth All This Fuss?
- Is the Citi Prestige Already Ripe For a Devaluation?
Find the entire collection of Devil’s Advocate posts here.