Have You Maxed Out the 2017 Travel Credits on Your Premium Cards?

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If you applied for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card before May 21, 2017, have an Amex Platinum (opened anytime), or have a Citi Prestige (opened anytime), then pay attention. This is an important reminder to not forget to maximize the benefits of your premium card before the year ends.

Premium travel credit cards typically come with yearly statement credits that reimburse you for travel expenses (which are defined differently depending on the issuing bank–more on that below). These travel credits are the largest offsetting factor for the expensive annual fees and are what, year after year, tend to make keeping the card worth it for those that spend a lot on travel anyways.

I’ll walk you through a specific example with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and then provide a little more info about the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige cards for you to investigate on your own depending on which premium card(s) you hold.

Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 Annual Fee)

Those who applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve before May 21, 2017, get $300 of travel statement credits per calendar year to offset your first $300 in “travel” purchases. This broad category includes airfare, flight award taxes and fees, airline fees, hotels, Airbnb, car rentals, cruises, tolls/E-Z Pass, parking, Uber/Lyft, taxis, and more.

Everyone reading this blog must rack up well over $300 in such charges per year, so that’s basically free money. If you haven’t already cashed in on all of 2017’s $300 travel statement credit for your Sapphire Reserve card, know that your travel purchases MUST post before your December statement closes in order for them to count towards 2017’s travel statement credits and not 2018. It would be a shame if you missed out on $300 in free money, as the travel statement credits greatly help outweigh the premium card’s expensive $450 annual fee.

How to Check if You’ve Cashed in on all Your Credit

Log into your Chase account now to check when your December statement closes. After logging in click on your Ultimate Rewards balance, and you should be navigated to a dashboard that shows rewards info as well as the tally of how much of your $300 travel statement credits you’ve collected.

 

Statement credits should look like this in your online Chase account:

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-4-13-44-pm

I signed up for the Reserve after May 21. What about me?

If you signed up on or after May 21, you get $300 of travel statement credits per cardmember year. You’ll want to check in on how much of your statement credits you’ve received about 11 months after you opened your Reserve to make sure you max out the $300 before it resets after you statement closes in month 12 of holding your card.

What Chase Considers Travel Purchases

Above I listed some obvious examples of what will code as a travel purchases.

For more obscure examples of what counts, check out this Doctor of Credit post (which also lists data points of things you might logically think would code as travel purchases and don’t) and this Flyertalk thread.

Taken from an FAQ about Reward Categories on Chase.com, Chase defines merchants in the travel category as:

“…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. Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.”

Don’t think you’ll be able to spend $300 in travel purchases organically before your December statement closes?

Here’s how to turn that $300 into the closest thing to cash that you can: buy an airline or hotel gift card that you know you will use, just make sure it comes directly from the airline or hotel as opposed to a third party so it will code as travel.

Let’s take that a step further. Don’t even think you’d eventually use an airline or hotel gift card? Check out this Doctor of Credit post that lists resale rates for specific types of airline and hotel gift cards.

Amex Platinum ($550 Annual Fee)

Amex Platinum Cardholders get $200 in statement credits for incidental fees with your designated qualifying airline every calendar year. 

This person needs to spend their Amex travel credit asap!
This person needs to spend their Amex travel credit asap!

The airline fee credit is supposed to be for “incidental fees” likes change fees, cancellation fees, and bag fees. The fee credit is not supposed to apply to ticket purchases, miles purchases, or gift card purchases.

highlighted terms and conditions

But American Express’s computers decides whether a certain purchase qualifies for a fee credit, and in the experience of thousands of people, certain airline gift card purchases will result in a statement credit. That makes this benefit like getting $400 in free flights, which almost completely offsets the annual fee in one swoop. There is a FlyerTalk thread devoted to each airline that you can select for fee reimbursement for people to post their experiences trying to purchase gift cards.

Citi Prestige ($450 Annual Fee)

Citi Prestige Cardholders get $250 in Air Travel statement credits per calendar year.

