I have 26 credit cards to help me travel the world, and there 5 invaluable perks I find myself using all the time
- Holly Johnson has 26 credit cards, many of which offer superior perks and consumer protections.
- Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership is probably her favorite perk since it lets Johnson access over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide.
- If you travel often and have a premier travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you may find the credit card perks as just as valuable as the rewards you earn.
Throughout all of 2019, my husband and I have over 17 weeks of travel behind us or on the books. We're taking a few different cruises throughout the Caribbean and around Europe, and we have land-based trips in Italy, Denmark, Puerto Rico, England and Scotland, Washington DC, and more.
While we pay for some of our trips in cash, we cover a lot of our flights and miscellaneous travel expenses with points and miles earned from our favorite travel credit cards. So yes, we do spend a lot of money on travel, but the rewards we earn help us stretch our travel budget as far as it can go.
The thing is, I value some of the credit card perks from our 26 cards nearly as much as the rewards we earn. While some of the benefits we receive from credit cards help us travel more comfortably, others help us save money or feel more secure.
Here are my absolute favorite credit card benefits and the ones I use the most:
Airport lounge membership
We fly quite a bit as a family, and we often endure long layovers due to the large distances we travel. With that in mind, it shouldn't be a surprise that I love the fact that we have Priority Pass Select airport lounge access through our Chase Sapphire Reserve and Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.
This membership allows us (and two guests apiece) to enter over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. We recently used this benefit with friends when we wound up with three hours to wait at the airport in Venice, Italy, and again in Copenhagen, Denmark where we had a few hours to wait around with our kids.
It's amazing to have a quiet place to retreat with free internet access, snacks, and drinks. While airport lounge amenities vary, they all let you get away from the loud airport gates to enjoy a few hours in peace and quiet.
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
Whenever I book airfare, cruises, or most other types of travel, I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve card in order to take advantage of the trip cancellation/interruption benefit I receive.
Believe it or not, this card comes with up to $10,000 in this coverage per person, and up to $20,000 in coverage per trip. You do, however, need to pay your common carrier fare with your card in order to qualify.
No foreign transaction fees
Most of my travel is outside the United States, so I make it a point to carry credit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees. This perk alone saves me from paying an additional 3% on average for each purchase I make abroad. My favorite cards with no foreign transaction fees are my Chase Sapphire Reserve and my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.
Transfers to airlines and hotels
Another one of my favorite credit card perks is the ability to transfer points to airline and hotel loyalty programs. This is huge for me since I tend to get the most value out of airline programs specifically.
My favorite cards that let me transfer points are my Chase Sapphire Reserve card and my Citi Premier credit card. Both let me transfer points to my favorite program for flights to Europe (Air France/Flying Blue), and Chase cards offer more of my favorite transfer partners, including Southwest Airlines and United MileagePlus.
Airline credits and free checked bags
Finally, I love credit cards that offer airline-related perks I can actually use. A good example is the airline credit I get with my Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. This $250 credit can be used for baggage fees, on-board food and beverage expenses, and other airline-related travel incidentals.
I also fly Delta a lot, so I lean on my Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express for benefits like Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding and a first checked bag free. The perks help make travel a more rewarding experience, and I get to save money along the way.
Curious which credit cards I use the most and why? Here are some of my favorites:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve, because I earn 3x points on travel and dining.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, because I earn 3x points on the first $150,000 each anniversary year in business categories such as social-media advertising and shipping.
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, mostly for the Hilton Diamond status and travel perks.
- Discover it® Miles, because Discover matches all the miles you earn the first year.
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, because I earn 6% cash back on up to $6,000 at US supermarkets each year; then 1%.
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, because I prefer flying Delta when I can.
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express, because I earn 2x American Express Membership Rewards points, up to $50,000 per year; then 1x with no annual fee.
- Chase Freedom, because I always max out the quarterly 5x bonus categories (up to $1,500; activation is required).
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, because I've been beefing up my stash of AA miles.
- CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard, so I can earn American AAdvantage miles on my business purchases.
- AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, because I earned the sign-up bonus with a single purchase.
- Citi Premier Card, because I love the flexibility of Citi ThankYou Rewards.
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