Credit card annual travel credit rating

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Nowadays, many premium credit cards (with steep annual fees) contain travel credits of some sort, which can help offset the annual fee. In this post, I wanted to rank these credits based on their ease of use, as well as discuss why card issuers offer these credits as a start.

Why do so many premium credit cards have travel credits?

One common question is why so many premium credit cards have annual travel credits, rather than just charging a lower annual fee. For example, Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) has an annual fee of $550 and offers an annual travel credit of $300. So why doesn’t Chase get rid of the travel credit and lower the annual fee to $250? there are many reasons:

  • Card issuers do not want to break up their own card wallet, as issuers go after different consumers at different price points; For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review) has an annual fee of $95, so the main difference in the annual fee is one way to differentiate these products, even if it’s easy to redeem a lot of that fee
  • Issuers want people to love their cards and put them at the front of their wallets; Travel Credit increases the likelihood of spending money on the card and keeping it readily available, especially with the ease of use of Travel Credit
  • There is often some interruption in these credits; Maybe not so much with Chase Sapphire Reserve, but for those hard-to-use credits, there are certainly plenty of people who don’t use their credits.
Many credit cards offer annual travel credits

Best Travel Credits for Credit Cards

Putting the above aside, let me rank the travel credits offered by some of the most popular premium credit cards. This arrangement is based on how easy the credits are to use, rather than how large they are.

First, I’ll list the “general” credits (not specific to just one travel brand), and then I’ll list the brand-specific credits. Also note that I will only be listing open cards for new Cardmembers, so this excludes products like the Citi Prestige Card.

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Credit of $300

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review) offers an annual travel credit of $300:

  • This is presented every year as a card
  • No registration required to use it
  • The credit will be automatically applied to any purchase encrypted as travel, including flights, hotels, car rentals, rides, taxis, trains, and more.

It doesn’t get any easier than using Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit, because that’s really ‘no restrictions’.

Use your credit on almost any travel purchase

2. Capital One Venture X $300 Travel Gateway Credit

The Capital One Venture X Rewards credit card (review) offers an annual travel credit of $300:

  • This is presented every year as a card
  • No registration required to use it
  • Balance can only be used through the Capital One travel portal, when paying by card, including flights, hotels and car rentals

Although not as straightforward as the credit at Chase Sapphire Reserve, I still found this to be easy enough to use. I simply book a $300+ flight every year through the gate, and that gets reimbursed.

Use your balance to purchase any flight at the gate

3. Amex Platinum $200 airline fee credit

The American Express® Platinum Card (Review) and the American Express Platinum Business Card (Review) offer an annual balance of $200 for airline fees:

  • This is presented every calendar year
  • Cardmembers must register with a specific airline each year, choosing Alaska, America, Delta, Frontier, Hawaii, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United
  • The credit is intended to be used for airline charges, and excludes airline tickets, upgrades, mileage point purchases, gift cards, duty-free purchases, and award tickets.

While I can make the most of this each year, I find this to be the most difficult airline travel credit to use, due to the need to designate an airline, as well as the limitations on refunds.

Airline fee credit can be beneficial for very low cost carriers

4. Marriott Bonvoy Great $300 Marriott Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® The (review) card provides an annual balance on a $300 Marriott account statement:

  • This is presented every year as a card
  • No registration required to use it
  • The credit will automatically be applied to your first $300 of spend at any eligible Marriott properties globally

This credit is really easy to use, as long as you spend at least $300 a year at Marriott hotels (and if you don’t, this card probably isn’t for you). You can apply this to room rates, meals, spa treatments, parking, and more.

Use the credit at The Gritti Palace Venice

5. Hilton Aspire Card $250 Hilton Resort Credit

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Review) provides an annual balance of $250 for the Hilton Resort statement:

  • This is presented every year as a card
  • No registration required to use it
  • The credit will automatically be applied to your first $250 of spend at any eligible Hilton resort globally (this only includes resorts, not hotels, you can find all resorts on this page)

This credit is easy to use, with the main limitation being that it is only valid at resorts, not non-resort hotels. So it’s a little more restrictive than Marriott’s credit, which applies to hotels and resorts.

Use your balance at Waldorf Astoria Maldives

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Nowadays, many premium credit cards offer annual travel credits. This is a way for card issuers to give cardholders value, encouraging people to keep cards on the front of the wallet. While I believe there is value to be gained from all credits, not all credits are created equal, as you might say. We hope the above is a useful summary of the relative value of these credits.

What are the annual travel credits for the credit card you used?

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