More than Miles: Other Benefits to Consider when Choosing a Travel Card

More than Miles: Other Benefits to Consider when Choosing a Travel Card

We are all familiar with the points and miles game. Signing up for cards with big bonuses, using specific cards for certain types of spending, staying abreast of promotions and watching out for deals on travel. However, there are some things you may not have considered when applying for a travel card or booking a flight. Things that may be important especially if you are a frequent traveler like free baggage check, lounge access, member status and other ancillary benefits.

Free Checked Baggage

Paying an annual fee can sometimes be looked at negatively. Some may shy away from cards with hefty annual fees. However, in some cases the fees are worth it if you know what kind of benefits you are looking for and how to use them. In many cases the benefits far outweigh the annual fee. So don’t discount cards with large annual fees without understanding all the benefits. Even a hefty annual fee can be valuable if you are going to make use of the perks that come with it. One that is often underestimated is free baggage check, which can cost hundreds for a family traveling.

Citibank has several cards that work in cooperation with American Airlines and the AAdvantage program, but one shines in the realm of free checked bags. The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers a first bag checked for free for you and up to 8 other people on your reservation. The annual fee is $450 but there are many other perks that come with this card that make this big annual fee worthwhile. A one-time use of the free checked bag feature would completely offset the cost of the annual fee on a round-trip flight.

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Card
The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers many perks that make $450 annual fee worthwhile

American Express offers the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card which also allows first bag free for up to 9 people and which can be a value of up to $450 for nine bags on a round trip flight and the annual fee is only $95.  Delta also offers the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card (annual fee $195) and the Delta Reserve credit card (annual fee $450) which both also allow the first bag checked free for up to 9 passengers.

Lounge Access

If you travel often another important consideration can be lounge access. Keep in mind that in many circumstances you do not have to have purchased your airline ticket with the specific card that provides the benefits of lounge access. However, for the most part you will need to have the card on hand to gain access. Some cards automatically provide lounge access (most airline cards depending on member status), while other cards require you to request the benefit and receive a member card for the specific lounges such as a Priority Pass. Also some cards provide rebates or vouchers for purchasing lounge access.

The American Express Platinum card presents a wide range of lounge access. This may be a good choice for those that widely vary the airlines they use or often travel abroad. This card gives access to Centurion lounges at several popular airports as well as Delta Sky Club access. It also provides Priority Pass membership which gains access to over 600 airport lounges in 100 countries no matter which airline you fly on.  To obtain Priority Pass Select access you must request it by calling Platinum card customer service to obtain a Priority Pass card. You must present a Priority Pass card to gain entry without a fee.

Centurion_Lounge
Centurion lounge in Dallas/Fort Worth

Traveling Abroad

If you travel overseas often or are just planning a one-time trip you should consider a card with no foreign transaction fees such as Capital One Venture. Foreign transaction fees can range from 1-3%. Combined with the fact that you won’t have to exchange as much currency and pay those fees either can be a considerable savings. Also the Venture card offers a 20,000 mile sign on-bonus when you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. That’s equal to $200 in travel.

It is also a good idea that you have a EMV (Europay MasterCard and Visa) card which are also called chip cards. Some of these cards are chip and pin and some are chip and signature depending on which type of verification that is required. You probably already have one as many banks have been replacing their old cards for those with chips in them. These cards store their data in integrated circuits as opposed to magnetic stripes. These cards provide increased security. In Europe and around the world these cards are the payment standard so if you only have a magnetic stripe card you run the risk of not being able to use it at some locations.

Member Status

Charge your way to the top of your frequent flyer program. Depending on which cards you have and which frequent flyer programs you are a part of spending on your travel card can increase your member status which can also bring increased perks and exclusivity.

For Instance, Delta uses tiered level status within their frequent flyer program, levels range from silver to diamond. Each level has increased exclusivity and perks. The Delta Reserve card from American Express offers bonus Medallion Qualification Miles for sign up and for spending. You can earn up to 40,000 bonus MQM’s in the first calendar year. Which would automatically qualify the cardholder for silver status (25,000 MQMs). To reach diamond status, the highest level, cardholders will need 125,000 MQMs.

Delta_Skymiles_Status
Delta uses tiered level status within their frequent flyer program

As your status in your mileage program climbs there are added benefits. Being a Medallion member can get you things like class upgrades and additional miles earned per dollar. You can also have fees waived such as baggage fees and receive services like priority boarding and check-in. Airport lounge access is another thing to consider in the tiers of status within your frequent flyer program.

Ancillary Benefits

Don’t forget about the other benefits. Visa and MasterCard both come with a host of ancillary benefits. As an avid traveler some of the things you might want to keep in mind when you are on the road. For example, did you know that both Visa and MasterCard provide car rental collision damage waiver insurance. This means you can forgo this costly charge car rental companies love to tack on, because if you paid with your Visa or MasterCard you already have it.

Additional insurances that cover incidental occurrences that frequent travelers may find valuable may also come with your Visa or MasterCard. Depending on card type and issuer you may have access to hotel/motel burglary insurance, lost or damaged luggage insurance, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation insurance. Although, hopefully you may never need most of these insurances, it is good to know they are available.