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Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from April 2015 can be found here.

This is the eleventh post in a monthlong series. 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.

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 exploit 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.

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 the ability to get a free Priority Pass membership, which allows free access to lounges at tons of airports worldwide. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this benefit of the Platinum card.

7. $200 airline fee credit. This is a credit offered to 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 a benefit offered to 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.

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 AA cards offer 10% miles percent back on AA redemptions up to 100k redeemed/ 10k back. This is a free 10k AA miles per year if you’re a big earner and redeemer of AA miles.

You’ve got the cards anyway, you might as well exploit 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?

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 75,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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