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Your ultimate guide to credit card annual perks

April 01, 2020
15 min read
Wallet with cash and credit cards
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With the sheer volume of credit cards available it can be difficult to figure out which is best for you and why. Whether you're just starting out in the points and miles game or are well-versed in the rewards program space, it's important to know which cards offer which perks. Here we've put together the ultimate guide to credit cards that provide annual benefits simply for being a cardholder. Let's get started.

Credit cards that offer free hotel night certificates

Image courtesy of Marriott.
Image courtesy of Marriott.

These cobranded hotel credit cards offer a free night every year you own your card. Whether it's the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card's uncapped weekend night certificate or the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card's up to 35,000-point certificate, these allow you to spend a single night with no out of pocket cost.

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  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Receive a free night award every year on your account anniversary when you renew your card, worth up to 35,000 points.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll receive a free night award worth up to 50,000 points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees), good for up to a standard Category 6 hotel (or a Category 7 with off-peak pricing). $450 annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms apply.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: One weekend night reward every year after card renewal. $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card: One free night at a Category 1-4 hotel each year after your cardmember anniversary.
  • IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card: On your first cardmember anniversary year — and for each one after that — you’ll earn an award night certificate good at any IHG property that charges 40,000 points or less for an award night stay.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Receive a free night award every year on the account renewal month of your card, worth up to 35,000 points. $125 annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms apply.

Credit cards that offer airline companion certificates

Fly Star Alliance partners, such as Lufthansa, when booking with Avianca miles (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

These credit cards offer cardholders the opportunity to fly with a companion for free or discounted rates. From the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, which allows you to bring someone for free, to the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, which grants you a flight for just $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22), these are the cards to grab if you're looking to fly with a friend.

  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: This card has offered one of the longest-standing companion ticket benefits, and it’s still one of the best options out there. Each year, cardholders are entitled to a companion certificate for one round-trip itinerary within the 48 contiguous United States (or from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the 48 states) in the main cabin. You do have to pay taxes and fees, although they’re capped at $75. Terms apply.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Each year they renew, cardholders will receive a companion certificate good for one round-trip itinerary within the 48 contiguous United States (with the same dispensations for folks in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands) in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ or first class. They’ll only be responsible for taxes and fees on the second ticket, up to $75. Terms apply.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Same benefit as the personal version.
  • Barclays Lufthansa Miles & More World Elite Mastercard: This card’s companion benefit is valid after your first purchase and automatically every year after your account anniversary. It's eligible for economy travel departing from the US to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and must be booked in H, M, Y or B fare codes — i.e., non-discount economy. Cardholders must also pay all taxes and fees on both tickets, which can be hundreds of dollars.
  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card: Every year you carry this card, you are entitled to an annual companion fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees, from $22).
  • Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard: Receive a $100 companion discount annually for round-trip travel between Hawaii and North America on Hawaiian Airlines after each account anniversary.

The information for the Hawaiian Airlines 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.

Credit cards that offer annual travel credits

(Photo by Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)

There's perhaps no more competitive feature than the annual travel credit offered by credit card companies. These perks vary wildly according to issuer, so it's important to pay attention to the fine print.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Offers up to $200 annual airline incidental statement credit which can be used for things such as lounge access, bag fees and seat selection on your selected airline. The card also offers up to $200 in Uber Cash, given in the form of $15 per month and $20 for the month of December. $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms apply. Enrollment required for select benefits.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Offers up to $200 annual airline incidental credit which can be used for things such as lounge access, bag fees and seat selection on your selected airline. $595 annual fee ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022) (see rates and fees). Terms apply. Enrollment required for select benefits.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Offers up to $300 Marriott property statement credit on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program. This credit is tied to your account anniversary, not the calendar year, so it doesn’t automatically reset in January. The good news is that it’s valid for room rates in addition to miscellaneous property charges. Terms apply.
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Cardholders enjoy up to $250 annual airline incidental credit, up to $250 annual Hilton statement credit and a $100 statement credit on qualifying stays of two nights or more at Conrad and Waldorf Astoria properties. Terms apply.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: This card offers a $300 annual travel credit that’s very broadly defined. You’ll automatically be credited for purchases ranging from airfare and hotels to Uber, public transit, parking fees and plenty of other charges you wouldn’t necessarily expect to code as travel.
  • Citi Prestige® Card: Travelers receive up to $250 annual travel credit. While this used to be limited to airfare purchases only, Citi is expanding it to a more general travel credit like the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s.
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Offers an up to $100 annual airline incidental statement credit which can be used for things such as lounge access, bag fees and seat selection.

The information for the Citi Prestige card and 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.

Credit cards that offer hotel elite status

The Waldorf Astoria Maldives. (Photo by Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)
The Waldorf Astoria Maldives. (Photo by Brian Kelly/The Points Guy)

While it's possible to earn elite status the hard way — by putting heads in beds — there are a number of different credit cards that offer elite status as a perk of being a cardmember. From mid-tier Gold status all the way to the top, these cards provide all benefits of being an elite with none of the effort.

