Posted by William Charles on July 22, 2019
Credit Cards

Published on July 22nd, 2019 | by William Charles

309

R.I.P Giftcard Purchases Counting Towards American Express Airline Incidental Purchases

Earlier this month we wrote a post outlining that gift card purchases from Southwest & Delta were not crediting the American Express Airline incidental credits, we’d previously posted that this stopped working for American Airlines as well (there was hope that was working again, but I very much doubt that now). I’m officially calling this work around dead for two reasons:

  • There are a number of data points showing people that made non gift card purchases on the same day as a gift card purchase being credited for the non gift card purchase, but not the gift card (for example: here)
  • Even if credits do stay posting again, there is nothing stopping American Express from deciding at a later date that these are no qualifying purchases and clawing back the credit. This is something that have now shown time and time again that they are willing to do, most recently with self referrals.

Personally I used to value these credits at 80-90% of face value but given that it seems likely that this open ‘secret’ is no longer working due to cost cutting measures by American Express I’ll have to reevaluate that. In addition the American Express Platinum Priority Pass will soon lose restaurant access, I think this makes keeping the Platinum long term almost impossible unless you have a home airport with a Centurion lounge but I’m sure many will disagree in the comments.



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Parts Unknown
Parts Unknown

I’ll be closing at least 3 cards because of this. Also means I probably won’t ever go for the Aspire. Nice while it lasted.

bob
bob

yeah, i was able to get 2 years’ worth of this perk for the Aspire, but wasn’t able to buy a HH GC at a “resort” – i think i made back the AF, but i would NEVER renew it.

the Delta Reserve, maybe, b/c of other perks. Hilton? No way.

Nun
Nun

Bob, Do you mean you bought a physical gift card in person from a property on the resort list? I’m a little surprised you didn’t get credited.

Akuma
Akuma

Anyone know if you can still buy a Delta GC to trigger the statement credit on the various Delta cards (sign up bonus)?

AgileHumor
AgileHumor

Yes, it works if a Delta Statement Credit (not Amex Travel Credit with Delta Selected…which is different). I did a giftcard last week from my sign up bonus $50 statement credit for Delta Gold from May.

M
M

Delta GC purchased on the desktop website will continue to be a purchase from Delta. But it is no longer a Delta incidental expense. Sign-up bonuses for Delta cards require any purchase from Delta.

VL
VL

+1… Delta purhcase credit on DELTA amex card worked for me on 07/03/2019… but as @M mentioned, this is not an incidental reimbursement benefit – this is “a purchase from Delta” benefit, hence works, at least still works.

PT
PT

I never saw how I could leverage the Platinum with my patterns to justify the fee, but the Hilton Aspire for me has been unexpectedly the single most beneficial card hands-down for me for the first year, & I’m a modest traveler.

Including signup bonus points, I have gotten $700 Southwest credit ($500 airline credit & $200 from pts converted Amazon at 0.5 cpp), $600 Visa cards (pts converted to Amazon at 0.5 cpp), $900+ free night Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, $250 resort credit at Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas (used to reduce room cost very significantly for this non-smoking & non-casino hotel), & $200 in Diamond meal credits ($50/day for 4 nights for 2 people at both Waldorfs), & even received $100 Amex Offer credit for Waldorf. This is over $2700 in value for $450 fee. Even if you devalued some of this (like the overpriced but very good hotel food), it is still an exceptional value.

For the second year of course, it will be far more tame, but I expect the Aspire will still be able to provide solid value for me beyond the fee, even if I don’t get to use the resort credit.

AmexSucks
AmexSucks

I’m canceling my Amex Gold & Schwab Platinum when the annual fee gets posted.
What a shame. I loved having those Amex cards.

Charlie
Charlie

I’m curious to know why you have to wait until annual fee gets posted to cancel the cards. Would canceling before that a bad idea?

