Drowning in Premium Credit Card Travel Credits & How I’m Going to Maximize Them

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Premium Credit Card Travel Credits

Premium Credit Card Travel Credits

When I first started “collecting” credit cards many years ago, I looked at the high annual fee premium cards and said to myself, “Not for me”. Of course that was a long time ago and over time I have learned how to maximize the value of cards with higher annual fees. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of terrible high annual fee cards out there, but some are definitely worth getting in my opinion.

One of the biggest features or selling points of premium cards is travel credits. In the bank’s mind they offer these credits to help offset the fee, but hope that you won’t actually redeem them. In our mind, we factor these credits into the overall value of the card when determining whether it is both worth getting and keeping.

A Lot of Credits In a Short Time

Because of my evolution on the topic of premium travel cards, I find myself sort of drowning in travel credits. What do I mean? Well, between my wife and I we have a lot of premium cards, but specifically, we have opened many of them recently.

For example:

Tracking the Credits

As you can see, that is a lot of credits and I need to make sure to use them all before the end of the year and then again at the beginning of next year since they are all calendar year based. The first thing I need to do is track them. Thankfully that is easy with the Citi Prestige and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

American Express is a bit different. First, I need to select my airline. I think I am going to choose United. Next, I’ll have to make the purchases and then check to see if the credits were issued. I don’t believe there is a tracker that shows progress towards the credit. Thankfully I will be maxing out the credit fairly quickly so that shouldn’t be a huge issue for me.

Finally there is the Ritz Carlton card. This $300 credit is very restrictive and requires you to manually call in for the credits. I have heard you can request them via secure message as well. I am testing that out soon and will let you know. As for tracking, it appears to be manual as well.

Overall Strategy

Each of these cards has different credit amounts and the credit covers various different things. For that reason my strategy for maximizing the credits is a bit different across the board.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Credit Strategy

Premium Credit Card Travel Credits

The Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit is an easy one to deal with since it is automatic. I have actually already used up the entire $300 on my card and am working towards using it on my wife’s. I travel a lot so it isn’t that hard. Since just about anything that codes as travel counts, I have earned credits on hotels, award fees, Uber rides and even Metrocard purchases in New York.

Citi Prestige Airfare Credit Strategy

Premium Credit Card Travel Credits

This credit only applies to airfare, but it does actually work on ticket purchases which is nice. I have used the card for a couple of awards which wiped out about half of the credit. In the next month I’ll have another award with about $100 in taxes which will help me take care of the rest. I’ll use the tracker that shows on the statement to make sure I have maximized it.

Ritz-Carlton Strategy Credit Strategy

Premium Credit Card Travel Credits

This travel credit is the most restrictive. It is supposed to be for “qualifying airline purchases such as seat upgrades, baggage fees and preferred lounge memberships or passes.” I generally don’t have a lot of those expenses and with the time ticking towards 2017 I need to figure out how to get the credit. I have some experiments in the works and will pass on any information I find. Crossing my fingers on this one.

American Express Platinum Credit Strategy

Premium Credit Card Travel Credits

The Amex Platinum strategy has long been to purchase gift cards for your airline of choice. I actually prefer to get the money back in cash, so I used to use a now dead Delta trick. There is a lot of information on Flyertalk about the various airlines and how their gift cards work to trigger the credit on this card. I recommend searching around to find what works best for you.

Conclusion

Yes, I am currently paying a lot of annual fees on these cards and I could go into the details of each one to show why I think it provides enough value to me, but I won’t do that here. The truth is that my strategy or card mix won’t work for everyone and it won’t even work for me unless I maximize these credits. Thankfully I have a handle on it and while I might be drowning in credits, I’m coming out way ahead.


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16 COMMENTS

  1. FWIW: the citi prestige also counts airline spending (food/beverage, etc. swiped via airline CC machine) as well as bag/change fees. not that you’re going to be blowing $200+ on airline food, but just an FYI.

    • Yes and I should have made that more clear about the Prestige. Basically any purchase from an airline. If you are short at the end of the year you can also generally just buy gift cards to use later as well without any tricks.

  2. Thanks for this post. I was told initially by my local banker that the $300 credit will be issued only if my travel expense is $300 or more. This actually sounds a little better for those who might not have travel expenses that high.

  3. Credit comes automatically in any amount that’s spent up to the $300 max. Already used mine a week after receiving card

  4. What I haven’t seen is anyone question the utility of having more than one of these cards at any given time. Except for the CSR, the main reason to pay the high fees is the travel benefits like lounge access, elite status, etc. To me it seems more useful to play the long game and signup for a different $450 card each year, the opposite of what you’ve done here.

    • The problem with that is you are discounting the bonus and/or assuming it will always be the same. Like I said for most people a strategy similar to mine probably isn’t ideal but the Prestige devaluation should be warning enough that you shouldn’t expect a product to stay the same forever.

  5. YOU ARE MY HERO! How do you get so many credit cards!? You are SO PRO! I hope you also own a GoPRO. Would only make sense given your abilities! Nice man!

  6. I guess I am a real novice at this. I just signed up with American Express to get 30,000 miles on Delta after spending $1000. Annual fee waived for the first year. I then tried to apply for the Citicard for the American Airlines bonus miles (30,000, bumped up to 50,000 this weekend on the AA website). I was denied for that card! I have excellent credit and have had that card in the past so it is rather shocking to get a denial. I called today and they said I had ‘limited credit’ as the reason for the denial. I don’t know what that means so I will be requesting my credit report to take a close look. I paid off my mortgage and own my house outright, so I wonder if that actually hurts me when trying to get new credit. Anyway, I love racking up free miles and just joined this page to learn new ways to do it. Thanks!

    • The lack of a mortgage can hurt because they look at all types of accounts and having installment accounts is seen as a positive. Still, since you have had a history I am surprised that would happen. You can try to contact reconsideration for Citi or even write a letter (Google it) but if it is still a denial just use your new Amex card and work towards establishing new accounts and before long you’ll be fine. It is sort of a snowball effect.

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