Although I’ve been utilizing credit card rewards for many years now, we really stepped up when my husband quit his full-time mortuary job last year with some of the best travel credit cards there are out there. Where we were once limited to three or four weeks of vacation a year, our travel dreams are now limited only by our imaginations – and our travel budget, of course.

Let’s face it, though; racking up points and miles makes budget travel a whole lot easier. With airline miles and hotel points, we’ve traveled to places like St. Maarten, England, France, Italy, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Mexico in just the last 18 months alone.

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When you’re paying very little out-of-pocket for flights or hotel stays, you can afford to take guided tours, enjoy the local cuisine, and take in all the sights and sounds. And when the bulk of your trip is almost-free, you can even afford to splurge at times.

My Favorite Credit Card Perks of All Time

Still, that’s not even the whole story. While airline miles and hotel points are great, I get a lot more out of the deal than that. In reality, a ton of my favorite travel credit cards and general rewards cards offer perks I find highly beneficial. While I don’t always use all of the credit card perks available, the benefits I score through certain cards makes travel cheaper and easier – or, at the very least, provides me with some peace of mind.

Here are my favorite credit card perks of all time – and how I use them to my benefit:

Primary Auto Rental Coverage

Since we travel often with our children in tow, there are times when we want to rent a car and drive around. While our personal auto insurance covers us in rental cars, I would much rather use the free primary auto rental coverage offered through my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

With the primary rental car coverage offered, I wouldn’t need to rely on my own insurance if I got in a wreck or experienced theft. Straight from the Chase website, it says to “decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.”

Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance

Another perk I love using is the trip cancellation and interruption insurance I get through my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Plus® Business Credit Card. Several other top travel cards offer their own version of trip cancellation and interruption insurance, of course, but I tend to rely on the coverage offered through Chase because I actually had to use it once.

Yep, Greg and I once got stranded in Jamaica for two extra days due to awful winter weather in the southern part of the United States. As a result of our extra 48 hours in paradise, we had to pay an additional $590 for two nights at our hotel. Since I had purchased our airfare with our card, I filed a claim with Chase when I got home. After just a few weeks, they reimbursed me for the entire $590. Here’s how Chase describes their version of this coverage on their website:

“If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours and hotels.”

The best part about this coverage is that it’s free. All you need to do is sign up for the right travel credit card and use it to book your trip.

Airport Lounge Access

The fact that we fly a lot more often now means that we rely heavily on the comforts of airport lounges. Although I have several credit cards that offer a lounge benefit, my favorites are my Citi Prestige® Card and Platinum Card® from American Express.

 

With my Citi Prestige® Card, I get complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club® lounges, plus hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority Pass™ Select. I prefer Admirals Clubs if I have the option, but any lounge is better than no lounge in my eyes.

The fact that my Platinum Card® from American Express offers access to Centurion lounges is absolutely awesome! During our recent trip to Grand Cayman, Greg and I spent several hours at the Centurion Lounge in Miami, and we thought we were in heaven. Not only did the lounge have free (and fast) WiFi, but they had a huge spread of food, unlimited beverages (including some alcohol), and complimentary massages and manicures. That’s crazy talk if you ask me, but I was happy to enjoy some food and drink while I surfed the web.

The food at the Centurion Lounge in Miami - Yum!

The food at the Centurion Lounge in Miami – Yum!

Southwest Companion Pass

If you love flying Southwest Airlines like I do, the Southwest Companion Pass is the holy grail. To earn this pass, you have to rack up 110,000 Southwest miles in a single year. While points transferred from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card don’t count towards the total, points earned with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Plus version of the card do. And yes, that includes the 50,000 point bonus offer that is currently being doled out on the Southwest Premier Credit Card.

The Southwest Companion Pass lets your “companion” fly free all year long – whether you pay for your flight with points or cash. I just added up our trips and it appeared that we used our Companion Passes six times in 2015 (when we each had one) and eight times for trips planned in 2016 (only Greg has the CP this year). Either way, it is a huge benefit that should not be ignored if you fly domestic or to the Caribbean and want to save money.

 

Dispute Resolution and Zero Fraud Liability

My favorite thing about using credit exclusively is the fact that I won’t be on the hook for any fraudulent purchases made with my card. Why? Because nowadays, credit cards come with zero fraud liability, meaning fraudulent charges made without your permission are not your responsibility. And in reality, federal law limits your liability for fraudulent credit card purchases to $50, provided you report the transaction in a timely manner.

But some credit card issuers, including Chase, take this a step further. If you have a problem with almost any of your bills, or you believe are wrong, they will take the bull by the horns and settle the dispute for you.

I took advantage of this service once when a super-shady moving company, All My Sons, tried to rip me off when I hired them to move our furniture. Basically, they added “extra charges” to my bill after I already signed, then charged them to my credit card bill. Chase actively tried to settle this, but couldn’t get any kind of excuse or resolution from All My Sons. At the end of the day, Chase refunded the extra monies they charged me and withheld those funds from All My Sons as well. See, there really is justice in this world!

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The Bottom Line

These are just a few of the credit card benefits I rely on regularly, but there are plenty of others. The best part is that the majority of the benefits I love are absolutely free…as long as you pay your balance in full each month and never pay interest on your purchases.

If you want see the other rewards cards I love and their respective benefits, check out these posts as well:

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What are your favorite credit card perks? What would you add to this list?