Paul
Paul

cancel after annual fee is posted would maintain a good record at the bank, so it is highly recommended

Jason
Jason

It means American Express Card not worth any value now with any high annual fee version card. I will wait for annual fee post then cancel it

Lantean
Lantean

With all these changes… Is Amex trying to get out of credit card business?
It certainly seems like it.

Jon
Jon

Trying to shake out the unprofitable churners…

bob
bob

i think they’re trying to limit the market for their $450 AF cards to true road warriors and higher-rollers. Folks who might actually pay for bags, legroom, drinks, etc. It’s a smaller market, but a more lucrative one for Amex swipe-fees (I assume)

Al
Al

True road warriors have elite status already and don’t pay for seating , baggage, etc. It’s an ill conceived credit. And since the fall of 2018, the Uber credit doesn’t work most of the time.

Sevillada
Sevillada

Uber credit works fine for most of us, but have no use for uber, so we use uber eats which has many fees, so almost useless

rick b
rick b

Correct. Road warriors have enough status they don’t need to pay for incidentals. Amex clearly wanted to create a “perk” that’s hard to use so no one can get their money’s worth. Also, road warriors will likely put travel spend on either their airline card, or maximize categories on something like platinum, so they’re not exactly more profitable.

I really think they consider everyone stupid and think there are a ton of rich casual luxury travel idiots who just want the card for the status symbol.

George
George

I hated the Uber credit and my #1 reason for cancelling the card. What a garbage company (Uber). Go Lyft!

Chaser123
Chaser123

I feel the opposite. I hate, really hate Lyft. Horrible customer service, drivers that cancel frequently and a poor customer interface with the app.

David
David

I just wish the uber credits worked internationally. It’s a card highly advertised for worldly travels yet these dumb credits can only be used in the USA.

NK3
NK3

Small correction–they can only be used where the official currency is USD. So a few random foreign countries will trigger the credit (I found that out in Ecuador last year).

Shawn
Shawn

It actually does work in other countries that use the USD. I found this out when I went to Ecuador this month. Ecuador also uses USD and my AMEX uber credits worked just fine.

DM
DM

You do realize that “true road warriors” don’t need to pay for incidentals because they have status right? No change fees, free upgrades, free bags, etc…

Matt P
Matt P

$550 now, not $450.

Ryan
Ryan

Amex doesn’t actually *care* whether someone is buying, say, a $100 GC or $100 in seat assignment fees. They’re just reducing the amount of times they have to shell out for the benefit. Why they didn’t make the effort to tighten controls before now, who knows. But it’s the same general approach many companies take, for example the classic mail-in rebates that attract customers but only if they jump through hoops to actually receive the benefit. Yet advertising the benefit attracts customers.

Sven Katesh
Sven Katesh

True road warriors already have airline status that comes with free checked bags, and depending on routing, will probably get upgraded to C+ which comes with free drinks.

Kevin
Kevin

I get that people are annoyed by this but your statement is just silly. Amex isn’t trying to get out of the card business. They’re trying to cut out gaming. The credit was never intended to be used for gift card purchases. They are trying to have people who actually benefit from the card organically be the ones using it, not gamers

perfectviking
perfectviking

I disagree. They’re just not looking to give everyone free money on every card with an airline credit.

Igor
Igor

Exactly. PRG card still makes alot of sense for me in terms of flight bookings.

MoreSun
MoreSun

Nah, they just want to make a lot more money off their cc holders and in the meantime they’re happy to lose the ones that can do math.

PT
PT

I agree. As we have seen with Chase, Citi, and others, they have made changes to make the unprofitable people cancel their cards or block them from signing up in the first place.

I only have 3 cards with an annual fee. I track each card & they must justify themselves significantly beyond the fee. If it is a pain to just break even on the fee, it isn’t worth it.

Gareth
Gareth

Platinum has the Morgan Stanley version still worth keeping if you are a Premier client. But the Aspire card is straight dead.

