Credit card perks you can give for the holidays
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If you’re an avid points-and-miles traveler, chances are you have multiple premium credit cards in your wallet. And this is for a good reason: these cards have excellent perks that can make your travel experience more enjoyable.
Likewise, you may have some perks you’re 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. 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 that you can give as gifts to travel-loving friends.
Let’s dive in!
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
Almost all premium travel credit cards include a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application reimbursement. These programs give you free expedited security for up to five years and the benefit will save you up to $100 in the process.
These credits are generally refreshed every five years too, and you can only use one at a time. So if you already used the benefit on one card, consider giving to a friend or family member.
The Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit isn’t restricted to the cardholder, so you can gift it to someone else if you already have it. 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 domestic 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 versus $100). Better yet, both will be reimbursed in full by most credit cards that have the 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. This is especially true when crossing the border back to the U.S. with Global Entry.
Here are some of the top eligible cards:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (annual fees of $550 (see rates and fees) and $595 (see rates and fees), respectively
- Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 annual fee)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® ($450 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 Club Premier Credit Card ($89 annual fee)
All these cards offer the credit every four years (with the exception of the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which is every five years).
Free hotel nights
Some hotel rewards cards offer a free award night annually 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 this year), so if you can’t use it, 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. Alternatively, you can book the stay under your name and add the recipient as an additional guest. The guest can then check-in without you being present.
Gifting 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 new hotel. Many of these certificates can be used for luxury properties too, so it can be an awesome experience for those new to the travel world.
That said, be aware that all free nights aren’t created equal. There are restrictions on 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 fee).
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: The anniversary night is valid at hotels costing 40,000 points or less ($89 annual fee).
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card & 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 fee, respectively; see rates and fees).
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Offers a free night at any property costing 50,000 points or less across the Marriott program ($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
A handful of 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 — usually — 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 his or her 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 from $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.
On the other hand, 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 United States.
The companion ticket that comes with the Delta Reserve differ slightly from the one included with the Delta Platinum. The Delta Reserve’s companion ticket can be used in can be used in first class, Comfort+ or the main cabin. On the other hand, the Delta Plainum’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. You can also earn the companion ticket as part of the card’s current offer: 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn a Travel Together Ticket after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening.
- 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: Includes a companion ticket every cardmember year.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Includes 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.
Airline and Travel credits
The Amex Platinum, with its $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) and Amex Business Platinum, with its $595 annual fee (see rates and fees) come with an annual airline credit of up to $200. These credits may only be used for incidentals such as baggage fees or inflight purchases on a pre-selected airline.
If you haven’t claimed your annual airline-fee credit, consider using it 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 Plus seat if they’re flying on the airline you’ve selected for your credit.
We’ve also found that United Club, Delta SkyClub and American Admirals Club day passes are also reimbursed by Amex. So if you have all $200 available to you, you can buy four United Club passes (so 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.
Chase’s travel credits are broader
Alternatively, those with a Chase Sapphire Reserve card enjoy a $300 annual travel credit. This covers any expense that codes as travel. This includes Uber rides, hotel stays, airfare and just about anything else related to travel.
That said, most of us have used our Chase travel credit by this point in the year given how broad it is. But if you still have some 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 it 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 Bonvoy Brilliant Marriott credit
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card card includes an annual up to $300 Marriott statement credit that can be used to cover hotel stays at any Marriott property. If you haven’t used your credit, 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 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 it’s 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 pm same-day Delta flights.
Of course, remember that you’re responsible for all charges on your authorized cards. Only give 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 and those users receive Admirals Club airport lounge access for themselves and two guests (some lounges may require an American Airlines boarding pass for entry).
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).
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 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 might inspire them to get started on their own miles and points journey.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
Featured photo by Photo by Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images
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