Have Your Credit Card Travel Credits Reset For The New Year? Maybe, Maybe Not

January 1st is a day that most frequent travelers hate to see. It’s when all the airline miles flown and hotel nights stayed over the past year reset to zero and they have to start all over again to try to reach status for the next year. Since I don’t worry about status, the start of the new year means that my travel credits have reset and I have some money to spend. Or do I?

If you have a premium travel credit card (or five of them), hopefully you’re aware of the travel credits offered by these cards. Travel credits, ranging anywhere from $100 to $325, help to offset the lofty annual fees these cards charge. The trick is that you have to use the credits or they expire. To make things more difficult, the charges that are eligible for reimbursement and the procedures to get the credits are different for every card. Another difference between these cards is if the credits go by your membership year or the calendar year.

 

Here’s a list of the cards that offer annual travel credits and whether they’re based on the calendar year or membership year.

American Express Platinum and Business Platinum

AMEXPlatinumCard

Credit is based on calendar year – resets on January 1st

Both the personal and business versions of the American Express Platinum card come with a $200 annual airline fee credit. You need to choose one of the following airlines in January to use your credits for the entire year:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

The credit can be used for baggage fees, booking fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases and lounge admission, Unless you are constantly paying for checked baggage (and if you are, why don’t you have a card that gives you a free checked bag?) or upgrading your seat, it might be difficult to use your $200 credit on some airlines. Before picking your airline, I’d suggest Googling “AMEX Platinum Credit Flyertalk (your airline)” They have a list of what charges count, which ones don’t and how you may be able to creatively get reimbursed for things like gift cards for some airlines. If you use your card for these type of purchases, follow the directions they give to the letter and now REPEAT AFTER ME: “I WILL NOT CALL AMERICAN EXPRESS TO ASK WHY I DIDN’T GET REIMBURSED FOR THE GIFT CARD I PURCHASED BECAUSE IT SAID ONLINE THAT I COULD DO IT!”

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

Premier Rewards

Credit is based on calendar year – resets on January 1st

This card comes with a $100 annual airline fee credit. The rules for this are the same as for the American Express Platinum cards as described above. The nice thing about this card is that the annual fee is often waived for the first year so you can get $100 in credits without having to pay anything for it.

Bank of America Premium Rewards

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Credit is based on calendar year – resets on January 1st

This card from Bank of America has a $100 annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit. The credit does come with a number of restrictions.

Qualifying transactions are those purchases made on domestic-originated flights on certain U.S.-domestic airline carriers that include: preferred seating upgrades, ticket change/cancellation fees, checked baggage fees, in-flight entertainment, onboard food and beverage charges, and airport lounge fees affiliated with eligible airline carriers. Airline ticket purchases, mileage point purchases, mileage point transfer fees, gift cards, duty-free purchases, award tickets and fees incurred with airline alliance partners do not qualify. Airline incidental fee transactions must be separate from airline ticket charges.

Citi Expedia+ Voyager Card

Expedia Explorer

Credit is based on calendar year – resets at the end of your December statement (so not actually the end of the year) and charges after that count towards the following year.

The Expedia+ Voyager card from Citi has a $100 statement credit for travel incidental fees from airlines or wireless hotspot providers. Eligible purchases must be for $100 or less. Here’s the description of eligible charges.

Airline incidental fees: Airline incidental fees: must be separate charges from airline ticket charges and include purchases such as checked bags, in-flight entertainment or refreshments, in-flight Wi-Fi, or other qualifying purchases that meet the eligibility requirements. Qualified airlines include: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin America Airlines. Qualified wireless hotspot providers include: Boingo Wireless and Gogo Inflight Internet.

Citi Thank You Prestige

prestige_card-j6wnyw4e

Credit is based on calendar year – resets at the end of your December statement (so not actually the end of the year) and charges after that count towards the following year.

The Citi Prestige comes with an $250 annual airfare credit. Unlike the American Express cards, this credit can be applied to any airline purchase including airfare. You don’t have to pick an airline but the charge has to be from an airline and not a travel agency or third party. Meaning you won’t be reimbursed for an airline ticket from Expedia or for things like in-flight wifi (usually through a provider like GOGO or Panasonic).

Chase Sapphire Reserve

sapphire_reserve_card

Credit is based on cardmember year for new approvals. Annual means the year beginning with your account open date through the first statement date after your account open date anniversary, and the 12 monthly billing cycles after that each year.

(For applications submitted before May 21, 2017, annual means the year beginning with your account open date through the first December statement date of that same year, and the 12 billing cycles starting after your December statement date through the following December statement date each year.)

The Sapphire Reserve comes with a $300 annual travel credit. This is a very broad credit including anything that may be travel related.

Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.

Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards

ritz-carlton-rewards-credit-card1Credit is based on calendar year – resets on January 1st

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card has a $300 travel credit. The eligible charges for the credit as listed on the website as follows:

Only the following types of non-ticket purchases qualify for this offer: airline lounge day pass, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight Internet/entertainment; in-flight meals. Purchases are when you, or an authorized user, use a card to make purchases of products and services, minus returns or refunds.

One of the complaints about this card is that the travel credits don’t post automatically. Instead, you need to call to request the credit.

To request a statement credit to apply towards qualifying airline incidental purchase(s) made with your Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, you must contact J.P. Morgan Priority Services at the number on the back of your Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card within 4 billing cycles of the purchase date.

City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite

Crystal-Card

Credit is based on calendar year – resets on January 1st

The City National Crystal card provides a $250 statement credit for qualifying airline purchases. Unlike other cards TSA Pre✓®membership application fee is included as part of the yearly benefit instead of being counted separately.

Qualifying Airline Purchases are defined as incidental airline fee transactions made at eligible US Domestic Airline Carriers and include: ticket change/cancellation fees, checked baggage fees, inflight entertainment, onboard food and beverage charges, airport lounge membership fees and day passes, onboard wireless charges (excluding Gogo Wireless), and TSA Pre✓®membership application fee.

UBS Visa Infinite

download

Credit is based on calendar year – resets on January 1st

The UBS Visa Infinite card gives a $250 credit per year for qualifying air expenses. Like the AMEX cards, you need to enroll for this benefit an choose one of the eligible domestic airlines before you can get your credits. Charges that can be reimbursed are as listed:

  • Luggage fees
  • Upgrade fees
  • Meals
  • Cancellation fees
  • Lounge fees
  • Change fees
  • Unaccompanied minor fees
  • Pet travel fees
  • Lost ticket fees

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve

altitude_card-art-mobile

Credit is based on cardmember year

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve gives a $325 Annual Travel Credit. The categories eligible for the credit are very wide and the credit is applied automatically.

Automatic statement credit(s) totaling up to $325 will be applied to your Account when a Card is used for purchases made directly from airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines. Credit(s) apply to eligible Net Purchases that post to your Account on a Cardmember-year basis (based on Account opening date)

Final Thoughts

Except for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the annual travel credits for all of the other cards reset at the end of the year. If you have any of these cards, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to use those credits.

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