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One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, planes will be back in the air and the travel industry will return to normal. But for now, most people are staying at home with their families, and travel is the last thing on their minds, as is applying for a pricey premium travel credit card like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
But what if you already have one of these cards? You've paid the annual fee for the year — which may have run as high as $550 — but you can't use the travel perks. Is there anything you can do?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. Because most high priced luxury travel credit cards also include benefits you can use from home when you're not traveling. So if you already have one of these cards and don't want to see your investment go to waste, make sure you're taking advantage of all these perks while you're off the road for the time being.
Credits for purchases at retailers
The Amex Platinum comes with an up to $200 annual airline fee credit that won't be of much use to you in the current environment. But there are several other credits on the card that you can use from the comfort of your own home.
Chief among them is up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits, which can be used online at saksfifthavenue.com. This credit comes in two halves — up to $50 from January through June, and up to another $50 between July and December.
You'll need to enroll for this perk first at Amex's website — it's under the "Benefits" tab after you log in. Then when you make a purchase at Saks and pay for it with your Amex Platinum card, you'll see a statement credit on your account within a few weeks, and usually even faster.
Another Amex Platinum benefit you'll want to make sure to utilize is up to $200 in annual Uber credits, which are doled out in $15 increments every month (and $35 in December). Hang on, we know what you're thinking — taking an Uber involves leaving the house, right? Except you can also use the Uber credit on Uber Eats, which means up to $15 in food delivery every month.
To utilize the card's Uber credit on Uber Eats, add your Amex Platinum card as a payment method in the main Uber app, and you should soon see $15 in Uber Cash added to your account. You can then choose to use that Uber Cash on your next Uber Eats order.
Just remember that the credits don't roll over from month-to-month, so make sure to use up your entire $15 each month if you can.
Speaking of food delivery services, if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, you'll find one of its newest features may come in handy. The card recently added up to $60 in annual DoorDash credits in both 2020 and 2021.
This credit is incredibly easy to use — just charge your DoorDash order to your Sapphire Reserve, and you'll get a statement credit offsetting the charge. You also don't have to use the entire $60 in one fell swoop -— you can use it across several separate orders over time.
But before you place that DoorDash order, make sure you also take advantage of another new Chase Sapphire Reserve perk — up to two years of free DashPass membership. DashPass is a program that offers free delivery from eligible DoorDash restaurants, and you can get it at no cost just by adding your Sapphire Reserve as the default payment method in the DoorDash app and then activating your DashPass membership.
Also, remember that while the $300 annual credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is called a "travel" credit, it can be used on some purchases that might not strike you as travel. Examples include parking lots and garages, which could be useful if you've been forced to store your vehicle, and timeshares, which still charge maintenance fees even if you're not using them.
Finally, if you have the Business Platinum® Card from American Express — which is the business version of the Amex Platinum — you won't get either the Uber or Saks credits, but you do get up to $200 in annual Dell credits for U.S. purchases.
Much like the Saks credits on the personal card, these Dell credits are split into two halves, with up to $100 between January and June, and up to another $100 between July and December. Make sure you enroll for this benefit first at Amex's website, then charge any purchase at dell.com to your Business Platinum card and you'll see a statement credit soon thereafter.
Earning points on purchases from home
Of course, just because travel isn't a thing at the moment doesn't mean you shouldn't continue to earn points with your travel credit card, especially if you already paid for it.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points per dollar on all dining purchases, which includes many food delivery services such as UberEats, Seamless and GrubHub. That means if you're staying at home and having food delivered, you'll want to make sure you're charging it to your Sapphire Reserve and earning rewards for the cost.
However, be careful if you have the premium Citi Prestige® Card — it earns a whopping 5 points per dollar on dining purchases, but its terms and conditions specifically note that you won't earn that 5x bonus on purchases made through online dining delivery services.
Redeeming points when you aren't traveling
While both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum cards earn points that are designed to be redeemed for travel, you can actually use them for non-travel purchases. You just won't get as much value for them.
For instance, Chase Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed for gift cards, cash back or a statement credit at a rate of 1 cent per point. But when you redeem them for travel, you'll get at least 1.5 cents per point through the Chase travel portal if you have the Sapphire Reserve card, and potentially even more when transferring to Chase's airline and hotel partners.
Similarly, you might spot the option to redeem American Express Membership Rewards points at places like GrubHub, where they're worth 0.7 cents per point. You can also redeem them for gift cards at a rate of 0.8 cents per point, or a statement credit at a paltry 0.6 cents per point.
But none of these options come close to the value you can get for Amex points when redeeming them for travel. You'll get 1 cent per point by using them on airfare via Amex Travel, or possibly even much more by transferring them to Amex's airline and hotel partners.
In the end, when points go unused, they're worth nothing, so you're better off using them at a lower value than never using them at all. But if you can hold out, you should try to just sit on those points for now and then get more for them on travel redemptions when things get back to normal.
Should you get a credit card right now?
Well, probably not an expensive travel credit card. But it could make sense to get a no-annual-fee credit card that earns points or miles so you can enjoy some free trips when things get back to normal.
If you're looking for a travel credit card like that, consider the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, which earns 1.25 miles for every dollar you spend on all purchases and has no annual fee. You'll even earn 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months after opening the card.
But if your mind isn't thinking about travel at all at the moment, you still might be able to earn more rewards on a new card than on the credit card you currently have. Consider a simple cash back card with no annual fee. CNN Underscored's benchmark credit card — the Citi® Double Cash Card — is simple, earning a market-leading 2% cash back on everything you buy — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off.
And if you've already got a premium travel credit card in your purse or wallet that cost you a lot of money, make sure you're still taking advantage of as many of the benefits as you can. Hopefully you'll be back on the road and able to enjoy airport lounges and hotel elite status soon, but in the meantime, don't forget to utilize your travel card's "at-home" perks as much as possible.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.