5 credit card perks you can gift for the holidays
If you’re an avid points and miles traveler, chances are you have multiple premium credit cards in your wallet. This is for a good reason — these cards tend to have excellent perks that can make your travel experience more enjoyable.
You might also have some perks you’re personally unable to use. For example, most travel credits, companion passes and free hotel night certificates are only valid for a year. These will go to waste if not used before the expiration date, flushing potentially hundreds of dollars down the drain.
If you have overlapping or expiring perks you can’t take advantage of, consider giving them as a gift this holiday season. The odds are that someone in your circle of loved ones would greatly appreciate Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, a free hotel night or access to an airport lounge.
In this article, I’ll show you all of the credit card perks you can give as gifts to travel-loving friends.
Let’s dive in!
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Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
Almost all premium travel credit cards include a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application reimbursement worth up to $100 once every four or five years, depending on the card. These programs give you access to expedited security lines at airports for up to five years.
The Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit isn’t restricted to the cardholder, so if you have multiple cards that offer this, you can use one to pay for your own application, then you can gift another to someone else by using one of your other cards to pay that person's fee. It will appear on your statement as a charge from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the credit should come through within a few days.
To choose the perfect gift for speeding through security lines, remember the difference between the two programs. TSA PreCheck makes it easier to go through security for flights (passengers don’t have to take off belts and shoes or remove laptops from their cases). On the other hand, Global Entry speeds up U.S. Customs clearance after an international flight.
TSA PreCheck is included with Global Entry and the price difference is minimal ($85 for the former versus $100 for the latter). Both will be reimbursed in full by most credit cards that have this type of fee waiver.
Even if your friend or family member only travels a handful of times every year, the time savings can be huge when traveling during peak holiday seasons — especially when crossing back into to the U.S. with Global Entry.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ( $695 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express ($595 annual fee -- $695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022; see rates and fees).
- Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 annual fee).
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® ($450 annual fee).
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card ($395 annual fee).
- United Explorer Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year).
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card ($95 annual fee).
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee).
- IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee).
All these cards offer the credit every four years, except for the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which is every five years.
Free hotel nights
Some hotel credit cards offer an annual free award night on your account anniversary, and you can use these awards to book someone else a stay. These generally expire after a year or so (although some were extended because of the pandemic). Iif you can’t use an award night, you can give it to a friend or family member instead.
In most cases, you can either book the hotel under someone else’s name with the certificate or book the stay under your name and add the recipient as an additional guest. The guest can then check in without you being present.
Your hotel certificates can make for a great gift. Whether your friend books a staycation, road trip hotel or a night in a new city, they’ll save money and experience a great getaway. Many of these certificates can be used for luxury properties, too, so you can make it a fantastic experience for those new to the credit card travel perks world.
That said, be aware that all free nights aren’t created equal, as there are restrictions on the hotel category and point value. Here’s a look:
- World of Hyatt Credit Card:Free nights are restricted to hotels in Categories 1-4, with a maximum value of 15,000 points ($95 annual cardmember fee).
- IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card: The anniversary night is valid at hotels costing 40,000 points or less ($99 annual fee).
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Anniversary award nights may be redeemed at hotels costing 35,000 points or less across the Marriott Bonvoy program ($95 and $125 annual fees, respectively; see rates and fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card: Offers an annual free night at any property costing 50,000 points or less at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program — although some hotels assess additional resort fees. ($450 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: This card gives a free weekend night your first year and every year thereafter on your account anniversary ($450 annual fee; see rates and fees).
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Airline companion tickets
Several airline cobranded credit cards include companion certificates as an annual perk. You can use these to bring a companion with you on a flight for just the cost of taxes and other related fees. If you have a certificate available, invite a friend to go with you on a future trip and cover their ticket with the companion ticket.
That said, each airline companion ticket is created differently. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card includes an annual companion ticket that lets you bring a companion with you for $121 ($99 fare and the cost of taxes and fees from $22). It can only be used on economy fares, but tickets are eligible for upgrades with a certificate or a complimentary elite upgrade.
Delta offers companion tickets as an annual benefit of two of its cobranded cards: the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. You can use these certificates to bring a companion with you on a round-trip flight within the contiguous U.S.
The companion ticket that comes with the Delta Reserve differs slightly from the one included with the Delta Platinum. The Delta Reserve’s companion ticket can be used in first class, Comfort+ or the main cabin. The Delta Platinum's ticket can only be used in select main cabin fare classes. Regardless, you can get excellent value with this certificate and give your travel-loving friend or family member a great trip.
Here’s a look at all the cards that offer companion tickets:
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card: Includes a companion ticket every cardmember year.
- British Airways Visa Signature Card: Earn the card’s “Travel Together” companion ticket after you spend $30,000 or more on purchases in a single calendar year.
- Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard: Earn a Companion Certificate each card anniversary year after spending $20,000 on the card.
- Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®: Includes a companion ticket every cardmember year.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Include a companion ticket every cardmember year.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Include a companion ticket every cardmember year.
- Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®: Earn a companion ticket when you spend $25,000 or more in a single cardmember year.
The information for the Aviator Red, Aviator Silver, Lufthansa Miles & More and the Virgin Atlantic cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Annual travel credits
Use the Amex Platinum's annual airline credit
The Amex Platinum comes with an up to $200 annual prepaid hotel credit ($200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card) and an up to $200 annual airline incidentals statement credit. The Amex Business Platinum also comes with an up to $200 annual airline incidentals statement credit. (Enrollment is required for select benefits.)
If you haven’t claimed these annual credits, consider using them to help a loved one out with holiday travel. Maybe you can cover checked bag fees for your in-laws or book them an economy seat assignment with extra legroom if they’re flying on the airline you’ve selected for your credit. With the Amex Platinum, you can book a prepaid hotel stay ahead of the new year.
We’ve also found that Amex also reimburses United Club, Delta SkyClub, and American Admirals Club day passes. So if you have all $200 available to you, you can buy four United Club passes (as long as United is your selected airline) and use them as stocking stuffers for the travelers on your shopping list.
Check out TPG’s complete guide to using the Amex airline fee credit to find even more ways to use your credit. There’s bound to be something for the traveler in your life. (Enrollment is required.)
Chase’s travel credits are broader
Those with a Chase Sapphire Reserve card enjoy a $300 annual travel credit. This covers any expense that codes as travel, including Uber rides, hotel stays, airfare and just about anything else related to travel.
Most of us probably have used our Chase travel credit by this point in the year, given how broad it is. (As a pandemic-era benefit, it even applies to gas and grocery expenses through the end of 2021.) But if you happen to still have some of that credit kicking around, you can get creative in how you gift it.
For example, if a hotel or another travel vendor near you sells gift cards, you can charge one to your Sapphire Reserve and most likely be reimbursed for the expense. Alternatively, you could simply book a flight or hotel room for your loved one and be reimbursed for the charge.
Book hotel nights with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant credit
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card card includes up to $300 in annual Marriott statement credits on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program. If you haven’t burned through your credit already, you can use it to cover stays for a loved one. Just book a prepaid reservation with your card and it will be automatically reimbursed.
Perks for authorized users
One of the easiest ways to give a variety of benefits to someone — and not just during the holiday season — is to make them an authorized user on your credit card.
The specific perks granted to authorized users vary from one card to another, but this can also an excellent method for helping someone build or rebuild their credit. The advantage to the primary cardholder is that all the spending on the auxiliary card earns points and/or miles.
One of the best credit cards for authorized user benefits is the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. This card gives Admirals Club access to the primary cardholder and up to 10 authorized users. Lounge memberships aren’t cheap, so it’s the perfect gift for the American loyalist in your life.
Likewise, The Platinum Card from American Express gives authorized users access to a solid group of lounge networks, including Amex’s Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, and Delta SkyClubs on same-day Delta flights. (Enrollment is required for select benefits.)
The Capital One Venture X, among its useful benefits, allows you to add up to four authorized users for no additional cost — and they'll get their own lounge benefits and be able to bring in two guests of their owns.
Of course, remember that you’re responsible for all charges on your authorized cards. Only make those you trust authorized users on your account, especially if you have an agreement that the recipient only uses your card for travel benefits. Here are some cards with significant benefits for authorized users:
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: As discussed, each primary cardholder can add 10 authorized users for free. Those users receive Admirals Club airport lounge access for themselves and two guests. Note that some lounges may require an American Airlines boarding pass for entry.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Add up to four authorized users for free and they can access Capital One and Priority Pass lounges for themselves and two guests.
- Citi Prestige® Card: The fee for each authorized user is $75, which gives them a Priority Pass Select membership granting lounge access for themselves and two guests. The information for the Citi Prestige Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Authorized users receive a Priority Pass Select membership, giving them access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world. Each user will cost the primary cardholder $75.
- The Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express: On the Platinum Card, authorized users get all the benefits except for the credit for up to $200 in annual airline fees and up to $200 annual Uber credit (for use in the U.S.). The benefits include Gold status with Marriott and Hilton; access to Priority Pass and Centurion lounges as well as Delta Sky Clubs when ticketed on Delta for that day; and the up to $100 Global Entry credit. Authorized users on the Business Platinum receive the same benefits. The fee is $175 per user for the personal (for up to three cards, see rates and fees) and $300 for the business version (see rates and fees). Enrollment is required for select benefits.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Authorized users can access Delta Sky Clubs and Amex Centurion Lounges when traveling on flights marketed and operated by Delta. The fee for each authorized user card is $175 per year for both the Delta Reserve (see rates and fees) and Delta Business Reserve (see rates and fees).
The holidays are a great time for sharing the benefits of premium rewards cards. Whether it’s a lounge pass, companion certificate or another travel perk, it can go a long way for someone who doesn’t have points and miles available to them.
Plus, when you give those perks as gifts, you’re letting friends and loved ones experience the value of the points and miles hobby. Who knows? The gift alone might inspire them to get started on their own points and miles journey.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Business card, click here.