Maximizing credit card rebates & credits (coupon book tips)

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What can you do with your credit card’s airline incidental fee credits if you just want to buy airfare? What can you do with your Instacart rebate if you don’t want your groceries delivered? How can you easily get value from your many credit card rebates that you might not otherwise use? This post aims to answer questions like these.

Since last publication, I’ve added United Quest $125 credit, Amex Business Gold $20/month business credits; IHG’s United Travel Bank credits; Hilton Surpass hotel credits; and updated Hilton Aspire credits.

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Table of Contents

Overview

In recent times, ultra-premium credit card annual fees have gone up and up (and up).  In exchange for these increased fees, card issuers have introduced a slew of benefits in which you can get money back for specific types of spend. Often these rebates are for spend with specific merchants like Dell, Doordash, Instacart, Saks, etc. And sometimes they’re for specific types of spend such as for airline fees, but not for airfare. We’ve started to refer to these credit card rebate bundles as “coupon books.” And, yes, if you take full advantage of all of those “coupons”, your $695 annual fee card may indeed be worth it’s sticker price. In the real world, though, most of us don’t need $200 worth of Dell merchandise every 6 months. And if we’re buying stuff we don’t need or don’t even want, we’re not getting anywhere near $400 in value each year from this benefit. The goal of this post is to identify the best non-obvious ways to get value from these coupons.

Amex Cards

Airline Rebates: $50 per quarter

Applies to: Hilton Aspire

Use your card for flight purchases made directly with an airline or through amextravel.com.  There is no need to pick your preferred airline for this credit.

Tips:

Each quarter in which you don’t spend $50 or more on airfare with your Aspire card, you could do one of these options instead:

  • Use your Aspire card to add $50 to your United Travel Bank.
  • Buy a $50-ish freely changeable future flight with just about any airline that you prefer.  For example, initially let’s say that you buy a $60 one-way ticket through Delta.  You’ll get $50 back by paying with your Aspire card.  Then, next quarter, change that ticket to one that costs $110.  You’ll get $50 back by paying the difference with your Aspire card.  Then next quarter, change to a $160 ticket.  Etc.  Eventually you’ll need to actually use the ticket for airfare, but this lets you accrue value over time.

Airline Fee Rebates: $200 per calendar year

Applies to: Amex Platinum Cards ($200 per year)

Amex intends for these rebates to be specifically for airline fees rather than airfare.  This includes things like checked bag fees, itinerary change fees, pets, seat assignment fees, in-flight food purchases, and airport lounge passes.  In reality, many purchases with airlines seem to get coded as incidental fees even if they’re not on Amex’s list.  For example, with some airlines, airfare under $100 qualifies.  With others, splitting an airfare purchase by paying partially with travel credits or a gift card can trigger the rebate.  And, often, refundable award fees can trigger the rebate.

Tips:

  • You must enroll with a specific airline to be eligible for this rebate. Go to the benefit page to enroll.
  • For details about what types of purchases work to earn these rebates, see: Amex Airline Fee Reimbursements. What still works?  Here are a couple specific examples of how to get credit when buying airfare (assuming you picked this airline as your preferred airline):
    • Delta: If you have any Delta e-credits or gift cards that are smaller than the amount of the ticket you want to buy, you can buy a ticket with a combination of e-credit/gift card plus credit card.  If you do so, the part of the ticket on the credit card will look like a fee and should be reimbursed (up to the max amount of your annual rebate).  For example, if you have a $50 Delta gift card and you apply it to a ticket costing $325, you can pay the remaining $275 with your Platinum card and you may get $200 back if you picked Delta as your preferred airline and if haven’t yet used your rebate this year.
    • United: This is the easiest.  Simply use your Platinum card to add money to your United TravelBank.  As long as you’ve selected United as your preferred airline, you should get that money rebated.  Then, use the TravelBank funds to buy airfare.

Business Gold Credit (FedEx, Grubhub, office supply): $20 per month

Applies to: American Express Business Gold Card

Get up to $20 back per month for spend with FedEx, Grubhub, or office supply stores.

Tips:

Dell $400 rebate: $200 Jan-June + $200 July-Dec

Applies to: Amex Business Platinum

Get up to $400 in statement credits annually for U.S. purchases with Dell Technologies. Get up to $200 in statement credits between January and June and up to $200 in statement credits between July and December for U.S. purchases with Dell Technologies on your Business Platinum Card when enrolled. That’s up to $400 in statement credits annually.

