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As 2015 kicks into gear along with the quest for elite qualification, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about membership-only cards that can help you gain fast-track elite status, airfare and hotel discounts, and other benefits. Today, TPG Points & Miles Editor Peter Rothbart looks at Regal Card to see how it stacks up.
Last week, TPG Contributor (and COO) Leigh Rowan looked at one of the more popular membership-only cards out there: FoundersCard. As a long time cardholder, Leigh has learned how to maximize its benefits, and his review explained how he has been able to extract good value from FoundersCard over the years.
As the next in this series of membership-only cards we’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks, I’m going to look at the less well-known Regal Card to see exactly what it offers, and to try to answer the fundamental question: is Regal Card worth getting?
Regal Card Overview
Regal Card is a subsidiary of premium air consolidator Regal Wings, and provides access to a wide array of travel discounts and amenities. The core benefits include lounge access, travel insurance, award redemption assistance, and more. The secondary benefits (designated as “perks”) are essentially a conglomeration of discounts with various travel vendors, ranging from Uber and AwardWallet to tour guides and global phone services.
Few of the benefits Regal Card provides are actually drawn together by the company itself; most appear to simply be agreements with other companies that provide services to Regal Card members upon request (much like how one might receive hotel and rental car discounts as a member of AAA or a frequent flyer program). The card itself doesn’t do anything (you’ll never need to swipe it or show it to anyone). Instead, your Regal Card membership confers membership with the various service providers, who presumably have cards of their own to send you.
Regal Card carries a standard annual premium of $599. There’s currently an introductory rate of $495 for the first year; however, if you use the corporate code TPG50, you’ll get your first year membership for $445 instead. That puts it on par with premium credit cards like The Platinum Card from American Express and Citi Prestige. So how do the benefits stack up? Read on and see.
1. Priority Pass Lounge Access: Several credit cards (like both Citi Prestige and Amex Platinum) offer limited Priority Pass Select memberships, but Regal Card comes with a full Priority Pass Prestige membership, which offers unlimited and complimentary access to over 700 lounges worldwide, and normally costs $399 annually on its own. This benefit is pretty compelling for frequent travelers, especially for anyone who already pays the full price for Priority Pass membership. For more info, check out Nick Ewen’s recent post on 8 Priority Pass Lounges that Are Worth a Layover.
2. Avis FIRST elite status: FIRST status gets you some modest benefits with Avis, including single car class upgrades (with availability), the ability to bypass the rental counter, and two-day weekend rental rewards (free rental days after every fourth qualifying rental of two consecutive days). The Citi Prestige card also offers Avis FIRST status, and Amex Platinum offers Avis Preferred, which is basically the same but without the weekend rental rewards. My guess is that most people who rent with Avis often already have elite status, and most people who don’t will probably barely care about this benefit. Having it is better than not having it, but you’re not signing up for Regal Card to get Avis status.
3. Award Mileage Redemption Assistance: This service is provided by the company Miles 4 Flights, which is also owned by Regal Wings CEO Eli Ostreicher. Miles 4 Flights has a team of 15 or so agents who are experts in the art of award booking, and their services are complimentary with a Regal Card membership. Anyone who has pieced together a complex award itinerary knows this benefit is gold. You specify the origin and destination, dates of travel, preferred class of service, the points and miles available to you, and any other relevant parameters, and they do the rest. These services normally cost $199 or $249 per booking (plus $50 per additional passenger). The precise “value” depends on how much your time is worth, but getting someone else to do the dirty work will save you a lot of hassle upon your next award redemption.
To test it out, I submitted two award travel queries: the first was a basic first-class, domestic itinerary, and the second was for international first/business class travel on a Oneworld carrier along a route with no direct service (Seattle to Madrid). In both cases I received prompt replies. The agent who replied to my first query didn’t tell me anything new beyond what I could see for myself online. However, the second query did result in some options that were unavailable through the airlines’ websites. Best of all, while those awards didn’t work for me, the agent I corresponded with told me he could keep my query on file and continue to search for something more to my liking.
Anyone familiar with ExpertFlyer could probably have found the same availability, but I think this service would definitely come in handy for booking more challenging itineraries.
4. Regal Wings Unpublished Fares: As a subsidiary of a premium air consolidator, Regal Card offers discounts and upgrades on first and business class flights, including guaranteed lowest wholesale fares, 2-for-1 tickets on any fully flexible F or J fares, and an annual $100 discount for any booking. Benefits are guaranteed for any flight originating or ending in the US or Canada, and may be available (but not guaranteed) for flights elsewhere.
I wasn’t able to test this benefit myself, but Ostreicher told me that Regal Card members can expect a discount of at least 10% off first and business class US/Canada flights on any major airline. He also confirmed that the discount is for any paid first or business class fare, not just the (much) more expensive flexible fares. A single use of this benefit could match the annual fee for Regal Card, so there’s a lot of value to be had if you pay cash for business or first class fares.
