Ranking Credit Card Annual Travel Credits

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 doesn’t Chase just get rid of the travel credit and lower the annual fee to $250? There are a few reasons:

  • Card issuers don’t 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 easily be 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 don’t 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 doesn’t 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 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 hotel credit

The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) offers a $200 annual hotel credit (this isn’t available on the business version of the card):

  • This is offered every calendar year
  • This is only valid for pre-paid hotel stays booked through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (no minimum stay) or The Hotel Collection (two night minimum stay required)
  • There’s no registration required, but rather this will automatically be applied toward the first eligible transaction

While there are some limitations in terms of the types of hotels you can book, the credit is otherwise really easy to use.

Use your credit at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai

4. 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
  • 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

5. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card $300 Marriott credit

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (review) offers an up to $300 annual Marriott statement credit (based on cardmember year):

  • 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 don’t this probably isn’t the card for you). You can apply this toward room rates, a meal, a spa treatment, parking, and more.

Effective 9/22/22, the $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit benefit will no longer be available. It will be replaced with a NEW benefit of up to $300 in statement credits per calendar year (up to $25 per month) for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide.

Use the credit at The Gritti Palace Venice

6. 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 toward 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. Note that this card also offers a $250 airline fee credit, with similar terms to what you’ll find on the Amex Platinum.

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?

Conversations (20)
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  1. HeavenlyJane Guest

    I wish your list was more exhaustive. You missed the $100 travel credit on the BoA Premium Rewards card.

  2. Art Guest

    Is this “best travel credits” or just “5 random travel credits I spent 30 seconds thinking of”???

    This list is a mess outside of CSR and VX being 1 and 2:

    Where to start?

    1). Amex Hilton Aspire Airline credit is objectively better than the Amex plat airline credit because it is exactly the same but larger. And on a lower AF card. But it’s not in your list.

    2) if ease of use is...

    Is this “best travel credits” or just “5 random travel credits I spent 30 seconds thinking of”???

    This list is a mess outside of CSR and VX being 1 and 2:

    Where to start?

    1). Amex Hilton Aspire Airline credit is objectively better than the Amex plat airline credit because it is exactly the same but larger. And on a lower AF card. But it’s not in your list.

    2) if ease of use is a significant criteria (as it should be) and not just size then BoA Premium Rewards $100 credit should be on your list.

    3) The Chase Ritz Carlton airline credit is objectively *way* better than any amex airline credit by every measure. It’s larger, can be used for more types of airline charges and isn’t locked into a single airline. Where is that one?

  3. iamhere Guest

    More cards than that offer travel credits of some sort but you only chose to feature the ones you are paid to feature. I do agree though that those that give straight up travel money are much more beneficial than if you need to tie it to an airline or use it for other expenses/fees.

  4. DCS Diamond

    What's the basis for the ranking?

    The incomparable AMEX HH Aspire card is ranked last, but it offers bothan airline credit, which was not listed for whatever reason, and a resort credit, each for $250 for a total of $500, which puts the Aspire ahead of the CSR and the AMEX Plat in terms of the size of the 'travel' credit, though the CSR credit has the edge when it comes to ease of redemption...

  5. eponymous coward Guest

    Not only the US Bank Altitude Reserve credit, but the Hilton Aspire card has its own flavor of the AMEX airline credit, but THAT one is $250 (so it’s even better than the Platinum one).

  6. schizm42 Guest

    Altitude reserve credit is also super easy to use.

    1. BW Guest

      And US Bank permanently added dining as an option for the travel credit. Super easy $325 back.

    2. Raylan Guest

      Altitude Reserve easily has the best travel credit. Higher dollar value than CSR and easier to use. But US Bank doesn't really promote it very much, so it usually gets lost in the shuffle in these sorts of discussions.

  7. Jared Guest

    What about the Citi prestige 250 dollar annual travel credit? It’s as easy to use as the sapphire reserve credit!

  8. Brandon Guest

    What about the Citi Prestige card? Is it not listed since it's not available?

  9. DavidS Guest

    Aspire also has the airline fee credit (same terms as Plat) but at $250 level. More money, but still a pain to use.

  10. Ole Guest

    Ben, would you mind giving some details on how do you get $200 airline fee credit? This year I was able to use it to pay for better seats on my international flight. But I don’t regularly fly international so have always struggled to maximize for my domestic travel

    1. Zephyr Guest

      Works for domestic flights as well.

    2. mdande7 Gold

      I ask this regularly, clearly there is a trick I'm missing! I would rank this well below Hilton and Marriott.

    3. tda Guest

      Back in the day, I used my credits on AA e-gift cards that I could redeem on airfare. That no longer works, so I used my credits on United TravelBank credits, which can also be used on airfare. Flyertalk has all sorts of suggestions, which vary by airline.

    4. Jacques Guest

      It is not straightforward. I used it a few times to pay for my spouse or daughter to join me in the Delta lounge or for checking in luggage.

  11. Joseph Guest

    The credit will automatically apply toward your first $250 in spending at any eligible Marriott resort globally (this only includes resorts and not hotels

    This should say Hilton not Mariott

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Joseph -- Fixed, thanks!

  12. Anthony Diamond

    You should add the new AMEX Platinum hotel credit, which I think now has much wider appeal / usefulness than the airline fee credit.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Anthony -- Excellent point, thanks! Went ahead and added that to the post.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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HeavenlyJane Guest

I wish your list was more exhaustive. You missed the $100 travel credit on the BoA Premium Rewards card.

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Raylan Guest

Altitude Reserve easily has the best travel credit. Higher dollar value than CSR and easier to use. But US Bank doesn't really promote it very much, so it usually gets lost in the shuffle in these sorts of discussions.

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Art Guest

Is this “best travel credits” or just “5 random travel credits I spent 30 seconds thinking of”??? This list is a mess outside of CSR and VX being 1 and 2: Where to start? 1). Amex Hilton Aspire Airline credit is objectively better than the Amex plat airline credit because it is exactly the same but larger. And on a lower AF card. But it’s not in your list. 2) if ease of use is a significant criteria (as it should be) and not just size then BoA Premium Rewards $100 credit should be on your list. 3) The Chase Ritz Carlton airline credit is objectively *way* better than any amex airline credit by every measure. It’s larger, can be used for more types of airline charges and isn’t locked into a single airline. Where is that one?

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