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Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele looks at how you can maximize your travel by taking advantage of some lesser known benefits on your travel rewards credit cards.
When you think of top credit card rewards and benefits, what usually comes to mind are the points, miles and perks offered by the card issuer or its co-branded partner. However, some of a card’s most useful features can come from its payment network. The Visa Signature and MasterCard World Elite programs can offer lots of extra value to savvy cardholders, so in this post I’ll look at both of these programs to explain and compare their most important features.
If you’re not sure whether your card qualifies for one of these programs, it’s easy to find out. Just look for the logo; if you see the word Signature under the Visa logo, or the words World Elite above the MasterCard logo, then you’re in! Popular Visa Signature cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture Rewards cards, while popular World Elite MasterCards include the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and Citi Prestige.
Note that you might also have a World MasterCard, which is the little brother of the World Elite program. Check out my post from last fall for more on the differences between World and World Elite MasterCard.
The Visa Signature Hotel Collection features over 900 luxury hotels worldwide, and offers guests automatic room upgrades (when available), free breakfast, free in-room Internet service, a $25 food or beverage voucher and a 3 pm late check-out (when available). In addition, guests are guaranteed the best rate available. To book a hotel under this program, cardholders must use the Visa Signature Hotels website.
The World Elite MasterCard Luxury Hotels & Resorts Portfolio features complimentary room upgrades at check-in (when available), free breakfast, early check-in and late check-out (when available) and a special amenity that varies by location. These can include food and beverage credits, spa services or a fruit platter. To use this amenity, book online at MasterCard Travel Services or call 855-802-1387.
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
Both the Visa Signature and World Elite MasterCard programs offer an automobile rental collision damage waiver benefit, but the details depend on the card. The best benefit is primary insurance, which supersedes any personal insurance policy you might have, while secondary coverage only applies after you have submitted a claim against your personal insurance. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is part of the Visa Signature program and offers primary rental car insurance, while the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is part of the World Elite Mastercard program and also offers primary rental car coverage. For more information, please read TPG’s post on Credit Cards That Offer Primary Car Rental Coverage.
Extended Warranty Coverage
Visa Signature offers a Warranty Manager service that extends manufacturer’s warranties for one year on items that are covered for up to three years. As the name implies, it includes a registration service to help you keep track of the warranties on all of your products. World Elite MasterCard will double your coverage (up to 24 months) either from the manufacturer or from any optional coverage you may have purchased.
Purchase and Price Protection
Visa Signature offers the Purchase Security program, which covers the repair or replacement of eligible purchases for the first 90 days in the event of theft or damage. Although the World Elite MasterCard program doesn’t offer comparable coverage as a standard benefit, some individual cards in the program do. World Elite MasterCard also features a 120-day price protection program, which offers a refund of the amount you overpaid if you find a lower price for a covered item.
Other Exclusive Benefits
Both of these programs are full of perks; here are some of the most valuable ones that are exclusive to each:
The Visa Signature Priceless Cities program offers discounts and benefits at merchants in a handful of major cities around the world. Cardholders also receive some perks with Sonoma Wineries, including two complimentary tastings per cardholder, and savings on purchases in tasting rooms and at special wine and food pairings. For more information, see TPG’s post on the Top 10 Visa Signature Cardholder Benefits.
World Elite MasterCard goes a bit further when it comes to exclusive benefits. The World Elite Air Program offers to upgrade travelers to business class on several airlines with the purchase of a full-fare economy ticket, and you can get discounts of 20-30% off of the purchase of some tickets.
The World Elite Car Rental Program includes discounts of 15-25% from Avis, National or Sixt. You can also receive elite status with programs such as Avis First, National Emerald Executive or Sixt Platinum.
Other Common Benefits
Both programs offer a slate of other benefits that are largely comparable, such as lost luggage insurance, travel accident insurance and access to travel and emergency assistance services that connect you with people who can help (although you may need to pay for select services).
Many of the top travel rewards credit cards belong to either Visa Signature or World Elite MasterCard. Here are my picks for the top 5 cards in each program, starting with Visa Signature.
Top 5 Visa Signature Cards
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card — This card offers double miles on all purchases, and each mile is worth one cent as a statement credit toward any travel purchase. There is a $95 annual fee that is waived for the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Chase Sapphire Preferred — This card features double points on all travel and dining purchases, and one point elsewhere. You’ll earn points in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, which can be transferred to points or miles with airline and hotel partners, or redeemed for travel directly through Chase. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Ink Plus Business Card — This business card features 5x points on office supplies and telecommunications services, and 2x points at gas stations and hotels. Chase just released a new sign-up bonus offer for 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. There is a $95 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card from Bank of America — Cardholders earn triple miles from Alaska Airlines purchases, and one mile per dollar elsewhere, along with a $99 (plus taxes) coach companion ticket. Alaska miles are especially valuable due to their many partner airlines. There is a $75 annual fee for the Visa Signature version of this card.
U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card — Cardholders earn double FlexPoints on the category of purchases they spend the most on (gas, groceries or airlines), as well as cell phone purchases. Points are worth as much as two cents each toward award flights on over 150 different airlines. Best of all, these awards count as revenue flights, which makes you eligible to receive miles and be upgraded. The card also offers a $25 statement credit toward airline fees associated with award travel.
Top 5 World Elite MasterCards
Citi AAdvantage Executive — This card offers tons of benefits including priority services, free checked bags and membership in the American Airlines Admiral’s club lounge program. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus — This card offers double miles on all purchases, plus a 5% rebate on redeemed miles. Miles are worth one cent each toward travel statement credits. There is an $89 annual fee for this card (waived the first year), and no foreign transaction fees.
Citi Prestige — This card offers many features including an American Airlines Admiral’s Club membership, a $250 annual airline travel credit and the ability to transfer ThankYou points to airline miles. It even offers three free rounds of golf each year! There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard from Barclaycard — This card offers benefits such as a free checked bag, a 50% off companion discount, and the ability to earn double miles on all Hawaiian Airlines purchases. There is an $89 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
Virgin Atlantic White Card from Bank of America — Other than 3x miles on Virgin Atlantic purchases, this card doesn’t have that many great features. However, it’s the only World Elite MasterCard with no annual fee.
What are your favorite Visa Signature and World Elite MasterCard benefits? With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.