Tips:

  • You must enroll to be eligible for this rebate! Go to benefit page to enroll.
  • Make sure to create an account with Dell so that you’ll earn Dell Rewards with each purchase.
  • Always start your shopping with the best current shopping portal for Dell.  That way, even if you buy stuff you don’t want, you can get back cash or points for your purchase.  See the best portal options here.  Paying partially (or entirely) with Dell Rewards credits does not diminish portal payouts.
  • Dell allows splitting purchases across three credit cards. If you have multiple Business Platinum cards, you can use more than one in a single purchase.
  • While you can’t use this rebate to buy Dell gift cards, Xbox gift cards purchased through Dell count as regular purchases and will trigger the rebate.  Unfortunately, Xbox gift cards are often out of stock at Dell.  Check back with Dell regularly to find them.
    • Xbox gift cards can be used to buy hardware from the Microsoft store so you are not limited to Xbox consoles and games.
    • Use code GAME10 when checking out to save 10% on Xbox gift cards.  You can only get 10% off of one card at a time, but you can place multiple orders and get 10% off of each (you might not want to, though. See the next bullet…).
    • Dell will often cancel orders if you make too many separate orders to often.  A good practice is to buy more things at once even if it means getting a lower discount.  For example, with 3 separate Business Platinum cards, I’d prefer to buy $600 in XBox gift cards all at once, and split the charge evenly across the 3 cards, rather than buy $100 at a time even if it means only being able to use the Xbox gift card discount on one card in my cart.
    • Stack the occasional Dell Amex Offer.  Every now and then you’ll find that your business Platinum card has an offer for 10% back at Dell.  Register for that offer and then make sure to spend at least $223 with Dell to make these offers stack.  That way you’ll get 10% back from the Amex Offer ($22.30 back on a $223 purchase) plus $200 back thanks to the standard Dell rebate.

Digital Entertainment Credit

Applies to: Consumer Platinum Cards ($20/mo.), Blue Cash Preferred ($7/mo.)

Platinum Cards: Earn up to $20 back per month for eligible purchases at: Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

Blue Cash Preferred: Earn up to $7 back per month on a subscription to The Disney Bundle. Valid only at Disneyplus.com, Hulu.com, or Plus.espn.com.  Subscription must cost at least $12.99 per month to qualify.

Tips:

  • Sign up for digital entertainment services through a shopping portal to earn extra rewards.  Use CashBackMonitor to find the best options: Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal.
  • Platinum rebate works for both online and print subscriptions to The New York Times
  • The Disney Bundle Duo Premium (Hulu and Disney+ with no ads) nicely uses up the Platinum card benefit since it costs $19.99 per month
  • Via Hulu, the following add-ons will trigger the rebate:
    • HBO Max
    • Showtime
    • Cinemax
    • Starz
    • Hulu Live TV (which itself offers add-ons: unlimited screens, sports, entertainment, español)

Dining Credit: $25 per calendar month

Applies to: Amex Bonvoy Brilliant

This one is easy enough to use as expected if you carry around your Brilliant card.  Personally, I don’t like to carry it around because, in general, it doesn’t offer great value for spend.  Instead, I simply buy a $25 Uber Eats gift card through Fluz each month…

Tips:

  • Reload your credit balance with any of these U.S. restaurants through their apps: Chick-fil-A, Dunkin' Donuts, Panera (buy gift card in-app), Starbucks, Wendy's.
  • Buy a gift card in-store from any restaurant you frequent.
  • Buy a restaurant gift card through the Toast app (Hat Tip Nun)
  • The Fluz app offers a large selection of restaurant gift cards that code as restaurants when you buy them.  In other words, buying one of these gift cards for $25 should trigger the $25 rebate.  As a bonus, Fluz will give you a small cash rebate too.  Gift cards bought through Fluz that qualify as dining purchases include Amazon Meal Kits, DoorDash, Groupon, GrubHub, Starbucks, Walmart Cafeteria, and many more.  You can find a full list of qualifying Fluz gift cards at GC Galore.  If you’re new to Fluz, below are our referral links. You’ll received 2 "boosts" when joining.  Each "boost" is worth up to 25% back on select gift cards.  We’ll earn $5 after you make your second purchase of $25 or more.

Dining Credit (Gold Card): $10 per calendar month

Applies to: Amex Gold Card

Use your card for eligible purchases at any of the following in order to earn up to $10 back per month: Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar, and select Shake Shack locations.

