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Travel credit cards can be a great way to earn rewards for discounted travel. In addition to rewards points, these cards often come with other benefits, like complimentary hotel elite status, trip insurance or airport lounge access.
Once you’ve earned your points, however, understanding how to redeem them can become overwhelming. Depending on which card you hold, you can use your points in a variety of ways — including the option to redeem them as a statement credit.
Let’s take a look at how statement credits work for travel credit cards.
What is a statement credit?
In short, a statement credit is a credit that your card issuer will apply to your account balance.
As well, some travel credit cards offer the option to redeem rewards points for a general statement credit.
These redemptions are often available in addition to other ways you can use rewards points, such as transferring rewards to partners, getting cash back (similar, but different — more on this in the next section) or making travel reservations through the card’s travel portal.
» Learn more: A beginner’s guide to traveling on points and miles
Statement credit vs. cash back
In addition to statement credits, travel credit cards may also allow you to get cash back for your points. It’s important to note the difference between the two: A statement credit essentially refunds your credit card account directly for expenses that were already paid (lowering your current balance), while cash back is a lump sum of money typically sent to you by check or deposited into your bank account.
Even more important to understand is that when you hear a card offers “cash back,” it doesn’t always mean the same thing. While some cash back credit cards are true to its name, sending cash straight back to you as mentioned above, others only offer cash back in the form of a statement credit on your credit card bill.
For example, with the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, you earn cash back in the form of points that can be redeemed in a variety of ways, including as a direct bank deposit, a check, a statement credit or a gift card. On the other hand, with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you earn cash back in the form of “Reward Dollars” that can only be redeemed as a statement credit. Terms apply.
Make sure to read the terms and conditions of cash back rewards for the specific credit card you're applying for or using. Be diligent in your assessments, as sometimes a cash back deal isn't as good as a statement credit.
With select Chase cards, for example, you can receive a statement credit worth up to 1.5 cents per point on rotating “Pay Yourself Back” categories. This is more than the 1 cent per point value when redeeming rewards for cash back. Capital One miles also drop in value when redeemed for cash back. You’ll receive 0.5 cents per mile with cash back rather than the 1 cent per mile you’d get redeeming them for a statement credit.
An exception to this is Bank of America®, which offers the same points value across all redemptions.
So unless you have a Bank of America® travel credit card, you’re likely better off redeeming your credit card points for statement credits rather than for cash back if you have the option.
» Learn more: Cash back vs travel: How to choose credit card rewards
Example travel cards with statement credits
Some premium travel cards, in addition to offering higher point earning rates, offer an added bonus of an annual statement credit for travel expenses.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card, for example, offer an annual $300 and $325 general travel credit, respectively. This means when you make a purchase that falls in the travel category, it will automatically qualify for a statement credit up to the annual limit.
The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offer annual statement credits ($200 and $250, respectively) for airline incidental fees charged to a pre-selected airline. Terms apply.
Many mid-level and no annual fee travel credit cards will let you redeem your earned rewards points as a statement credit to reimburse you for purchases such as travel and dining.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Should you use travel points for statement credits?
Once you’ve earned rewards points, you may be wondering: “Should you get cash back as a statement credit or use points?” The answer to this depends entirely on which credit card you hold.
Some credit cards, like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, offer points at a value of 1 cent each no matter how you redeem them. You can redeem them as a statement credit, to book travel or even for cash back and those points will always be worth 1 cent each.
With American Express cards, the value of your points depends on how they’re redeemed. When using your Membership Rewards for statement credits, you’ll receive a value of 0.6 cents per point — well below NerdWallet's estimated value of 2 cents each. That makes redeeming your AmEx points as a statement credit a pretty poor value. Terms apply.
The value of Chase Ultimate Rewards® redeemed as a statement credit is based on the category of your purchase. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for example, you can currently redeem a statement credit worth 1.5 cents per point towards Airbnb, Awaytravel.com, select charities, annual fees and dining. For all other types of purchases, your points would be worth 1 cent each.
If you have a credit card that earns a flexible points currency, you may want to think twice before redeeming your points for statement credits. Often, transferring to hotel and airline partners will net you a better redemption value for your points.
How to redeem points for statement credits
It’s usually pretty simple to redeem your points for statement credits. First, you’ll want to navigate to the rewards section of your card issuer. Here’s what it looks like to redeem points for a statement credit via Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Once you’ve selected the statement credit feature, or in Chase’s case, “Pay Yourself Back,” you’ll be able to see a list of transactions that qualify for statement credits.
Once you’ve selected an eligible transaction, you can then choose how many points you’d like to redeem.
After you’ve made the redemption, you’ll see the statement credit appear on your account.
Be aware that different card issuers have different requirements when it comes to redeeming points for statement credits. Chase, for example, has a 90-day limit on eligible purchases. American Express, meanwhile, has a laundry list of criteria when redeeming points for statement credits.
Purchases must have been made in the U.S. or a U.S. territory.
Purchases must appear in your current statement or recent activity online.
Purchases must not have been disputed.
Purchases must be at least $1.
Final thoughts on statement credits and travel credit cards
There are many different ways to redeem your travel credit card points depending on which card you hold. Although you’ll usually get the most value redeeming points directly for travel or transferring them to a partner, you can also opt to redeem points for statement credits to help pay off your card balance.
As a whole, statement credits offer an easy way to redeem points for purchases.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card