It doesn’t always make sense to redeem miles for travel, especially for short haul-flights. In this post I will explain how I have earned $600 in travel credits without paying an annual fee or redeeming points.
AmEx cards with airline fee credits
I have two AmEx cards that confer an “airline fee credit.” Meant to be used to reimburse expenses such as baggage fees and inflight purchases, these credits can also be used to refund gift registry purchases (United) or electronic gift cards (Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest).
Together, the following two cards provide $300 per year in statement credits.
- American Express Platinum (including Business Platinum): “Select a qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 a year in statement credits when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card account.” When you sign up through Ameriprise, the introductory annual fee is $0.
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold: “Select a qualifying airline and then receive up to $100 a year in statement credits when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card account.” Introductory annual fee is $0.
Redeeming the airline fee credits for gift cards requires selection of one of the qualifying airlines and following the instructions in the FlyerTalk threads linked above.
An important distinction is that these benefits are applicable each calendar year, so you can get the credits twice in a card membership year before ever paying an annual fee, assuming you have a card annual fee waived for the first year.
e.g. Loading United TravelBank
United’s TravelBank holds funds that can be used towards a future flights purchased on United.com. After creating a gift registry for yourself, funds may be deposited into your TravelBank through a gift registry contribution using one of the aforementioned AmEx cards.
Gift registry purchases will be refunded on your AmEx statement within 4 weeks, but usually sooner.
e.g. Redeeming United TravelBank
TravelBank funds may be applied to your flight at the time of purchase. You may apply any fraction of your TravelBank funds, and your TravelBank balance does not need to cover the entire cost of the itinerary.
Note that TravelBank purchases do earn Premier qualifying miles, segments, and dollars.
For short-haul flights, it is often better to just pay for the cost of the flight if you can’t get a good redemption rate in cents per mile. Redeeming points for this flight would’ve cost me 25k miles + $86.20 for a paltry 0.77 cents per point.
But that doesn’t mean you need to pay cash; use credits!