Using American Airlines Gift Cards (and when you can’t use)

Booking travel can be frustrating and when it’s something simple, like when you can’t use your American Airlines gift card, it can be oddly maddening! Since many readers have airline gift cards to use from travel credits like the one on the Ritz-Carlton credit card, I thought it would be helpful to outline quickly what you can and can’t use American Airlines gift cards for.

You would think using gift cards is straightforward but American does not make it clear when using their website. When I saw a friend get so frustrated on social media they called American for an answer on using their gift card I figured it was worth a quick blog post.

American Airlines Gift Card

Can’t use American Airlines Gift Cards

if you run into the issue of booking a flight and do not see the option to pay using an American gift card like as follows there are a few things to check for. Note that the bottom of American’s gift card page lists some restrictions but the terms and conditions are more specific.

Can't use American Airlines gift card
AA.com booking screen to use gift cards and other payment methods. Notice the gift card option just does not appear with no explanation.
Using AA Gift Cards:
  • Flight must be operated by American Airlines or a oneworld carrier
  • Flight must be sold and originating in the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Gift card can only be used towards base air fare and directly associated taxes, fees and charges
  • American gift card cannot be used for upgrades OR “enhanced seat products”

I bolded the last point because it is the most important. When booking flights you cannot select any sort of MCE or preferred seat that costs money or the gift card option will disappear from the booking screen. What is most frustrating is that it does simply disappear. American’s website doesn’t tell you that you can’t use the gift card for an “enhanced seat product”. This means very confused people unclear as to why they can’t book their flight. Or people googling like crazy to figure out how to use their gift card since the option doesn’t show.

The solution is simple of course. Just book your flight using the gift card and then afterwards purchase the seat you want. But, that’s an unnecessary extra step, and definitely not clear when booking.

Bottom Line

This is one of those things that seems so simple. But unless you dig into the terms and conditions there is a high chance the average person won’t realize “upgrades” also mean preferred seating in coach. Hopefully this helps at least one person avoid frustration when using American Airlines gift cards in the future!

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