• Jay Hodge

How We Scored $1,400 In Airline Gift Cards

American Express Travel Reward Card Lineup

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Not the free stuff you get at conventions and functions that serve no purpose, like pencils, stress balls, notepads and etc. but, some free stuff that can actually add value to your life. Whitney and I are always on the hunt for those outstanding deals. In this case, our reward travel cards offer just that. We were able to secure $1,400 worth of airline gift cards, to store away and use later on at will. Read on to gather how we combined all of our airline credits across various cards.

***Word of Advice: Leaving balances on reward travel credit cards, or any credit card for that matter negates the benefits the cards can offer. Use cards wisely and strategically to maximize the amount of benefits you can obtain. Also, NEVER chase the sign-on bonuses the reward cards offer. What I mean by that is, never spend money just to meet the minimum spend. If you do, you may end up spending more money than what the sign-on bonus valuation is worth, which makes the bonus less lucrative. My wife and I’s golden rule is to never purchase anything with our reward cards that we did not plan to purchase with cash anyways. Do not overextend yourself. In our case, to obtain reward cards sign on bonuses, we usually parallel the sign on bonus with a major purchase we must complete, or even an upcoming trip we know we will pay for. ***

Cards in the inventory with airline credit:

Having all of the cards displayed above in the inventory allows us to utilize all of the benefits the cards have to offer. In the case of solely American Express (we did not include our Chase Sapphire Reserve Airline Credits), our current lineup includes three platinum cards, two revamped gold cards and 2 Hilton Aspire cards. The following table displays the breakdown of the airline credit offered for each card.

Airline Credit Table

How do we redeem the AMEX airline credits?

For each American Express card that offers an airline credit, typically you will have to choose your airline of choice once the card is opened and then stick with them for a calendar year before receiving the option to change them. The airline credit normally applies to incidentals on board, such as, checked bags, seat upgrades, in-flight refreshments and etc. but, it has been discovered that you can purchase gift cards from some of the airline partners and bypass the “incidental only” rule. From the rewards world at large, the following table displays the few airlines that currently trigger an AMEX reimbursement for gift card purchase, and their respective incremental amount allowed per transaction. These gift card purchases have been proven to trigger the airline credit by reward junkies, myself included. As you can see, Southwest seems to be the best bet, with no restricted gift card amount (that can change at any moment).

Airline Gift Card Reimbursement Amounts

Southwest e-Gift Card

Acquiring the gift cards:

If you decide to go with southwest as your airline of choice, select them as your airline of choice via the American express app or website. Once selected, then go to southwest.com, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and select gift cards. When the link pulls up, make a gift card amount selection. Once done, select the e-Gift card option. Your e-gift card should arrive in your inbox in a matter of minutes. Once the whole process is complete, the credit normally post to the credit card in roughly 2-4 days ( American Express is pretty quick with issuing the credits). In my case, I purchased a $200 gift card on one of my platinum cards on 1/3/2019 and received a credit to my account on 1/7/2019.

Note: Do not forget to make your airline selection BEFORE purchasing the gift card. If you do not do so, you will not receive the credit on your credit card statement. Even if you make the airline selection immediately after purchasing your gift card, it will not be refunded.

Airline Selection via American Express' website

Double dip for an upcoming new year trip:

The awesome thing about American Express, is the fact that the airline credit renews per calendar year. Why does that matter? Many travel reward cards require that you clock in a complete consecutive year, before your airline credit renews. In the case of AMEX, the credit renews per calendar year. The benefit; If you were preparing for an upcoming trip for the new year and decided to open an account close to the end of year, like we did.. you can use your airline credit to purchase the first set of gift cards, wait for the credit to renew for the new year and then purchase the new round of gift cards. In our case, we opened up the newly revamped American Express Gold card in December, selected Southwest as our airline of choice, used the $100 airline credit on both of our Gold cards, rolled into January and then repeated the process for a total of $400 worth of southwest gift cards

How do we use the gift cards?

We store the gift cards aside for many of our domestic trips. Southwest has a pretty robust network and normally gets us to where we need to go or would like to go.

Travel tip: Although the gift cards are essentially obtained for free, it is still important to search for great deals to maximize and extend the amount of credits you have. The more you save on the credits, the more you can use them. Southwest usually pops up with some pretty deep discounts to major cities around the country (some as low as $69 each way).

Southwest quick deals

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