Are these 9 premium travel rewards credit cards offering enough perks amid coronavirus pandemic?

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Premium travel rewards credit cards offer many benefits, ranging from airport lounge access and travel credits to elite status and free-night certificates. During normal travel times, these perks can provide enough value for some travelers to easily justify paying one or more annual fees of $450 or more. 

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But, now that nonessential travel isn’t recommended — or even possible to some destinations — many grounded travelers are struggling to see the value in their premium travel rewards cards. To encourage card use and retention, some issuers have announced new limited-time perks on select cards:

But, do these perks provide enough value? In this guide, we answer this question for some of the top travel rewards credit cards.

Related reading: Battle of the premium travel rewards cards: Which is the best?

In This Post

The Platinum Card® from American Express

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Limited-time perks

  • Up to $160 in statement credits on select U.S. streaming services (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020
  • Up to $160 in statement credits on select wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020
  • Up to $200 in statement credits toward prepaid Amex Travel purchases made between August 2020 and December 2021 (only for cardholders who renew their card between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020)

Relevant existing perks

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Are the limited-time perks enough?

The Platinum Card from American Express has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) that can normally be justified by cardholders who use the its travel-focused benefits. But some of the card’s most noteworthy benefits — Centurion Lounge access, 5x Membership Rewards on select travel, Marriott and Hilton elite status and access to book hotel stays through Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection — provide no value for travelers who are grounded and uncertain of when they’ll start traveling again.

On the other hand, even while stuck at home, cardholders should be able to get the same value out of the Saks Fifth Avenue statement credits. Likewise, as long as Uber Eats serves your area, you should still be able to get value from your monthly Uber credits. These two credits alone provide $300 of value per year. And, some cardholders may have used part of their annual airline fee credit early in 2020.

Related reading: Amex Platinum 100k, Amex Gold 50k offers available via CardMatch

Now, let’s consider the limited-time perks. Some cardholders may not be able to use the monthly credits of up to $20 for streaming and up to $20 for wireless telephone services, especially if their current provider isn’t eligible or if these services are bundled with other products. You’ll get at most $320 of value from these credits this year.

Amex is also offering cardholders who have their renewal dates between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, up to $200 in statement credits toward prepaid Amex Travel purchases.

The steps Amex is taking are probably enough to persuade most Platinum cardholders to renew their card even if they’re uncertain of when they’ll start traveling again.

Related reading: The Platinum Card from American Express review

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Limited-time perks

Relevant existing perks

Annual fee: $550

Are the limited-time perks enough?

The Sapphire Reserve is normally the top card in many wallets, but with travel off the table right now, many people are struggling to use the card’s benefits including the $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass lounge access, and triple points on travel.

Chase has taken a good first step by adding limited-time bonus categories for food delivery with DoorDash and Tock as well as groceries. But, as of now it’s not enough. We’d like to see Chase follow Amex’s lead and expand the annual travel credit, at least for this year, to include dining and food delivery options as well. Chase might consider expanding the $100 annual fee rebate to include more customers as this pandemic drags on.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

Citi Prestige® Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Limited-time perks

  • For 2020, you can use your $250 annual travel credit at supermarkets and restaurants.
  • An additional three months to meet your minimum spending requirement if you applied for a Citi card between Dec. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020

Relevant existing perks

Annual fee: $495

Are the limited-time perks enough?

The Citi Prestige is undeniably a travel-focused card, but Citi has done well by expanding the $250 annual travel credit to also include grocery stores and restaurants for 2020. That should make it easy for everyone to use, although some of the other perks will be more challenging. For example, many people keep the Citi Prestige open primarily for the fourth night free on hotel stays, even after the benefit was capped and devalued last year. Citi could certainly do more by adding a food delivery or supermarket bonus category. But, if you normally get good value out of the Citi Prestige, then it’s probably worth holding onto for another year.

The information for the Citi Prestige 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.

