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4 limited-time COVID-19 perks you can still use on premium travel cards

June 08, 2021
15 min read
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Premium travel rewards cards offer many benefits, ranging from airport lounge access and travel credits to elite status and free-night certificates. During regular travel times, these perks can provide enough value for some travelers to easily justify paying one or more annual fees of $450 or more.

However, premium travel rewards cards battled to remain relevant as travel demand decreased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic. And many of the top travel rewards cards rolled out limited-time perks and benefits during the pandemic to encourage card use and retention. But, even as domestic travel and short-haul international travel return, long-haul international travel still lags due to testing requirements and border closures.

So, today I decided to take a closer look at the limited time perks and benefits card issuers introduced during the pandemic. I'll specifically consider the effectiveness of these perks and discuss which limited-time perks are still available today.

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Extra statement credits

I took advantage of several Wine Insiders Amex Offers earlier this year. (Photo by Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images)

Several issuers have added extra statement credits to select cards during the pandemic. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express has offered many statement credits over the last year and a half to help cardholders justify the card's $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), including:

Likewise, select premium Amex cobranded cards currently offer monthly statement credits for dining and wireless purchases via Amex Offers. For example, cardholders of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card can get up to $20 back per month at U.S. restaurants through December. And cardholders of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card can get up to $20 back per month on U.S. wireless services through December. Eligibility for the Amex Offers is limited. Enrollment is required in the Amex Offers section of your account before redeeming.

The information for the Hilton Aspire 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: Why I became even more loyal to Amex during the coronavirus pandemic

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Have statement credits been effective?

Amex Offers and other statement credits have made it worthwhile for many cardholders to keep their premium cards open even while traveling less. For example, my husband and I have used the statement credits on his Amex Platinum card to get plenty of value so far in 2021. In particular, we got $180 of PayPal credits over six months (this ends on June 30) and used Amex Offers to get $510 of statement credits as follows:

  • JSX: Spend $200 or more, get $100 back
  • Home Chef: Spend $50 or more, get $50 back (used thrice for $150 back)
  • Wine Insiders: Spend $30 or more, get $30 back (used twice for $60 back)
  • Home Depot: Spend $50 or more, get $50 back (used twice for $100 back)
  • Best Buy: Spend $50 or more, get $50 back (used twice for $100 back)

These statement credits have been enough for us to keep his Amex Platinum Card open and continue to pay the additional $175 (see rates and fees) per year for three authorized user Amex Platinum accounts. After all, I frequently get excellent Amex Offers on my authorized user Amex Platinum card.

Related: Could a $700 Amex Platinum card be worth it?

What statement credits are still available?

Many of the most lucrative Amex Offers mentioned above expire on June 30, 2021, so there's still time to make purchases if you haven't used these offers yet. Likewise, you can still use the PayPal credits as well as the 5x earnings in select categories on select Amex Business cards through the end of June. And the monthly statement credits for dining and wireless purchases on select Amex cobranded cards are available through Dec. 2021.

Additionally, select Chase cardholders can get statement credits on Peloton Digital and All-Access Memberships through Dec. 31, 2021. In particular, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can earn up to $120 in statement credits, while Chase Sapphire Preferred Card cardholders can earn up to $60 in statement credits.

Related: Have card issuers opened a Pandora’s box by offering temporary pandemic benefits?

Bonus rewards on select purchases

Many cards offered bonus earnings at grocery stores and supermarkets early in the pandemic. (Photo by Yagi Studio/Getty Images)

Some cards that I'd used frequently before the pandemic became sock drawer cards when I returned to the U.S. and almost completely halted travel last spring. But, to encourage continued use of travel rewards cards, some card issuers have offered bonus rewards on select purchases during the pandemic.

For example, as many cardholders stayed at home and limited travel in 2020, various cards offered bonus earnings on grocery stores, supermarkets and dining. And, even as travel restarted in the U.S. this year, some bonus earning promotions have remained.

Have bonus rewards been effective?

I've appreciated getting a better return than usual at grocery stores and supermarkets during the pandemic. However, when I've spoken with friends and family with cards that offer bonus rewards on select purchases for a limited time, most weren't aware of the bonus rewards. So, I'm skeptical that bonus rewards have been effective at changing behavior for most cardholders.

However, when I called to cancel a card that offered bonus rewards on select purchases for a limited time, the agent made sure to mention the limited-time bonus earning rates. And since Chase recently provided a new round of targeted bonus earning rates on select cards, it seems that bonus rewards have been effective for Chase.

Related: 4 easy strategies I use to earn over 500,000 points and miles a year

What bonus rewards are still available?

As I just mentioned, you can still earn bonus points in various categories on select Chase cards. However, only some cardholders are targeted for these bonus earning rates. To see if you qualify for additional spending bonuses on a cobranded Chase card, check and register with this link.

Additionally, cardholders of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express can earn 5x Membership Rewards points on U.S. purchases in the following categories through June 30, 2021: shipping, wireless, advertising, gas and office supplies. However, 5x earning is capped at 80,000 bonus points per category and you must first enroll in the Amex Offer for each category.