Nun
Nun

If you actually use the $250 resort credit and the one free night, that covers the $450 Aspire fee. Plus you can get a little cash back from Amex offers.

Lrdx
Lrdx

Amex offers are available on no-fee cards, so it’s not a benefit.

Nun
Nun

True. I’m saying if you want the other benefits like diamond status, free night or whatever, the offers can help offset the fee.

Lrdx
Lrdx

No, they don’t. While you are “offsetting” your annual fee, you lose the exact same amount by not running the same offer on another card you hold anyway.

Will Shrop

Resort credits, Better room upgrade opportunities compared to gold, and free night should cover the annual fee if you use those benefits at higher end resorts.

Sam
Sam

Yeah… but you are not going to stay in a resort for just one day, right? so they still make you spend more money that you otherwise would not, especially now AirBnB is almost everywhere.

Will Shrop

Why not? It’s a resort. You can take advantage of a lot of the amenities in one day.

TheMonkeyTech
TheMonkeyTech

I just upgraded to aspire from the surpass, I’m totally screwed. I was counting on gift card purchases to make back some of the $450 fee.

Mjs
Mjs

You can downgrade whenever and they’ll pro-rate the fee. Only on cancellation will they not give a refund of an annual fee.

Amex has intentionally destroyed their brand more than almost any other consumer brand I can think of. 10 years ago, all their cards were seen as top tier, and you always got an American-based CSR who was empowered and willing to help and give the benefit of the doubt on any card Benefit. Now they’re basically K-Mart wth Newman Marcus pricing!

Curmudgeon
Curmudgeon
Kathy
Kathy

I just upgraded my card to the Aspire this morning. The airline fee credit was what made me go ahead and jump on it because I felt like I could at least justify the annual fee if I could get the gift cards. This truly stinks.

VL
VL

I guess you can change your mind and downgrade within 30 days and pay no AF… no harm.

Jeremy
Jeremy

It can also be worth keeping the Platinum if Amex incentives you, is retention offers.

Sevillada
Sevillada

I just closed my two plats. Not worth it anymore.
At least i had good timing as this week i got hit with the annual fees.

Francisco
Francisco

Actually bad timing. If you would have waited maybe you could have got retention offers.

Sevillada
Sevillada

Have 70k negative, so….

perfectviking
perfectviking

There are great retention offers out there right now. You just cut yourself off at the knees.

FreeIsGood
FreeIsGood

Curious about what kind of retention offers are out there for the Plat and what the best strategy is to get them OFTEN. I tried to get one after my annual fee hit, they said nope, I got one last year… which was true. (I think that was 20k pts for x? spend, which made the card cost neutral).

No airline gift cards will make it hard to be cost neutral. Probably will downgrade to AMEX gold for the 4x dining and restaurant.

Then I’m on the fence about the Hilton Aspire… Can probably squeeze most of the airline credit out of one card, but not two. This also makes it hard to cash out the airline credits quickly in January to maximize the annual fee proration.

GV
GV

I got a 40K retention offer on Platinum for spending $4,000 in 3 months. That was about 2 weeks ago.

miafll
miafll

The poster has a 70K NEGATIVE balance (from the referral claw back), how can any incentives could be of useful when he already “pocketed” the 70K?

YoniPDX
YoniPDX

Triple dips RIP.

Not just GC, PP restaurants, but also über/eats devalued since increased fees since Pt launch/ipo and seeking profit for shareholders. Only Air/hotel’s @5x are only decent value, but worse travel protection vs CSR other than $100k+ Global evac for medical (but not guaranteed) benefit.

Amex needs to join Citi, JPM, And the rest of issuer’s with general travel remibursement and not BS single airline and incendentials (things that high wealth individuals – ones targeted for card at one time) likely don’t pay in the first place.

bob
bob

i wasn’t even gonna try to triple dip (my AF hits in December), but yeah: no way i’m renewing now even w/ a baller retention offer.

frogger
frogger

Uber credit is completely worthless. I was using it for Uber eats but stopped when I realized it holds no value. By the time you pay for the fee, the tip and the higher price it is cheaper to just pick it up yourself and not get Uber “discount”.

