If you applied for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card before May 21, 2017, have an Amex Platinum (opened anytime), or have a Citi Prestige (opened anytime), then pay attention. This is an important reminder to not forget to maximize the benefits of your premium card before the year ends.

Premium travel credit cards typically come with yearly statement credits that reimburse you for travel expenses (which are defined differently depending on the issuing bank–more on that below). These travel credits are the largest offsetting factor for the expensive annual fees and are what, year after year, tend to make keeping the card worth it for those that spend a lot on travel anyways.

I’ll walk you through a specific example with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and then provide a little more info about the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige cards for you to investigate on your own depending on which premium card(s) you hold.

Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 Annual Fee)

Those who applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve before May 21, 2017, get $300 of travel statement credits per calendar year to offset your first $300 in “travel” purchases. This broad category includes airfare, flight award taxes and fees, airline fees, hotels, Airbnb, car rentals, cruises, tolls/E-Z Pass, parking, Uber/Lyft, taxis, and more.

Everyone reading this blog must rack up well over $300 in such charges per year, so that’s basically free money. If you haven’t already cashed in on all of 2017’s $300 travel statement credit for your Sapphire Reserve card, know that your travel purchases MUST post before your December statement closes in order for them to count towards 2017’s travel statement credits and not 2018. It would be a shame if you missed out on $300 in free money, as the travel statement credits greatly help outweigh the premium card’s expensive $450 annual fee.

How to Check if You’ve Cashed in on all Your Credit

Log into your Chase account now to check when your December statement closes. After logging in click on your Ultimate Rewards balance, and you should be navigated to a dashboard that shows rewards info as well as the tally of how much of your $300 travel statement credits you’ve collected.

 

Statement credits should look like this in your online Chase account:

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-4-13-44-pm

I signed up for the Reserve after May 21. What about me?

If you signed up on or after May 21, you get $300 of travel statement credits per cardmember year. You’ll want to check in on how much of your statement credits you’ve received about 11 months after you opened your Reserve to make sure you max out the $300 before it resets after you statement closes in month 12 of holding your card.

What Chase Considers Travel Purchases

Above I listed some obvious examples of what will code as a travel purchases.

For more obscure examples of what counts, check out this Doctor of Credit post (which also lists data points of things you might logically think would code as travel purchases and don’t) and this Flyertalk thread.

Taken from an FAQ about Reward Categories on Chase.com, Chase defines merchants in the travel category as:

“…airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.”

Don’t think you’ll be able to spend $300 in travel purchases organically before your December statement closes?

Here’s how to turn that $300 into the closest thing to cash that you can: buy an airline or hotel gift card that you know you will use, just make sure it comes directly from the airline or hotel as opposed to a third party so it will code as travel.

Let’s take that a step further. Don’t even think you’d eventually use an airline or hotel gift card? Check out this Doctor of Credit post that lists resale rates for specific types of airline and hotel gift cards.

Amex Platinum ($550 Annual Fee)

Amex Platinum Cardholders get $200 in statement credits for incidental fees with your designated qualifying airline every calendar year. 

This person needs to spend their Amex travel credit asap!
This person needs to spend their Amex travel credit asap!

The airline fee credit is supposed to be for “incidental fees” likes change fees, cancellation fees, and bag fees. The fee credit is not supposed to apply to ticket purchases, miles purchases, or gift card purchases.

highlighted terms and conditions

But American Express’s computers decides whether a certain purchase qualifies for a fee credit, and in the experience of thousands of people, certain airline gift card purchases will result in a statement credit. That makes this benefit like getting $400 in free flights, which almost completely offsets the annual fee in one swoop. There is a FlyerTalk thread devoted to each airline that you can select for fee reimbursement for people to post their experiences trying to purchase gift cards.

Citi Prestige ($450 Annual Fee)

Citi Prestige Cardholders get $250 in Air Travel statement credits per calendar year.

Citi defines Air Travel expenses as “air fares, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases”. From my epxerience, data points I’ve read, and from Scott’s experience as well, everything will code as “Air Travel” as long the expense comes from the airline itself and is not issued from a third party. This could include gift cards as well, but again only if they’re issued by the airline itself. Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.50.44 AM

Check out others’ data points for what counts for the Citi Prestige’s $250 credit in Report Citi Prestige Success/Fail $250 airline expense reimbursements.

Bottom Line

Shout out to Mommy Points for the reminder to check on your travel statement credits. It’s details like this, if forgotten, that will eat away severely at the value of your rewards over time. I’ve watched friends forget realize in retrospect that they didn’t max out their travel credit–numerous times–and each time I want to reprimand them like a child.

Photo by Images Money
Ok, so those are Euros…but you get the point. Photo by Images Money

Such a waste! Premium card annual fees are hefty, and the travel credit offered is the largest offsetting factor.

The holidays are a busy time of year, so take action now: Check your account TODAY and if you haven’t spent all of your credit do so now or make a plan to soon!

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