Free First Class Next Month: Other Credit Card Benefits

This is the thirteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Category Bonuses.

I get credit cards for the eye-popping bonuses banks will give me to sign up for the card and meet its minimum spending requirement. But since I have the card anyway, I try to make the most of all of its benefits.

Every time you get a new card, carefully look at the glossy brochure it comes with. The bank is eager for you to know about the benefits, and you should be eager too. Below I’ve listed some benefits I’ve taken advantage of, several of which are common features of several cards.

1. Free checked bag. The branded credit cards for United, Delta, and American offer a free checked bag for you (and in some cases your companions) as long as the ticket was purchased with the card. I rarely wish to travel with a checked bag–I’m a one-bag evangelist–but on any trip I take with my golf clubs, this saves me $50 roundtrip.

2. Priority boarding. Many airline cards also offer priority boarding. This has some value since so many planes have their overhead bins filled to the point that some carry-ons have to be gate checked.

3. Discounted companion pass. Many airline cards offer a discounted companion pass for a domestic flight if the purchased fare is from an expensive fare class. This benefit is usually worth next to nothing because the only fares that qualify for the discounted companion pass are so expensive that it’s cheaper to buy two discounted economy tickets. The $99 Delta companion pass can be of some value because it allows origination in Hawaii, so even the more expensive fare class is cancelled out by getting a $99 roundtrip ticket.

Frontier offers discounted companion awards. If you buy a cash ticket, you can redeem miles for a companion award seat with a 5,000 mile discount. I have called Frontier, and this even works on oneway domestic fares, which normally cost 10,000 miles. With the 5,000 mile discount, Frontier cardholders can buy oneway tickets and bring a companion for only 5k miles! This is the best companion pass card available from a credit card.

The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard with 35,000 mile sign up bonus after spending $750 in the first three months

4. Discounted airline food. The Citi AA cards now offer 25% off food on board, which is a nice few dollars.

5. Cheaper awards. The Citi AA cards get the owner 7,500 miles off roundtrip awards to a select, rotating list of cities. The US Airways Mastercard gets the owner 5,000 miles off award redemptions on US Airways.

6. Lounge access. Some of the airline cards with high ($300+) annual fees grant the bearer lounge access. Also the American Express Platinum (and Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum) card gives its holder access to Delta, American, and US Airways lounges plus the ability to get a free Priority Pass membership, which allows free access to lounges at tons of airports worldwide. I thoroughly enjoyed this benefit of the Platinum card.

The Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus offer free membership to Lounge Club. You get your first two lounge visits free, and additional visits cost $27. More on this benefit later this week.

7. $200 airline fee credit. This is a credit offered to AMEX Platinum card holders. Each calendar year, the card refunds fees charged by the one airline of your choice up to $200 total. Enterprising card owners have found that you can even get $200 worth of gift cards reimbursed.

8. Free Global Entry. This is a benefit offered to AMEX Platinum card holders. After paying $100 and going through the Global Entry screening process, the $100 is credited back to your account. Global Entry is awesome, and I would gladly have paid $100 for it, so this is a free $100 for me. See Why and How I Got Global Entry.

9. Rental Car Insurance. Like many credit cards, many travel credit cards offer rental car insurance. See which of yours has the best coverage, and use it to book cars.

10. The Citi American Airlines cards offer 10% miles percent back on AA redemptions up to 100k miles redeemed and 10k miles back per calendar year. This is a free 10k AA miles per year if you’re a big earner and redeemer of AA miles. See Up to 10,000 Free American Airlines Miles Each Year.

11. Concierge Services. See Testing the Visa Signature Concierge Service for my experience with these.

You’ve got the cards anyway, you might as well enjoy all the benefits. Look up the benefits of your current cards, figure out how to max them out, and enjoy the other benefits of credit cards beyond points.

What are some of your favorite credit card benefits?

Continue to Cancelling Cards.

10 Responses to Free First Class Next Month: Other Credit Card Benefits

  1. This is super useful as a reference! Thanks a lot.

    The United Explorer card actually has one other great benefit. If you’re redeeming rewards at the standard level, you get access to any flight United has for sale in that class.

    American Airlines gives you any flight in the class when redeeming AAnytime awards, but on United you need to be elite or hold the United Explorer card.

    I used this benefit for a clever routing when I was flying my friend Natalya from Grand Cayman to San Francisco with miles the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

  2. Does the free checked-bag benefit apply if you redeem miles for a flight?

    • On which card?

      • I’m thinking of the Amex Delta Gold card, but would be curious about others as well.

        • No free bag on Delta awards just for having the card. Read the bottom fine-print paragraph. The flight has to be eligible for SkyMiles credit, which awards are not. But if you, like me, generally redeem miles for business class awards, then you get free bags on your awards that way.

  3. Great series, thanks!
    Good news – Delta does not require ticket purchase with a Delta SkyMiles card to get first bag free.

    From Delta’s First Bag Free T&Cs: ” … You don’t have to pay for your ticket using your Delta SkyMiles Credit Card to receive the First Checked Bag Free benefit, but if you do, you’ll earn double miles!”

    http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/baggage/before-your-trip/checked/first-bag-free.html

  4. Pingback: Free First Class Next Month: Cancelling Cards | milevalue.com

  5. Pingback: Free First Class Next Month: Category Bonuses | milevalue.com

  6. Thanks for all the info – i am pretty new to all of this, and am in the process of evaluating whether or not to keep credit cards i already use, prior to learning about this miles game.

    You mention the poor value and restrictive nature of discounted companion flights as a card member benefit, but what about the case with the delta platinum amex? Does it make sense to keep the card, never spending on it (assuming you already hit the signup bonus), pay the 150/year member fee solely to collect the companion ticket? Or does the restrictiveness fare class outweigh the benefit?

  7. Pingback: Free First Class Next Month 2014: Introduction to Travel Credit Cards | milevalue.com

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