Related reading: Citi Prestige credit card review 

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Limited-time perks

  • Up to $160 in statement credits on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020
  • Up to $160 in statement credits on U.S. purchases for shipping (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020
  • Up to $200 in additional statement credits for U.S. purchases with Dell: $100 in additional statement credits from May 1 through June 30, 2020, and up to $100 in additional statement credits between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2020
  • $200 appreciation credit upon renewal for select cardholders with renewal dates from now through November 2020 (not all cardholders will be eligible)

Relevant existing perks

  • 1.5x Membership Rewards on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million additional points per calendar year)
  • Up to $100 in statement credits between January and June and up to $100 in statement credits between July and December for U.S. purchases with Dell

Annual fee: $595 (see rates and fees)

Are the limited-time perks enough?

With all Centurion Lounges closed and most business travel halted, some small businesses may balk at paying a $595 annual fee (see rates and fees). But even assuming the Amex Business Platinum’s travel perks won’t be useful for the foreseeable future, Amex is offering a variety of statement credits to encourage use of its cards.

I’ll assume that most Amex Business Platinum cardholders were using their up to $200 annual Dell statement credit. So most should be able to put $200 more of Dell statement credits to good use this year. And many businesses will easily be able to use the statement credits for shipping and wireless telephone services, although some businesses may only normally make purchases in one of these two categories. Plus, some cardholders may have gotten value from the $200 airline-fee credit earlier in 2020. This totals as much as $720 in statement credits, or as much as $920 in statement credits including the airline-fee credit.

Cardholders who aren’t targeted for an appreciation credit may have trouble justifying renewal if they aren’t taking advantage of enough of the statement credits and don’t foresee their travel restarting soon. But for most Amex Business Platinum cardholders who are targeted for an appreciation credit, it should be an easy choice to renew as long as their business is in good health.

Related reading: The Business Platinum Card from American Express review

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

New limited-time perks

  • Earn 12x Hilton Honors points at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020.
  • Eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery, will now qualify toward the Hilton resort credit of up to $250 from June through August 2020.
  • Bonus points earned through eligible purchases, if they post to the card member’s Hilton Honors account between May 1 and Dec. 31, will be considered base points and will count toward elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status.
  • Unexpired free-weekend-night certificates — plus those issued through Dec. 31, 2020 — can now be used on any night of the week. Any unexpired Hilton weekend-night certificates available for use as of March 11, 2020, and all new ones issued through May 1, 2020, will be valid until Aug. 31, 2021. And free-weekend-night certificates issued between May 1 and Dec. 31, 2020 will be valid for 24 months from the date of issuance.

Relevant existing perks

  • Earn 7x Hilton Honor points at U.S. restaurants and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies.
  • Enjoy one weekend-night reward with your new Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and every year after renewal. Plus, earn an additional night after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

Are the limited-time perks worth it?

As with many hotel credit cards that provide a free award night each year, this free night may still provide enough value to justify keeping the card without even considering the Hilton Aspire’s other benefits. In the case of the Hilton Aspire, extended expiration dates for free weekend night certificates may allow you to use nights earned during different cardmember years together. And, now that some free-weekend-night certificates can be used any day of the week, families or friends may be able to string together certificates to form a longer stay.

Despite some of the amazing Hilton properties that are bookable with the free-weekend-night certificate, some cardholders may believe the $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) is a lot to spend for one night. But, being able to use the up to $250 Hilton resort credit benefit for purchases at U.S. restaurants from June through August 2020 should provide the value most cardholders need to renew their card. And, for cardholders who don’t have a better card for use on groceries, earning 12x Hilton Honors points at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020 may also provide value.

So, the Hilton Aspire shouldn’t be on the chopping block for anyone who will use their free-weekend-night certificates once we can travel again and will take full advantage of the resort-credit benefit (which can be used at U.S. restaurants for a few months this summer).

Related reading: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire credit card review

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)

New limited-time perks

  • Earn 6x Marriott Bonvoy points on up to $7,500 spent at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020.
  • Eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery, will now qualify toward the $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit benefit from June through August 2020.

Relevant existing perks

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

Are the limited-time perks worth it?

