Several premium credit cards today offer some very large sign up bonuses and come with some nice benefits, like an airfare credit that renews each calendar year.  Two of those cards are the Citi Prestige card offering a $250 airfare credit annually

Or the American Express Platinum card offering a $200 airfare credit annually.

With the AMEX card, you have to specify a specific airline and only charges with that airline would then apply.  

The credit renews annually.  This means if you apply for the card in June, you get the credit to use from June through December. In January you get the credit to use again.  The first year you have the card, you are receiving $400-500 worth of credit which makes the $450 annual fees more tolerable.

The airfare credit is good for not only buying flights but also for paying luggage fees, buying food and drinks on the flights, paying taxes on award flights, upgrades or buying e-certs.  E-certs are basically gift cards that never expire.    

I don’t fly but a few times a year so I thought my best option was to buy E-certs for use whenever I needed them.  My home airport only services Delta so I went with Delta e-certs.  After reading many travel blogs and comments, I bought them in $50 increments to make sure they qualified as “airfare credit”.  I have 21 of these e-certs.

Fast forward to last month.  I’ve booked hotels for a week in Jamaica  and now I want to book flights.  Two tickets would cost me around $1100 cash.  I have $1050 in e-certs.  Perfect!  So I thought.  There’s one little catch.  You can only use 3 e-certs per transaction and only if it will cover the full price.  If it won’t cover the full price, you can only use 2 e-certs.  I tried online, and then I called Delta directly.  Only 3 forms of payment are accepted per transaction no matter if it’s booked online or over the phone.  I was now faced with booking a round trip flight and only receiving $100 off!  

So what did I do?  

I ended up booking the departure flights using miles.

The award price on the return flights was higher than I wanted to pay so I paid cash for the flights but I bought each ticket separately so that I at least got to use $100 in e-certs for each ticket.  I ended paying $239 per ticket for economy comfort.  Lesson learned.  I now have 17 more e-certs to use on future flights.  Had I known this I wouldn’t have bought all the e-certs.  I’m not sure if other airlines do the same, but don’t stock up on Delta e-certs thinking you can use them all at once.  On the other hand – now I can book more flights with Delta!