Is your premium travel card offering enough perks during the pandemic? A card-by-card guide

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information. For more on limited-time perks during the pandemic, read our guide to temporary card bonuses and benefits

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 travel is only beginning to slowly rebound, many travelers are struggling to see the value in their premium travel rewards cards. To encourage card use and retention, many issuers have announced new perks and benefits over the last several months.

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

Related: 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

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 card’s travel-focused benefits. But some of the card’s most noteworthy benefits — Centurion Lounge access, 5x Membership Rewards on flights booked directly through the airline or via Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year as of Jan. 1, 2021), and the up to $200 annual airline fee credit — provide little value for travelers who are grounded and uncertain of when they’ll make use of those benefits again.

On the other hand, even while closer to 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 total $300 per year.

Now, let’s consider the limited-time perks. Some cardholders may not be able to use the monthly streaming and wireless service credits, 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 with 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 may be enough to persuade some Platinum cardholders to renew even if they’re uncertain of when they’ll make use of all of their benefits again.

Related: 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

  • The $300 travel credit can also be used at gas stations and grocery store between June 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Through April 30, 2021, Sapphire Reserve cardholders will be able to redeem Ultimate Rewards points through Pay Yourself Back a rate of 1.5 cents per point. The eligible categories will be grocery stores, home improvement stores, dining and select charitable donations, but these categories may change over time.
  • A $100 annual-fee credit for customers who renewed their card between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020. Customers who renew between July 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, will be charged a $450 annual fee instead of the usual $550.

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 many cardholders not traveling, it may be difficult to use many of the card’s benefits, including Priority Pass lounge access and 3x points on travel.

Chase initially added limited-time bonus categories for groceries, Instacart, gas and more — but those have all recently expired, as of Sept. 30, 2020. However, Chase expanded the $300 annual travel credit to include purchases at gas stations and grocery stores. Plus, Chase also added an additional redemption option that may be useful for cardholders who would normally redeem their points for travel.

Unfortunately, we have yet to see any new limited-time bonuses yet for this fall. But for many, these new perks may be enough to get most Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders to keep their cards.

Related: 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

Relevant existing perks

  • 5x points at restaurants

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 may be 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: 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

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 Centurion Lounges closed (but some are reopening soon) 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 the extra $200 statement credits to good use this year. 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: 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

  • 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 direct airfare and car rental bookings
  • Enjoy one weekend-night reward with your new Hilton 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.

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. Earlier this year, you could use the $250 Hilton resort credit benefit for purchases at U.S. restaurants — but that offer has since ended.

So, the Hilton Aspire shouldn’t be on the chopping block for anyone who will use their free-weekend-night certificates once you travel again and can take full advantage of the resort-credit benefit.

Related: 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

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 past 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 gives most cardholders enough time to utilize this perk.

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: 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

Related: Delta now makes it even easier to earn elite status without flying — but is it worth it?

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 on same-day Delta flights may be the sole reason they keep the card. But many cardholders aren’t flying now with some lounges closed or operating at a decreased level.

Some cardholders may be able to get significant value from their annual companion certificate later this year (or even next year) and some cardholders may take advantage of the easier way to earn higher levels of status while on the ground.

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: 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

  • None

Relevant existing perks

  • 2x miles on dining purchases

Annual fee: $525 (waived the first year)

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 still diminished and many United Club locations closed, the United Club Infinite Card has a tough time keeping up. The double miles on dining purchases is okay, but there are plenty of cards that do better, even before accounting for limited-time coronavirus related benefits.

Luckily, since this product is relatively new, 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 relief to the early adopters who can’t use their benefits now and signed up before the annual fee was waived for the first year.

Related: 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 a decent job among 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 many Admirals Club locations still 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 Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, 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: 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.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong

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 including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 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
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.