The Insane Travel Benefits From Premium Credit Cards
by Eric Poole
I would never pay $450 for an American Express Platinum card just to look like an A-Gay. My self-worth isn’t linked to a piece of plastic. Well, unless it’s an all-access pass at a coronation. I mean, who doesn’t want to be seen with a queen?
Then I discovered the unbelievable raft of travel benefits that come with premium credit cards like the Amex Platinum, the Citi World Executive, the Citi Prestige, and Chase Sapphire Reserve. And I realized that I could score free airfare, free hotel nights, free hotel and rental car upgrades, free TSA Precheck and Global Entry…and the list goes on!
How, you ask? It’s simple. The competition among credit card issuers is fierce these days, so the credit card companies keep rolling out new benefits and bonus offers to make their card stand out. So between the ongoing benefits of the card, and the bonus you get for opening the account and satisfying whatever spend is necessary (usually somewhere around $3,000-4,000 in the first 3 months), you can wring THOUSANDS of dollars in free travel and perks out of one premium credit card.
These benefits include:
- An airline travel credit ($200-250/yr, depending on the card)
Some cards require you to select an airline, others allow you to use any airline, but essentially, they rebate you $200/year towards your purchases of airline tickets, upgrades, that scrumptious food on board, etc.
AND in your first cardmember year (which will flow across two calendar years), you can collect the $200 or $250 credit twice – in 2017 and 2018. (I’ve done this on every premium card I’ve gotten. It doesn’t require any shenanigans, you just automatically get it.)
- $100 TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry credit
Join the TSA/Global Entry program, breeze through domestic security lines and international customs lines, wave to the peons, and do it for free. ($100 is the cost for 5 years of TSA & Global Entry, and it’s rebated to you.)
- Priority Pass membership, giving you entrance to hundreds of airline lounges
Priority Pass provides you free entrance to lounges in hundreds of cities. So you can enjoy free drinks, snacks and sometimes even showers and spa treatments while complaining about the hoi polloi at the gates below.
- Status in various hotel chains and car rental companies
Elite status with hotel chains like Marriott/Starwood (entitling you to room upgrades, free continental breakfast, etc), and with car rental companies like National (pick a car, any car, from the Executive aisle – the aisle with the best cars, which are generally TWO or more car class upgrades), etc. Feel like a rock star even if you sell rocks for a living.
- And (most importantly) huge signup bonuses
Most cards give you a minimum signup bonus of 40,000-50,000 points. (Some, like the Ink Business card, give you 80,000.) These points are transferable to a large number of airlines and hotel chains. This single bonus (once you add in the points from your actual purchases) could earn you a roundtrip ticket to Europe, or 3 nights in some of Hyatt’s best hotels, etc.
Here are links to some of the top premium cards. (Or just Google them.) Please note: I get nothing by referring you. I consider this a public service. Also please note: benefits vary by card and may have changed since this article was written, so read the landing page!
- Citi World Executive (the one to get if you fly AA; includes Admirals Club access)
IF YOU OWN A SMALL BUSINESS, OR YOU’RE A FREELANCER WITH A DBA:
- American Express Business Platinum – note the high spend requirement on this one
What if I Don’t Qualify for Cards Like These?
No credit card issuer will provide exact data (for obvious reasons). But based on a considerable amount of anecdotal feedback, if you have excellent credit (760-850) and a reasonably low debt ratio (meaning if you have, say, $30,000 of open credit lines and only $5,000 in credit card debt, you have a good debt ratio), you should be able to get these cards making well under $100k/year.
How Do I Satisfy a Spending Requirement That Large?
$3,000 or $4,000 can be a lot to charge in just three months. But it’s not as hard as it looks.
- Buy some Amazon gift cards at any store that sells them, and enter them into your Amazon account to spend later.
- Charge your rent, utility bill or tax bill using online companies like plastiq.com. They charge about a 2.5% fee, but if it helps you satisfy your spend easily, it’s well worth it.
- If you owe someone money, use Paypal to send them the money. Once again, it will incur a small fee, but you’ll be satisfying your spend and on your way to amazing travel perks!
Once I’ve Gotten the Card, How Do I Avoid Acting Like a Kardashian at the Prada Store?
That one’s up to you.
Eric Poole is Director of Marketing for Brand g Vacations, the LGBT River Cruise Experts