Can I Use Airline & Travel Credits to Pay Award Change and Cancellation Fees?

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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.

Southwest tops the list of North American frequent flyer programs for the best award change and cancellation policies
Southwest tops the list of North American frequent flyer programs for the best award change and cancellation policies

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 CardAnnual CreditEligible Purchases Cover Airline Change/Cancellation FeesAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve®$300 travel creditAlmost any travel purchasesYes$550
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card$325 travel creditAirlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains, and cruise linesYes$400
Citi Prestige® Card$250 travel creditAirlines, 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 linesYes$495
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® credit card$100 air travel creditTicket purchases, seat upgrades, baggage fees or in-flight purchasesYes$395
Crystal® Visa Infinite® Credit Card$250 airline incidentals credit on U.S. domestic airlines onlyTicket 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 airlinesYes - 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 membershipsNo$450
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card$250 airline incidentals credit on one airline - chosen annually

$250 Hilton Resort Statement Credit
Baggage fees, booking fees, in-flight food, and lounge admission

Eligible purchases made directly with participating Hilton Resorts - Includes charges made at restaurants, spas, and other establishments within the hotel property if charged to your room and paid for with your card.
Yes - On chosen airline$450
The Platinum Card® from American Express$200 airline incidentals credit on one airline - chosen annuallyBaggage fees, booking fees, in-flight food, and lounge admissionYes - On chosen airline$695 - Rates & Fees
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express$200 airline incidentals credit on one airline - chosen annuallyBaggage fees, booking fees, in-flight food, and lounge admissionYes - On chosen airline$595 - Rates & Fees
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card$100 airline incidentals credit on U.S. headquartered airlinesBaggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases, airport lounge day-passes, pet-kennel fee, and phone reservation feesYes - U.S. headquartered airlines only No annual fee
American Express® Gold CardImportant: This benefit is not available to new cardmembers.

$100 airline incidentals credit on one airline - chosen annually
• If you opened your card before 2/4/21 you have $100 worth of Airline Fee Credit to use by 12/31/2021.

• If you opened your card on or after 2/4/21, you are not eligible for an Airline Fee Credit in 2021 or in the future.

• If, eligible Airline Fee Credit applies to: 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 onlySeating upgrades, ticket change/cancellation fees, checked baggage fees, in-flight entertainment, onboard food and beverage charges, and airport lounge feesYes - U.S. domestic airlines only $95
EXPEDIA®+ VOYAGER CARD from Citi$100 airline incidentals credit on qualifying U.S. domestic airlines onlyChecked bags, inflight entertainment or refreshments, inflight Wi-Fi, and Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®No$95
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card$75 Southwest Airlines Annual Travel CreditAll Southwest purchases (excluding Upgraded Boardings and inflight purchases)N/A - Southwest doesn't charge change/cancellation fees$149
U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card$25 airline incidentals credit with each redeemed airline awardBaggage fees or in-flight food and drinksNo$85

Want more details on your travel or airline credit? We've put together some handy guides for travel credits from popular providers below:

It’s important to note that not all airline/travel credits are created equal. The travel credits offered on the Sapphire Reserve and 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:

Final Thoughts

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.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

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  • charles j says:

    Also, the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard has a $100 annual “air travel credit”, although I can’t say for sure that these fees trigger it, (which, along with a $85 TSA Precheck credit, 5 $20 Uber or Lyft credits, membership to 850+ airport lounges plus 2 free lounge visits per year and 3X points on travel, 2 on dining and 1 on everything else which have enhanced value when reserving travel through their site and a 50000 points=$750 in air travel when reserved through their site sign up bonus with $4000 charged in the first 3 monthes makes it competitive for the $395 annual fee).

  • Interesting information, i will have to consider this benefit when i look at future cards. I just wish there wasn’t any change fee at all but i presume people would take such advantage of this that it would be wasteful. Its frustrating to see a flight but not to have firm travel plans and then lose the opportunity by not booking right away.

  • Great info, thanks.

  • MICHAELJ1 says:

    The Citi Prestige Card is now next on my sign up list. thanks.

  • nice summary – surprised me!

  • Alice Chen says:

    I have never thought about this!

  • Didn’t I just read that CSR is eliminating this benefit? Might be wrong.

  • vinay Kumar nayak says:

    Would tax/fess on award ticket trigger statement credit? I have Citi american card and looking for a way to use the statement credit for award booking

  • Yet another reason to love my CSR!!

  • marcwint55 says:

    What is the crystal infinite visa ?

  • Great info. I did not know this. Does the fee have to be from a chang/cancellation booked through the awards of that same credit card? Or can you use frequent flier miles to book the award, but still get the change/cancellation fees reimbursed?

  • Always good to know how to utilize all benefits that each credit card offers in order to achieve the maximum value possible.

  • I didn’t realize Southwest refunded your award miles in case of cancellation. That’s a great benefit. I’ll be looking more often at Southwest flights now.

  • More useful stuff. Thx Howie!

  • The Hilton Honors Aspire card from AmEx should probably make this aslo, no? It offers $250 per year for incidentals with your designated airline.

  • Maryjane says:

    This is a great reminder of another use of the travel credits. Since I never check bags or pay for upgrades, I have always thought of them as something to use for gift cards. Now I know I should probably wait until the end of the year before I buy my gift cards so that any unfortunate charges could be covered with my Amex Business Platinum. The flexibility of the Sapphire Reserve credits means that I have usually already used the entire 300 dollar credit on my first billing cycle. Having the credit would certainly take the sting out of paying cancellation or change fees –Excellent advice, thanks.

  • One of the reasons I kept booking Alaska despite not being a west-coast based flyer was because of their 60 day free cancellation for non-elites. Which they announced they will end soon. Now they have the same draconian cancellation fees as the others.

  • Thanks for article information, will use in the future.

  • Jacqueline says:

    Thanks for the tips, I didn’t realise not all cards offered this.

  • paul5795 says:

    I don’t know about others, but the potential use of a credit card travel credit to cover award changes is of very limited use to me.

    When I sign up for a card that has a travel credit, I want to be sure that I can use that travel credit each and every year. That means I am really only interested in travel credits that can be used right now for something of value, for example, some sort of airline gift card that I know I will be able to use some time in the future.

    In all my many years of using points for award travel, only once have I had to change an award ticket and pay a change fee. That means that relying on change fees to use my travel credit is very speculative, and greatly reduces the value of that travel credit for me if I might end up depending on a change fee to deploy that credit. In fact, I would value the travel credit at almost zero if there is no dependable way to deploy that credit.

  • SAS has no redeposit fee.

  • deerseason says:

    CSR is most lenient for this, but it really should be mandatory for all cards that offer travel credit.

  • Napoleon Khawly says:

    Wow great to know, thanks for the tip!

  • Another good reason to have the Chase Sapphire Reserve!

  • charles j says:

    Addendum: But I don’t know if these fees will trigger a credit.

  • charles j says:

    The PenFed Pathfinder American Express card also provides a $100 incidentials credit.

  • The travel credit provided by the CSR is outstanding with very broad range of transactions accepted as travel.

  • Thanks for the info!

  • I would never have thought cancellation and change fees would have been covered by travel credits. Thank you ever so much for this info.