“I bet you have SOOO many airline miles,” is probably the most frequent thing I hear from random people who hear what I do for a living. I always feel a little bad bursting their bubble and admitting I really don’t have that many airline miles, and that I have never flown first/business class. I’m not a travel hacker, I’m just a traveler. I have never had time, nor was interested in trying to learn how to get free trips by collecting travel points or credit cards that gave me points. For some reason I just never really cared, so I steered clear of Travel Hacking and Points websites.
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Travel Focused Credit Card Benefits
However, travel hacking isn’t the only reason why people get travel-focused credit cards; you get them because they also offer travel perks for frequent travelers. Things like airport lounge access for you and a companion, travel credits, Uber credits, car rental insurance, and global entry access.
That’s how I found myself wading through the confusing world of travel credit cards last fall. Sure, you get a ton of points for signing up, but I was more interested in the lounge, global entry, insurance, and travel credits that they also come with.
Calling in the Credit Card Experts
It didn’t take me long to be drowning in travel credit card overload. I was getting frustrated as they all seemed the same and I just wanted to figure out which one would be the best for my needs. I needed help.
That’s when I shined the travel hacking signal in the night sky, a light in the shape of an airplane glowed in the sky over Denver. Ok…maybe it wasn’t quite like that.
I decided to call upon some experts, my friends Amy and Tim from GoWithLess. Tim and Amy Rutherford retired in their 40s by trimming $6.500 from their monthly spending; and now travel extensively thanks to travel hacking and penny pinching. They are passionate about teaching others the strategies that helped them say goodbye to their careers and hello to their freedom on their YouTube channel.
They helped me sort through fees, understand the rules, and determine what would be best for me. Tim even made me a little spreadsheet comparing two very popular travel focused credit cards – the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and the AMEX Platinum card.
Why I chose the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card for my Travel Focused Credit Card
First, I’m a big believer in simply using and having one main credit card. It just makes it much easier for me to keep track of things (see my other 98 travel tips here!). Other people like Amy and Tim get multiple cards to maximize points and free travel, but that wasn’t my goal. I was simply ready to replace my Chase United card with one of these new choices and have it be my card I used on everything.
I pretty quickly came to learn that the AMEX and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards are nearly identical. However the AMEX had a bit higher fee and a larger spending requirement in the first 3 months.
NOTE: Most of these cards require you to spend some amount within the first 3 months in order to be eligible for the bonus reward points.
The lower fee and lower spend requirement of the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) was the main reason I chose it. These requirements do frequently change, so it’s best to research the latest. My CSR annual fee was $450 and I had to spend $4000 within the first 90 days to get 50,000 award points. That seems like a lot for a penny pincher like me, but once I added in the benefits, it seemed like a good deal for me.
Travel Benefits That Were Important for Me
This will obviously be different for everyone, but here’s what I focused on.
1. Global Entry Fee Credit
Believe or not, even though I travel extensively I never had TSA pre-check or Global Entry. After standing in many long security lines last year in the Denver airport, I decided it was finally time to get this! It normally costs $100, but with the card it was free. I’m happy to say that I now officially have Global Entry and TSA Pre-check! I used it for the first time when I came home from Iceland last month – it was fast and easy!
2. Annual Travel Credit
Even though the card comes with a $450 annual fee, you offset that with a $300 annual travel credit. The card credits you back for the first $300 in travel charges. This includes hotels charges, rental cars, airfare, tours, etc. I used up this benefit really quickly due to my travel schedule.
3. Priority Lounge Access
This was a nice perk for people who find themselves at the airport a lot like myself. I received an annual membership to Priority Pass Select and now can use lounges around the world for free. I’m loving this perk as it saves me food costs at airports and ensures I’m comfortable during layovers with guaranteed wifi. Plus – you can share this benefit with your travel partner!
4. Primary Car Rental Insurance
Since I don’t own a car in Denver, every time a rent a car I always have to go through the hassle of getting overpriced car insurance. However, the card gives me primary car insurance when I rent with my card, which was a BIG perk to me. It saves me quite a bit for car rental.
5. Travel/Medical Insurance
The card also comes with pretty extensive travel insurance covering things from emergency evacuation, medical, and dental benefits. Plus, trip cancelation, delay, and lost luggage benefits. It’s really all you need.
There are many other perks the card has, but these were my main reasons for getting the card. Even though it has a $450 fee, the annual $300 travel credit and $100 Global Entry reimbursement, and saved money in insurance fees practically make it free.
I Love My New Travel Perks!
I’ve been using the card now for about 5 months and really love it. Well – I don’t ‘love’ the card, I love the benefits it gives me. I’ve been using the lounge access and Global Entry/TSA Precheck all the time! I’ve also used the insurance coverage already too (yet I have never had to file a claim yet). I switched all of my monthly bills over to this card so that everything would be easy to track and I’d ensure that my $4000 spend occurred in 90 days. Just last month I learned that I did get the 50,000 bonus points which equates roughly to $500 in travel credits.
I feel pretty good about my decision – especially as I sit in the Heathrow Airport Lounge sipping wine and eating a poached salmon salad!
These travel focused credit cards aren’t just for Travel Hackers and manipulating points and bonuses – they actually do make your travel easier and more stress free. And for that alone it was worth it to me!
In case you were wondering, this was not sponsored content in any way – I really like the card and it enhances my travels. If you want to learn more about it – you can get more information here at the Chase Sapphire Reserve site.
However – for those who are into travel hacking and getting free travel – I asked Tim and Amy for their best advice for beginning travel hacking and they will be sharing it in a couple of guest posts on Ottsworld this coming week!