TPG’s editors’ choice award for best credit card perk
Credit card perks can fundamentally shift how we experience the world.
Whether it's a premium lifestyle benefit — or perhaps something more practical like small-business tools or a travel credit — perks are why many of us keep our cards for the long haul.
At TPG, we know the value of a credit card goes beyond a welcome bonus. The best card products and their respective perks should play a role in enhancing our lives. They should get us excited to go to the airport, check in to a hotel, submit an invoice, dine out at a restaurant or, in essence, just go about our daily lives.
We considered all those factors and more to come up with our 2021 TPG editors' choice award for the best credit card perk.
Read on for more details on what we looked at ... and which card benefit came out on top.
First, we approached this award by gathering dozens of credit card products, analyzing their individual perks and discussing how relevant they were to the average cardholder.
Overall, the best card benefits become ingrained in our routine, extending from a nice-to-have bonus to a can't-live-without benefit. We thought about which benefits have truly become indispensable to cardholders as well as those that have become fundamentally associated with the specific cards that offer them.
To be considered for the TPG editors' choice award for best credit card perk, the benefit must have been available to all consumers of the specific product (i.e., not only targeted to a specific subset of cardholders).
Another major consideration? Ease of use. The more confusing and limiting the benefit, the more likely the benefit would not be considered. In practice, that meant a perk that required multiple levels of registering, tracking and babying would lose points from the get-go.
Finally, the perk cannot have been part of a welcome bonus, as those are subject to change from time to time.
Ease of use and access
Several cards have a specific perk that makes them incredibly easy to use.
Take, for instance, the 2019 TPG Award winner for this category (as voted on by readers): the $300 travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
The annual, no-hassle $300 travel credit is excellent. It automatically applies to the first $300 of travel purchases you make each account year, and "travel" is defined to include a wide variety of merchants like ride-hailing services, parking garages and campgrounds, as well as more traditional travel categories like airfare and hotels.
However, many credit cards, including the recently launched Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, offer annual statement credits so this one no longer seemed quite unique enough to crown it a champion again.
The new perk battleground
Related: Airport lounge wars: How credit card companies are competing for your preflight cocktail
In 2021, as we looked to get back out into the world and travel began to rebound in earnest, we shifted our focus to an arena where card issuers were starting to battle it out: airport lounge access.
Credit card issuers are pushing their own versions of lounge access perks to more travelers than ever before.
Take, for instance, Capital One, which launched its first airport lounge at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport earlier this fall, with plans to introduce a network of premium preflight spaces in the coming years. Lounge entry — including Priority Pass — is a preeminent perk of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
Chase, too, will be introducing airport lounges in the coming months for select cardholders. As first reported on TPG, Chase will have lounges at New York (LGA), Boston (BOS) and Hong Kong (HKG) over the next year or so.
That leads us to one more issuer.
Related: The best credit cards for Priority Pass lounge access
And the winner is ...
Our editors' choice winner for best credit card perk of 2021 is ... the Global Lounge Collection from American Express.
Since 2013, the network of Amex-owned and -operated Centurion Lounges was the only major player in the card-run lounge arena. While intense competition is looming, they're still the perennial heavyweights in this category.
In fact, a total of four new or remodeled Centurion Lounges opened in 2021 alone — including at Denver (DEN), New York (LGA), London (LHR) and Las Vegas (LAS).
Amex has not only expanded these lounges to over 23 airports and growing (including newly converted international locations), but the issuer has also compiled a whole network of partner lounges called the Global Lounge Collection, which includes Delta Sky Clubs, Priority Pass lounges and more.
That's why, for 2021, we're crowning the American Express Global Lounge Collection — with access to the largest selection of airport lounges offered to credit card holders by any issuer -- the best credit card perk.
According to Amex, there are over 1,400 lounges available through the collection and they include:
- American Express Centurion Lounges.
- Delta Sky Club lounges.
- Priority Pass Select lounges.
- Escape Lounges — The Centurion Studio Partner.
- Airspace lounges.
- Plaza Premium lounges.
- Lufthansa lounges.
- Other Global Lounge Collection partner lounges.
Here's how you can get in.
The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offer some of the best travel perks you can get from a premium travel rewards card, including access to the Global Lounge Collection.
Cardmembers with other Platinum cards (such as the Schwab or Ameriprise versions and international versions) as well as the Centurion Card should also have access to the entire lounge collection.
Authorized users with a Centurion or Platinum card have access as well.
In addition, there are two Delta cobranded cards — the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card — that receive limited access to the Global Lounge Collection, including Centurion-branded lounges and Sky Clubs.
To get complimentary Centurion Lounge access, cardholders of these two Delta products must purchase their ticket with an American Express card issued in the U.S.
Finally, it is worth noting that Amex's Priority Pass access does not include airport restaurants, unlike the benefit offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Capital One Venture X.
From airport lounge access to hotel status, travel credits and much more, TPG editors considered a wide swath of perks for the best overall pick in 2021.
However, there is no question that airport lounge access is fast becoming a nearly ubiquitous feature for most travelers. As the battle for lounge supremacy heats up, we're giving Amex's Global Lounge Collection our spot for best card perk in 2021.