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Are you tired of paying airline fees for doing just about anything, but breathe? Earlier this year, American Express announced that it would be adding a $100 airline fee credit for cardholders of the Premier Rewards Gold Card. But American Express isn't the first to offer an airline fee credit. Citibank and Chase also offer premier credit cards that come with airline fee credits.
These credits can be used to pay for certain airline charges and fees, such as a checked bag fee or upgrade fees. But it's not as simple as it seems. Behind the promise of airline fee credits is the fine print regulating how and when these fee credit's apply. Let's take a look at what this means for cardholders.
Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi
Another card co-branded by Citi, the Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi comes with a $100 airline fee credit each year that runs from January through December billing statements. Cardholders may apply incidental fees towards 10 qualifying airlines including AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United/Continental Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin America Airlines. Incidental fees can also be applied to two wireless hotspot providers, Boingo Wireless and Gogo Inflight Internet. Airline incidental fees must be separate from the airline ticket charge and the $100 Global Entry application fee also qualifies for the annual statement credit. The annual fee is rather low at $95.
American Express is now offering a $100 fee credit with their Premier Rewards Gold Card and a $200 fee credit for The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN. Premier credit cards have never been known to come without an annual fee, so the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express comes with an annual fee of $195, waived the first year, and the two Platinum offers come with annual fees of $550 and $450 respectively. Cardholders of these premier credit cards must first designate a single airline that will be eligible for fee credits, which can only be done by the primary account holder. Although you can choose from most domestic carriers, you don't have the option to pick a foreign airline carrier. Once chosen, most non-ticket charges you make with your card will result in an automatic fee credit, up to the annual limit. Additional limitations include:
- Additional card holders are eligible for statement credit towards the account;
- Incidental airline fee charges must be made as separate purchases from the airline ticket;
- Fees not charged by the cardholders airline of choice will not qualify for a statement credit;
- Airlines must submit the charge under the correct merchant code to identify the purchase as an incidental air travel fee, and;
- Statement credits are applied to your Pay In Full balance, and excluded from the Pay Over Time feature..
With this program, eligible charges include lounge memberships and entry fees, baggage fees, seat selection fees, and in-flight food. Charges such as ticket purchases, first class upgrade fees, gift cards, award tickers, and third-party Wifi services are excluded. This benefit works on a calendar year basis, so each year on January 1st you are able to select a different airline and you have access to the full amount of your fee credit for the year.
Citi's Prestige® Card offers a $250 annual air travel credit that is much less restricted than you will find with American Express. In this case, you can apply the credit to any airline charge including airfare. Similar to the American Express program, it also works on a calendar year basis, so be sure to use it up before the end of the year, and realize that you have another $250 credit that starts in the new year. It's worth noting that any purchases that doesn't appear on your December billing cycle will count towards the next year's Air Travel Credit. Purchases made by the primary cardholder and authorized users are eligible for statement credits. Eligible purchases include air fare, baggage fees, lounge access, and some in-flight purchases. The Citi Prestige® Card comes with an annual fee of $450. *This offer and/or promotion may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase
This co-branded credit card offers the largest Annual Travel Credit of $300. The credit that comes with the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card from Chase that is only valid for the following airline charges:
- Airline lounge day pass or yearly lounge membership;
- Seat upgrades;
- Baggage fees;
- In-flight Internet;
- In-flight meals, and;
- Global Entry application fees.
All airfare and change fees are excluded from receiving a statement credit. Cardholders must call Chase to request a statement credit, as it's not automatically applied to your account. There is a $395 annual fee to carry this card.
Fee Credits Towards The Global Entry Program
Both American Express and Citi have credit cards that offer credits towards the $100 application fee for the Global Entry program, offered by the US Customs and Border Patrol. Global entry allows expedited processing at airports when arriving from an international flight, while also granting access to the TSA's PreCheck program for domestic security screening. The American Express Platinum cards and the Prestige Card from Citi all offer a $100 credit towards the Global Entry application. Interestingly, the fee that US Customs and Border Patrol charges is just an application fee, and you do not receive a refund if your application is denied for any reason. Otherwise, you will be automatically issued this $100 credit if you charge this fee to your card, even if the application is for someone else, or you are paying for its renewal.
Airline fee credits are a valuable benefit being offered by a growing number premium rewards credit card offers. By understanding how these fees work, you can gain the maximum value from using them to make your travel purchases.
* Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.