  • Hilton Honors American Express Card: Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Complimentary Discoverist status
  • IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card: Complimentary Platinum status
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express: Complimentary Gold status
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Complimentary Silver status
  • Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature: Complimentary Gold status
  • Radisson Rewards Visa Signature: Complimentary Silver status
  • Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature ($75 annual fee): Complimentary Platinum status
  • Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature ($0 annual fee): Complimentary Gold status
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Complimentary Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold status (enrollment required)
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Complimentary Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold status (enrollment required)

Related reading: Hotel elite status match and challenge plans for 2020

Credit cards that offer annual elite night credits

Image courtesy of Park Hyatt Niseko.
(Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Niseko)

Elite night credits are used to help you earn elite status at hotels. Although there aren't many credit cards that offer this perk, it can be incredibly helpful to those seeking to earn top-tier status with these programs.

  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Five elite night credits every year towards elite status. Even better, members can earn an additional two night credits per $5,000 in spend, making it possible to reach Globalist status without needing to spend a ton of nights in hotels.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: 15 elite night credits every year towards elite status. Unfortunately, Marriott doesn't allow you to stack elite night credits, so even if you own the cards below as well, you'll only receive the 15.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: 15 elite night credits every year towards elite status.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: 15 elite night credits every year towards elite status.
  • Ritz-Carlton Credit Card: 15 elite night credits every year towards elite status. It closed to new applicants in July 2018 — but Chase still allows cardholders of Marriott-branded personal credit cards to do a product change to the Ritz-Carlton, as long as you’ve had a card for at least 12 months.

Credit cards that offer anniversary bonus points

(Photo courtesy of Southwest.)
(Photo courtesy of Southwest.)

Many cards offer bonus points each year simply for being a cardmember. Though Southwest is most famous for this perk, there are several others that award you significant sums every anniversary.

  • Asiana Visa Signature credit card: Receive 10,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • JetBlue Plus Card: Receive 5,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • JetBlue Business Card: Receive 5,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature ($75 annual fee): Receive 6,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Receive 3,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Receive 6,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Receive 6,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Receive 7,500 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Receive 9,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.
  • Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature: Receive 40,000 bonus points after each account anniversary.

The information for the Asiana, Radisson Rewards, JetBlue Plus and JetBlue Business 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.

Credit cards that offer one-time lounge passes

(Photo by Brendan Dorsey/The Points Guy)

Though many credit cards come with perks such as a Priority Pass membership or access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, some travelers don't like to pay the high annual fees associated with such cards. Instead, they can use these cards to obtain one-time passes to airline club lounges.

  • United Business Card: Each year when you renew your card, you’ll get two United Club Lounge one-time passes.
  • United Explorer Card: Each year when you renew your card, you’ll get two United Club Lounge one-time passes.
  • Asiana Visa Signature® credit card: Each year when you renew your card, you’ll get two Asiana Lounge one-time passes.
  • Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More World Elite Mastercard: Receive two Lufthansa Business Lounge vouchers annually, which can be used even at its U.S. airport locations.

The information for the Miles & More Mastercard and the Asiana Visa Signature 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.

Credit cards that offer other annual benefits

Lyft mobile ordering
(Photo by d3sign/Getty Images)

Though many credit cards offer varieties of competing benefits, others use significant partnerships to distinguish themselves from the competition. These include perks such as shopping credits, lounge passes and even ride-sharing elite status.

  • The Platinum Card from American Express: This premium travel card offers its members an up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue statement credit for U.S. purchases, doled out in $50 increments twice per calendar year. Terms apply.
  • The Business Platinum Card from American Express: Similar to the personal version, this card also offers a credit twice per year, but it's a $200 Dell credit each time, totaling up to $400 in statement credits (for U.S. Dell purchases). Terms apply.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: A newly added feature to the CSR is a Lyft Pink membership, the rides-hare elite program that saves you money and normally costs $20/month. Cardholders receive one complimentary year of membership and can activate the benefit from now until 2022. The CSR has also partnered with DoorDash to offer complimentary DashPass membership. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a full year of membership, which comes with zero delivery from eligible restaurants and reduced service fees on orders more than $12. You do have to activate your year of DashPass membership by Dec. 31, 2021.
  • American Express® Gold Card: An up to $120 annual dining credit at participating merchants, including Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar, and select Shake Shack locations. This credit comes in the form of $10 each month, so you'll need to order often in order to take full advantage. Terms apply.
  • Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®: Each year on your account anniversary receive a free companion coupon and upgrade coupon.
  • Asiana Visa Signature® credit card: Receive a $100 rebate on plane tickets.

The information for the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Enrollment required for select benefits.

Bottom line

Nearly every credit card out there tries to entice you with its perks. From mid-tier elite status to free night certificates worth hundreds of dollars, the annual benefits provided by cards are many. Do your homework and make sure you don't miss out on these incredible opportunities.

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

Feature photo by Getty Images.

Featured image by Emilija Manevska/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.