4 Cards That Give You a Refund on Redeemed Points & Miles

Dec 6, 2016

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You have plenty of credit card options if you’re looking to earn miles — and whether you choose a card that earns you transferable points or an airline co-brand, meeting the minimum spending requirement and earning the sign-up bonus is one of the quickest ways to get a free flight. While all of these cards net you travel rewards on everyday purchases, a handful of them go a step beyond by offering you miles back when you redeem them for travel. In today’s post, I’ll take a look at the travel rewards cards that offer you this sort of rebate.

How Mileage Refunds Work

With the following credit cards, when you redeem points or miles toward an award flight, you’ll receive the specified rebate as a credit to your account. Make sure you check out the terms and conditions for the respective card, since the refund amount and the timeline for receiving your points or miles back will vary based on the card and the specific rewards program.

1. The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN

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TPG recently used the 50% points refund feature on the Business Platinum when booking a Delta first-class flight.

Mileage refund: Get 50% of your Membership Rewards points back when you use Pay with Points for all or part of an eligible fare (any fare class with your selected qualifying airline, or first and business-class tickets with all airlines available through Amex Travel).

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $450

Amex has really stepped up its game lately, at least when it comes to the issuer’s premium cards. In addition to launching a 5x bonus airfare category for the Platinum Card® from American Express, it updated the Business Platinum Card to include a 50% rebate when you use points to book a flight through Amex Travel — essentially letting your redeem your Membership Rewards points for 2 cents apiece toward paid airfare, for which you’ll earn miles and elite credit. Note that this rebate applies when you book airfare in any class with the same carrier you selected for the $200 airline fee credit and when you book business or first-class through any airline.

While the Business Platinum can’t compete with the personal Amex Platinum in terms of earning points for your airline purchases, it’s a game-changer on the redemption side. TPG recently used the new 50% points rebate to book an employee’s airfare — this option came in handy especially because the award options were outrageously priced.

Now’s a good time to apply for this card, since it’s offering an elevated bonus of up to 100,000 points. This offer expires on January 25, 2017, so be sure to apply by that date if you’re interested.

2. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Mileage refund: 5% of your miles back every time you redeem, with miles added to your account within one business day after your redemption is processed.

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days

Annual fee: $89 (waived the first year)

First thing’s first: While Barclaycard calls the Arrival Plus’ rewards “miles,” they aren’t tied to a specific airline program. Instead, they can be used to “wipe” travel charges from your account at a rate of 1 cent per mile, with statement credit redemptions starting at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying purchase. The upside is that you aren’t limited to specific travel brands when it comes to redeeming your rewards; you can use them toward everything from Airbnb stays to incidental airline fees. You earn 2x miles on all purchases, so you’re effectively getting a 2% return on spending — or a 2.1% return, once you factor in the 5% refund.

If this card interests you, now’s a good time to sign up. While Barclaycard unfortunately made some negative changes to the Arrival Plus back in 2015 — including reducing the mileage rebate from 10% to 5% — it can still be a good choice, especially if you frequently spend at non-chain hotels, since you’ll be able to scrub any eligible travel charge from your statement with miles.

3. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

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Get 10% of your redeemed American miles back with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card.

Mileage refund: Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back, up to 10,000 miles per calendar year.

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first 12 months)

If you ever redeem AAdvantage miles for award travel, this benefit is a no-brainer for recouping some of your rewards. The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select is the only card to offer this perk that is still open to new applicants (other cards such as the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver and Red include the benefit as well), but even if you do hold another eligible card as well, you’re capped at a total of 10,000 miles back per calendar year. Still, that means you can get $150 back in value, based on TPG’s latest valuations.

You can maximize the 10,000-mile rebate in a few different ways. For one, note that you can stack it with American’s reduced mileage awards, which can save you up to 7,500 miles on a round-trip flight. Plus, if you don’t have enough miles in your AAdvantage account to book a round-trip award, you could leverage the refund by booking two separate one-way awards, as long as you can wait for the refund to appear before booking the second flight. Because you get 10% of your miles back after you redeem them, not after you travel, this rebate could help you book an award that you otherwise couldn’t quite afford.

Now’s also a great time to sign up for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard, since it’s offering an elevated sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. That’s 20,000 more miles than the standard offer.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

4. American Express Business Centurion “Black” Card

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If your pockets are deep enough to qualify for the Business Centurion card, you can get 50% of your points back on flights booked through Amex Travel.

Mileage refund: Get 50% of your Membership Rewards points back when you use Pay with Points for all or part of an eligible fare.

Sign-up bonus: None

Annual fee: $2,500

This last card is different from the others listed above in that you can’t simply sign up for it. Rather, Amex must extend you an invitation to apply (for both the business and personal versions) — and if you accept it and get approved, you’ll have to pay an ultra-steep $7,500 initiation fee and $2,500 annual fee. The criteria for getting an invitation aren’t officially public, but based on anecdotal evidence you’ll need to spend and pay off several hundred thousand dollars across all your Amex accounts in a calendar year to qualify. If you do meet the high bar for eligibility, though, one of the perks available to you as a Business Centurion cardholder is a 50% rebate on redeemed points. (It doesn’t appear that this benefit is available to holders of the personal Centurion card.)

This is the same 50% refund available with the Business Platinum, with one difference: The rebate is available for flights on any airline, not just for first or business-class flights with any carrier or flights of any class with the cardholder’s selected qualifying airlines. So you can get 50% of your points back when you book an economy-class flight with any carrier bookable through Amex Travel. This does provide some extra flexibility, but it’s hardly worth paying the $2,500 annual fee and $7,500 initiation fee for this benefit alone. Plus, it’s safe to assume that many Centurion cardholders exclusively buy seats at the front of the plane.

Bottom Line 

If you’re looking to maximize your redemptions and you can book your desired flights through the respective programs, the Business Platinum, Amex Business Centurion and Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select cards can stretch the value of your travel rewards thanks to their refund benefits. Additionally, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus can come in handy with its 5% mileage rebate — while this isn’t the highest refund among the options mentioned in this post, it wins points for flexibility, since a wide variety of travel charges are eligible.

Do you use any cards that offer a refund on redemptions?

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