What credit cards with annual travel credits are still useful during the pandemic?

Mar 8, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information. 


Travel rewards credit cards entice new cardholders with flashy sign-up bonuses and waived annual fees during the first year. However, many of the premium rewards cards on the market also offer ongoing travel benefits. These perks include not only things such as airport lounge access and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursements, but also annual statement credits toward travel purchases.

This benefit can vary from a flat $300 per year for a wide variety of travel purchases, like you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, to $200 specifically for non-ticket airline incidentals with The Platinum Card® from American Express, or up to $300 in annual statement credits toward purchases with a specific hotel chain, like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card confers.

But during the pandemic, travel-centric benefits like these credits became much less useful as many put travel on pause.

Thankfully, in 2020 many credit card issuers adjusted to make credits more versatile so that cardholders could apply them to other expenses while they were staying home. Today, we’ll walk through which cards have annual travel credits and whether or not they’ve been adjusted to include other purchases in light of the pandemic continuing into 2021.

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Credit cards with annual travel credits

The information for the Citi Prestige, Hilton Aspire Amex card and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve 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.

Card Annual travel credit Welcome bonus/sign-up bonus Annual fee Expanded?
Chase Sapphire Reserve Up to $300 general travel 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. $550 Yes; Use your credit on gas and groceries through June 30, 2021
Citi Prestige Up to $250 general travel 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in first three months. $495 Yes; Use your credit on groceries and dining through the end of 2021.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card Up to $250 on Hilton purchases, up to $250 on airline incidentals

Enrollment required for select benefits.

150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 in first three months. Terms apply. $450
(See rates and fees)
No
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Up to $325 general travel 50,000 points after you spend $4,500 in first 90 days. $400 Yes; Use your credit on travel as well as dining, including takeout and delivery.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card Up to $300 toward Marriott purchases Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.​ Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership. $450
(See rates and fees)
No.
Platinum Card from American Express Up to $200 for airline incidentals, up to $200 in Uber Cash for U.S. services

Enrollment required for select benefits.

75,000 points after you spend $5,000 in first six months of account opening (possibly higher through CardMatch). Terms apply. $550
(See rates and fees)
No; Although the Uber credits can be put toward Uber Eats orders.
Business Platinum Card from American Express Up to $200 for airline incidentals

Enrollment required for select benefits.

Earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. $595
(See rates and fees)
No.
Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ credit card Up to $100 annual statement credit for airline incidental fees 50,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days. $95 No.
Amex Gold Card Up to $100 in Uber Cash for U.S. services

Enrollment required for select benefits.

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms apply. $250
(See rates and fees)
No; Although the Uber credits can also be applied to Uber Eats orders.

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Annual travel credit: $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for a broad range of travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. This credit must be spent before you earn higher points per dollar (3x) spent on travel. Through December 31, 2021, you can use your travel credit on gas and grocery purchases, too.

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

Annual fee: $550

Other benefits: The Chase Sapphire Reserve is widely considered one of the best all-around travel rewards credit cards thanks to its slate of chart-topping benefits. In addition to that annual travel statement credit, cardholders earn unlimited 3x points per dollar on travel and dining worldwide. Ultimate Rewards points transfer to 10 airline partners including United and JetBlue, and three hotel partners including Hyatt, IHG and Marriott. Points may also be redeemed directly through the Chase Travel Portal for 1.5 cents apiece. Cardholders can access Priority Pass lounges and can be reimbursed once every four years for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. Waived foreign transaction fees.

During the pandemic, Chase has added multiple ways to make its travel cards more valuable. For the Chase Sapphire Reserve, that means cardholders can currently use their $300 travel credit for travel, gas and groceries through the end of 2021.

Citi Prestige

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual travel credit: Up to $250 worth of annual travel statement credits each calendar year toward travel purchases including airline tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, commuter transportation, subways, taxis, train tickets, etc. Citi has expanded this credit to include dining and supermarkets through the end of 2021.

Current welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $495

Other benefits: The Citi Prestige earns an incredible 5x points per dollar at restaurants and on air travel, 3x points per dollar at hotels and on cruise lines and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Citi ThankYou points transfer to 16 airline partner programs including Air France/KLM Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Cardholders can enter Priority Pass lounges and receive the fourth night free on up to two hotel stays per year when booking through the Citi concierge or online at thankyou.com. You won’t pay foreign transaction fees. You can receive Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement once every five years.

Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Annual travel credit: Enjoy up to $250 in statement credits each year of card membership for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts, plus up to $250 back each year for airline incidentals such as checked bags and seat selection.

Current welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership.

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

Other benefits: The card earns a whopping 14x points per dollar on Hilton purchases; 7x points per dollar on flights booked through Amex Travel or directly through airlines, on car rentals and at US restaurants; and 3x points per dollar on everything else. It comes with automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status, an annual free weekend night and Priority Pass Select lounge access. Get up to $100 in credits for qualifying charges at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking two-night-minimum stays via HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard. Enrollment required for select benefits.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual travel credit: Up to $325 in statement credits per cardmember year for purchases made directly from airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines. U.S. Bank has updated the card’s landing page to state that this credit can now also be applied to takeout, food delivery and dining purchases.

Current welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,500 within 90 days of account opening.

