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When it comes to selecting a new credit card, some people are definitely all about the rewards. Travel credit cards can be especially lucrative, since you can earn airline miles for free flights, hotel points good for free stays all over the world, and flexible travel points you can use in more than one way.
For a lot of consumers, travel rewards help them see the world. They may not be able to travel for as long, or as far away from home, without the points and miles they earn using their rewards cards for regular expenses and bills.
In that sense, some people start to think of their rewards stash as an extension of their travel budget. And that’s perfectly okay. The thing is, travel rewards cards can do a lot more than make travel free; they can make it more luxurious, more comfortable, and a lot more fun. Here are a few examples.
Upgrade to business class
Most of us who work diligently to save up for a vacation would never be able to afford business class tickets, and especially not for overseas travel. Fortunately, airline and travel rewards cards make it easy to earn big sign-up bonuses and ongoing rewards that can make paying for a business class seat a reality.
While business class flights can vary depending on the airline loyalty program, you can frequently find international business class tickets to destinations throughout Europe for just over 55,000 American AAdvantage miles one-way, for example. Air France/Flying Blue often offers similar pricing, and their Promo Awards often include special international deals.
Book hotels you couldn’t normally afford
Hotel points can be used for regular hotels nearly anywhere in the world, but don’t forget that with enough points, you can stay in over-the-top properties you could never afford to pay for with cash.
Imagine staying in a luxury resort in the Maldives, Bora Bora, or the Seychelles, and all on points. This is absolutely possible thanks to hotel loyalty programs and co-branded credit cards from Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.
I’ve done this before, and the one downside you’ll face is higher costs for food and fun. When I used World of Hyatt points to stay at the $900+ per night Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome, for example, drinks at the bar started at around $39 USD. My husband and I were too embarrassed to get up and walk out after we were already seated and perusing the menu, so we shared the cheapest drink we could buy — a glass of rosé. From that point on, we ordered drinks elsewhere. (See also: 5 Amazing Travel Destinations You Thought Were Unaffordable)
Splurge for trip excursions
Another rewards strategy to try is earning points for luxury splurges, tours, and day trips. This is something I frequently do with flexible travel credit I earn.
No matter where in the world you’re traveling, you can use certain types of points to book fun stuff like snorkeling excursions, museum tours, foodie tours, and more. For an upcoming trip to Italy I have on the books, for example, I redeemed points for a cooking class in Florence, a winery tour and gourmet dinner in Tuscany, and private airport pickup in Milan. I also cashed in some rewards for a golf cart tour of ancient Rome — which is a must considering we’re taking my aging parents with us, and they would not enjoy walking all over such a large, sprawling area to see the major sites.
Remember, travel rewards can be used for travel essentials like flights and hotels, but they can also be used for fun splurges you wouldn’t want to pay for otherwise.
Speed through airport security
Many of the top travel rewards credit cards available today also offer a credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Where TSA Precheck helps you speed through airport security without having to remove your shoes, belt, or laptop from your bag, Global Entry can help you re-enter the United States without having to stand in ridiculously long lines.
Both of these perks have saved me time, but especially Global Entry. Where most people wait at least 30 minutes (and sometimes hours) to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad, I rarely wait in line for more than five minutes.
Enjoy endless airport lounges
After you’ve skipped waiting in line thanks to Global Entry or TSA Precheck, you can head to the safe and quiet refuge of an airport lounge.
Many top travel credit cards offer airport lounge access as a cardholder perk. Some cards even let you gain entry into thousands of airport lounges around the world. All of these lounges have a selection of drinks and snacks, but some of the best have expansive buffets and free-flowing booze. It really depends on the airport.
Either way, you’re better off in a lounge than you are sitting at the crowded, loud gate waiting for your flight. Since many top travel credit cards offer airport lounge access for free as a cardholder perk, you may as well take advantage while you can.
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Originally posted at https://www.wisebread.com/how-travel-rewards-cards-can-help-you-score-luxury-travel-perks