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Make the most of your card’s travel credits

Luxury cards can help you save on airline and hotel charges – if you know how to use them

Summary

Travel credits on luxury credit card can be some of the most lucrative card perks available, as long as you use them correctly.

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In addition to a generous $300 credit for incidentals such as restaurant and spa purchases at any Marriott Bonvoy hotel, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card recently added a $100 luxury credit for similar purchases at stays of two nights or more at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotels. Even better, the new statement credit applies to any qualifying stay – meaning it can be used multiple times per year.

Travel credits such as this one are common among luxury travel credit cards – but they come with a high price tag. While you may think a high annual fee is out of your reach, travel credits can add significant value to a card and help offset this cost. If you are a frequent traveler and take advantage of these credits each year, it might be worth checking out a card with a higher price tag.

What credit cards offer luxury travel credits?

Several rewards cards include some kind of luxury travel credit, though they vary in their amounts and coverage. Here is a quick look at some of the most popular cards with travel credits.

CardAnnual feeAnnual travel creditWhat it covers
Chase Sapphire Reserve®$450$300Any travel purchase, including airline tickets
Citi Prestige card$495$250Most travel purchases, including directly purchased airfare
The Platinum Card® from American Express$550
  • $200 airline fee credit
  • Up to $200 in Uber credits ($15 per month with an additional $20 in December)
  • $100 Hotel Collection credit
  • Airline credit covers incidental purchases such as in-flight meals for one designated airline
  • Uber credit covers both Uber rides and UberEATS purchases
  • The Hotel Collection credit covers incidentals (can be used multiple times per year)
American Express® Gold Card$250
  • $100 airline fee credit
  • $100 Hotel Collection credit
  • Airline credit covers incidental purchases such as in-flight meals for one designated airline
  • The Hotel Collection credit covers incidentals (can be used multiple times per year)
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card$95$100Incidental purchases with airlines on U.S.-originating flights
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card$400$325Most travel purchases, including directly purchased airfare

 

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

 

$450
  • $250 airline fee credit
  • $250 Hilton hotel credit
  • $100 Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotel credit
  • Airline credit covers incidental purchases such as in-flight meals for one designated airline
  • Hilton hotel credit covers incidentals
  • Waldorf Astoria and Conrad credit covers incidentals on stays of two nights or longer (can be used multiple times per year)
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card$450
  • $300 Marriott Bonvoy hotel credit
  • $100 Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis hotel credit
  • Marriott Bonvoy hotel credit covers incidentals
  • Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis credit covers incidentals on stays of two nights or longer (can be used multiple times per year)

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of the most well-known luxury rewards cards – due in part to its generous sign-up bonus and flexible travel credit. While many travel credits only cover incidental purchases, the Reserve can be used for anything in the travel category, including car rentals, buses, trains, Uber rides and even parking lots and garages. The first $300 you spend on travel in any year will be automatically covered.

Citi Prestige

Another fan favorite luxury card, the Citi Prestige is probably best known for the fourth night free perk, which awards cardholders a discount equal to the average nightly rate on hotel stays of four nights or longer (limited to two uses per year starting Sept. 2019). However, it also comes with a generous annual travel credit that applies to most travel purchases, including directly purchased airfare. Just keep in mind that some third-party bookings might not qualify for the statement credit.

American Express Platinum

Despite its high annual fee, The Platinum Card from American Express is one of the most valuable luxury cards available. It includes top-tier airport lounge access in addition to several travel credits. Each year in January, cardholders can designate one qualifying airline to receive up to $200 in credits for incidental charges – such as in-flight meals or baggage fees. Users also receive a $100 credit for incidental purchases during any stay with The Hotel Collection.

On top of generous airline and hotel credits, the Amex Platinum card awards $15 of Uber Cash directly into cardholders Uber accounts (plus an additional $20 in December each year).

American Express Gold

The American Express Gold Card has a slightly lower annual fee than many luxury cards, but it still comes packed with plenty of travel benefits. It offers a $100 annual airline credit with a designated airline (can be changed once a year) as well as a $100 credit for incidentals at any stay with The Hotel Collection.

Bank of America Premium Rewards card

The most affordable rewards card on the list, the Bank of America Premium Rewards card only charges a $95 annual fee. It includes a $100 annual credit for airline incidentals, but it only applies to flights that originate in the U.S.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve

The $325 travel credit on the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve is fairly flexible, applying to most travel purchases. The card also comes with 12 free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes per year – worth around $230. While the travel credit is automatically applied to qualifying purchases, cardholders must enroll each year for the Wi-Fi perk.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card

The Hilton Honors Aspire card offers some of the best benefits you can find on a hotel credit card, despite the fact that Hilton Honors points are inflated. Like with the American Express Platinum and Gold cards, users can choose one airline each year to qualify for the $250 airline fee credit (it only covers incidentals, not airfare). Cardholders also receive a $250 credit each year for incidentals at Hilton hotels. For stays of two nights or longer at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties, cardholders are awarded a $100 credit – automatically applied to your bill at checkout.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

Similar to the Hilton Honors Aspire card, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant awards cardholders a $100 credit for any stay of two nights or longer at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties. Best of all, it can be used multiple times per year. Cardholders also receive a $300 credit each year for incidentals during any Marriott Bonvoy hotel stay.

How to maximize a luxury travel credit

For the most part, travel credits are automatically applied to qualifying charges as a statement credit or to your hotel bill at checkout. However, some credits – like the airline fee credits on the Amex Gold, Amex Platinum and Hilton Honors Aspire – require you to enroll in the perk or choose a qualifying airline before you are eligible. No matter what luxury card you carry, be sure you check out the benefits section of your account for any terms and conditions. That way, you don’t miss out on possible savings.

In addition, check out exactly which purchases are covered by your credit. While cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve cover any travel purchase, most credits only apply to incidentals. This can include purchases like in-flight meals, baggage fees or spa treatments at a hotel. It can vary widely by card, so carefully inspect each offer’s terms.

Some airline and hotel fee credits only apply to certain airlines or properties. If that is the case, consider staying at an eligible location when you travel. Though it might not be your go-to, the savings from your travel credit might make it a better deal.

Final thoughts

Travel credits are some of the best benefits on luxury credit cards, adding up to significant savings every year and helping to offset a high annual fee. If you are a frequent traveler, make sure you take advantage of these perks to save on your next trip.

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