Annual fee: $400

Other benefits: Earn 5x points on prepaid hotel bookings made through the Altitude Rewards Center, 3x points per dollar on travel and mobile wallet purchases as well as takeout, food delivery and dining through June 30, 2021, and 1x point per dollar on everything else. Cardholders can redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece on airfare, hotels and car rentals booked through the Altitude Rewards Center, and lower values for other purchases. If used mostly for travel, your rate of return is a considerable 4.5%. Get 12 complimentary Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes each year, a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership for airport lounge access, reimbursement for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years, and waived foreign transaction fees.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

(Photo by Eden Batki/The Points Guy)

Annual travel credit: Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of card membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. Unfortunately, you can’t apply this credit to other purchases at this time.

Current welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.​ Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership.

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

Other benefits: This card has almost too many other benefits to mention. It earns 6x points per dollar on Marriott purchases, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. It confers Priority Pass Select membership for lounge access, and provides Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement once every 4.5 years. Cardholders receive automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold status (and Platinum status if they hit $75,000 in calendar-year spend), complimentary premium in-room internet and a free anniversary award worth up to 50,000 points each year. You can also get up to $100 in credit for qualifying charges by using your card to book a special rate on stays of two nights or more at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties. Enrollment required for select benefits.

The Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

The long-reigning premium rewards product, the Platinum Card, has remained a top choice for luxury travelers thanks to its many benefits.

Annual travel credit: Up to $200 back on airline incidental fees charged by the carrier you select each year. Unfortunately, airfare itself does not count per the terms. Cardholders can score up to $200 in annual Uber credits, too.

Current welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first six months.

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Other benefits: This card has plenty of perks to justify its high annual fee. Earn 5x points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline or American Express Travel and prepaid hotels booked with  American Express Travel. You can transfer the Membership Rewards points you earn with this card to a total of 22 airline and hotel partners. There’s also up to $100 in credit at Saks Fifth Avenue plus a statement credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee once every 4.5 years.

The card gets you into Centurion Lounges and Priority Pass lounge access, plus Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta. At hotels, enjoy value-added benefits when booking stays through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts plus Gold status with Hilton Honors and Gold Elite status with Marriott. Through Amex’s International Airline Program, cardholders can get discounts on premium economy, business- and first-class tickets on 25 airlines. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Amex added some temporary benefits due to the pandemic that help make this card more valuable even while you don’t travel. For example, you’ll get an up-to-$30 monthly PayPal credit through June 30, 2021, for a total of up to $180 in PayPal statement credits.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

The business version of the Platinum Card offers similar benefits as the personal version, plus some great additional ones.

Annual travel credit: Up to $200 back on airline incidental fees charged by the carrier you select each year.

Current welcome bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $595 (see rates and fees)

Other benefits: In addition to the perks that the personal version confers, the Business Platinum Card also offers up to $200 in annual statement credits for Dell technology purchases. Cardholders can count on a 50% points bonus (1.5x per dollar) on purchases over $5,000, up to 1 million bonus points a year, plus a 35% rebate when redeeming points for airfare booked through amextravel.com on their selected qualifying airline, or for business or first class tickets on any airline. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ credit card

Annual travel credit: Cardholders can enjoy up to $100 in statement credits for airline incidentals like checked bags, seat selections or upgrades each year.

Current welcome bonus: Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual fee: $95

Other benefits: This card has a solid rate of return. Cardholders earn 2x points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1.5x points per dollar on everything else. Plus, earn 2x points for every $1 spent on grocery store purchases- now through 12/31/21.

You can boost your earning 25%-75% depending on how much you have in deposits with Bank of America and Merrill. Points can be redeemed for statement credits, gift cards and purchases through the Bank of America Travel Center, or as a deposit to a Bank of America account at a rate of one cent apiece. The card waives foreign exchange fees and will reimburse cardholders for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee once every four years.

American Express® Gold Card

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Annual travel credit: Up to $120 in Uber credits each year — up to $10 monthly delivered in the form of Uber Cash that can be used on U.S. Uber rides and Uber Eats purchases, which makes them especially versatile.

Current welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months (though some folks might be eligible for a higher targeted bonus via the CardMatch Tool. These offers are subject to change at any time.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Other benefits: Cardholders now earn 4x points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases each year, then one point), 3x points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amex Travel, and 1x point per dollar on everything else. Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Bottom line

Whether you prefer a travel rewards card that earns transferable points, a hotel co-branded one, or a card that earns fixed-value points, there are some phenomenal options that offer annual travel statement credits. Picking one of them will ensure you continue to get value from your credit card long after you’ve earned its welcome bonus and paid its annual fee.

This particular perk is one of the most compelling reasons to continue carrying a specific credit card and take advantage of it for free flights, hotel nights and other travel purchases year after year. This year, though, some cards have thankfully either expanded the use of their existing credits or have added new ones to help users get the most out of their cards during a time when most people are staying home.

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

Featured image by Rattanakun Thongbun / EyeEm/Getty Images. 

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor. 

Updated on 5/3/21.

The All-New United Quest℠ Card

WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases

*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 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • $250 Annual Fee
  • Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
  • Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
  • Earn 2X miles on all other travel
  • Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.
Regular APR
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

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.