As with the Hilton Aspire, much of the current value of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant comes from the annual free-night award as well as being able to use the property credit at U.S. restaurants for a limited time this summer.

Based on TPG’s valuations, 50,000 Marriott points are worth $400. Granted, you get a free-night award valid up to 50,000 points after each account anniversary instead of points — but it’s fair to value this certificate around $400. And, hopefully, the extension of 2020 certificates to Jan. 31, 2021 is long enough that most cardholders will be able to travel safely by that time.

Related reading: Which Marriott Bonvoy credit card is right for you?

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant cardholders get up to $300 in statement credits each year of cardmembership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. But, eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants will qualify toward this $300 statement credit this summer from June through August. So, cardholders should be able to get maximum value from this credit this summer even if they aren’t traveling. Plus, cardholders will also earn 6x Marriott Bonvoy points on up to $7,500 spent at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020.

Although many cardholders would likely feel more comfortable if the free-night awards were extended longer than Jan. 31, 2021, these perks should be enough to retain most Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant cardholders.

Related reading: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card review

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Limited-time perks

Relevant existing perks: None

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Are the limited-time perks enough?

Let’s be honest: The value that most Delta Reserve cardholders get from complimentary access into Delta Sky Club lounges and Centurion Lounges when flying Delta may be the sole reason they keep the card. But many cardholders aren’t traveling now and many lounges are closed or operating at a decreased level.

Earning 4x miles at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020 may be useful for some Delta Reserve cardholders, but there are so many cards currently offering bonus earning on grocery spend. Some cardholders may be able to get significant value from their annual companion certificate later this year and some cardholders may be using this time to earn MQMs through the Delta Reserve’s Status Boost benefit or to earn an MQD waiver.

But these perks won’t be enough for many Delta Reserve cardholders. This is especially true for those who aren’t traveling when it’s time to renew, if they expect decreased travel for the foreseeable future and don’t know when they’ll start traveling again.

Related reading: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

United Club Infinite Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Limited-time perks

Relevant existing perks

  • 2x miles on dining purchases

Annual fee: $525

Are the limited-time perks enough?

The value proposition of premium airline credit cards is rather simple: It’s cheaper to pay the annual fee on a premium card than it is to buy an airline club membership directly. However, with travel grinding to a halt and most United Club locations closed, the United Club Infinite Card has a tough time keeping up. The double miles on dining purchases is OK, but there are plenty of cards that do better, even before accounting for limited-time coronavirus related benefits.

Simply put, it’s hard to justify paying $525 for the United Club Infinite card at a time when most clubs are closed and most people aren’t traveling. Since this product is just a few weeks old, no one will be facing the difficult question of whether or not to renew and pay another annual fee right now, but Chase would be smart to offer some annual-fee relief to the early adopters who can’t use their benefits now.

Related reading: United Club Infinite Card review

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Limited-time perks

Annual fee: $450

Are the limited-time perks enough?

Citi has done the most of any of the premium airline card issuers, offering essentially a 50% annual fee rebate to customers who renew their Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. The question is, will that be enough?

With nonessential travel halted at the moment and most Admirals Club locations closed, cardholders will have a tough time using the signature benefit of this card, the full Admirals Club membership. Once you take that away, there isn’t much that separates the premium Executive card from the entry-level Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® or Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®.

The information for the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red 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.

Many customers won’t be happy paying $225 ($450 minus the $225 rebate) for a card whose usable benefits are the same as cards that charge $100 or less. Even once travel picks up again many people may not be flying as much as before and may decide that an Admirals Club membership is no longer a justifiable expense.

Related reading: Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard review

Bottom line

The value of a particular card will be different for each cardholder. When your annual fee comes due, it’s worth considering whether to keep, cancel or downgrade your card. If you’re looking to cancel or downgrade, you may want to call the number on the back of the card to check your downgrade options and see if there are any offers on your account.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, please click here.

Featured photo by Josh Gribben/The Points Guy.

2019 TPG Award Winner: Premium Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.99%-23.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.