Everyone over at r/churning is flipping out on a few data points where $200 gift card purchases were labeled with the category of “Gift Cards”. At first I thought it was just overblown, but I had just personally bought a $200 gift card with my newest upgraded Ameriprise Platinum on 12 Feb. I logged in today and saw this:
Sure enough, the $200 charge is now labeled as a gift card, and will most likely not be eligible for reimbursement. It appears to be American Airlines finally using the correct code for these gift cards. Instead of charging gift cards out as an incidental such as luggage or a seat upgrade, they are correctly categorizing it under a separate code of strictly gift cards. It appears that the AA gift card loophole is closed, and those that got all of their gift cards before 08 Feb 2019 were lucky to have them all charged as luggage/flight expenses which were covered under the $200 credit.
This would not be the first overnight disappointment in our churning game. For those that have been around for awhile we used to be able to exploit MPX with United, but that was shut down at the same time they shut down the United gift registry which was another loophole for the $200 benefit.
Luckily I was able to get most of my 2019 gift cards in prior to 08 Feb 2019 date on which this coding switch happened. For my remaining $250 credit on my Hilton Aspire Card, I contacted AmEx and switched it to Southwest:
I will do the same with my new Ameriprise Gold to Plat upgrade to get another $200 for Southwest before this is shut down. I won’t do Delta because you can only do $50 a pop, and only use 3 gift cards per ticket, although the site says:
Up to 3 gift cards can be redeemed per transaction on delta.com. If you wish to redeem more than 3 cards for a single purchase, please call 1-800-221-1212 and a Reservations Specialist will be able to assist you.
I should call them and see exactly how many can be used for a single ticket.
Overall the good news is Southwest and Delta are still good to go for gift cards. Keep in mind you can get reimbursed for $250/$200/$100 gift cards on Southwest, and only $50 on Delta. The game is not over here, but in the future make sure you take advantage of these loopholes while they’re open. Those that wait are often left in the dust!
In the long run Southwest and Delta gift cards will be shut down, and we will be left with these legit options:
Overall we Active Duty never relied on this $200 benefits to justify the $550 annual fee since the fee was always waived. I can understand the gripes out there from those that have to pay the $550 fee, but this was all just icing on the cake for us. We still get our $200 Uber and $100 Saks! The writing is on the wall that this long pastime of free gift cards will soon end, so get ready to eat, drink, and upgrade your seat for free on almost any domestic flight! Here are the current options for airline choices:
Assuming that Southwest remains the only full $200 reimbursement airline in 2020 it makes sense to only do Southwest gift cards. Note that southwest often doesn’t charge AD for drinks in flight when you show your CAC (YMMV). Also the drinks on Southwest are served from a large bottle and cannot be carried off the plane. This will be my reimbursement diversification plan for 2020:
- AmEx Platinum Vanilla: Jet Blue x 2
- Mercedes-Benz: Frontier x 2
- Upgraded Premier Rewards Gold: Southwest ($200 gift card) x 2
- Upgraded Green: Alaska x 1
- Rose Gold: Southwest $100 x 1
- Upgraded Rose Gold: Southwest ($200 gift card) x 1
- Schwab: Spirit x 2
- Morgan Stanley: Hawaiian x 2
- Upgraded Ameriprise Gold: Southwest ($200 gift card) x 1
- Ameriprise Plat: Southwest ($200 gift card) x 1
- Business Plat Vanilla: United (for the 35% rebate) x 2
- Biz Green Upgrade: American (for the 35% rebate) x 1
- Biz Gold Upgrade: Delta (for the 35% rebate) x 2
- Biz Gold Upgrade: Southwest ($200 gift card) x 1
- Hilton Aspire: Southwest ($250 gift card) x 1
23 cards for $4,550 worth of travel reimbursements is nothing to sneeze at! This would allow for $1,550 in Southwest and $400 for Delta with $2,600 to spend on 325 tiny little bottles of vodka over 7 airlines. The 325 x 50 ml bottles is 16.250 liters or about 9 handles worth of vodka!
Still a win in my book!