Tips:

  • Grubhub specific opportunities:
  • Buy gift cards.  Here’s what works:
    • Buy a $10 e-gift card through Goldbelly.com.  It’s not necessary to sign up for GoldBelly to do this, but if you do you’ll earn Gold Belly rewards with each gift card purchase.
    • Buy a $25 e-gift card through wine.com
    • Buy a $10 gift card in person at The Cheesecake Factory, Milk Bar, or Shake Shack should work (we have positive reports confirming Shake Shack and The Cheesecake Factory.
  • Buy gift cards.  Here’s what doesn’t work to trigger the credit:
    • Buying Grubhub gift cards through Fluz does NOT work
    • Buying The Cheesecake Factory gift cards online does NOT work (purchases go through Cashstar.com)
    • Buying a Shake Shack e-giftcard online does NOT work (purchases go through Buyatab.com)

Fine Hotels & Resorts: $200 Annual Rebate

Applies to: Consumer Platinum Cards

Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card.

Benefits:

  • Fine Hotels & Resorts stays include daily breakfast for 2; $100 experience credit (details vary by hotel); guaranteed 4pm late check-out; 12pm check-in when available; room upgrade when available; and free wi-fi.
  • The Hotel Collection stays include a $100 experience credit (details vary by hotel); and a room upgrade when available.

Find qualifying hotels here: www.americanexpress.com/en-us/travel/discover/destinations

Tips:

  • Pay now, stay later.  Prepaid hotels booked through Fine Hotels & Resorts or through The Hotel Collection are usually fully refundable.  If you get to the end of the year and haven’t used your credit yet, you can still book a hotel for next year in order to earn the credit now.  And if your plans change, you can cancel the stay to get your money back.  If that happens, expect Amex to take back the $200.  Make sure to note the cancellation rules when booking a hotel because different hotels have different rules as to how far in advance you must cancel in order to get a full refund.
  • Earn hotel points & elite perks.  When booking a chain hotel through a 3rd party online, you usually won’t earn hotel points or elite status credits.  With Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection, though, you usually do.  Make sure to include your hotel loyalty rewards number when checking out.
  • Search for bargains.  If your dates are flexible, there are ways to find dates in which qualifying hotels cost less than usual.  If you can find a stay that costs only $200, you can get the full stay rebated plus get all of the perks that come with these reservations!  See this post for details: Searching for deals through Fine Hotels & Resorts.
  • Book 1 Night with Fine Hotels & Resorts.  When booking through Amex, you’ll lose out on other, better ways to book the same hotel.  For example, you can’t use hotel points for your stay; you can’t click through a portal to book; you can’t apply AAA discounts; etc.  Still, getting $200 off can be a good trade-off.  You can minimize that trade-off, though, by booking only one night through Amex and book the rest of your nights at the same hotel in other ways.  Alternatively, if you have multiple Platinum cards, you can book each night separately through Amex.  That way you’ll get the $200 rebate for each night (but you probably won’t get more than one experience credit).  Note though that Amex terms refer to this as “Prohibited Action,” so there’s always a chance (I think it is a very tiny chance, but still a chance) of getting your account shut down.  A better option is if two people travelling together each have their own Platinum cards and so you can alternate 1 night stays.
  • Hotel Collection 2-Day Minimum.  While its fine to book a Fine Hotels & Resorts stay for just one night, The Hotel Collection requires at least 2 nights.  See this post for details: The Hotel Collection Mini Guide: Prepaid rates earn hotel points/perks, and more surprising finds.

Hilton Hotel Credit: $50 per quarter

Applies to: Hilton Surpass

Get up to $50 back each quarter for purchases made directly with any Hilton property.  Unlike the Hilton Aspire’s credit, this credit is not limited to resorts.

Tips:

Hilton Resort Credit: $200 twice per year

Applies to: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Twice each year (starting 1/1/24), get up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases made directly with participating Hilton Resorts.  Prior to 1/1/24: Get up to $250 in statement credits each membership year.

