Ranking Credit Card Annual Travel Credits

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Nowadays many premium credit cards (with steep annual fees) have 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, and also discuss why card issuers offer these credits to begin with.

Why do many premium credit cards have travel credits?

One common question is why many premium credit cards have annual travel credits, rather than just having lower annual fees. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review) has a $ 550 annual fee and offers a $ 300 annual travel credit. So why does Chase just get rid of the travel credit and lower the annual fee to $ 250? There are a few reasons:

  • Card issuers do not want to cannibalize their own card portfolio, as issuers go after different consumers with different price points; for example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) has a $ 95 annual fee, so a major annual fee difference is one way to differentiate these products, even if much of that fee can be easily recouped
  • Issuers want people to love their cards and have them at the front of their wallets; a travel credit makes it more likely that you’ll spend money on the card and keep it readily available, especially with an easy to use travel credit
  • There’s often some breakage on these credits; probably not much with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but for those credits that are harder to use, there are definitely a lot of people who do not use their credits
Several credit cards offer annual travel credits

The best credit card travel credits

With the above out of the way, let me rank the travel credits offered by some of the most popular premium credit cards. This ranking is based on how easily the credits can be used, rather than how big they are.

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

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve $ 300 travel credit

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

  • This is offered every cardmember year
  • There’s no registration required to use it
  • The credit will automatically apply toward any purchase coded as travel, including flights, hotels, rental cars, rideshares, taxis, trains, and more

It does not get easier than using the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit, as this is truly “no strings attached.”

Use your credit toward virtually any travel purchase

2. Capital One Venture X $ 300 travel portal credit

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review) offers a $ 300 annual travel credit:

  • This is offered every cardmember year
  • There’s no registration required to use it
  • The credit can only be used through the Capital One Travel Portal, when paying with the card, including for flights, hotels, and rental cars

While not as straightforward as the credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I still find this to be easy enough to use. I simply book a $ 300 + flight each year through the portal, and that gets reimbursed.

Use your credit toward any portal flight purchase

3. Amex Platinum $ 200 airline fee credit

The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review) each offer a $ 200 annual airline fee credit:

  • This is offered every calendar year year
  • Cardmembers must register with a designated airline each year, with the choice of Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United
  • The credit is intended to be used for airline fees, and excludes airline tickets, upgrades, mileage points purchases, gift cards, duty free purchases, and award tickets

While I manage to max this out every year, I do find this to be the most difficult airline travel credit to use, given the need to designate an airline, plus the restrictions on redemptions.

The airline fee credit can be useful for ultra low cost carriers

4. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card $ 300 Marriott credit

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant ™ American Express® Card (review) offers a $ 300 annual Marriott statement credit:

  • This is offered every cardmember year
  • There’s no registration required to use it
  • The credit will automatically apply toward your first $ 300 in spending at any eligible Marriott property globally

This credit is really easy to use, as long as you spend at least $ 300 per year at Marriott properties (and if you do not this probably is not the card for you). You can apply this toward room rates, a meal, a spa treatment, 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) offers a $ 250 annual Hilton resort statement credit:

  • This is offered every cardmember year
  • There’s no registration required to use it
  • The credit will automatically apply towards your first $ 250 in spending at any eligible Hilton resort globally (this only includes resorts and not hotels, and you can find all resorts at this page)

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

Use your credit at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives

Bottom line

Nowadays many premium credit cards offer annual travel credits. This is a way for card issuers to give cardmembers value, and encourage people to keep cards front-of-wallet. While I think there’s value to be had from all credits, not all credits are created equal, as you can tell. Hopefully the above is a useful rundown of the relative value of these credits.

Which credit card annual travel credits have you used?

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