Several cobranded American Express cards also offer bonus rewards:

  • Bonus points on Delta purchases: Cardholders of select Delta Amex cards can earn 5x miles on eligible Delta purchases through Dec. 31, 2021
  • Bonus Hilton Honors points: Cardholders of select Hilton Amex cards can earn 10,000 additional Hilton Honors points after spending $5,000 on purchases (up to 10 times) through June 30, 2021
  • Bonus Marriott Bonvoy points: Cardholders of select Marriott Amex cards can earn 7,500 additional Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $7,500 on purchases (up to 10 times) through Dec. 31, 2021

Related: Credit cards I’m getting now to make my 2021 return-to-travel dream trips a reality

More flexible travel credits

You could use the Hilton Aspire's resort credit at restaurants (including take-out) for a limited time in 2020. (Photo by Nazar Abbas Photography/Getty Images)

Many premium travel rewards cards have an annual travel credit. Typically, you can only use this credit toward select travel expenses. But, in 2020 and 2021, some cards with an annual travel credit added additional ways in which cardholders could use their travel credit.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit that will automatically cover a broad range of travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. However, through Dec. 31, 2021, your travel credit will also apply toward gas and grocery purchases. And for a limited time in 2020, cardholders of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card could use their card's annual hotel credit benefit toward eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants (no longer available).

Have flexible travel credits been effective?

My husband and I typically have no issues using the annual travel credits on our cards (although Amex's airline fee credit generally does require some planning and enrollment). For example, we readily use the Citi Prestige® Card's $250 general travel credit and the Chase Sapphire Reserve's $300 general travel credit each year on spending we'd put on the card anyway. And we've used the Hilton Aspire's annual resort credit (enrollment required) for stays in several destinations we'd planned to visit anyway, including the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji and DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang.

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

But, amidst the pandemic, many cardholders stopped traveling. And although we continued booking future travel during the pandemic, many travelers are waiting for destinations to fully open before booking future travel.

So, many cardholders would have struggled to use travel credits during the last year and a half. And we would have struggled to use the Hilton Aspire's annual resort credit during the pandemic. After all, we still can't reach many of the Hilton resorts we'd typically consider visiting without needing to quarantine.

Many cardholders might have considered canceling their card if issuers hadn't temporarily broadened the travel credit. Plus, by allowing cardholders to use the travel credit for other purchases, issuers encouraged cardholders to put the card back into their wallet. So, I expect temporarily expanding the travel credit was effective for both cardholders and issuers.

Related: Why Amex should change its airline fee credit — and how they can do it (Enrollment required)

What flexible travel credits are still available?

Several cards still offer more flexible uses for their travel credits, including:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Use general travel credit on travel, gas and groceries through Dec. 31, 2021
  • Citi Prestige® Card: Use general travel credit on travel, groceries and dining through Dec. 31, 2021
  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card: Use general travel credit on travel and dining (permanent change)

Additionally, it's worth noting that you can use U.S. Uber cash toward Uber Eats orders. This information is relevant because several American Express cards offer monthly Uber cash.(broken up by $10 monthly). Enrollment required.

The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve cards 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: Which travel credits are the easiest to redeem?

Other limited-time perks

You can use Chase's Pay Yourself Back to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits against select purchases. (Photo by Cavan Images/Getty Images)

Several issuers also added other limited-time perks to their premium travel rewards cards. For example:

I considered effectiveness and what's still available for the limited-time perks discussed in other sections of this article. However, in this section, none of these perks have a published end date. Even though the current rates and categories for Chase Pay Yourself Back have end dates, the perk itself is here to stay. And it's impossible to say when all Chase Sapphire Reserve renewals will shift to the new $550 annual fee.

I expect these three limited-time perks have been effective. After all, Chase wouldn't continue its Pay Yourself Back feature if it wasn't effective at providing value to the issuer. And Chase seemingly realized that bumping Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders who previously paid a $450 annual fee to a $550 annual fee during the pandemic would result in the loss of some valuable cardholders.

Related: The latest credit card benefit changes you need to know

Cobranded perks

I'll shortly mention cobranded perks before concluding this article. After all, the cobranded perks of many cards have also been extended or expanded. For example, select Delta cardholders will earn 25% more MQMs with an elevated Status Boost perk in 2021. And Hilton bonus points earned through purchases on cobranded Hilton Honors cards through Dec. 31, 2021, will be considered base points that count toward elite tier qualification and lifetime Diamond status.

Likewise, most programs have extended perks such as airline companion fares and hotel free night certificates multiple times. And Hilton Honors significantly changed its free weekend night certificates for a limited time to allow travelers to use their certificates for a stay on any day of the week. But, since the cobranded program often has a significant say in how these perks are managed, I won't discuss these perks further in this post.

Related: My top 3 picks for the best cobranded hotel credit card

Bottom line

Limited time perks and benefits encouraged me to keep most of my travel rewards cards when the annual fees posted during the coronavirus pandemic. After all, I expect that as border restrictions decrease and I get back to my global digital nomad lifestyle, I'll once again benefit from the travel perks and benefits on my cards. Luckily, as I ease back into travel, some of the limited-time perks and benefits remain on my cards.

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

Featured image by Getty Images
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.