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Several cards offer a $200 annual airline fee credit, and this time of year I think it’s always worth posting a reminder about how to maximize this.
To start, here are the cards I know of that offer a $200 annual airline fee credit:
- Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz — 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 within three months; Lounge access with AMEX Centurion Lounges, Delta, Priority Pass, and others, $550 annual fee
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 within three months; Lounge access with AMEX Centurion Lounges, Delta, Priority Pass, and others, $550 annual fee
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN Application — Lounge access with AMEX Centurion Lounges, Delta, Priority Pass, and others, $550 annual fee; $450 annual fee
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa Card — 70,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points after spending $2,000 within three months, Ritz-Carlton Rewards Gold status; $450 annual fee
The idea is that the fee credit can be used to offset airline fees charged to the card. But here’s the kicker — while credit card annual fees are charged on a rolling 12-month basis (meaning if you apply for a card now and pay the annual fee right away, you won’t pay another one till next November), these fee credits are based on calendar years. That means if you sign up for any of the above cards you could take advantage of your first $200 airline fee credit as soon as you get the card, and then take advantage of the second $200 airline fee credit in January, for a total of $400 in airline fee credits just a couple of months after acquiring your card.
All of the American Express cards above come with airline lounge access, so look at this as paying $150 for an airline lounge membership with AMEX Centurion Lounges, Delta, and Priority Pass (not even factoring in all the other benefits). With the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card the airline fee credit more or less wipes out the annual fee, and you get a very nice sign-up bonus plus Ritz-Carlton Gold status, which is more or less equivalent to Marriott Rewards Gold status.
Also keep in mind that in most cases the airline fee credits can be used to purchase airline gift cards, which to me are good as cash. The American Express forum on FlyerTalk has individual threads dedicated to reimbursement reports for each airline, including Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, and United. As you can see, these credits can be used for a wide variety of things, from lounge memberships, to cancellation fees, to status challenge fees, to (in many cases) gift cards.