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Travel Rewards Cards Offer New Perks

Credit card issuers expand benefits to justify the annual fees.

Some of the largest issuers of travel rewards cards are adding new benefits to accommodate cardholders who have put travel plans on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rewards card providers “have really leaned in to where people are spending these days,” says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com. The coronavirus crisis has compelled many Americans to use their credit cards for groceries, according to a new survey from Bankrate.com. In April, 46% of grocery shoppers paid with a credit card, versus 27% in December.

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In response, credit card issuers are offering more-generous rewards for groceries and restaurant meals, including takeout and delivery. Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, will allow grocery store and gas station purchases to qualify for the $300 annual travel credit through December 31. Through September 30, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders’ rewards points will be worth 50% more on eligible grocery, dining and home improvement purchases; points for Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders will get a 25% boost.

Existing Citi Premier cardholders, meanwhile, will earn three points for each $1 spent—triple the usual reward—for spending at supermarkets and restaurants. Citi Prestige cardholders can use their $250 travel credit toward supermarket and restaurant purchases through December 31.

American Express Green Card members can get up to $80 in credits each year (limited to $10 per month) toward wireless phone services from U.S. pro­viders. Amex Platinum cardholders, who pay an annual fee of $550 a year, can get up to $320 in statement credits ($20 per service type per month) toward streaming and wireless phone services. Through September 30, Capital One Savor cardholders will receive 4% cash back on select streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu and Disney+.

The strategy to appease cardholders who pay an annual fee appears to have worked. More than 80% believe they’re getting at least as much value now as they were before the pandemic, according to a recent survey by CreditCards.com.

If you don’t think you’re getting value for your annual fee, contact your credit card issuer. About 70% of people who requested a lower fee or waiver got some relief, according to CreditCards.com research conducted in 2018. Your chances of getting a break on your fees are even higher now, Rossman says.

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