NK3
NK3

Do you have Uber Eats pickup options? No delivery/service fees then. That is what I have done the past couple months, since I have not taken Uber in a while.

qmc
qmc

Not quite worthless for me, I don’t have a car at work, so I can get something not in walking distance from work once a month. And last December I used it while on a work trip and got reimbursed. Certainly not valued close to 1:1 but ….

MoreSun
MoreSun

Yep. Worthless to me as well. Just like amex wants it.

Beefer
Beefer

CSR has $100,000 medivac

The plat has $1,000,000 for medicac

TheMonkeyTech
TheMonkeyTech

Keeping a $450 card on the extremely rare chance you need a medivac while traveling? Might as well buy alien/zombie invasion insurance as well.

Brad C
Brad C

I’ve only heard the Plat $1,000,000 medivac coming in handy for elderly people.

Pahanin
Pahanin

Medivac is even more useless. The incidental is still useful.

Bill 8
Bill 8

Re: “BS single airline and incidentals”
I don’t travel much for work so I’m not loyal to one airline. I always feel like the giant introductory points incentive cards model could go away any day and I try to get as much as I can without abuse in hopes to slow the tightening of 5/24, 48 month, etc. restrictions.
I could probably still get enough value out of Amex Plat, especially since P2 has not had any version, if Amex allowed incidental credits on any airline. Keeping it one airline that must be chosen in January may be the deal breaker for me.

Ryan
Ryan

I much prefer the CSR and others’ general travel credit to the Amex incidentals restriction. But I could live with that caveat (and get value from it) IF, as you noted, I didn’t have to commit to a single airline for the whole year, in January! I’m not loyal to one airline these days so I don’t have status, and at times do pay a seat selection fee to get a better one…or occasionally a checked bag fee. But because I’m not fixed on one airline, narrowing it down for the whole year like that isn’t very helpful for me many years. Some years I may have enough travel planned for the year to be able to pick an airline, but that isn’t always true.

But the credit isn’t the only problem nowadays with Amex features.

Arlington Traveler
Arlington Traveler

@YoniPDX, don’t see how that math works. Amex is building out their own lounge network. In addition to Priority Pass, Escape and Airspace lounges are exclusive to the Amex Global Lounge Collection and not participating in Priority Pass. American Express is busying signing very expensive airport leases and in some cases even building expansions to airport terminals to build out Centurion lounges. So are you proposing they end the Centurion lounge program and instead just give customers a travel credit? I doubt they can afford both.

The whole reason Priority Pass went with restaurants (primarily in the USA and Australia) is because they couldn’t get lounge access to their members, American Express would rather spend that money on lounges instead of paying people’s restaurant tabs.

Also, I noticed the same thing with Uber after their IPO, but in the last two months their rates are actually super competitive with Lyft and VIA. My guess is they were losing too much market share after jacking up rates post going public!

Atlien
Atlien

Is this also the case for statement credits for Delta co-branded cards?

B
B

RIP Platinum Cards.

bob
bob

this is the whole reason i’m closing my Plat. The PP access is going away (and i won’t fly delta again until i restock my points), which was a non-monetary perk (IMO) and i can’t offset the AF w/ baggage fees (b/c i either fly SWA or get them waived).

Richard
Richard

Priority Pass is NOT going away. Only the restaurant benefit for Priority Pass.

Lrdx
Lrdx

At some airports, same difference.

Stan
Stan

now that there are facebook groups for these loopholes and MS, and people actively recruit more people to do this stuff, a lot of our free money is going away forever.
thanks everyone! keep telling your friends and family your secrets!

TCW
TCW

Hard to complain about this. You learned about the loopholes somehow, and whatever forum you used is OK, but other forums that spread the news further are not OK. It’s not a convincing argument.

