February 29, 2024

The Right Plastic for Perks

Tim Winship, publisher of FrequentFlier.com, said credit card issuers had gone “from no activity to a frenzy of activity” in the last year or two. “They’ve turned up the wick in the intensity,” he said, in marketing to business travelers.

“The frequent-traveler demographic tends to be someone with a higher household income, and a better job and credit rating,” he added. “That’s why issuers are focusing so aggressively on this segment of the market.”

Mr. Winship recommended that travelers determine where they are on the credit continuum before choosing a card. “Are you a frequent buyer or a frequent flier? If you’re a frequent buyer and earn the majority of your miles by using your credit card and not traveling, there’s no compelling reason to sign up for an airline co-branded card. You’re probably better off with a Capital One Venture card, an American Express or Citi ThankYou Premier card — you won’t face restrictions getting reward flights because they buy the tickets.”

But frequent fliers who opt for cards issued by their airline loyalty program can also earn miles from hotel stays, car rentals and even mortgage payments. “If you earn a significant number of miles through traveling, you’re better off sticking with an airline-linked card, since miles you get from purchases can be linked with miles you get from traveling,” Mr. Winship said.

Another option is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card, which lets travelers earn points that can be redeemed for stays at Starwood hotels or converted into mileage for airline tickets; the American Express Membership Rewards program offers similar flexibility. There are also cards that give users a cash rebate on their purchases, which also affords flexibility.

According to an analysis by Mr. Winship, certain cards are better for specific perks than others. Here is a sampling:

FOR AIRPORT LOUNGE ACCESS He suggested American Express Platinum and Centurion cards, whose annual fees cover entry into lounges of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways, and annual membership in Priority Pass Select, a program that provides access to 600 lounges worldwide. Certain Continental and United cards also offer annual memberships to their lounges. All cards have annual fees of $375 or more.

TO AVOID FOREIGN FEES Mr. Winship estimated that foreign transaction fees could add as much as 3 percent to the cost of goods and services purchased overseas. He said travelers should consider cards that have eliminated these fees, including American Express Platinum and Centurion cards; certain Visa cards issued by Continental, British Airways, IHG, Marriott and Hyatt; Chase’s Sapphire Preferred; and Citi’s ThankYou Premier and ThankYou Prestige cards. Some cards charge hefty annual fees, but others — like Marriott’s $30 charge and IHG’s $49 — are minimal.

TO WAIVE BAG-CHECKING FEES Depending on restrictions, Continental’s various MasterCards as well as Delta’s SkyMiles credit cards will cover one or two bags per traveler per flight. The American Express Platinum and Centurion cards also give users a $200 annual credit toward miscellaneous airline fees, including baggage-checking fees.

TO CUT MILEAGE REQUIREMENTS Look into American Airlines’ Citi cards and USAirways’ MasterCards, which offer discounts on the number of miles required to book an award ticket.

TO EARN QUALIFYING MILES Consider the top-tier credit cards offered by Continental, Delta, United and US Airways to build up the miles that help travelers qualify for elite status in airline loyalty programs. These cards let holders earn elite miles if they spend a certain amount of money, though they also limit the number of elite miles that can be earned this way.

One other significant perk is automatic loyalty program status upgrades, available through Marriott, Hilton and IHG co-branded cards. The American Express Platinum and Centurion cards also reimburse holders for the $100 application fee for Global Entry, a program that expedites customs and immigration clearance at airports in the United States.

Many business travelers carry more than one credit card, using each differently.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4bfe1b673498d7c61775dbb4975caa3c

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