TABLE OF CONTENT
6 Types of Travel Credit Card Benefits
1. Airport Lounge Access
An airport lounge access is arguably the most beneficial perk that you can get when travelling. A lounge lets you relax before your flight, and you no longer have to worry about scrambling around aimlessly in the airport for food options.
There are 3 types of lounge access offered by travel credit cards:
1.1. Limited Complimentary Lounge Access
Quite a number of credit cards offer complimentary lounge access to its primary cardholders on a limited basis, meaning they can enter airport lounges for free, but only for 4–10 times per year (or as many times as the card specifies).
1.2. Discounted Lounge Access
There are also travel credit cards that offer discounted access to its (partner) lounges. What this means is that you do not have complimentary access and you will still have to pay to enter airport lounges, but you can do so at a discounted rate instead of a full price.
1.3. Unlimited Complimentary Lounge Access
Credit cards that offer unlimited complimentary lounge access allow its primary cardholder to access any airport lounges for free within its network as many times as they want. An example is the American Express Platinum Card, where its cardholder possess unlimited and complimentary access to any lounges in the world in the AMEX Global Lounge Collection.
FAQ: If I'm travelling with guests who are not cardholders, will they get complimentary access as well?
If you are a cardholder with complimentary lounge access, you may or may not be able to bring along 1–2 guests for free, but this highly depends on the lounge itself.
Some lounges may extend the complimentary access for 1 or 2 non-cardholders, while some will charge your guest at a discounted rate or a full price.
The best practice is to always check the lounge access policy through your card network. For instance:
- If you hold an AMEX card, you can search for the lounge you intend to visit through the AMEX Global Lounge Collection.
- VISA cardholders can search for lounges in Visa Airport Companion.
- Mastercard credit card users can do so here or here.
Lounges in these websites will typically specify whether your guests will receive complimentary access as well.
2. Travel Insurance
Another major benefit from holding a travel credit card is travel insurance, and this ranges from insurance for medical emergency, lost or delayed baggage, flight delays, trip interruption, and more.
There are 2 main types of travel insurance offered by credit cards:
Travel insurance that is active regardless of how you pay
Some credit cards offer travel insurance that automatically kicks in whenever you leave your province of residence or the country. This means that you do not have to pay for your trip (airlines, hotels, etc.) using the card for the insurance to be active.
Travel insurance that is active only if you pay using the card
There are also travel insurance that is activated only if you pay for an airline or a hotel using the card that provides the insurance. For example, the Trip Interruption Insurance provided by WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard kicks in only if travel, accommodation, or recreation arrangement are fully or partially paid with the card.
Travel credit cards will usually specify in the fine print which insurance is the first type is which one is the second. For instance:
- It's common for medical emergency travel insurance to be active automatically regardless of how you pay.
- Flight delay or baggage insurance from credit cards are typically active only if you charge a portion or all of your payment to the card.
Of course, this can vary from one credit card to another, so be sure to read the fine print to know what you are getting into.
3. Credit Card Rewards (Airline vs. Hotel vs. Bank Points)
The most popular type of rewards from using a travel credit card is points. This can be a bank rewards points, or hotel points, or airline miles.
Bank reward points are typically the most flexible, as they can be redeemed in cash value, gift cards, movie tickets, airline fee redemptions, and many more.
- Hotel points and airline miles are more restrictive in that you can only redeem them under specific hotel or airline programs, but sometimes you may be able to transfer the points from one program to another. For example, Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to Aeroplan points at a 3:1 ratio, so let's say if you have 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, you can transfer them into 10,000 Aeroplan points.
So, when deciding on which credit card to get, you should try to be strategic and find a card that provides you with rewards that you know you will use.
4. Airline Perks and Complimentary Airline Status
Some credit cards offer automatic airline status by the virtue of you being a cardholder associated with that airline. For instance, the RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum provides you complimentary enrollment into the Cathay Pacific Green membership program and allows you priority check-in at Cathay Pacific flights.
Some airline credit cards also offer a free checked bag for each trip booked with the airline, and you don't necessarily have to pay with the credit card to be eligible for the perk. The CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite is amongst one of a few other cards that offer this.
5. Complimentary Hotel Status
Like airline status, some hotel-branded credit cards offer automatic hotel status and all the perks that come with it. The Marriott Bonvoy American Express offers complimentary Silver Elite Status at the Marriott hotels, and expenses charged to the card will earn Marriott Bonvoy points, which can be used at Marriott hotels or transferred to an airline loyalty program.
6. Travel Companion
Travelling often with your partner, family, or friends? Then you may want to look into a credit card with travel companion benefits, where you can get a discounted airline fare for your travelling partner. For example, the WestJet RBC Mastercard offers an annual $199 round-trip voucher for your travel companion, for flights in Canada and continental U.S.
Some airline credit cards that offer one free checked bag as previously mentioned may also extend the perk to your travelling companions in your booking reservation.
Over and Out
Many travel credit cards come with competitive perks that you can make use of. When used responsibly and strategically, credit cards can certainly maximize your travel experiences and make your trip all the more better.
It's important to understand the small nuances and differences between credit card perks so you can pick the right card. For example, at a first glance, two credit cards may seem similar because they offer lounge access, but on a closer look, you might then notice one offers an limited lounge access, while the other offers a discounted access instead. One offers travel insurance that automatically activates whenever you travel, while the insurance on the other card activates only when you pay for your trip with it.
Familiarizing yourself with these perk differences will help you make a better decision on which credit card to get, and I hope this post has done just that for you. Happy researching and happy travels!