Reader Question: Problems With Using American Airlines Gift Cards Outside Of The U.S. (Purchased With AmEx Airline Credit)

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Today we have a Reader Question about the use of American Airlines gift cards and restrictions that apply to using them when not departing from the U.S. (Spoiler: you can’t!).

Purchasing gift cards with American Airlines has been popular with people who have to spend airline credit from their credit cards (which doesn’t work anymore as of early 2019).

Gift cards – as the name suggests – are also a popular presents for different occasions but depending on what kind of travel one is planning to book having a prepaid gift card can also prove to be a curse.

One such case happened to our reader Karen who inquired about her AA Gift Cards and the inability to use it for a flight back to the U.S. from Canada:

Dear all,

I currently have $400 in gift cards with American Air that I purchased with the allowance of my annual Amex Platinum credit. So far so good, Amex reimbursed the 4x$100 purchases within a week but now I ran into problems with the gift cards.

We have an Alaska Cruise booked which ends in Vancouver, Canada and when I tried to buy my tickets back to Chicago it doesn’t give me an option of paying with a gift card. Reservations said it’s not possible to use them from abroad including Canada. What’s going on here?

Well that is indeed a problem with American Airlines as they severely limit their gift cards contrary to, for example, Delta.

Here is how it looks when you are on the payment page of American Airlines and the payment field for gift cards is missing:

You can access American Airlines Gift Cards here and it’s important to read the T&C in detail.

Gift cards are redeemable toward the initial electronic ticket purchase of air travel for itineraries sold and originating in the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Gift cards may only be used for travel on flights marketed by American Airlines, including those operated by American Eagle®, oneworld® airlines, and by other codeshare partners with an American Airlines flight number. For a complete list of American Airlines codeshare partners as well as other codeshare information, visit www.aa.com/codeshare.

Gift cards are redeemable online at www.aa.com or by calling reservations, for which an additional ticketing charge may apply and must be paid separately with a valid credit or debit card. Gift cards cannot be redeemed at airport ticket counters or through travel agents. …

Gift cards do not expire, or lose their value over time.

This is indeed very restrictive considering AA offers worldwide services and it’s not uncommon for someone to buy a one way ticket back to the U.S. especially from neighboring countries.

Delta for example says:

Gift Cards may be redeemed for any Delta-marketed flight worldwide by visiting delta.com or by calling reservations. … Gift Cards may now be used toward Delta Vacations® packages.

They are more flexible in the point of sale but don’t allow code shares ,so pick your poison I guess.

Important: You can’t use your Amex airline credit anymore for American Airlines gift cards since mid January 2019 as they now code the purchase in a different way, no longer like a ticket purchase. Don’t try it – you won’t be reimbursed!

As per our most recent information Delta still works but keep in mind this can change anytime so no guarantees.

Conclusion

I don’t really like gift cards to be honest as it ties cash to a certain company and you never know if you can really use it in an efficient way when it comes to the time you want to buy something. For example here I checked our readers desired travel dates and American would have been almost double the price compare to United so it makes no sense to use the gift card as it would negate any value.

In this case it’s fine, Karen had to withdraw her travel credit in some way and the gift card doesn’t expire so maybe she can use them at a future time as they don’t expire. But imagine someone would have paid cash for the cards and now you can’t even use them.

Definitely stay away from American Airlines gift cards unless you’re 100% certain you can use them for flights originating in the U.S. and it’s territories!

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