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Best cards with airline-fee credits

Dec. 17, 2020
11 min read
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Editor's Note

/b> This post has been updated with new information.

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

Call it a la carte pricing or just nickel-and-diming. By any name, air travelers are being pummeled by an array of fees for all sorts of services. Many of the best airline credit cards have perks that mirror basic elite status benefits, such as free checked bags, but other travel credit cards offer airline-fee credits to help cardholders offset or eliminate these incidental airline expenses.

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Top cards with airline-fee credits

Comparison of the top cards with airline-fee credits

CREDIT CardBonusAnnual Fee
The Platinum Card from American Express80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.  Terms apply.$695 (see rates & fees)
The Business Platinum Card from American ExpressEarn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.$695 (see rates and fees)
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. Terms apply.$450 (see rates & fees)
Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card50,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening.$95

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.

All of these cards come with the opportunity to earn statement credits toward airline fees and incidentals. Credits for Amex cards are only valid for a specific airline that you choose ahead of time.

The Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earning rate(s): 5x for flights and hotels booked with American Express Travel, as well as flights booked directly through the airline (up to 500,000 points per calendar year effective Jan. 1, 2021), and 1x everywhere else.

Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)

How the airline-fee credit works: Every calendar year, Amex Platinum cardholders get up to $200 in credits toward airline fees on one selected airline. Enrollment is required. These credits will only apply to one airline you choose from the following list:

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  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

After you make your initial airline selection, you can change it once per year in January. Anecdotally, I was able to change my selected airline "as a one-time courtesy" by calling and asking. You can make your selection or annual adjustment on Amex's website.

Below are the types of airline fees that should trigger the credit:

  • Checked baggage fees
  • Overweight/oversize baggage fees
  • Change/cancellation fees
  • Phone reservation fees
  • Pet fees
  • Airport lounge day passes and memberships
  • Seat assignment fees
  • Inflight amenities (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, etc.)
  • Inflight entertainment (excluding wireless internet)

According to the card's terms, the airline-fee credit is not valid for airfare, upgrades, miles or points purchases, miles or points transfer fees, gift cards, duty-free purchases or award tickets. Also, if a fee is bundled into a single transaction with your airfare purchase, then it won't trigger the credit.

The Amex Platinum card also has other credits, including up to $200 in annual Uber credits, an up-to-$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry fee credit, and up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits every year (enrollment required). To learn more about the perks, read our Amex Platinum review.

Related: Your guide to Amex's airline fee credit

The Business Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

Welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first three months of card membership.

Earning rate(s): 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1.5x points on eligible purchases in select business categories and eligible purchases of $5,000 or more; on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year and 1 point per dollar spent on other eligible purchases.

Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)

How the airline-fee credit works: The Amex Business Platinum is the business version of the Amex Platinum and comes with the same airline-fee credit. Every calendar year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31) you'll get up to $200 in airline-fee credits. You can choose from the same list of airlines and the credit will apply to the same purchases as the personal Amex Platinum card.

The Business Platinum card also has up to $400 in annual Dell credits for U.S. purchases and an up-to-$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry fee credit. The card has exceptional airport lounge access and hotel elite status benefits, which you can learn more about from our Amex Business Platinum card review. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

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

Welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 on the card within your first three months of account opening.

Earning rate(s): 14x points at participating Hilton properties; 7x points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, at U.S. restaurants, and on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; and 3x points everywhere else.

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

How the airline-fee credit works: The Hilton Aspire airline-fee credits are the same as what you get with other Amex credit cards, except you can get up to $250 in airline fees reimbursed every calendar year. The Aspire's airline-fee credits are higher than any other Amex card, even the personal and business versions of the Amex Platinum card.

Once you've selected your airline, eligible fees will be reimbursed within two to four weeks of posting to your account. One slight difference with the Aspire card's credit is that you won't be able to use it for Delta Sky Club lounge day passes because you can only purchase them with eligible Amex Platinum (personal or business) or Amex Delta cards. But, the fee credit would apply to the purchase of an annual Delta Sky Club membership.

This card has an annual credit of up to $250 valid at select Hilton resorts and comes with top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond elite status. You can learn more about how to maximize this card's many benefits from our Hilton Amex Aspire review.

Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.

Earning rate(s): 2x points on travel and dining, and 1.5x points on everything else. These earnings rates can be even higher if you qualify for the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.

Annual fee: $95

How the airline-fee credit works: The Bank of America Premium Rewards card comes with up to $100 in airline incidental statement credits each calendar year. You aren't limited to a single airline either. According to the card terms, eligible purchases made on "domestic-originated flights on certain U.S.-domestic airlines" count. These include:

  • Preferred seating upgrades
  • Ticket change/cancellation fees
  • Checked baggage fees
  • Inflight entertainment
  • Onboard food and beverage charges
  • Airport lounge fees affiliated with eligible airline carriers

Based on reports, it looks like most of the major U.S.-based airlines will trigger the credit, except for Sun Country and Spirit. These purchases officially won't count toward the credit:

  • Airline ticket purchases
  • Miles and point purchases
  • Miles and point transfer fees
  • Gift cards
  • Duty-free purchases
  • Award tickets
  • Fees incurred with airline alliance partners do not qualify

Some people have had success in getting gift cards or award-booking taxes to trigger the credit. But it varies by airline and is not guaranteed to continue working indefinitely. For more details, check out our guide to which purchases count toward the BofA Premium Rewards card airline credit.

Cards with general travel credits

Many of the top travel rewards credit cards come with credits that apply to broad travel categories and will be much easier to use for most people. Here are a few of my favorites:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with up to $300 in travel credits every year. These credits apply to more than airline fees. They will apply to airfare, hotels, public transit, Uber and even Disney World tickets (depending on where you purchase them).

Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige card has been devalued in recent years, with many of the card perks significantly changed and travel protections gutted. The 4th Night Free perk has been limited and all of the card's most valuable travel protections are gone. The annual travel credit remains untouched. You'll still get up to $250 in credit for travel-related purchases (airfare, hotels and much more). This isn't limited to airline fees, but does include them.

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.

Bottom line

Holding a credit card with an airline-fee credit is a great way to avoid paying for everything from checked bags to change or cancellation fees. The airline-fee credits associated with Amex cards all work the same way and require you to select a specific airline to redeem them, but many other cards have credits that won't be so specifically applied. If you have elite status with an airline, it's a good idea to choose a different airline for your credits because many fees are greatly reduced or eliminated altogether for elite members.

Of course, these airline-fee credits aren't as valuable as broader travel credits you get from cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. In coming years, hopefully we'll start to see these airline credits become more useful and flexible to use — especially since travel has been put on the backburner for so many. But for those who do travel by air regularly, these airline-fee credits can help you save money on fees associated with flying.

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.

Updated on 5/3/21.

Featured image by AFP/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.

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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