The hellish year of 2020 comes to an end four weeks from now (thank god) so here is our annual reminder to use up all travel credits that are attached to your credit card accounts.
A variety of premium credit cards in the U.S. market and abroad as well nowadays offer an annual travel credit that ranges between $100-$300 in value and that can be used in many different ways (some more flexible than others).
While many card products officially say they allow the credits to be used for incidentals such as baggage fees, upgrades and lounge passes it’s often possible to also use the credits for gift cards which then in turn can be turned into flexible free flights that also collect miles.
American Express offers this Airline Fee Credit in the form of a reimbursement after transactions are charged to the eligible card account and in the past it worked quite well for example with American Airlines gift cards in amounts of up to $100. Getting reimbursements for gift cards is no longer possible at least with American as the purchase now codes differently but buying actual tickets that cost below $100 will see the reimbursement kick in. The same goes for paying taxes on award tickets.
As far as Amex goes, the Platinum Card has a $200 annual credit and Gold comes with $100 that runs based on the calendar year which means if you have a new card account you can actually get the credit twice within the first year. The Green Card has an annual $100 credit for CLEAR and another $100 for Loungebuddy that also count per calendar year.
Other cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve have a $300 travel credit which is generally more flexible based on their interpretation of “Travel”:
Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.
Any purchases (not just ” airlines incidentals” in these categories will be automatically adjusted until the $300 are used up, however the credit runs per revolving card member anniversary so even the first year you can only get it once. The advantage of the Chase credit is that these funds don’t expire on DEC 31st.
Check if your credit card has an annual allowance for travel credits and then the expiry date of it!
This year I just used my American Express (U.S.) credit on the Green Card for a renewal of my CLEAR membership (6 months bonus on Cyber Monday) and the Gold Card credit for an Alaska Airlines award ticket as I paid taxes on a Mileage Plan Award with it. No issues whatsoever with the reimbursement.
The $109 rate represents my discount from being United Gold and I also got a $3.50 cashback from Rakuten. Minus the $100 Amex credit. Do I use CLEAR frequently? Maybe a few times in the next 18 months but better than nothing and I like the service.
I’m also planning to randomly book some airport lounge passes from Loungebuddy for the $100 allowance, no matter if I need them or not (I have Priority Pass so there is zero use for me as far as the Loungebuddy benefit is concerned). At least I’ll earn a few Amex Membership Rewards Points in the process and use up my credits.
Unfortunately I left quiet a bit of money on the table this year as I’m unable to use up the Dining or Cellphone credit unless I’m physically in the U.S. to pay/use them up. I haven’t visited even once this entire year after my cruises got cancelled.
Previously when I had the U.S. Amex Platinum Card I also bought a US$50 Saks Fifth Ave gift card at a physical store (in Las Vegas) and the credit was applied as well. Be careful with this: There are reports that purchasing a gift card online will not trigger the adjustment, you have to get them at the store!
These travel credits are quite useful if you make apply them properly and with so many different credit card products around that most of us carry in our wallet it pays off to know all benefits associated with each card. It would be a shame if these credits would go unused.
Keep in mind it takes a few days until the charge actually hits your account and then another couple days to get your adjustment so it’s really the last chance these next few weeks if your benefits are based on the calendar year!