Which Travel Credits Are the Easiest to Redeem?
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It’s getting more and more common these days to see cards charging annual fees in the range of $450+. In many ways premium is the new normal, and in order to convince customers to shell out hundreds of dollars a year, most of these cards offer some type of annual travel statement credit. These credits are certainly not created equal, and range from automatic and easy to use to much more restricted. Today we’re going to take a look at which cards offer the easiest travel credits to use.
|Card||Welcome Bonus||Travel Credit||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months||$300 annual travel credit||$550|
|Citi Prestige® Card||Earn 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months||$250 annual travel credit||$495|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.Terms Apply.||Up to $300 annual Marriott property credit (valid on room rates)
Up to $100 luxury property credit on select stays of two nights or longer at Ritz Carlton and St. Regis hotels
|$450 (see rates and fees)|
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card||Earn 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Terms Apply.||$250 annual credit for airline incidental fees
$250 annual Hilton resort statement credit valid at participating resorts
$100 property credit on eligible stays of two or more nights at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels
|$450 (see rates and fees)|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Terms Apply.||Up to $200 annual credit for airline incidental fees
Up to $200 annual Uber credit ($15 a month and a $20 bonus in December)
Up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit ($50 bi-annually)
|$550 (see rates and fees)|
|American Express® Gold Card||Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Terms Apply.||$100 annual credit for airline incidental fees||$250 (see rates and fees)|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||Earn 50,000 points (worth $500) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months||$100 annual credit for airline incidental fees||$95|
Annual travel credit: $300 annual travel credit
Stand-out perks: Since its launch in late 2016, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has been one of the most popular all around credit cards. It’s also done the most to convince people to pay up for premium credit cards. Despite its $550 annual fee, its $300 annual travel credit is by far the easiest to use. Chase will automatically apply this credit to your first $300 in annual travel purchases, with eligible charges ranging from flights and hotels to less obvious things like parking fees, tolls, ride sharing and even some food delivery services. You must spend he $300 travel credit before you start earning 3X points on travel spending. The Sapphire Reserve rounds out with triple points on travel and dining, a Priority Pass Select membership, access to a premium concierge service, and a host of other perks.
Citi Prestige® Card
Annual travel credit: $250 annual travel credit
Stand-out perks: While the Citi Prestige card is a lot less appealing today than it was last year, it’s one of the only cards to offer a broad and comprehensive travel credit with minimal restrictions. The card’s annual fee has been raised from $450 to $495, the fourth night free benefit has been capped to two uses per year, but the Prestige does still offer 5x points on air travel and restaurants, 3x on hotels and cruise lines, and fourth night free on paid hotel stays twice a year.
Annual travel credit: Up to $300 Marriott property credit (valid on room rates)
Stand-out perks: When Marriott rebranded its loyalty program as Marriott Bonvoy it also overhauled its entire cobranded credit card lineup, including the Bonvoy Brilliant card. While the $300 annual credit is only valid at Marriott properties, there aren’t many restrictions beyond that. You can use this credit for room rates at Marriott hotels (which makes it as good as cash in my eyes), or for incidental property charges like dining, drinks or spa treatments. Cardholders will also receive an up to $100 luxury property credit on eligible stays of two nights or more at St. Regis or Ritz Carlton hotels, but you must book a specific (and occasionally more expensive) rate in order to qualify. In addition to these credits, the Bonvoy Brilliant offers automatic Gold elite status (and the ability to upgrade to Platinum by spending $75,000 a year) and a valuable anniversary free night certificate worth up to 50,000 points. These perks together are more than enough to offset the $450 annual fee, making the Bonvoy Brilliant one of my favorite cards in my wallet.
Annual travel credit: Up to $250 annual credit for airline incidental fees and up to $250 annual Hilton resort statement credit valid at participating resorts
Stand-out perks: The premium Hilton Aspire offers a multitude of statement credits, and is currently offering an all time high welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton points (worth $900 based on TPG’s valuations) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. The Aspire offers a $250 annual credit for airline incidental fees (which functions similarly to the credits on the Amex Platinum and Amex Gold cards), a $250 annual Hilton resort statement credit, and a $100 property credit on eligible stays of two or more nights at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels. Aspire cardholders will also enjoy a free weekend night certificate upon account opening and each year on their account anniversary, automatic top-tier Hilton Diamond elite status, and a whopping 14x points per dollar on Hilton purchases. All this comes with a $450 annual fee.
Annual travel credit: Up to $200 annual airline incidental fee credit.
Stand-out perks: The Amex Platinum airline fee credit has been in the news a lot lately, but not for good reasons. The terms and conditions of this benefit explicitly state that gift card purchases are not eligible for reimbursement, though people have reported success buying gift cards in recent years. Amex seems to have caught on and closed this loophole, severely limiting the ways to use this perk. Amex doesn’t actually list what charges are eligible, only offering the following exclusions: “Airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets are not deemed to be incidental fees.”
If you’ve decided to apply for or keep your Platinum card open even after these changes — plus its $550 annual fee — you can look forward to the following perks: up to $200 in annual Uber credits ($15 a month with a $20 bonus in December), up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits ($50 every six months), Marriott and Hilton Gold elite status, access to Amex’s growing collection of Centurion lounges, access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta, and a whole host of other perks.
Annual travel credit: Up to $100 annual airline incidental fee credit
Stand-out perks: The $100 annual airline incidental fee credit on the Amex Gold card features all the same restrictions as the Platinum card, though the stakes are considerably lower since the Gold card only has a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). In addition to the airline credit, notable perks include 4x points on restaurants and US supermarkets (up to $25,000 a year) and a $120 annual dining credit which breaks down as $10 a month at the following merchants: Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, participating Shake Shack locations and the recently added Boxed.
Annual travel credit: $100 annual airline incidental fee credit
Stand-out perks: While the Bank of America®️ Premium Rewards®️ card travel credit is as restrictive as the Amex credits, there’s one huge difference. The Premium Rewards Card only has a $95 annual fee, so if you max out the airline incidental fee credit you’ll actually come out $5 ahead every year you keep the card open. That’s before factoring in other benefits of the card, such as the great earning rate on everyday spending and travel bonus categories, and the enhanced earning rates available to members of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. If you have $100,000+ in eligible accounts with BoA and/or Merrill, you’ll earn a very respectable 2.625% back on all your purchases, or 3.5% on travel and dining.
For a long time it’s been easy to brush over the annual fee on the Amex Platinum and other premium cards because the plethora of annual statement credits easily offset your upfront cost. However, recent changes and restrictions in how this credit is used have changed the math. Whether you currently hold any of the cards on this list or are considering applying for them in the future, now is a good time to sit down and look at your own financial situation. It’s important to have an idea of how you plan to use these credits before you open a card in order to make sure you can recoup your annual fee.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, click here.
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, 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.
- Earn 60,000 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®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.