Stan
Stan

you’re right. i hope they start running infomercials on TV to show more people how to profit from credit cards. that could only help us.

Kevin
Kevin

I hope they do too, just to piss off entitled mooches like you who for some reason think they have more of a right to this information than others. Very few in the community are actually the ones finding loopholes or taking risks to create data points, the rest should be grateful for whatever they’ve gotten or will get.

Francisco
Francisco

I agree but my problem is the idiots that call the credit card companies and say well online they say this works, is it true?

nick
nick

like TCW said that is bit hypocritical of you. i am willing to bet someone thought you or you read this blog or somewhere else on how to do it and now you are upset other people are doing it as well. tough luck man. you are no more entitled to this as the next guy. now i don’t go announcing this to every person, but i give few pointer to people i like and who i know won’t try and mess it up for everyone.

Pahanin
Pahanin

Yes sir. I will tell more people the secrets.

Danno
Danno

“could i buy a $100 visa GC then go back in store and buy another $100 GC using GC, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, to rack up fuel points?”

This was you, publicly asking for secrets, literally last night.

One
One

Found 99% of reddit r/churn users.

KP
KP

They are definitely shooting themselves in the foot with all these changes. Only one bonus per card per lifetime, points clawbacks, no pp restaurants, no easy way to use up airline incidentals, no points being awarded on specific merchants (simon), even cust service i have heard is not as great as it used to be in years past – all this makes me wonder how long they can survive just on the “Amex” brand reputation.

Parts Unknown
Parts Unknown

Once per lifetime is over exaggerated, cancel a few cards and mailers pour in trying to convince you to come back.

Nick
Nick

Sans signup bonus….

TCW
TCW

The mailers we’ve received do give you the signup bonus again.

Free Fee
Free Fee

You may not be eligible for it in spite of what the mailer says

frogger
frogger

I think they will survive the loss of unprofitable customers. The Platinum card is a card about prestige if you have everybody and their brother getting the card it loses its prestige.

Maybe they can get rid of the worthless Uber credit and replace it with something useful.

Al
Al

The Uber credit is a total scam. The way it’s structured is premised on many cardholders not using it every month. It’s not a $200 credit per year for a reason.

YoniPDX
YoniPDX

Except it lost its prestige, when Amex will give one to just about anyone with a pulse.

About 20 years ago it was more like the Centurion card and actually was limited in the number of people who could get a Pt card.

But when every issuer slapped Plat. on Cards, Amex responded and started issuing them like candy. So I’m sure some people get all crowned up and all “DYKWI” cause the paid $550 for a Pt card so they could roll like a baller, or at least pretend too for a time.

Anon
Anon

Depends on your situation. I get consistent value from Uber. I take evening classes in an adjacent city twice a month, and I don’t have a car. Uber Pool is $6 each way and takes < 20 mins from my apartment. Train costs $4 each way and I have to wait+walk 50 mins. I have never used my credit on Uber eats which is a rip-off.

Please keep Uber credit and replace $50 Saks junk instead. I only buy things there just to get the cashback portal credit, and I gift whatever trash I bought.

recursion
recursion

gg, just signed up the upgrade and started the spending. Could i be more lucky?

bob
bob

my SWA GC’s did not get reimbursed on PenFed Pathfinder (in June) – but i’ve been told MPX still gets reimbursed? i just tried to use MPX for the first time, and the app keeps crashing, so i dunno.

Lee
Lee

MPX hasnt worked since end of March for pathfinder. Was reliable up till then for me

payyoutuesday
payyoutuesday

Worked in May for me. Haven’t tried it since, but I will.

aubergine
aubergine

can’t remember the exact date but sometime this spring my MPX worked. AFAIK it seems to be somewhat merchant specific, if you look closely at datapoints.

in any case, the Pathfinder air incidental credit is better than Plats in its usability (all airlines) so even if MPX is well & truly gone, its still a more flexible one than the Amex issued card one….

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