Travel Better With the Right Credit Cards

Travel Better With the Right Credit Cards

Without question, we all like free stuff. It’s simply the way we’re hard-wired. But it’s not just the free stuff that gives us an emotional charge, especially when it comes to reward programs. That feeling of being appreciated and the kind of “thank you” that goes along with it really add to a satisfying travel experience.

That’s exactly how I felt on a recent trip using two travel rewards credit cards.

While booking a last-minute trip around the busy Fourth of July holiday, I was prepared for limited availability, jacked-up prices and a ton of restrictions when trying to use my reward points. But thanks to two stellar credit cards, American Airlines’ new Aviator card from Barclays and the American Express Platinum card, I encountered no trouble at all.

I recently received the American Airlines Aviator card, and decided to use the 50,000 miles credited to my account after my first purchase to book my flight. I did have to shell out $86 in fees and processing, but I got the dates and times I wanted.

I also got 10 percent of my redeemed miles back to use for my next trip. Additionally, I checked my bag free of charge and also got priority boarding as a card member.

American Airlines Aviator credit card benefits
American Airlines Aviator credit card benefits

With a good hour and a half before my flight, I used my complimentary day pass to American’s Admirals Club in Newark. The airport was full of activity, hectic and noisy, but the club was a relaxing and welcome respite.

After freshening up in a spotless restroom, I got a cup of piping-hot coffee and some fresh fruit. I settled down in a cushy chair parked in front of a large flat-screen TV, turned on my computer, charged my phone and used the club’s Wi-Fi to get some work done. The time passed quickly and comfortably.

The Admirals Club offers a variety of amenities
The Admirals Club offers a variety of amenities

Since I am also an American Express Platinum card member, I used my annual $200 airline fee credit to upgrade my airline seat. My comfort and relaxation extended into my in-flight premium cabin experience. All just for having the right credit cards.

This was my first experience using my American Airlines Aviator card benefits. I can unequivocally say that I was more than satisfied. Moreover, it wasn’t just about the freebies. It was also about the overall feeling of being appreciated and pampered, and the prospect of continuing to develop a relationship with the airline.

As for American Express, I have already cultivated a long and loyal relationship with it over the years. I’ve never had a bad experience with Amex, and getting what was essentially a free cabin upgrade added to my satisfaction as a cardholder.

While I’m speaking from personal experience, others are increasingly sharing similar sentiments. Indeed, overall satisfaction with airline loyalty and rewards programs is on the upswing, according to the J.D. Power 2015 Airline Loyalty/Rewards Programs Satisfaction Report released on May 13.

The report, now in its second year, measures customer satisfaction with airline loyalty and rewards programs based on six factors. In order of importance, they are: ease of redeeming points/miles; reward program terms; account maintenance/management; ease of earning points/miles; variety of benefits available; and customer service. Measured on a 1,000-point scale, the report found overall satisfaction with airline loyalty and rewards programs improved to 705 in 2015, up from 692 in 2014.