Tips:

  • The full list of properties classified as resorts for this credit can be found at this link: www.hilton.com/en/resorts/
  • The credit will not apply with spend that goes towards a prepaid reservation.
  • All charges to your room at a participating resort will count.  So, for example, if you book an award stay at a resort, you can still use your credit by charging meals, activities, spa treatments, etc. to your room.
  • The credit may apply if you ask the hotel to prepay for part of your stay.  Nick outlined this approach here: Maximize Hilton resort credit without staying every year.
  • Another great option is to book a future stay at a resort that charges a deposit at the time of booking.
  • It’s possible to earn the credit even if you’re not actually staying at a participating resort.  Some have reported success with asking at the front desk to open a house account so that they could charge meals or other services to their “room”.

Saks Rebate: $50 Jan-Jun + $50 Jul-Dec

Applies to: Consumer Platinum cards

“Earn up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue or saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits from January through June and up to $50 in statement credits from July through December. No minimum purchase required. Enrollment required.”

For tips on using this benefit straight up, see: Amex Platinum Saks credit: What can you get with $50?

Tips:

  • You must enroll to be eligible for this rebate! Go to benefit page to enroll.
  • If shopping online, always click through to Saks from a shopping portal to earn additional rewards.  Find the best portal options here.
  • Buy Saks gift cards:
    • Buy $50 gift card in-store
    • Buy $150 gift card online.
  • Saks will let you return an item for gift card credit.  If returning by mail, they may reduce the value of the gift card by the cost to mail back the item.
  • Purchases made through PayPal do not trigger the offer.

Uber Cash

Applies to: Consumer Platinum cards ($15/mo, $35 Dec.), Amex Gold Card ($10/mo)

Add your card to your Uber account and you’ll automatically get Uber Cash added to your Uber account each month.  Uber Cash can be used for Uber rides or Uber Eats delivery or pick-up orders.  Unused Uber Cash expires at the end of the month.

Tips:

  • If you are new to Uber Eats, you can use our code at check-out to get $20 off your first Uber Eats order of $25 or more: eats-uberfrequentmiler
  • If you have multiple cards that offer the Uber Cash benefit, you can add each of these cards to your Uber account in order to stack Uber Cash.
  • If a family member or friend has no need for Uber Cash, you can (with their permission!) add their card to your Uber account to earn additional Uber cash each month.  This can be especially useful within a family to consolidate Uber Cash into one account.
  • If a purchase exceeds the amount of Uber Cash you have available, you do not have to pay the balance with your Amex card.
  • An easy way to use the credit without excessive fees is to order pickup rather than delivery through Uber Eats.
  • You can stack this benefit with the Bonvoy Brilliant $25 monthly dining credit by paying Uber Eats charges above the Uber Cash amount with your Bonvoy Brilliant card.

Wireless Phone Credits: $10 Per Month

Applies to: Business Platinum card

“Get up to $10 back per calendar month when you use your card to pay for wireless telephone service.  Enroll and get up to $120 in statement credits per year for wireless telephone service purchases made directly with a wireless provider in the U.S. on the Business Platinum Card.”

This one is easy enough to use by simply setting up your Business Platinum card for automatic payments to your cell phone provider.  Fortunately, the Platinum cards also offer good cell phone protection when you use your card to pay the monthly bill.

Tips:

  • Use your card each month to prepay $10 of your bill.
  • Avoid Credit Card Autopay: With some carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) you’ll lose some or all of their autopay discount if you autopay from a credit card.  They prefer for you to autopay from a debit card or bank account.  The trick then is to set up auto pay with your debit card or bank account in order to get the full discount, but then once per month use your credit card to pay at least $10 of the bill manually.
  • Verizon: Readers have reported success with buying Verizon gift cards online and from a Verizon store in-person.
  • Caution: Readers have found that payments to Google Fi do not trigger the credit.  (Reader Aaron points out that you can get credit manually applied. Either call or online chat to do so)

Capital One Cards

Travel Credit: $300 per Membership Year

Applies to: Venture X, Venture X Business

This credit is super easy to use as-is.  All you have to do is buy airfare, hotels, car rentals, etc. through Capital One Travel in order to get up to $300 back each year.

Tips:

Chase Cards

IHG Premier’s United TravelBank cash: $25 twice per year

Applies to: IHG Premier, IHG Premier Business

With either the IHG Premier or IHG Premier Business card, after linking your account to your United account, you’ll get $25 deposited to your United TravelBank every six months: January 1 to July 14; and July 1 to January 14. Funds disappear if not used within those date ranges.

