Credit Card Deals Help You Earn and Use Travel Benefits During COVID-19

Issuers Are Offering Limited-Time Perks & Earning Options for Grounded Customers

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Spending habits and travel plans have changed dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. That makes earning credit card rewards and enjoying other benefits more challenging, particularly if you have a travel card. Fortunately, a few card companies are now offering more ways to do both for a limited time.

American Express

Some American Express rewards card holders can enjoy automatic access to a number of short-term perks, including statement credits, extra points, and extended deadlines for earning bonus offers: 

More Ways to Use Statement Credits

Some travel cards offer statement credits that reimburse you for travel purchases you make with the card. But now, you can get rebates on other kinds of purchases with the cards below. These are good offers considering all five cards charge high annual fees (up to $550, actually), so the more ways you can squeeze value from them while you’re at home, the better. 

The Platinum Card from American Express: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month through Dec. 31, 2020 when you use this card to pay for eligible streaming and . There are many popular streaming services included in this offer, such as Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video, and Spotify. You can also receive up to $20 back each month for wireless phone services bought directly from U.S. service providers through the rest of the year, too. There’s no enrollment required for either offer.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express: Small-business owners can receive up to $20 in statement credits each month for wireless phone services bought directly from U.S. providers, and on U.S. shipping purchases through December 2020. You can also enroll in extra Dell computer purchase statement credits—up to $100 extra through Dec. 31, 2020 for U.S. purchases with Dell.

American Express Green Card: Use this card to pay for wireless phone service from a U.S. provider and you can get up to $10 back per month via statement credits through December 2020. No enrollment required.  

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express: The $300 annual statement credit this card offers is usually only good for purchases at participating Marriott hotels but now can be used for U.S. restaurant purchases made June through Aug. 31, 2020 (including takeout and delivery).

Hilton Aspire American Express: U.S. restaurant purchases made June through August 2020 will qualify for the $250 annual Hilton resort credit, so you don’t have to go to a hotel to use this rebate, either.

Extra Rewards on Dining, Gas, and Grocery Purchases

In normal times, hotel-branded travel cards rarely offer high earning rates on groceries, if extra rewards are offered at all. However, since many consumers are at home and not racking up rewards on travel right now, American Express has added some more relevant earning categories for a handful of cards for a limited time: 

American Express Cards Offering Extra Rewards in 2020
Card name Short-term earning rate
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express 10 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and Marriott hotels (up to $7,500 through Oct. 31, 2020)
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express 10 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and Marriott hotels (up to $7,500 through Oct. 31, 2020)
Hilton Surpass American Express 6 Hilton Honors Bonus Points per $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and gas stations
Hilton Aspire American Express 7 Hilton Honors Bonus Points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants

Any extra points earned by using your Hilton Surpass or Aspire card through Dec. 31, 2020 will count toward earning Elite status tier qualifications in the Hilton Honors program and Lifetime Diamond status. Typically only base points earned through the Hilton Honors program by stays at hotels count toward those qualifications.

More Time to Earn Bonuses

If you opened an American Express rewards card between Dec. 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020, you have three extra months to earn the new cardholder bonus, if you haven't already. That means if you originally had three months to spend $1,000 to earn 15,000 extra points, you now have six months to meet that same requirement. The deadline is based on the date your card application was approved. This offer applies to bonuses for new cardholders of U.S. consumer and small business cards, but does not apply to promotional APR deals on any cards.

This is good news for new cardholders who had every intention to earn a bonus offer but are on a tight budget or just spending less these days.

Waived Point Transfer Fees

American Express is temporarily waiving the excise tax offset fee it normally charges each time Membership Rewards points are transferred to eligible U.S. airline loyalty programs (because Amex is getting a break from the government on the excise tax as part of a coronavirus stimulus act). Through Dec. 31, 2020, you can transfer points to a partner travel program without paying the usual 0.06 cents per point (up to $99). (Just remember you can’t transfer points back to your Membership Rewards account once they are moved.) 

For more information about some of the specific card offers described above, check out the webpage American Express has set up just for these limited-time perks. To learn what American Express is doing for cardholders experiencing travel disruptions during COVID-19, see “Can Your Credit Card Help With Coronavirus Travel Cancellations?

Capital One 

It’s not all travel-related, but Capital One is also giving some rewards cardholders flexibility for a little while.

Extra Rewards on Streaming Services

Through Sept. 30, 2020, Capital One Savor and SavorOne cardholders can earn extra cash back on purchases made through music and video streaming platforms including Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. Savor cardholders will earn 4% cash back, and SavorOne cardholders will earn 3% back, according to information Capital One emailed The Balance. You don’t need to activate this deal; just use either card as payment.

More Ways to Use Miles

If you have the Capital One Venture or VentureOne card, your miles can now be used to pay for restaurant delivery, takeout, and streaming service purchases through Sept. 30, 2020. To do so, use the issuer’s Purchase Eraser tool to redeem rewards for a purchase statement credit, as you would for travel. According to Capital One, Venture Miles are worth 1 cent when used this way, just like travel. 

Chase

Much like American Express, Chase is temporarily offering higher earning rates on non-travel purchases for a few of its top travel rewards cards and giving some new cardholders more time to earn bonuses. 

Extra Rewards on Instacart Orders, Gas, and Streaming Services

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can earn extra points on Instacart (including grocery delivery or pick-up orders), gas station, and streaming service purchases July 1 through Sept. 30, 2020.  

