Complete Guide to Credit Card Travel Credits & How to Maximize Them

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Travel Rewards Credit Card Travel Credits Complete Guide

Travel Rewards Credit Card Travel Credits Complete Guide

Understanding the travel credit component of premium travel cards can be confusing because each one has their own unique credit and rules to accompany it. For example, it would be very easy to confuse the Platinum card’s airline fee credit with Prestige’s airfare credit. You see where I’m going with this? No worries, the team here at Miles to Memories is here to help :). Below is a quick little guide to the credits and how to make sure you know what you’re going to get reimbursed for. As always, if I leave something out, feel free to comment below, holler at me on Twitter @bethanyatM2M or message me in the facebook group.

Cards with Annual Travel Credits

Amex Platinum

$200 Airline Fee Credit + $200 Uber Credit

  • Period: Calendar Year
  • Annual Fee Business: $450
  • Annual Fee Personal: $550
What Counts?

The Airline Fee Credit can be used to cover things like baggage fees, change fees and food/bev on board on a designated airline of your choice . It does not cover airfare, upgrade fees, miles purchases etc. Many people who can’t make use of this organically, purchase gift cards for certain denominations from their designated airline which they then use at a later date. Although gift cards are expressly excluded, they do trigger the credit if you do it properly. There are whole forums dedicated to this topic such as this one from Flyer Talk, for example.  The gift cards can indirectly be used for flight tickets, so that’s a plus, but obviously the multiple steps required and gift card use limits for tickets can be a huge pain. For example, Delta allows a maximum of 3 gift cards per order, if you purchased all $50 GCs, then it’s not much toward an expensive fare.

Another huge pain about this benefit is that you must designate your airline in January (and if you forget to change it. you’re stuck with last years choice.) Make your selection here. For some people this requirement is no big deal, but for people who don’t take too many flights a year and generally choose flights based on which airline is offering the best price, this benefit can be significantly devalued.



Chase Sapphire Reserve

$300 Travel Credit

  • Period: Calendar Year
  • Annual Fee: $450
What Counts?

This is the highest travel credit available on any premium card and it couldn’t be easier to use. Just look at the list from Chase: airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. No designation or election necessary, just use your card for travel.

Full details of card benefits here.

Citi Thank You Prestige

$250 Airfare Credit

  • Period: Calendar Year
  • Annual Fee: $450
What Counts?

Covers just about anything charged with an airline, I have found this one to be the simplest to use (I sadly don’t have CSR.) It’s easy because you can use it to purchase airfare tickets with any airline- no need to designate one at the beginning of the year. To me, flexibility = money, so this credit is worth A LOT more than ones that require you to designate airlines ahead of time (ahem, Amex!) Only a few include airline tickets, so this one is definitely one of the better. More here.



Chase Ritz Carlton

$300 Travel Credit

  • Period: Calendar Year
  • Annual Fee: $395
What Counts?

Incidental Credit Only the following types of non-ticket purchases qualify for this offer: “airline lounge day pass, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight Internet/entertainment; in-flight meals”

Caveat: To receive this credit, you have to call J.P. Morgan Priority Services within 4 billing cycles of making your purchase. It does not automatically apply, you have to call and ask for it- talk about a BUZZKILL. I don’t know about you, but I avoid phone calls whenever possible, so I really hate this feature.



U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve

$325 Credit

  • Period: Cardmember year (This One is a bit different in that if you apply mid-year, say April 1, your travel credit resets April 1 of the following year.)
  • Annual Fee: $400
What Counts?

Airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines. This is definitely one of the best, the travel credit is incredibly easy to use and the credit is only $75 less than the annual fee. There have been issues with shutdowns, so be sure to meet the minimum spend organically. Details here. 

UBS Visa Infinite

$250 Credit

  • Period: Calendar Year
  • Annual Fee: $495
What Counts?

Qualifying air travel expenses (on your designated domestic carrier) include change fees, upgrade fees and other incidental expenses BUT not airline tickets.

This credit is not automatic, you must first enroll in the benefit on the UBS site and then select an eligible domestic carrier. You will only receive reimbursement for purchases made with your selected airline.

Just looking at how restrictive this credit is, the comparatively lower amount and the fact that the annual fee is at the higher end of the spectrum, I would say this is a pretty weak benefit. However, there is an interesting perk on this card that gives the card holder an additional $500 Any Airport Club Credit per year in any year they spend $50,000 on the card.



The City National Crystal Visa Infinite

$250 Airline Incidental Credit

  • Period: Calendar Year
  • Annual Fee: $400
What Counts?

Airline Incidental Charges, including change/cancellation fees, on board charges, etc. Also, includes TSA PreCheck Application fee.

Unlike the other cards on this list, the annual fee is waived the first year, that gives you huge value in conjunction with the credit. Another interesting thing about this card is that Authorized users are entitled to the credit as well. One downside here is that the travel credit includes reimbursement for TSA PreCheck, rather than including a separate credit for the fee.

Bank of America Premium Rewards

$100 Travel Credit

  • Period: Calendar Year
  • Annual Fee: $95
What Counts?

Does not include airfare and has some some major restrictions not just in type of purchase, but also limits you to Domestic originated flights with Domestic carriers. That’s pretty restrictive! See language below from BOFA’s site.

“Qualifying transactions are those purchases made on domestic-originated flights on U.S.-domestic airline carriers that include: preferred seating upgrades, ticket change/cancellation fees, checked baggage fees, in-flight entertainment, on-board food and beverage charges, and airport lounge fees affiliated with eligible airline carriers.”

Even though the credit is extremely narrow, the card is only $95 a year. I’m certainly not bothered that the credit is not as useful- especially when it outweighs the annual fee!



Amex Premier Rewards Gold

$100 Airline Fee Credit

Period: Calendar Year
Annual Fee: $195
What Counts?

Same as Platinum Card discussion above. The annual fee is waived for the first year, so that definitely adds to your value.

Conclusion

When you open a card with a travel credit, it is important to maximize the value of that credit to help offset the annual fee. Thankfully most banks allow you to easily claim your credit while some others do make you do a little work. Either way, credit card travel credits are a valuable tool in squeezing great value out of travel rewards credit cards.


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13 COMMENTS

  1. Didn’t the Chase Sapphire Reserve change theirs to a Cardmember Year recently? I can look when mine arrives today to verify if necessary.

  2. Two things….The Amex plat cards give multiple gold hotel status, add the Marriot challenge and it blossoms with benefits…..the Prestige 4th night free offers tremendous savings on hotels, especially on better properties.

    • Agree with you completely that they make the cards so much more valuable. Amex is my fave. I tried to just look at travel credits in a vacuum, but alas, no such thing lol.

  3. Note that City Natl Bank gives $250/calendar year for each cardholder on the account (that is, the primary member PLUS each authorized user). So for 3 cardholders, that’s $750/calendar year. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

    Also note, the credit is only for certain American airlines (not all) and no foreign airlines.

    • It’s great they give that credit for each- unique! Even with the Platinum Card that costs hundreds extra you don’t get it for the AUs, so that’s pretty cool. And. Thank you!

    • You know? I don’t have one, but I’ll look into it to see if there’s anything that would really give it a premium card value. At least it’s a small spread 🙂

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