Ranking Credit Card Annual Travel Credits

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Many premium credit cards (with high annual fees) these days have travel credits, which can help offset the annual fee. In this article, I wanted to rank these credits based on their ease of use, and also explain why card issuers offer these credits to start with.

Why do many premium credit cards have travel credits?

A 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® (exam) has an annual fee of $550 and offers an annual travel credit of $300. So why doesn’t Chase just get rid of the travel credit and reduce the annual fee to $250? There are a few reasons:

  • Card issuers do not want to cannibalize their own card portfolio, as issuers prey on different consumers with different prices; for example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® (review) card has an annual fee of $95, so a significant annual fee difference is one way to differentiate these products, although much of that fee can easily be recouped
  • Issuers want people to love their cards and have them in 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 is often breakage on these credits; probably not much with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but for the credits that are harder to use, there are definitely a lot of people not using 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 easy the credits are to use, rather than their size.

I’ll list the “generic” credits first (not specific to a single travel brand), then I’ll list the brand-specific credits. Also note that I will only be listing cards open to new cardholders, 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 cardholder year
  • There is no registration required to use it
  • Credit will automatically apply to any purchase coded as travel, including flights, hotels, rental cars, rideshares, taxis, trains, etc.

It doesn’t get any easier than using Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Credit because it’s truly “no strings attached”.

Use your credit for virtually any travel purchase

2. Capital One Venture X $300 Travel Portal Credit

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

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

Although it’s not as simple as the credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I still find it quite easy to use. I simply book a flight of $300+ each year through the portal, and that is refunded.

Use your credit for any flight purchase on the portal

3. Amex Platinum $200 Airline Credit

The Platinum Card® from American Express (revision) and the Business Platinum Card® from American Express (revision) each offer a $200 annual airfare credit:

  • This is offered every calendar year
  • Cardholders must register with a designated airline each year, with the choice of Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United.
  • Credit is for use toward airfare and excludes airline tickets, upgrades, Miles point purchases, gift cards, duty-free purchases and award tickets.

Although I manage to max it out each year, I find it to be the hardest air travel credit to use, given the need to designate an airline, as well as restrictions on redemptions.

Airline expense credit can be useful for ultra-low-cost carriers

4. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant $300 Marriott Credit Card

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

  • This is offered every cardholder year
  • There is no registration required to use it
  • The credit will automatically apply to your first $300 in spend at any eligible Marriott property worldwide

This credit is really easy to use, as long as you spend at least $300 a year at Marriott properties (and if you don’t, this probably isn’t the card for you). You can apply it to room rates, a meal, a spa treatment, parking, etc.

Use credit at Gritti Palace Venice

5. Hilton Aspire Card $250 Hilton Resort Credit

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (exam) offers an annual credit of $250 on the Hilton account statement:

  • This is offered every cardholder year
  • There is no registration required to use it
  • The credit will automatically apply to your first spend of $250 at any eligible Hilton resort worldwide (this includes resorts only, not hotels, and you can find all stations on this page)

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

Redeem your credit at Waldorf Astoria Maldives

At the end of the line

Many premium credit cards these days offer annual travel credits. It’s a way for card issuers to give value to cardholders and encourage people to keep cards in front of their wallets. While I believe there is value to be gained from all credits, not all credits are created equal, as you can see. Hopefully the above is a useful insight into the relative value of these credits.

What annual credit card travel credits have you used?