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You probably already know many of the advantages of using a credit or charge card: earning miles and points on purchases, or cash back rewards, of course. Some airline-affiliated cards offer free checked bags and other perks such as priority boarding. Some of the benefits, however, may be less obvious. Allow me to enlighten you.,..
Free Travel Insurance
I left a valuable item on an American Airlines flight not long ago. I was despondent because I hate losing things. But then I remembered I bought the flight (not the item, but the flight) with the Platinum Card from American Express.
I recalled something about baggage protection that comes with the card. Did it cover carry-on items lost in transit? Even if not left in a bag? Turns out, it does. After providing the original receipt for the item, the original ticket receipt, a lost item claim with the airline, and filling out a form, American Express promptly gave me a $500 credit on my statement.
On another flight my checked bag was lost for five days and it contained essential items that I needed upon landing. The airline originally told me “tough luck” (they later changed their mind after I reported them to the D.O.T.), so I called the credit card company I bought the flight with and they said sure, fill out a form and we’ll reimburse you if the airline turns you down, up to $100 a day for three days. Enough, anyway, for the essentials I couldn't do without.
Many cards also offer travel insurance for delayed flights or trip cancellations when a cardholder or various family members become injured or ill either before or during a trip.
Special Events for Cardholders
But some of the least-appreciated benefits of some credit cards are special experiences available only to members. For example, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express offers members-only VIP experiences for surprisingly low cost. I’ve tended to overlook these in the past, but I recently attended Bottle Rock, a wine-and-music festival in Napa, California, where I was treated to a VIP viewing suite up close to the stage, local cuisine, an open bar, and a gift bag with a $300 gift certificate to a Michelin-starred Napa restaurant, among other perks.
And recently, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express offered members a VIP experience at the U.S . Open Tennis Championships in Forest Hills, N.Y. For $205, members received tickets to the Men’s/Women’s quarterfinal matches, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and dinner in their special hospitality enclave, a meet and greet with star players, and a premium gift bag.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express has held other events at the Sundance Film Festival and Art Basel.
I figured I already knew the answer, but I asked a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express representative at the Bottle Rock event if these events cost more to produce than members actually pay. I imagine they benefit American Express by building loyalty and giving members just one more reason to renew their annual card membership year after year.
"We know many of our Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express members are passionate about travel, food, wine, sports, and entertainment, [so] we offer them exclusive access to VIP experiences at various events throughout the year," Lisa Kalhans, Vice President, Co-Brand Product Management at American Express, told me.
It may not be the only reason to get and keep a travel rewards credit card, but these special VIP events really do make cardholders feel like VIPs for relatively little cost.
Editor's Note: This content is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the aforementioned entities.