Citi defines Air Travel expenses as “air fares, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases”. From my epxerience, data points I’ve read, and from Scott’s experience as well, everything will code as “Air Travel” as long the expense comes from the airline itself and is not issued from a third party. This could include gift cards as well, but again only if they’re issued by the airline itself. Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.50.44 AM

Check out others’ data points for what counts for the Citi Prestige’s $250 credit in Report Citi Prestige Success/Fail $250 airline expense reimbursements.

Bottom Line

Shout out to Mommy Points for the reminder to check on your travel statement credits. It’s details like this, if forgotten, that will eat away severely at the value of your rewards over time. I’ve watched friends forget realize in retrospect that they didn’t max out their travel credit–numerous times–and each time I want to reprimand them like a child.

Photo by Images Money
Ok, so those are Euros…but you get the point. Photo by Images Money

Such a waste! Premium card annual fees are hefty, and the travel credit offered is the largest offsetting factor.

The holidays are a busy time of year, so take action now: Check your account TODAY and if you haven’t spent all of your credit do so now or make a plan to soon!


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Sarah, Lump the Ritz Card in with these also. I got the card for the free three nights and almost forgot the odd $300 credit. I believe this credit is for 2017, and starts again in 2018. It covers those in-flight fees, seat upgrades, etc. Check the website. Not all our flights are business class, and I have used this card to pay for upgrades in economy. I plan to pay for some AA and DL flights in coach. You have to message Chase from within their site to get your refund. They respond within a day. I do plan to downgrade or cancel this card in the spring. I am not sure just the $300 credit is worth getting the card just for that. Not sure if it is now giving 2 nights. If so, the card is worth getting. Using my 3 free nights in Washington, DC for the cherry blossom time of year.

  2. My wife’s Sapphire Reserve’s statements close on the 7th of each month. The asterisk in your image of the travel reimbursement indicator says “This date will change if you make any changes to your statement due date.” I don’t remember selecting an earlier due date but I assume I must have, which is why her statements close on the 7th.

    We will likely cancel her card before her 2nd AF comes due on her January statement, but we’re going to try and wait until December 8th to book some airfare for an upcoming trip, to maximize this card’s value before closing. We’re crossing our fingers all the puzzle pieces of the trip remain available until then!

  3. For those of us who applied for Chase Reserve before 21May 2017, can’t we get another $300 credit between Jan and May and before we cancel the card or downgrade it?

  4. I am confused … I applied for the CSR on January 4, 2017! I used $300 travel credit in 2017! Do I have to use my remaining $300 travel credit after December 17, 2017 but before January 4, 2018? I don’t plan on cancelling it, so can I use up to December 17, 2018?

    • If you don’t plan on canceling your Reserve then yes, you have through December 17 of 2018 to spend 2018’s $300 travel credit. Only if you planned on canceling or downgrading would that matter.

  5. Scott,

    You mentioned that Citi stipulates that the credit is per CALENDAR year. So does that mean that even if I’ve had the card for a couple years and my anniversary date is in July, I can get 2 credits per annual fee? I thought that was only the case for the first year you have the card?

    • You can get it n+1 times, where n is the number of annual fees you’ve paid. You’re right that you can only get it twice per annual fee on the first year of card membership.

      • Correct. What that looks like in practice:

        Let’s say for the sake of example you got the Prestige in July of 2016. You received a $250 credit that lasted through the end of the calendar year, and then it reset for 2017. So from July to December ’16 you got $250 credit, from January to December of 2017 you got another $250 in credit, and then at some point in late December it reset again. At that point you’d have paid two annual fees and cashed in on $500 in credit.

        In 2017 you cashed in on another $250 in credit, and paid another annual fee in July. So you’re up to $750 in travel credits (3 credits) since you opened the card and have paid three annual fees so far.

        As long as you cash in on the full $250 credit in 2018, before your next annual fee in July, you’ll get two credits for the last annual fee you paid (if you choose to look it at that way). Basically you’ll have paid three annual fees and gotten $1k in travel credits (four credits total).

  6. Ritz card has $300 in Travel Credits. They say you cant use them for gift cards. Has anyone been successful in getting GCs with this card?

    • As it looks like you’ve already realized, most data points suggest you can’t, at least not in bigger denominations… however most data points I’ve seen aren’t super recent. I’m going to write a post on the Ritz card soon and will try to dig a little deeper into what’s been counting for the travel credit.

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