Cards like the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve offer annual credits for travel that can offset their high annual fees. Here's what you need to know.

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  • Premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum Card® from American Express generally charge high annual fees, but they offer lots of benefits in exchange.
  • One such benefit is an annual travel credit: essentially a statement credit that reimburses you for travel purchases up to a certain dollar amount each year.
  • For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers up to $US300 in annual travel credits, and this credit is automatically applied to any travel purchases – from airfare to parking to highways tolls – that you make with the card.

In recent years, there’s been an uptick in premium credit cards with high annual fees and benefits to boot. One of those benefits that can help justify annual fees in excess of $US400 are annual travel credits.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.

When you’re working to earn credit card rewards, it’s important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically,

treat your credit card like a debit card

.

What are credit card annual travel credits?

Annual travel credits are essentially cash back in the form of credits to your card account when you make an eligible purchase. Credit cards that offer an annual travel credit will reimburse you up to a certain dollar amount for applicable travel purchases each year.

For example, if you use your Amex Platinum card to pay for checked baggage with your designated airline and you haven’t used up the card’s annual benefit of up to $US200 in airline fee credits, you’d be reimbursed for those baggage fees.

Some annual travel credits, like those on the Amex Platinum and the Citi Prestige® Card, are based on the calendar year, while others – like on the Chase Sapphire Reserve – are based on your account membership year.

What’s covered?

The specific rules for annual travel credits vary from card to card. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s annual credit is the most generous because it applies to pretty much anything that you’d consider travel, from airfare, hotel stays, and Uber rides to parking charges and tolls. If you’d be spending at least $US300 on these purchases each year anyway, you can effectively subtract this $US300 from the card’s annual fee, since you’ll get $US300 back.

On the other hand, airline fee credits offered by Amex credit cards explicitly exclude airfare – you can only use them to cover things like baggage fees, in-flight snacks, and airline lounge day passes.

If that sounds good to you, here are six credit card annual travel credits you need to know about.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $US450

Annual travel credit amount: Up to $US300 each account anniversary year

Eligible purchases: Anything that codes as travel

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the most popular rewards credit cards, thanks to perks like the $US300 annual travel credit. What makes this credit stand out from similar perks offered by other credit cards is that it’s not restricted to a specific airline or hotel chain.

It can be applied to virtually any travel purchase, including vacation packages, train tickets, rideshare expenses and more. This makes the credit incredibly versatile and easy to redeem. Simply charge a qualifying purchase to the card and the credit will be applied. Easy!

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $US550

Annual travel credit amount: Up to $US200 each calendar year

Eligible purchases: Airline incidental fees made with your choice of qualifying airline. Incidental fees exclude actual airfare and airline gift cards, but include baggage fees, onboard purchases, and airline lounge day passes.

Every year, cardholders must choose an airline for the $US200 credit and stick with it. It’s much more limiting than credits issued by other cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige, since you can only use it with one particular airline and airfare is excluded. Airline gift cards no longer qualify for the statement credit, either.

Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card

Annual fee: $US400

Annual travel credit amount: Up to $US325 each account anniversary year

Eligible purchases: Airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains, and cruise lines

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card offers one of the biggest travel statement credits relative to the annual fee. In exchange for a $US400 annual fee, cardholders receive a $US325 statement credit applicable towards travel bookings, and the definition of what counts for this credit is generous.

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card also earns 3x points on mobile wallet spending and offers 12 Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes every year. These benefits makes this a great card for frequent and occasional travellers alike.

Hilton Honours American Express Aspire Card

Annual fee: $US450

Annual travel credit amounts: Up to $US250 in airline fee credits each calendar year, up to $US250 in Hilton resort credits each account anniversary year

Eligible purchases: Incidental charges such as baggage fees and onboard purchases count for the airline fee credit; room rates and expenses charged to your room count for the Hilton resort credit

The Hilton Honours Aspire Card is loaded with benefits, including not one but three annual travel credits. In exchange for a $US450 annual fee, cardholders get a $US250 airline fee credit, a $US250 Hilton resort credit and a $US100 Hilton on-property credit per qualifying 2-night stay booked on HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard.

If you’re looking for VIP treatment, the Hilton Honours Aspire Card is like no other. Cardholders get automatic Hilton Diamond status, qualifying them for benefits like free breakfast, lounge access, and space-available suite upgrades.

Click here to learn more about the Hilton Honours Aspire card.

Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Annual fee: $US595

Annual travel credit amount: Up to $US200 each calendar year

Eligible purchases: Same as with the personal Amex Platinum; airline incidental fees with your airline of choice

This perk works just like it does on the personal Amex Platinum.


Read more:
Amex Platinum vs. Amex Business Platinum comparison

Click here to learn more about the Amex Business Platinum.

Citi Prestige® Card

Annual fee: $US495

Annual travel credit amount: Up to $US250 every calendar year

Eligible purchases: Anything that codes as travel

Citi is about to remove most of its travel and purchase protections, so you may be hesitant to charge travel purchases to the Citi Prestige card. If you do, you’ll earn 5x points on air travel and 3x on hotels and cruise lines – and you can redeem the $US250 annual travel credit.

The travel credit applies to travel purchases made through airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies, public transit and more. The versatility of this annual travel credit is great – it’s on par with the credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve (though for $US50 less each year). The fact that you don’t have to do anything except charge qualifying travel charges to your card is one less thing to think about.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Annual fee: $US450

Annual travel credit amounts: Up to $US300 in credits for eligible Marriott purchases each account anniversary year

Eligible purchases: Room rates and purchases charged to your room

The Bonvoy Brilliant American offers up to $US300 in statement credits for Marriott purchases each account member year, and you can use this to cover room rates for an upcoming stay, as well as charges like room service you charge it to your room and pay with the card.

It’s not an annual credit, but you can also get a $US100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit when you book a two-night minimum stay at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton hotels.

Click here to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card.

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