Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Many credit card issuers have made a number of changes to benefits in response to the ongoing pandemic. In some cases, cardholders can earn bonus points in new categories, while in others, you now have new perks or extended time to use existing perks.
On the other hand, some benefits remain as they were prior to the pandemic. One of the most notable examples is the annual airline fee credit on several American Express cards. These credits haven’t been extended or publicly modified in any way, so you still have until the end of 2021 to use them.
However, as we approach the end of the year, it’s important to look at any upcoming travel plans that you may have since it’s possible to change your designated airline for this perk.
Here’s how (and why) you can adjust your selected airline this year.
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Applicable Amex cards
Several American Express cards currently provide this perk. Here’s a snapshot of some popular ones (enrollment required):
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Up to $200 per calendar year.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Up to $200 per calendar year.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Up to $250 per calendar year.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Remember that these credits typically apply solely to incidental fees on the one airline you designate, making the perk much less flexible than travel credits on cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Nevertheless, you may be able to enjoy some flexibility this year.
Using online chat to change your airline
Under normal circumstances, you select your airline when you first get an eligible card, and then you can adjust your selection for these credits once per year, in January. If you do not change it, the system will automatically carry forward your previous year’s airline choice.
But this year, American Express is allowing additional changes — and I was able to adjust the airline for my Hilton Aspire card in just a few minutes by using the online chat feature.
Start by logging in to your account. Navigate to the applicable card, then click Help at the top.
Scroll down to find the Chat With Us section, then click the Live Chat icon.
From there, you’ll be asked to type in a sentence to let the automated system know what you want to do. I said, “I would like to adjust my selected airline for my airline fee credit,” and the system gave me the following response:
I clicked the second option and then answered two additional questions.
At that point, I was connected with a representative. He reminded me of the terms of the perk then processed the change. I immediately received a confirmation email as well.
It took less than five minutes from the time I started the chat to when I received the email.
Why you might want to change your airline now
There are a couple of key reasons why this may make sense right now:
- Holiday trip(s) on an airline other than the one you previously selected.
- Trips booked for 2022 with fees that you could incur now.
The former of these two led me to initiate a change.
In an average year, JetBlue is my airline of choice for the fee credit offers on my American Express cards. I frequently take the carrier from my home state of Florida to New York City for business meetings at the TPG office and to visit family in the area. It’s also my go-to airline for domestic vacations, thanks to extensive service from Orlando (MCO) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL).
While my JetBlue Plus card covers baggage fees when I fly, I will typically max out the credits on my Hilton Aspire and Amex Platinum cards through seat selection on Blue Basic fares or by splurging for Even More Space seats.
However, this year, I’ve only taken a single, round-trip flight on JetBlue and have no upcoming travel on the books. However, I do have a Delta flight coming up for a holiday ski trip, and since I do not have Medallion status or a Delta credit card, I’d be on the hook for some hefty bag fees.
Well, not anymore. By changing my designated airline for the Hilton Aspire card from JetBlue to Delta, I now have up to $250 in credit to use on this trip. The airfare alone was quite pricey, and with lift tickets and equipment rentals, the costs will quickly pile up on this trip. Thankfully, I no longer need to worry about bag fees.
You may find yourself in a similar situation over the next couple of months — taking a holiday trip on an airline other than the one you selected back in January. Or you could use this opportunity to look ahead to your 2021 travel and identify a chance to prepay for seat assignment fees, lounge passes or other incidentals that would trigger the Amex fee credits.
Remember: This change will only apply to purchases made between now and Dec. 31, 2021 — at which point you could always change back to your typical carrier for the rest of 2022.
If you find yourself in either of these scenarios, you may want to log in to your American Express account and request a change. At this time of year and with ongoing concerns over the pandemic, every dollar counts.
The information for the JetBlue Plus card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
American Express hasn’t formally adjusted the airline fee credits it offers on several popular cards. Still, I had success changing my selected airline through the issuer’s online chat, and it took less than five minutes to do so. While this flexibility isn’t a formally-published policy, other reports indicate that it’s relatively widespread.
Take a look at your upcoming travel plans through the end of the year and into next year to see if a change makes sense. You could wind up saving some serious money on your next trip.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.