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One of the enigmas of award travel lies in the need to book travel well in advance to secure availability, knowing that a lot can change in the intervening months and even the best-laid plans can come unstuck due to unforeseen circumstances.
A few airlines that stand out from the crowd in this instance. For example, if you’re flying Southwest, you can cancel an award ticket with no penalty and collect a full refund of your points. Many Asian frequent flyer programs, such as ANA and Asiana Club allow you to make one or more changes at no cost and charge a small redeposit fee to refund the miles back into your account.
Unfortunately, most airline loyalty programs now charge award change or cancellation fees, with costs ranging from a reasonable $20/25 for select changes on KrisFlyer, Emirates, or Etihad, to a slap-in-the-face $150 per ticket for close-in changes or redeposits through Delta’s SkyMiles program. That’s cold hard cash you’ve paid to the airline for the privilege of not flying with them. But thanks to travel credits provided on some of our favorite travel rewards cards, that cash doesn’t have to come from your wallet. Instead, you can pay the award change or cancellation fee using your credit card, and have the charge wiped as a statement credit.
Which Credit Cards Provide Travel or Airline Incidental Credits?
Receiving travel or airline credits on premium travel rewards cards is now a standard affair, but there are also cards that don’t fall into the ‘premium’ bracket offering credits for ancillary fees.
Travel rewards cards providing travel credits include:
|Credit Card||Annual Credit||Eligible Purchases||Cover Airline Change/Cancellation Fees||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||$300 travel credit||Almost any travel purchases||Yes||$450|
|U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card||$325 travel credit||Airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains, and cruise lines||Yes||$400|
|Citi Prestige® Card||$250 travel credit||Airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, and bus lines||Yes||$490|
|HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® credit card||$100 air travel credit||Ticket purchases, seat upgrades, baggage fees or in-flight purchases||Yes||$395|
|Crystal® Visa Infinite® Credit Card||$250 airline incidentals credit on U.S. domestic airlines only||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 Inflight Wi-Fi), and TSA Pre✓® membership application fee purchased from qualifying U.S. domestic airlines||Yes - U.S. domestic airlines only||$400|
|The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card||$300 airline incidentals credit (Isn't applied automatically - must call charges in)||Non-ticket airline purchases including baggage fees, in-flight entertainment, food, upgrades, and lounge passes and memberships||No||$450|
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card||$250 airline incidentals credit on one airline - chosen annually||Baggage fees, booking fees, in-flight food, and lounge admission||Yes - On chosen airline||$450|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$200 airline incidentals credit on one airline - chosen annually||Baggage fees, booking fees, in-flight food, and lounge admission||Yes - On chosen airline||$550 - Rates & Fees|
|The Business Platinum® Card from American Express||$200 airline incidentals credit on one airline - chosen annually||Baggage fees, booking fees, in-flight food, and lounge admission||Yes - On chosen airline||$450 - Rates & Fees|
|PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card||$100 airline incidentals credit on U.S. headquartered airlines||Baggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases, airport lounge day-passes, pet-kennel fee, and phone reservation fees||Yes - U.S. headquartered airlines only||No annual fee|
|American Express® Gold Card||$100 airline incidentals credit on one airline - chosen annually||Baggage fees, booking fees, in-flight food, and lounge admission||Yes - On chosen airline||$250 - Rates & Fees|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card||$100 airline incidentals credit on U.S. domestic airlines only||Seating upgrades, ticket change/cancellation fees, checked baggage fees, in-flight entertainment, onboard food and beverage charges, and airport lounge fees||Yes - U.S. domestic airlines only||$95|
|EXPEDIA®+ VOYAGER CARD from Citi||$100 airline incidentals credit on qualifying U.S. domestic airlines only||Checked bags, inflight entertainment or refreshments, inflight Wi-Fi, and Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®||No||$95|
|U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card||$25 airline incidentals credit with each redeemed airline award||Baggage fees or in-flight food and drinks||No||$85|
Want more details on your travel or airline credit? We've put together some handy guides for travel credits from popular providers below:
- How to use the Sapphire Reserve Travel Credit
- How to use the Citi Airline Credit
- How to use the Ritz-Carlton Card Travel Credit
- How to use the Amex Airline Credit
It’s important to note that not all airline/travel credits are created equal. The travel credits offered on the Sapphire Reserveand Altitude Reserve cover almost any travel charge paid for with the card including airline, hotel, taxi/Uber, and marine transportation charges. And statement credits are applied automatically when a qualifying charge is detected. The travel credit on the Ritz-Carlton Card, on the other hand, refers only to select airline/travel costs that are somewhat restrictive, and you need to call JP Morgan support to have the credit applied to your account.
Do Travel and Airline Credits Cover all Airline Fees & Charges?
No. The specific fees each airline credit covers can be a challenge to piece together, and you need to dig into the T&C’s for each product. For instance, the $300 ’travel' credit offered on the Ritz-Carlton Card doesn’t cover all airline charges, only baggage fees, upgrades, lounge access, and in-flight entertainment or Wi-Fi.
The airline credit provided on the Citi National Visa Infinite only covers domestic airlines and mentions airline ticket change/cancellation fees explicitly.
“Qualifying Airline Purchases are defined as incidental airline fee transactions made at eligible U.S.-Domestic Airline Carriers and include: ticket change/cancellation fees…”
How to Cover Award Ticket Change/Cancellation Fees With Travel Credits
For cards featuring travel or airline credits that cover ancillary fees, triggering the credit is as simple as swiping your card when paying the fee. The charge will code as airline ticket change/cancellation fees from the merchant end, and the statement credit should apply automatically to your account. If the costs don’t credit automatically, you’ll need to call the card provider and have a customer service rep look at the charges to ensure they have coded correctly, and potentially supply evidence of the purchase from the provider.
If you’re looking for more information on frequent flyer program change and cancellation fees, we’ve put together posts covering:
Life often gets in the way of travel, and claiming a statement credit for award change/cancellation fees is an excellent way of utilizing credit card perks to reduce the cost further when your plans go awry. Just be aware that not all travel credits will cover ancillary fees, and even on cards that do include change/cancellation fees, you may have restrictions on which airlines you can apply the credit to, mainly Amex cards and those from BoA and CNB. The broad-ranging travel credit offered on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is yet another reason the card rates so highly, providing ultimate flexibility.
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