Tips:

  • The Premier and Premier Business do not stack. In other words, if you have both of these IHG cards, you’ll still only get $25 per 6 months.
  • You can stack the credits together in order to spend $50 at once during the brief overlap periods each year: July 1 to 14, and January 1 to 14.
  • In order to preserve your credits, it may be possible to use the credits to book or modify a future flight (as long as its not basic economy), wait until the 24 hour free cancelation period is over, then cancel the flight for future credit. See this MilesTalk post for details.

Instacart membership plus rebates

Applies to: Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, Freedom Flex, Freedom Unlimited, and Freedom Student

Chase Sapphire and Freedom cardholders are eligible for a limited time free Instacart+ membership plus Instacart rebates as follows:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve:
    • 12 months free Instacart+ membership
    • Once Instartcart + membership is activated, receive up to $15/month in statement credits on Instacart.com purchases
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred:
    • 6 months free Instacart+ membership
    • Once Instartcart + membership is activated, receive up to $15/quarter in statement credits on Instacart.com purchases
  • Chase FreedomFreedom FlexFreedom Unlimited and Freedom Student:
    • 3 months free Instacart+ membership
    • Once Instartcart + membership is activated, receive up to $10/quarter in statement credits on Instacart.com purchases

Tips:

  • Get up to $15 off your first two orders by signing up for Instacart with a friend’s referral link (here’s mine, thanks!)
  • If you have more than one eligible card:
    • You can extend your free Instacart+ membership longer by registering each of your eligible cards.
    • You can earn multiple rebates within a time period by switching cards after each order.
  • Click through a portal to Instacart to earn extra rewards with each purchase.  This can be especially useful when TopCashback offers a $2.50 bonus when spending $10+.  Avoid portals where the terms say that rewards are given only for new Instacart members.
  • Save on fees by ordering for pickup instead of delivery.  Not all stores are available for pickup orders, though.  You can find eligible stores here: instacart.com/store/category/PickupSurface

Ritz-Carlton $300 Calendar Year Travel Credit

Applies to: The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card

Earn up $300 back on incidental airline fees including: airline lounge access, airline seat upgrades, airline baggage fees, in-flight Internet/entertainment, and in-flight meals.

Tips:

  • This credit is not applied automatically. You must request the credit within four billing cycles of the purchase date.
  • You can request credit either by phone or by Secure Message to Chase.
  • Many purchases that are not listed above may be reimbursed. See this post for details and examples: Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa airline fee credits – What works?

Sapphire Preferred $50 Annual Hotel Credit

Applies to: Sapphire Preferred

Each cardmember year, earn $50 back on hotels booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Tips:

  • This is an easy credit to earn straight-up, but if you’re in danger of ending your membership year without using the credit, you can book a refundable hotel stay through Chase for a future date and later cancel if it turns out that you don’t need that stay after all.

United Quest Card: $125 credit

Applies to: United Quest Card

Automatically receive up to $125 in statement credits as reimbursement for United purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.

Tips:

  • Paying award taxes and fees with this card triggers this credit. While most US flights only incur $5.60 in fees each way, many awards departing other countries include high fees and so this is a great way to get reimbursed for those fees. For example, you can pay as few as 6,000 United miles one-way for a short intra-European flight such as from Frankfurt to Vienna, but in that example, you’ll also need to pay $57 per person.  So, a two-person one-way award of this type would nearly use up the $125 credit. Fortunately, since United awards are freely cancellable, there’s no risk in speculatively booking such awards before the end of your membership year in order to secure the annual rebate.

Citi Cards

Grubhub Credit: $10 per month

Applies to: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Earn a statement credit of up to $10 per monthly billing statement on eligible Grubhub purchases, for a total of up to $120 every 12 billing statements.

Tips:

Rental Car Credit: $120 per year

Applies to: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Earn a $1 statement credit per $1 spent on eligible Avis or Budget car rental purchases, up to $120 every calendar year.

Tips:

  • Car rentals must be booked directly with Avis or Budget.  Rentals that go through an online travel agency like Expedia or Booking.com do not qualify.
  • Bookings made through aa.com/cars do not qualify. Yes, the same point was made in the bullet above, but it was worth spelling out since the AA Executive card gives 10 points per dollar for bookings through aa.com/cars.
  • Before booking with Avis or Budget, click through an online portal in order to earn additional rewards. You can find portal options for Avis here and for Budget here, here, and here.
  • Link your Avis and Amazon accounts in order to save up to 30% off an Avis rental and get 10% or 20% back in the form of an Amazon gift card.  Details here: Amazon Gift Card rebate w/ Avis car rentals.
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