Use your 2018 travel fee credits before it’s too late

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annual airline incidentals credit

Many popular rewards credit cards offer some type of travel fee reimbursements each year.  Many of these are calendar year based, which means that there’s not much time left to earn those credits if you haven’t already.  Here’s a roundup of what travel rebates each card offers, how much time you have left to earn the credits, and some ideas for using them up before it’s too late…

But first this: Time-shifting Spend

Suppose you have travel fee reimbursements available that will expire soon, but your next qualified travel expenses are planned for sometime after that expiration date.  In that case, the trick is to find a way to pay now for that future reimbursable travel.  Here are some ideas for how to do that:

  • Gift cards: When you buy gift cards directly from airlines or hotels, those purchases are often (but not always) classified as travel.  In some cases they are appear to be airline fees (see the next section for more about that).  Buying gift cards can be a good way to pay now, and get reimbursed now, for future travel expenses.  Just keep in mind that if it doesn’t work, there’s no point in complaining to your credit card issuer.  Gift card purchases are not supposed to work.
  • Buy miles/points: This idea is very similar to buying gift cards.  If you buy miles or points directly from a travel provider, it might code as reimbursable travel.  Be careful, though.  Many programs sell their points through Points.com, which does not code as travel.
  • Purchase flights in advance: Obviously if you know exactly when and where you intend to fly, you can go ahead and book the flight now in order to earn credits from cards that reimburse airfare.  If you don’t know the exact details about when and where you will fly, it might be possible instead to buy a fully refundable fare and then later change it to the flight you actually want.
  • Purchase hotels and car rentals in advance: Hotels and car rental companies usually wait until you’ve used their service before they charge you.  In some cases you could book a prepaid rate in order to pay now, but those are usually nonrefundable.  Another option is to book through an online travel agency like Orbitz.com or Hotels.com.  In many cases they’ll charge you up-front even for refundable rates.  That way, if plans change, you’re not out of luck.

And this: What still works?

In the past, many have earned travel fee credits by buying gift cards directly from airlines.  To be clear, gift card purchases are usually not supposed to trigger the airline incidental fee credits, but they sometimes do.  Unfortunately, the details of what types of purchases work varies by credit card, airline and purchase amount.  And, sometimes things change.  For example, over the summer, Alaska airlines gift cards stopped triggering airline incidental fee credits.

To help cut through the noise, we’ve created a page that lists the things that work with Amex: Amex Airline Fee Reimbursements. What still works?  This page is specific to Amex fee reimbursements, but many of the things that work with Amex are likely to work with other banks.  If something looks like an airline fee to Amex it often looks like an airline fee to the others too. We have a similar page for the Ritz-Carlton credit card: Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa airline fee credits: What works?

We can use your help to keep the fee reimbursement page up to date and to create similar pages for other bank cards.  Please scroll down to the bottom of that page for details of how you can contribute.

Calendar Statement Credits (January statement to December statement)

A few credit cards base the travel reimbursement year on your credit card’s statement dates.  With these cards, eligible travel charges that post on or before the December statement will count towards the current year.  Charges incurred in December that post with the January statement will count towards next year’s credits.  So, the exact cutoff date for these credits depends upon your December statement close date.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve (if you signed up before May 21 2017): $300 travel credit: All travel purchases count.  This includes hotel charges, airline charges, trains, cruises, and much more.
  • Citi Prestige: $250 air travel credit: Citi defines eligible purchases as “purchases made with airlines including Air fares, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases.”
  • Citi Expedia+ Voyager Card: Up to $100 per year in credits towards travel incidentals “including airline incidental fees on 10 qualifying airlines and 2 wireless hotspot providers and application fees for either the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® programs”.

Calendar Year Credits (Jan 1 to Dec 31)

These are the easiest to understand.  As long as a travel charge is dated 2018, it counts towards your 2018 travel credits with each of these cards:

  • Amex Platinum: Up to $200 per year in airline incidental fees.  This includes checked bag fees, Itinerary change fees, phone reservation fees, pet flight fees, seat assignment fees, in-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones), in-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet because it’s not charged by the airline), and airport lounge day passes & annual memberships.
    • Important: Amex only reimburses fees from the airline that you select as your preferred airline
    • The same credits are available for each variation of the Platinum card such as the Business Platinum card, and each co-branded Platinum card (Mercedes-Benz, Ameriprise, Morgan Stanley, Schwab).
  • Amex Gold: Up to $100 per year in airline incidental fees. This includes checked bag fees, Itinerary change fees, phone reservation fees, pet flight fees, seat assignment fees, in-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones), in-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet because it’s not charged by the airline), and airport lounge day passes & annual memberships.
    • Important: Amex only reimburses fees from the airline that you select as your preferred airline.
  • Amex Hilton Aspire: Up to $250 per year in airline incidental fees. This includes checked bag fees, Itinerary change fees, phone reservation fees, pet flight fees, seat assignment fees, in-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones), in-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet because it’s not charged by the airline), and airport lounge day passes & annual memberships.
    • Important: Amex only reimburses fees from the airline that you select as your preferred airline. Also important: this credit works differently than the annual resort credit available on the same card, which is based on cardmember year (see the next section).
  • Bank of America Premium Rewards: Up to $100 per year in airline incidental fees.  This includes 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.
  • Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Visa Infinite: Up to $300 per year in airline incidental fees. This includes: airline lounge passes or memberships; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight Internet/entertainment; in-flight meals.
    • Important: You must request reimbursement after the charge posts to your account.  It is fine to do this through online secure message.
  • CNB Crystal Visa Infinite: Up to $250 per year per card in airline incidental fees (authorized user cards included).
  • PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card: Up to $100 in statement credits as rebates towards incidental airline fees.  Qualifying purchases are rebated automatically (up to the $100 per year max). See our PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Complete Guide for more on this.

Cardmember Year Credits (Based on your account open date)

A few credit cards base the travel reimbursement year on your cardmember year.  This is usually measured as the 12 statements beginning with your first statement after opening your account.  Chase changed the Sapphire Reserve travel credit to this method for all accounts opened May 21st 2017 or later.  Those who signed up earlier still have calendar year credits.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve (if you signed up on or after May 21 2017): $300 travel credit: Any charge that earns 3 points per dollar for travel should also count towards this credit.  This includes hotel charges, airline charges, trains, cruises, and much more.
  • Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Up to $75 per year in Southwest travel credit and up to 4 Upgraded Boardings per year. Most charges with Southwest airlines ought to trigger the $75 credit (including airfare, taxes, or even gift card purchases, but excluding upgrading boarding and in-flight purchases). Upgraded boardings can be used all at once (i.e. to upgrade four passengers on the same flight) or one at a time.
    • Important: This credit is based on when the charge posts. Make sure it posts before your anniversary date.
  • US Bank Altitude Reserve: Up to $325 per year in travel credits. Any charges from the following industries should qualify: airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines.
  • Wells Fargo Propel: Up to $100 per year in airline incidental fees.
  • Amex Hilton Aspire: Up to $250 per year in resort credits for purchases made at participating resorts. Any charges billed to your room should qualify: restaurant, spa, golf – even the room rate itself.
    • Important: Only participating resorts qualify. That list is found here.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card: Up to $300 per year in Marriott/SPG statement credits.
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