5. Travel Insurance Coverage: Regal Card offers “comprehensive” travel insurance through their designated provider Seven Corners, covering costs like flight cancellations, lost or delayed luggage, emergency medical treatment, and more. See the full list of what’s covered (and to what degree) in the benefit guide. Many credit cards offer various forms of travel insurance, so this may be comparable to benefits you already have, but check with your card issuer to be sure.
6. 24/7 Live Regal Concierge: This is another benefit offered by most premium (and some middle of the road) credit cards. Ostreicher admits that this is a similar concept to typical major travel concierge services, but “with a very highly trained, personal touch.” He relayed a recent story about a client whose bags were lost by the airline upon arrival in Cairo; the concierge kept in touch with airline personnel and updated the client on the situation so the client could focus on the trip at hand.
Benefits like this are a nice touch, but unless you’re prone to losing your bags in Cairo, you’re probably not getting a Regal Card membership for the concierge services. I’d file this under maybe nice to have when you need it, which is rarely.
7. Hotel and Luxury Rental Car Discounts: These benefits come in two forms. First, you get discounts on premium hotels and luxury car rentals from the Travel Exclusive Agency. Second you get discounts and amenities at a network independent hotels worldwide curated by Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH). Details on the Travel Exclusive discount are scarce, but SLH offers upgrades, breakfast, and three nights for the price of two at 550+ properties in 80 countries.
As mentioned above, Regal Card comes with a bounty of “perks”, which are discounts with an assortment of travel vendors. Think of these perks like the coupons on your average grocery store flyer—every once in a while you’ll get a few bucks off breakfast cereal or toothpaste, but you’re probably not going to buy mayonnaise in a gallon tub every week just because it’s 10% off.
Some of the vendors are familiar, while others are more obscure. You can view the full list on the Regal Card website, but here are some of the highlights:
- AwardWallet—complimentary year of AwardWallet Plus (for new members only who have never had plus membership in the past).
- ExpertFlyer—20% off 1 year premium membership (read TPG’s review for more info).
- Flight 001—15% off travel products.
- Uber—$50 credit (for new users only).
- CIBT Visas—up to 30% off Visa and Passport services.
- LugLoc—20% off tracker (see Jason Steele’s post on luggage tracking devices for more info).
- TravelCell—10% discount on global mobile services.
- Jetsmarter—discounted membership and flight credit for private jets.
And the beat goes on. If you can really work any of these discounts, there’s value to be had. For many users, however, I suspect the savings are marginal.
Is Regal Card Worth Getting?
The short answer is maybe. Like most products, the value you get out of it depends on how you use it. That said, there are a few simple scenarios where I think Regal Card clearly provides excellent value:
- If you already pay (or would consider paying) for a Priority Pass Prestige membership: This membership costs $399 normally, so even if most of the other benefits don’t interest you at first sight, it’s probably worth an extra $46 to give them a spin for a year and see what they get you.
- If you routinely pay cash for first and business class fares, especially on international routes: an average international business class ticket costs a few thousand dollars, and first class is much more, so if the Regal Wings benefit can reliably save you 10% on those fares, then Regal Card is a no-brainer.
- If you book a lot of award travel, and don’t enjoy the hunt for availability: if the award redemption assistance saves you time, then it’s worth something, and if it saves you a lot of time, well, you get the idea. Personally I’d be tempted to use this service for all but the most basic award bookings. For example, I’m headed to Philadelphia in April for a family gathering and can’t find any non-stop saver level award space in economy. I’d happily let that be someone else’s headache. I think this benefit would provide at least some value to most award travelers, but if you’re planning multi-faceted itineraries in premium classes, it could save you lots of time and miles.
- If you can make hay with the hotel discounts: the SLH properties tend to be pricey. If you take advantage of the three nights for the price of two benefit even once annually, then you’re probably close to breaking even with the annual fee. Any more than that and you’re coming out ahead.
If you don’t fall into one of those categories, then the value proposition is murkier. The travel insurance, concierge, Avis elite status, and most of the perks don’t impress me. I can’t find a combination of those benefits that justifies the annual fee for me, but maybe you can.
One area where Regal Card deserves credit is in the transparency of its benefits, especially compared to FoundersCard. You can pretty clearly see what you’re getting up front, which makes the decision of whether to get it much easier. Furthermore, several readers left feedback in last week’s post that FoundersCard was very difficult to cancel; Regal Card addresses those concerns by stating in the FAQ that the card can be cancelled any time online, by email, or by phone. That could just be talk, but for what it’s worth I couldn’t find any similar assurance on the FoundersCard website.
Finally, Regal Card is relatively new, and Ostreicher assured me that its benefits are still growing. Notably, he mentioned airline elite status on one prominent international carrier as an addition targeted for later this year. Until then, browse the existing benefits and see what you think. I’ll be interested to hear your perspectives, and anecdotal evidence from those of you who have used Regal Card before.
As a reminder, you can use the corporate code TPG50 to get your first year of membership for $445; if you’re going to sign up, you may as well do so at the discounted rate.
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.