7 Ways to Use Your Credit Card's Airline Fee Credit

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  • Airline fee credits don't cover flights, upgrades, gift cards, or mileage purchases.
  • Eligible fees can include checked bag fees, pet fees, and lounge access, among others.

Your fee credit could improve the quality of your flight.

Luxury travel rewards cards have a ton of great perks that can save you time, money, or just plain make your travel more enjoyable. But the quality of those perks depends entirely on whether you can actually put them to use.

One perk showing up more and more, especially on American Express cards, is a statement credit for incidental airline fees. With this credit, you select an airline of your choice from the list (which usually covers most major domestic airlines), then you can get a statement credit when you use your eligible card for qualifying airline fees.

On the surface, this sounds kind of nice; after all, flying these days does tend to come with a lot of fees. Unfortunately, the long list of ineligible purchases can make this credit less valuable than it appears. Typical things that are NOT eligible for reimbursement include:

  • Airline tickets
  • Seat upgrades
  • Gift cards
  • Award tickets or fees
  • Buying frequent flyer miles
  • Fees for transferring frequent flyer miles
  • Fees on any airline other than your selected airline
  • Fees charged before selecting an airline

What's more, the moratorium on airline ticket costs extends to anything else you purchase at the same time. So, even if the fee is something that would be normally covered, if it's a part of the same purchase as your airfare, it won't count. For example, if you purchase your ticket and pay the checked baggage fee at the same time, your airline fee credit probably won't apply to your baggage fee.

Since this list covers a lot of the key things you might think to use an airline credit for, what good is it? Well, there are still a few valuable ways to put your credit to use:

1. Checked baggage fees

Most airlines nowadays charge a pretty penny for every checked bag; it's not uncommon to spend $35 or more to take your bag with you when you fly. Most airline fee credits will cover the cost of your checked baggage, including fees for overweight or oversized bags. As noted above, though, make sure you pay that fee separate from your ticket purchase.

2. Airport lounge passes

Once you spend your wait in an airport lounge instead of sitting in front of the gate, you'll never want to go back. While many cards with airline fee credits also come with airport lounge access, that access only goes so far. Instead, use your fee credit to cover lounge access for you or for your guests.

3. Seat assignment fees

Some airlines make you pay an extra fee just to select where you want to sit -- or else it's first-come-first-served at boarding. If a free-for-all isn't appealing, that fee can be well worth paying, especially if your airline fee credit will reimburse you. As with other charges, pay for this fee separate from your flight purchase to make sure it qualifies for the credit.

4. Itinerary change fees

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, things happened that meant changing your plans. A few airlines still have COVID-era waivers for change fees -- but many don't. Either way, your change fee is likely covered by the airline fee credit.

5. Pet flight fees

Flying with a pet is rarely ideal, but sometimes it's necessary. Of course, necessary doesn't always mean affordable. On the plus side, most airline fee credits will cover the cost of flying with your furry friend.

6. In-flight food and beverage purchases

Although airline food is the butt of many jokes, sometimes you gotta eat what you gotta eat. Or maybe you just need that post-takeoff cocktail to get you past the screaming infant (or, these days, ranting adult) three rows back. In both cases, your in-flight food and beverage purchases typically count toward your airline fee credit.

7. Phone reservation fees

Booking online is all well and good, but there are some times you simply need to talk it out with a human. Sadly, the human option can sometimes come with an extra fee -- albeit one usually covered by the airline fee credit.

Loopholes and maybes

All in all, there are a bunch of fairly accessible ways to use up your airline fee credit. This includes a number of options for making your entire travel experience more enjoyable.

Depending on which forum you join, you'll hear about a few other ways to use your credit that may not be on this list. As with most things in life, dedicated loophole finders have found a few ways to game the airline fee credit system to get around the rules.

Use these methods at your own risk.

Sure, it could work -- and that would be lovely. But it may not, leaving you high and dry. At worst, your card company may take exception to you trying to skirt the rules and not only claw back your credit, but also consider closing your accounts to prevent any more tomfoolery.

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