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The best credit cards for paying taxes and fees on award tickets

June 12, 2020
11 min read
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Given the current environment, it might be wise to redeem your points and miles before spending cash on travel this year. And unless you're new to the points and miles hobby, you're probably all too familiar with the fact that those “free” award flights are almost never completely free. Although there are ways to cut them down, you'll almost always face the unfortunate addition of taxes and fees. These can range from $5.60 to upwards of $800 one-way for some aspirational awards.

When it comes to paying these fees, the best credit card for airfare purchases isn't always the best option. Unlike cash tickets, there's a more important factor to consider than just how many extra points you’ll earn: travel protections. Coverages such as baggage and trip delay reimbursement can be hugely valuable, and some card policies stand out more than others.

With all that in mind, here's a rundown of the best credit cards for paying taxes and fees on award tickets (and yes, it's a surprisingly short list).

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(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy)

Best cards for paying taxes and fees on award tickets

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best travel protections
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express (including most varieties of the card): Great return on spending and good travel protections
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Good return on spending, solid protections and low annual fee
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Solid protections and low annual fee
CardBonus for Airfare Purchases/Return*
Protection NotesAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve3x points/6%Best protections all-around$550
The Platinum Card® from American Express5x points**/10%Strong protections, but no baggage delay insurance and requires you to book round-trip travel$695 (see rates and fees)
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card3x points/6%Weaker across the board than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but good enough for most situations$95
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card2x points/4%

5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards/10%

Weaker across the board than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but good enough for most situations$95

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
**5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel. Additionally, starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards: 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides, 3 points per dollar on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Annual fee: $550

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Analysis: The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers the most comprehensive suite of travel protections. By paying for at least a portion of your ticket with this card, you'll be covered by a plethora of protections, including baggage delay, lost/damaged baggage, trip delay reimbursement, trip cancellation and interruption protection, medical evacuation benefit, travel accident insurance and emergency medical and dental benefit.

Of these, the most important benefits in my opinion are trip delay reimbursement, which provides up to $500 per ticket if you're delayed more than 6 hours or require an overnight stay, and baggage delay protection, which provides up to $100 reimbursed per day for up to 5 days if your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours.

Other benefits include an annual $300 travel statement credit, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit and a Priority Pass Select membership that includes guests. You’ll also receive a complimentary Door Dash DashPass membership and a Lyft Pink membership (must activate by March 31, 2022), which includes ride discounts and priority airport pickups.

For more information on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, check out the following guides:

The Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership. You can also check to see if you’re targeted for a 125,000-point bonus through the CardMatch tool.

Rewards: 5 points per dollar spent for flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel as well as flights booked directly through the airline (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year); 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)

Analysis: The Platinum Card from American Express is the next best option for paying award taxes and fees. In January 2020, the card added trip cancellation/interruption and trip delay insurance, making it more much more competitive in the luxury card segment. However, the protections are a bit more restrictive than those offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The Amex Platinum's trip delay insurance also kicks in when you’re delayed by six or more hours, but it's capped at two claims per eligible card per 12-month period and doesn't cover overnight delays that are less than six hours. The benefit is also a bit more restrictive in that it requires round-trip travel, all of which must be paid for with your card (paying taxes and fees on award tickets or Pay With Points tickets are covered). Note that a combination of one-way tickets would qualify as round-trip travel for the purposes of Amex’s insurance coverage if you'll eventually end up in your departure city. Unlike the CSR, the Amex Platinum doesn't offer baggage delay insurance or travel accident insurance, but it does offer lost luggage reimbursement.

Related: Comparing built-in travel insurance with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum

The card offers a number of other benefits to make your travel experience more enjoyable like a $200 airline-fee credit, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, unparalleled lounge access, automatic Gold status with Hilton and Gold Elite status with Marriott and up to $200 in Uber credits annually. The card also offers various useful non-travel benefits like up to $100 in credit at Saks Fifth Avenue each year. Enrollment required for select benefits.

For more information on The Platinum Card From American Express, check out the following guides:

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $15,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards: 3x on the first $150,000 spent each cardmember year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines.

Annual fee: $95

Analysis: If you're a business owner, you can get strong travel protections with the Ink Business Preferred, and they don't require the purpose of the trip to be business to qualify. The Business Preferred offers many of the same benefits as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but at a much lower price point in exchange for less coverage. For instance, the card offers trip delay reimbursement, but only for delays that are more than 12 hours or require an overnight stay.

What's unique about this card is that although it has a significantly lower annual fee than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it offers the same travel earning rate of 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare and everything else that Chase includes in its travel classification.

For more information on the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, check out the following guides:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Rewards: 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out, 3x points on select streaming services, 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2x points on all other travel, 1x point on all other purchases

Annual fee: $95

Analysis: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is ideal for infrequent travelers. It provides similar travel protections as the Ink Business Preferred, including trip and baggage delay protection, and has the same modest $95 annual fee. With this card, you'll earn 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases so you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you’re insured and still earn a fair amount of bonus points on any taxes and fees.

For more information on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, check out the following guides:

Bottom line

At first glance, it may seem like The Platinum Card® from American Express would be the obvious choice as it offers 5x points on all airfare purchased through Amex Travel, topping all of the other cards in this list get. While the card does offer some major trip protections, as you can see, it still is a bit restrictive compared to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

In most cases, the taxes and fees on these awards are so cheap that it’s worth forgoing the couple extra dollars in points you might get with another card to focus on all the extra insurance features that could potentially save you thousands if something goes wrong. So in this case, don't worry about losing a few extra points — instead, buy yourself peace of mind with top travel protections just by putting a few dollars on one of these top cards.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023