4 benefits of travel cards that may not be as valuable as you think | Smart Change: Personal Finance

Melissa Lamparina

Some of the perks of credit card travel were draping over a tasty fruity drink because you were on vacation. This drink is still refreshing today, but you may have to forego an umbrella or sip on a watered down version because the travel perks lose some of the value.

as such Travel Credit Cards Its popularity has increased, so have the franchises they are promoting. In general, the higher the annual fee on a travel credit card, the larger the list of benefits. And these perks can be invaluable, saving travelers time and money, and even giving them a little red carpet treatment. Depending on the credit card, you may have options like airport lounge access, free hotel rooms, and more.

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But in reality, some of these travel benefits may not be as luxurious or easy to use as they appear. This is the slimmest of four popular franchises that still offer value to travelers but may not taste quite as sweet.

1. Entering the airport lounge

Your credit card may offer a one-time ongoing pass to the airport lounge network, but finding a place to sit can be a challenge. In recent years, airport lounges have become more popular – and more crowded – resulting in restrictions and changing conditions on credit cards that allow access to lounges.

“It’s really hard to find an empty lounge seat, especially if you want to grab a meal,” says Roman Efimov, California-based engineer and co-creator of the blog On Points With Kids.

However, Efimov and his wife Irina Jesina use the access to the lounge to save money on food at the airport. The couple estimates that the feature saves them about $120 per visit for a family of four, but that will soon change. In February 2023, its credit card issuer plans to cut off free guest access to its lounge network, so they will have to pay a fee per adult and per child. The only exception would be for those who spent $75,000 in the previous calendar year and each year thereafter to qualify for free guest entry. Otherwise, a fee of USD 50 will be required for adult guests to enter; $30 for kids.

If lounge access is the feature your family values ​​most, you may need to reevaluate its value. “We’re not even sure if it’s even worth it,” Gaysina says. “You have to anticipate how much travel you will do next year or in two years. You have to do the math of all the times you are going to go there and how often you will save money.”

Capacity controls have also weakened the airport lounge experience. Prior to 2019, some airline credit cards provided lounge access regardless of the carrier on the itinerary. Today, these airlines may accept a same-day boarding pass when traveling with them or only an eligible partner. Some airport lounges also limit the number of hours you can spend in the lounge or exclude entry on arrival. Even if you try to visit within the right hours with the right kind of card, you may arrive to find the lounge is full and closed to new visitors.

2. Car rental insurance

Car rental insurance A credit card can be a valuable benefit, providing coverage in the event the vehicle is damaged or stolen. To qualify, you usually have to pay the rental fee using the credit card that provides the benefit and refuse to waive the rental company collision damages (conditions vary by card).

What some credit cardholders may not realize is that this feature is often secondary to personal car insurance. This means that it can only be exploited after the insurance company covers the costs. Make sure to read the terms carefully to see what your card does and doesn’t cover. Even some premium travel cards with expensive annual fees don’t offer basic auto accident damage waiver coverage, so don’t make any assumptions.

3. Free hotel night certificates

promise b Free hotel night certificate Every year carrying a credit card is exciting. But before you start dreaming of your free deluxe room at a luxury resort, there is an unfortunate truth that you will need to know. This certification has its limitations, and in recent years, it has become less valuable in many major hotel chains.

Some hotel brands that previously offered unrestricted certifications have imposed caps, making it difficult to get a first-class hotel stay. Depending on the hotel, you may be able to top up a free night certificate with points up to a certain amount, but then your free night will cost more.

Even those certificates with a higher limit can have less purchasing power than they did before. Many hotel chains that previously had fixed award schemes have changed to dynamic pricing. This means that the number of points you’ll need to book a free room can fluctuate according to the cash rate. When you once felt confident that your 40,000-point certificate could offer you a room at any time at your favorite hotel because the award scheme says so, that room may now be out of reach thanks to dynamic pricing. In turn, it can make your free certificate unusable when and where you want to use it.

“It makes it more difficult to plan hotel stays or plan how many points you need for a given award night stay,” says Max Doe, California-based travel content creator for YouTube channel Max Miles Points.

For Do, the value offered by his hotel credit card is still worth it, even though it can be difficult to use. By combining a free night certificate from a credit card with points from his account, he saves $400 or more on a stay in Germany.

“The annual fee of $95 is very low, and I can usually redeem this 35,000-point certificate for over $95 in value,” he says. “You have to look at the cash price and the price and type of points to decide if it is worth redeeming or cashing in on points.”

4. Credits for airport security screening programs

Travel credit cards may offer an application credit statement or renewal fee for airport screening programs such as TSA Pre-screening, Global Entry or scan. These programs vary but they all fly the time spent in queues at the airport. Trusted traveler programs like TSA PreCheck for domestic travel or Global Entry for international travel can speed you through safety lines by bypassing screening of shoes, belts, laptops, and other items. Clear allows you to bypass travel document review before entering the safety line.

Unlike Clear, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry require more effort up front in the form of background checks, biometrics, and an interview with a US Customs and Border Protection official. And while you can skip waiting at the airport, you won’t be able to skip the time required to get approved.

TSA PreCheck applicants for domestic travel can usually get an appointment on the books within two weeks from August 2022, but Global Entry applications for international travel can take several months. As more travelers use these programs, it is possible that you will find yourself practicing the art of patience through the application process, TSA PreCheck, or Global Entry line. However, if approved, the wait will be much less compared to the regular safety line.

With Clear, the value can be lower if it is not available at the local airport or arrival hall. It has over 50 locations (including airports, stadiums, and venues), far fewer than the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry programs.

When considering a travel credit card or deciding whether one is worth keeping, it’s important to weigh how much use you’ll get in interest to offset the cost of the annual fee. If franchises save money with some brands or companies you rarely use or aren’t available in your area, you’ll have to determine if the rest of the card’s offerings can make up for the lost value of unused benefits.

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