Just like your favorite fashion brand or snack supplier, credit card companies make an effort to highlight their best deals front and center. Credit card ads often feature juicy sign-up bonuses and welcome offers, and while those are nothing to be ignored, sometimes the real long-term value of a credit card lies in its perks.
With the right perks, a credit card can bring benefits far beyond the convenience of swiping or tapping at the register and paying your bills later on. They can almost turn your card into an all-access pass — earning you membership to airport lounges, lucrative deals on flights, access to travel insurance, substantial statement credits to your favorite stores and more.
While most top-of-the-line benefits are obvious features of a credit card, it can sometimes take a little extra digging to find the ones that fit your lifestyle. Whether you’re a traveler, homebody, everyday shopper or someone in the market for niche benefits, we’ll cover the most useful credit card perks and help you find the cards that bring them your way.
Best credit card perks for travelers
Frequent travelers should check out all the perks credit cards provide to make their trips more affordable, stress-free, and in some cases, luxurious. Thanks to card-linked deals and must-have benefits, savvy travel card carriers know that the right card is a key component of exploring efficiently.
If you have loyalty to a hotel or airline, credit cards can go a long way in terms of increasing your status and saving money. And for the more flexible travelers, travel credit card perks can still bring V.I.P. experiences, hundreds in annual savings, priority upgrades and more. There’s an expansive world of travel-related credit card perks, so take a look at the most helpful:
- Airport lounge access. Many of the top travel credit cards will serve as your ticket into V.I.P. lounges at airports across the world. It typically takes a strong credit score and a high annual fee to qualify for cards offering airport lounge access, but obtaining one will allow you to kick back and relax on your travel days. Depending on the route you take, different cards can get you access to Capital One Lounges, Priority Pass Select membership, Admirals Club, Amex Centurion Lounges, and more.
- Airline companion passes. Typically tied to an airline-branded card, these perks allow you to purchase an additional passenger along with your flight purchase for a much lower rate. Companion passes (and their equivalents) are offered by several travel providers, such as Southwest’s Companion Pass, American Airlines Companion Certificate, Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare, British Airways Travel Together, and the Delta Airlines Companion Certificate. Search for cards tied to these airlines if you’re a loyal flyer looking to save on your next trip.
- Lost baggage coverage. Several Chase, Amex and Capital One cards provide up to $3,000 per covered person for lost luggage. While it’s not a situation anyone wants on their travels, a little backup from your credit card company can be nice in a disaster.
- Complimentary checked bags and priority boarding. Airlines like JetBlue, United, Delta and more have created options for cards that earn you free checked bags and get you on the plane earlier than you typically would. For frequent flyers who can’t help but check a bag, this can lead to hundreds in savings over a short period of time.
- Upgrades. Many travel, airline and hotel cards can bump you up to top-tier suites, more leg room, and in some cases, even get you into first class. In addition, cards oftentimes elevate your status with a hotel or airline, boosting your ability to earn rewards and the level of priority you take. Options from Alaska, Delta, Marriott and Chase stand out as can’t-miss upgrade cards.
- Free travel. You’ll usually still have to pay taxes on the ticket or room, but the best travel perks might be comped nights and flights. Some cards make it simple, such as “X amount of free nights per year,” and some require a little learning on how to use loyalty programs to earn your way into a free flight or stay. Either way, a free travel expense proves immediate value from these perks.
- Travel statement credits. You can find annual statement credit perks from many of the top travel cards. Frequent travelers might appreciate a little extra money that can be used for things like applications for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or CLEAR to make their airport time a little less strenuous, or in some cases, the credit can go toward more extravagant travel excursions and expenses.
- Trip and rental car insurance. Travel card perks can give you a sense of peace when you’re on the go. Trip cancellations and delays are covered by many travel options, and there are cards that protect your rental car when you’re in another city.
- Concierge services. Having a personal vacation assistant can make your trips all the more relaxing. Cards that come with concierge service aren’t hard to come by, but explore your options from the major card providers — Visa, Citi, Amex and Mastercard all have their very own concierge service.
Best credit card perks for households
Not every credit cardholder is on the go enough to appreciate all the travel perks that can come with a card, but card providers have it covered with perks that help everyday life and can add value from the comfort of your home. Whether it’s helping with an expense or providing a sense of security, these perks can help any cardholder:
- Everyday statement credits. Card providers have partnered with numerous companies to provide users with savings on their regular purchases through cards for annual credits. Connections with brands like Uber and Lyft, DoorDash, streaming services, Amazon, popular gyms such as Equinox, restaurants and more could be the key to consistent savings.
- Cellphone protection. With this perk, your card gets you access to an ongoing protection plan that can help you with replacing your phone or when dealing with repairs. You’ll have to pay a small deductible, but a card with cellphone insurance could be worth your while.
- Credit card rent payments. Though a lesser-seen perk, this new feature allows cardholders to not only pay their rent with their credit card but also earn rewards on the payment. Currently, the Bilt Mastercard® boasts this benefit, but the perk could be widely popularized in the near future.
- Roadside dispatch/roadside assistance. This perk is designed for your credit card to get you out of a disaster scenario. Whether it’s a tow, flat tire, breakdown, lost key or any other mishap, a card with roadside assistance can bring help your way.
- Advance ticket purchases for events. Credit cards can be V.I.P. passes for local entertainment and events. You can get exclusive access to concerts, highly sought-out restaurants, sporting events and more thanks to programs like Capital One Experiences and Citi Entertainment.
- Identity theft assistance. Almost a staple of credit cards at this point, this perk will protect you against someone stealing and/or using your credit card or personal information.
- Museum memberships. Most notably seen in Bank of America cards, Museums On Us is a perk that can get you free admission to over 200 cultural institutions during the first weekend of each month.
Best credit card perks for shoppers
If you’re not exactly a traveler but still tend to spend and want a little extra out of your credit card perks, these features may catch your eye:
- Retail store statement credits. Certain partnerships between card providers and stores might be the perfect match for your spending. Cards like the Amex Platinum will earn you statement credits to Saks Fifth Avenue and Walmart year after year.
- Purchase protection. If you buy something that gets stolen or damaged, a card with purchase protection could be your savior. This perk is a great add-on when looking to be reimbursed for someone else’s wrongdoing.
- Price matching. Sometimes referred to as “price protection,” this perk allows you to get a little money back if you happen to make a purchase and later find that item for a cheaper price.
- Extended warranty. On top of the warranty you sometimes get when making a large purchase, many credit cards offer their own extended warranty plans to protect shoppers.
Best credit card perks for business owners
While the top business credit cards are likely going to bring along the same perks as the best travel and shopping cards, some benefits are designed specifically with small business owners in mind.
- Free employee cards. For small-business owners who want to give out cards at no additional cost, this is a can’t-miss perk. It’ll help with organization and accounting on top of the financial gain.
- Business expense discounts. Undoubtedly a top business card perk, some cards get access to rewards in specific business categories such as shipping, telecom and others, but you can even get annual statement credits for hiring services, software programs and more with a business credit card.
- Accounting software. Certain cards will allow you to upload your business purchases to their own software to save money while easily tracking and smoothening the accounting process.
The bottom line
Carrying a credit card can unlock a whole new world of benefits thanks to top-notch perks. And there are perks for all kinds of spenders — travelers, homebodies, small business owners and even students have access to some specialty benefits. Overall, the monetary value of travel perks probably carries the most weight, but as is with most credit card decisions, the best perks are going to be the ones that fit your lifestyle. Take a step back to evaluate your spending habits, future plans and what you want out of a card before applying. With the right preparation, you should have no problem finding a card with worthwhile perks catered to you.