Easy Access to Valuable Travel Benefits

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Hotels and airlines provide extra benefits to their best customers.

But you don’t need to be a true frequent traveler to get access to many valuable travel benefits. Anyone can easily get access to airport lounges, airline companion tickets, free checked bags, free hotel breakfasts, and other desirable travel benefits.

By taking a few simple steps, you can receive extra perks and benefits on all your trips—letting you travel better for less money.

Free Checked Bags and Airfare Companion Certificates

Most people will want to get the credit card for their favorite airline(s).

Free Checked Bags. If you frequently check bags and don't already have status, you should definitely get the credit card for your favorite airline(s). The free bag benefit is easily worth more than the annual fee and you'll also get some additional minor benefits, such as early boarding.
Other Airline Companion Certificates. If you frequently fly Alaska or Delta, another reason to get their credit card is to get an annual companion certificate that can easily be worth hundreds of dollars. While these are the most useful companion certificates, many other airlines offer companion discounts that can be useful for at least some travelers.
Southwest Companion Pass. If you frequently fly Southwest, you may want to try to earn one of the most valuable travel benefits available: the Southwest Companion Pass. It provides 2 for 1 travel on both paid and award tickets for an unlimited number of Southwest Airlines flights (for up to two years).
Building your "Core Credit Card Collection"

Many, but not all, of the strategies for getting extra travel benefits require you to have the right credit card. Each travel-oriented credit card comes with its own set of value-added benefits.

  • Over time, it makes sense to collect a small handful of cards that provide the benefits that are most important to the way you travel. Since most of the valuable cards also have annual fees, you’ll want to limit yourself to the cards where the value of the benefits you receive substantially outweighs the fees you’ll need to pay.
  • The set of cards that makes sense will be different for each person. For example, someone living in Seattle may decide to eventually get an Alaska Airlines credit card for its free checked bag benefit and annual companion pass, a Hilton card for its free breakfast benefit and free night certificate, and the Sapphire Reserve card for its airport lounge access, travel insurance benefits, free roadside assistance, and high reward rates.
  • Unless you have a problem managing credit, getting a small number of new credit cards won’t hurt your credit—in fact, it is more likely to improve it. In addition, every card you get will almost always come with a valuable signup bonus worth hundreds of dollars in free travel.
  • Make sure to view our Credit Cards 101 guide before you start actually applying for new cards. While it is relatively straightforward to apply for a new credit card, we provide some tips and techniques for optimizing the process, avoiding any mistakes, and making sure you don’t miss out on earning the best possible signup offer.

Airport Lounge Access

Many people will want to get one of the premium credit cards that provide airport lounge access.

Free Lounge Access. Most premium cards provide a "Priority Pass" membership that gives you free access to over 1,000 airport lounges (and in many cases free meals at dozens of airport restaurants). A few cards provide access to additional or different airport lounges.

Free Breakfast and Other Hotel Benefits

There are several strategies for getting extra benefits during your hotel stay.

Luxury Hotel Programs: Get Valuable Extra Benefits When You Stay at Fancy Hotels. Rather than booking fancier hotels directly, you can take advantage of special programs that provide free breakfast, room upgrades, resort credits and other benefits, typically at no extra charge. If you are going to splurge, you might as well get a bunch of valuable extra benefits.
Free Breakfasts at Hilton Just By Having the Right Credit Card. If you stay at hotels in the Hilton program at least a few times per year, you probably want to get one of several credit cards that provides high-level Hilton status (which entitles you to free breakfast and other benefits). Hilton is the only major hotel loyalty program where you can get really valuable benefits just by having the right credit card.
Always Join the Hotel's Loyalty Program for Special Benefits and Rates. If the hotel has a loyalty program, taking a few minutes to join will give you access to better rates and at least a few extra benefits. A free service called AwardWallet makes it easy to remember and manage your accounts.
Shortcuts to Elite Hotel Status. You can obtain elite status and extra benefits with different hotel programs, even without a single stay.

Free Night Certificates

Free Hotel Night Certificates. Most hotel credit cards provide a free night certificate every year (which can easily be worth more than it costs to have the card).

More Travel Benefits

Travel and reward credit cards provide many other benefits beyond free night certificates, airport lounge access, free checked bags, airfare companion certificates, hotel elite status, and valuable signup bonuses.

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