My favorite credit card perks as a frequent flyer

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  • I traveled through Latin America and Antarctica for almost a year, and I was happy to have my credit card with me everywhere.
  • Perks like hotel class, travel insurance, and airport lounge access make my travels cheaper and easier.
  • No credit card offer (or points) is worth it if you can't pay your balance in full.

While much of the media about credit card benefits focuses on using points, there are many other benefits that are not as widely known and can save users thousands of dollars. From loyalty benefits to insurance coverage to car rental benefits, there are plenty of other reasons to use a credit card—if you do it responsibly.

I recently returned from a 10-month trip to Latin America and Antarctica, and I'm more grateful than ever for the benefits and protection I have with my credit card.

Please note that I do not recommend using your credit card in this manner if you do not pay off your entire balance each month.

Here are some of my favorite little-known perks.

1. Hotel condition

Several of my cards, including the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card and the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card, have automatic loyalty status. This status is not the highest level for either chain, but it still comes with many benefits.

Both my Marriott Gold and IHG Platinum memberships entitle me to a host of free treats, from brownies to fruit baskets. At a Marriott hotel in India, the company provided lunch to me and three of my companions when the room was not ready when we arrived, while an IHG hotel in the same country provided me with free Foot massage.

Read our Marriott Bonvoy Business Credit Card review and IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card review.

2. Insurance

Many credit cards offer insurance policies. The most common one is to add a purchase protection warranty on items purchased with the card. For example, Chase Purchase Protection is available on many of the best Chase credit cards.

There are also a variety of travel-related insurance options. Many cards offer compensation if your luggage is delayed or damaged (not compensated by the airline) and pays for essentials you may need to buy while you wait for your luggage to arrive. While I have never dealt with this issue myself, I know many people who have lost luggage and were unaware that this type of insurance existed.

Finally, many of the best credit cards with travel insurance also come with accident and emergency coverage to protect you if the unexpected happens while traveling. Just like travel insurance covers evacuation coverage, so does your card – which can help in the event of a sudden medical emergency.

3. Rental Car Damage Waiver

Another popular type of coverage you can find on many of the best travel credit cards is the rental car damage waiver, which allows you to decline the (often costly) waiver offered by the rental car company itself. This is one of the most common perks and almost every card includes it.

All you have to do is pay for the rental car with your card, decline their damage waiver, and submit documentation to your bank after the incident. (Note that you usually have to pay the rental car company first, and then the bank reimburses you.)

4. Right to use the lounge

The credit card offers a variety of lounge access options. American Express has the Amex Centurion lounge, Chase has the new Chase Sapphire lounge, and Capital One has its own chain of lounges. Additionally, there are specific airline lounges and networks such as Priority Pass and Plaza Premium.

The credit cards you'll typically find offering airport lounge access are mid-to-higher-tier cards, often with annual fees of $150 or more. This is one of my favorite perks because it allows me to get food without having to worry about extreme airport prices. Some lounges also offer services such as beauty services, massages and workplaces.

5. Discount

Most major companies offer discounts through credit card-linked offers, often on items you've already used or purchased. In the past few months, I've gotten Paramount+ for free, $30 off Turo, $10 off a restaurant I was already planning to go to, and more. These usually have to be activated on your bank's website or app first, or you need to make a purchase through your bank's online shopping portal.

6. Global customs clearance/TSA pre-check credit

The best credit cards with Global Entry and TSA Precheck features allow you to pay for services with your card and then have the full amount charged to your account. TSA Precheck allows users to pass through security without taking off their shoes or removing certain items from their bags, or by using a separate lane. Global Customs Clearance allows for expedited customs processes when returning to the U.S.

While racking up points and miles with a credit card is a great way to help you reduce your travel expenses, there are other benefits that may end up saving you even more.

Popular Credit Card Gold

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Earn 5x rewards when you purchase travel with Chase Travel℠. Earn 3x rewards on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries. Earn 2x on all other travel purchases. All other purchases earn 1x.

Earn 5x miles for every $1 spent when you book hotels and rental cars through Capital One Travel. Earn unlimited 2x miles on every purchase.

Earn unlimited 5x points when you stay at a hotel. Earn 4x points on airline flights. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining. Earn 1x on other purchases.

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