Several credit cards offer reimbursements for certain spending categories. Majority of the cards I discuss are travel rewards credit cards, some of which offer annual reimbursements for travel category spending. These reimbursements often make the annual fee associated with the card a little easier to stomach, but not all travel credits are created equal. All of the travel credits discussed below are based on a calendar year which means if you apply for the card prior to the end of the year, you could use two credits before your second annual fee is due.

American Express Airline of Choice

The American Express Platinum card offers a $200 travel credit which partially offsets the $450 annual fee. However, in order to use the credit you have to jump through a few hoops. First, the cardholders must log into their American Express account and select their airline of choice. American Express cardholders may use this link to access the airline of choice website. Once logged in, cardholders must select their airline of choice which will remain their airline until the following calendar year. Once an airline is accepted, American Express will automatically reimburse you for travel related expenses. Several travel related expenses, such as Airfare, Airline Gift Cards, lounge fees are NOT included.

There is a loophole which a few savvy travelers have uncovered. Purchasing certain airline gift cards in certain increments slip through and are reimbursable. For example, if you purchase two $100 American Airlines gift cards, some cardholders have reported the charges will be reimbursed, but purchase a $200 gift card and the charges are not. If you are going to go this route, I recommend purchasing either $50 or $100 gift cards at different times.

The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card also offers a travel reimbursement of just $100 to offset the $175 annual fee. Again, cardholders have to log into the Airline of Choice website to active the travel reimbursement and certain incidentals will be offset by an automatic statement credit. The same rules for the American Express Platinum travel reimbursement apply, but again certain users have reported gift cards being reimbursed on certain airlines. Flyertalk.com has several threads discussing the travel credit as it relates to the various airlines.

Citi Prestige Airline Credit Benefit

The Citi Prestige travel credit is much simpler than the American Express Airline of Choice program. Citi automatically reimburses up to $250 for any charges directly from an airline. It does not matter what the charge is for and the benefit includes airfare. There are no hoops to jump through and the benefit is slightly higher than American Express’. The Citi Prestige card also carries a $450 annual fee which means the effective annual fee of the Citi Prestige card, after the airline benefit, is $50 lower than the American Express Platinum card, all else being equal. Just make sure the purchase is directly with an airline and posts prior to the end of your December statement. If your December statement closes early in the month, it may be safe to purchase airline gift cards now.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Credit

The most lucrative annual fee offset comes from the new Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. The $450 annual fee is offset by a $300 TRAVEL credit. Unlike the American Express and Citi credits, Chase is giving you a reimbursement for any purchases which are coded as Travel. This includes Taxis, Online Travel Agencies, Airlines, Tolls, Etc. The reimbursement is automatic as well, meaning there is no extra effort on your part to earn the credit. The travel credit alone brings the effective annual fee down to just $150, making it the best among the cards mentioned in this post.

Ritz Carlton Rewards Card

The Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card also comes with a $300 annual travel credit. The credit is good for various airline purchases, excluding airfare, but in order to use the credit you must call the number on the back of the card within 4 billing cycles of the purchase. The credit will cover Airline Club Fees unlike the American Express credit. The card requires that you call and speak with a representative which means the gift card loophole is likely closed, but again, according to Flyertalk.com some members have reported success when applying the credit toward airline gift card purchases.

Bottom Line

If you are considering opening a new premium credit card, it may be worth doing so before the end of the calendar year to take advantage of the various travel credits associated with each card. For example, if you open the Chase Sapphire Reserve card prior to the end of the year, you will earn $600 in statement credits before your second annual fee is due. Essentially, Chase is paying you $150 to open the card. Also, not all travel reimbursements are created equal, make sure to jump through any loopholes you many need to prior to the end of the year to be reimbursed for all of your statement credits.

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