You don’t need to activate this offer, just be mindful of the earning limits. You’ll earn extra points on Instacart orders up to $3,000 spent, and on up to $1,500 of gas and $1,500 of streaming service purchases, including Netflix and Spotify subscriptions. These bonus earning categories are in addition to the extra points you can earn on travel and restaurant purchases with either Sapphire card.

Chase Credit Cards Offering Extra Rewards for a Limited Time
Purchase Category Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Reserve
Instacart 3 points per $1  5 points per $1
Gas stations 3 points per $1  5 points per $1
Streaming services 5 points per $1  10 points per $1

To top it off, Preferred and Reserve cardholders can earn up to $50 back in statement credits by paying for a monthly or yearly Instacart Express membership with their cards. An Instacart Express membership includes waived delivery fees and reduced service fees on orders over $35. 

Southwest airline-branded cardholders can now activate an offer for extra points on grocery and gas station purchases through Sept. 30, 2020. Consumers who have these Chase cards can earn 5 points per $1 spent (up to $1,500 on combined purchases per month). Check your email for a message from Chase and to activate this offer with one click.

More Ways to Use Travel Credit

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can use their annual $300 travel credit to get reimbursed for grocery store and gas station purchases through Dec. 31, 2020. So you'll earn extra points on those purchases (as explained above), and be able to spend the $300 credit on gas, grocery, and travel purchases. That means you may start earning 3 points per $1 spent on travel (which includes more routine costs like tolls and parking fees) much sooner, and help offset the high annual fee.  

More Ways to Increase Point Value

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards, you can typically boost your Ultimate Rewards point values by using them to book travel through Chase. There’s now another option through Sept. 30, 2020. 

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points will be worth 50% more (so 1.5 cents each) when you redeem them for statement credits against purchases at grocery stores, restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services), and home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Lowes, and donations made to participating charities. Chase Sapphire Preferred points will be worth 25% more (so 1.25 cents each) when used in the same way. To access this benefit, use the Pay Yourself Back tool through your online account, select an eligible purchase made in the past 90 days, and apply points to all or part of the total cost.

To learn more about all the limited-time offers Chase Sapphire cardholders can enjoy, see this Chase benefit webpage.

More Time to Earn Bonuses

New Chase cardholders also have three extra months to earn their new cardholder bonus. If you opened a new account between Jan. 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020, you’ll have six months to meet the bonus spending requirement instead of three. This offer applies to any Chase card offering a bonus of extra miles, points, cash back or statement credits, and does not extend the length of a 0% or other promotional APR period. If you’re eligible for this bonus extension, you should have received an email from Chase with details and terms in April.

Citi

This issuer is also offering a few extra goodies for consumers right now, such as more time to earn a bonus or eek some value out of their airline rewards card. 

Extra Rewards 

Only a couple of Citi cards are offering more rewards than usual these days. One is the Citi Prestige. You’ll get 5 ThankYou points per $1 spent on all online purchases (up to 7,500 points) through August 31, 2020. 

The other card that’s boosted the earning rates of some purchase categories is the Citi Premier—but this change is permanent. If you have a Citi Premier card, you’ll now earn 3 points per $1 spent on supermarket purchases (instead of 1 point per $1), and 3 points per $1 spent on restaurant purchases, including takeout and curbside pickup (instead of 2 points per $1). This change wasn’t supposed to roll out until August, but Citi made the program update sooner in light of pandemic spending habits, a spokesperson told The Balance via email.

More Time to Earn Bonuses

If you opened a new Citi rewards card between Dec. 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020, you have three extra months to meet the offer’s spending requirement. This extension does not apply to promotional purchase or balance transfer APR offers, or other pricing terms. Just rewards. 

More Ways to Earn Statement Credits and Use Travel Benefits

It’s impossible to earn travel credits or enjoy benefits when you don’t—or can’t—travel, which is why Citi has made the terms of these few travel card perks a bit more flexible for the rest of this year, and even into 2021:

Citi Prestige: Normally, you can get up to $250 worth of travel expenses reimbursed each year through statement credits. But from now through the end of this year, that $250 in credits can also cover purchases from grocery stores and restaurants. 

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Since COVID-19 has impacted travel and caused American Airlines to temporarily close many of its Admirals Club airport lounges, many of this card’s benefits (e.g., lounge access and free checked bags) are impossible to use. To help make up for it, Citi will issue a one-time $225 credit to your account two billing periods after your next annual fee is paid. To qualify, your account just needs to have been open as of March 31, 2020.  

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard: If you have a $125 flight credit (earned by spending $20,000 on the card in a year) that expired between March 31, 2020 and May 31, 2020, your credit is now good for six more months from the original expiration date. 

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard: Similar to the consumer version of this card, cardholders of this business card who have a companion certificate set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020 will get six more months to use the certificate. That means your companion pass will now be good through June 30, 2021. 

Remember: These Offers Won’t Last Forever

These are limited-time offers, which means they won’t be around long and are subject to change. For that reason we don’t recommend applying for one of the cards mentioned above just because of these offers. If you already have one of these cards, now is a great time to pull it out of hibernation and maximize your earnings while your spending patterns are changed. Eventually, you’ll be able put the points you’re earning now toward a dream vacation. If you want a new rewards card that will be a good fit long term, check out our roundup of the best rewards cards.

Article Sources

  1. American Express. "Announcing something extra to support our Card Members right now." Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.

  2. American Express. "Retail Categories." Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.

  3. American Express. "Coronavirus Support." See under "Welcome Offers on Cards." Accessed Aug. 3, 2020.

  4. Chase. "Sapphire Reserve is broadening your world of benefits." Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.