5 credit card benefits (and freebies) you might not know you have

You may already be earning travel rewards with your credit card or by using points to purchase flights, but these perks are just the beginning of the value credit cards can bring to your next vacation. Lesser-known perks built into many cards include free museum access, hotel upgrades, and even free food.

Here are five hidden benefits that might accompany cards already in your wallet:

1. The ability to speed up airport security

While cards alone can’t allow you to skip long safety lines, a handful – including the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – give you a credit for the application fees for one or the other TSA Precheck or Global Entry. These programs offer expedited screening at the airport.

“A lot of people don’t use these perks and end up spending a lot longer than necessary in security and immigration lines,” says Jason Steele, producer of CardCon, an annual credit card conference.

2. Free hotel stays, upgrades and breakfast

If you have a hotel-branded credit card in your wallet, you might have a few treats. For example, the World of Hyatt Credit Card offers a free anniversary night, as well as elite status that gives you access to late check-out and room upgrades when available. the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless ™ Credit Card offers a free night once a year and priority late checkout thanks to the automatic Silver Elite status that comes with the card.

Some general travel credit cards also offer hotel benefits. The American Express Platinum Card® offers Hilton Honors Gold status, which can offer you late check-out and free breakfast, among other perks. The card also grants access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which can include room upgrades, breakfast and guaranteed late check-out at over 1,000 luxury properties. Conditions apply (see rates and fees).

Steele says that based on his conversations with cardholders and card issuers, he suspects that many cardholders are probably not actively taking advantage of these benefits.

3. A relaxing pre-flight experience (and free food!)

Justin McCurry, a father of three and frequent traveler who lives in Raleigh, NC, recently took advantage of the Priority pass selection access to the lounge provided with sound Citi Prestige® Card on a family trip to Southeast Asia. This meant that her entire family of five could spend time in quiet lounges between flights.

“Once we enter the living room, almost everything is free,” including food and drink, says McCurry. (Details vary by lounge, and you’ll want to factor in any annual fees your travel card may charge you.)

McCurry’s kids – ages 7, 13 and 14 – love to grab soda or hot chocolate and snacks. “It’s all free, so we don’t have to worry about spending between $ 50 and $ 100 on burgers, fries and drinks for the family.” In the lounge they visited in Bangkok, the family enjoyed Thai curry, stir-fries and sushi. International lounges tend to be more luxurious than domestic lounges, he says.

And since it’s a confined space, he doesn’t need to be as vigilant watching his children or luggage as he would be in the main airport terminal. “It’s a little oasis of peace and sanity where we can unwind,” he says.

4. A more pleasant flight

Trae Bodge, shopping and savings expert, points out that some cards, like the United℠ Explorer Card, come with priority boarding to get into your seat faster. This card also offers 25% discount on in-flight purchases. If you have an airline-branded credit card, consider what they offer before you leave on your trip. In addition to priority boarding and in-flight discounts, you may be able to check in baggage for free, including for all traveling companions.

5. Free activities to do

Bank of America® credit cards (and debit cards) come with free general admission for the cardholder on the first full weekend of each month to a range of museums and cultural centers. “Just be sure to plan your trip for the first weekend of the month to take advantage of it,” says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert. For a family that plans to do a lot of sightseeing, those savings can add up, she says.

And if your card earns you rewards, don’t forget to take advantage of this more obvious benefit when you’re on the road or in the air. If it earns bonus points, miles, or cash back on travel, gas, or restaurant meals, bring it with you.

This is the case even for non-travel cards, Bodge says. While the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is not a travel card per se, it offers 2% off gas and restaurants and 5% off Whole Foods, which are potentially useful when traveling by car. And these rewards can be used towards your next vacation.

To consult the rates and costs of The American Express Platinum Card®, see this page.

Information relating to Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card was collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by Forbes.


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