9 Cards With Amazing Travel Credits That Basically Erase High Fees

Generous travel credits offset annual fees of many top travel credit cards, placing their rates on par with low-fee cards.

9 Cards With Amazing Travel Credits That Basically Erase High Fees

Some credit cards offer generous travel credits on everything from Uber rides to flights and hotels.

Photo by EQRoy / Shutterstock

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The best travel credit cards are rich in benefits, ranging from airport lounge access to elite status to solid earnings rates across travel purchases. And, in most cases, these generous perks command a large annual fee, sometimes topping $500. However, in practice, the high annual fees of many top travel cards aren’t really that high. Why? They also include easy-to-use annual travel credits.

In fact, most premium travel credit cards nowadays offer yearly credits on airfare, airline incidentals, rideshare services, and more, all of which are reimbursed as statement credits. Subtract these annual travel credits from annual fees, and you’ll be surprised at the numbers. Many are on par with low-fee travel cards considered within easier reach.

This simple math doesn’t even account for the tremendous value of other card benefits like free award nights, lounge access, nontravel credits, or Global Entry credits, among others. Nor does it factor in attractive welcome offers that help sweeten the deal in year one of credit card membership. It’s strictly the cash value of fees versus credits.

Here, we break down that math on nine premium travel credit cards where travel credits offer heavy discounts on annual fees, in many cases reducing the annual fees to $95 or less.

1. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Best for: The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is best for frequent fliers and those who patronize properties under the Hilton umbrella.

Annual travel credits: Up to $500 total; $250 in Hilton resort statement credits for room rates and taxes (excluding advance-purchase or nonrefundable rate) and incidentals at participating Hilton resorts and $250 in annual airline fee credits for incidentals on one selected airline, every calendar year. Enrollment required.

Annual fee before credits: $450 (see rates and fees)

Annual fee after credits: -$50

Current welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by AFAR. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through AFAR.

2. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Best for: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is best for those who fly Southwest as their preferred airline.

Annual travel credits: $75 Southwest travel credit per year.

Annual fee before credits: $149

Annual fee after credits: $74

Current welcome offer: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

3. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Best for: The Platinum Card® from American Express is best for frequent fliers and global travelers looking for a perk-heavy travel credit card.

Annual travel credits: Up to $600 every calendar year; a $200 Hotel Credit (given in statement credits) on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or the Hotel Collection bookings (requires a minimum two-night stay) with American Express Travel, $200 airline fee credits for incidentals on one selected airline (given in statement credits), and $200 Uber Cash (divided among monthly increments). Enrollment required.

Annual fee before credits: $695 (see rates and fees)

Annual fee after credits: $95

Current welcome offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 in the first six months from account opening.

4. World of Hyatt Business Credit Card

Best for: The World of Hyatt Business Credit Card is best for travelers who frequent properties within the Hyatt portfolio.

Annual travel credits: Up to $100 in Hyatt statement credits. Spend $50 or more at any Hyatt property and earn $50 statement credits up to two times every year of card membership.

Annual fee before credits: $199

Annual fee after credits: $99

Current welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after spending $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.

5. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Best for: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is best for those looking for a general travel card with solid earnings rates.

Annual travel credits: Up to $300 on travel when booking through Capital One Travel.

Annual fee before credits: $395

Annual fee after credits: $95

Current welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.

6. United Quest℠ Card

Best for: The United Quest℠ Card is best for fliers who use United as their preferred carrier.

Annual travel credits: $125 credit on United purchases annually. (Terms apply.)

Annual fee before credits: $250

Annual fee after credits: $125

Current welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.

7. American Express® Gold Card

Best for: The American Express® Gold Card is best for those looking for a general travel card with solid earnings rates.

Annual travel credits: $120 Uber Cash every calendar year (divided among monthly increments).

Annual fee before credits: $250 (see rates and fees)

Annual fee after credits: $130

Current welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $4,000 in the first six months from account opening.

8. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Best for: The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is best for those who frequent properties within the Marriott portfolio.

Annual travel credits: Up to $300 in statement credits each year of card membership for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.

Annual fee before credits: $450 (see rates and fees)

Annual fee after credits: $150

Current welcome offer: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months from account opening.

9. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Best for: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is best for people looking for a general travel card with strong, implicit travel insurances.

Annual travel credits: Up to $300 for travel purchases charged to your card each year of card membership.

Annual fee before credits: $550

Annual fee after credits: $250

Current welcome offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.

Takeaways

If you are looking for a travel credit card but have always dismissed ones with high annual fees, it’s time to reconsider. Follow some simple math to discover that, after annual credits, the fees of top cards are essentially on par with those in low- and mid-fee range. Even better is that you’ll get to enjoy the various perks and benefits of these premium cards, from airport lounge access to automatic elite status with specific hotel brands.

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

Paul Rubio is an award-winning travel journalist and photographer. His byline appears in AFAR, Conde Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, LUXURY, MSN, NerdWallet, Palm Beach Illustrated, Yahoo Lifestyle and more. He has visited 133 countries (and counting) over the past 20 years and won 27 national awards for his writing and photography. When he’s not plotting out his next trip, Paul loves to spend time at home watching reruns of Portlandia and Parks and Recreation with his husband and rescue dog, Camo.