NerdWallet Report: 5 Ways Your Credit Card Can Make Your Holidays Unforgettable

holiday credit card

by on November 13, 2013

A NerdWallet report finds five ways a credit card can make this year’s holiday season even more memorable, from experiences to hotel upgrades.

Everyone knows that high-end cards like the American Express Platinum come with an attentive concierge and airline lounge passes, but holiday perks aren’t just limited to cards with $450 annual fees. In fact, each of the benefits profiled here are available on free credit cards. If you have good credit, you can score great deals without having to pay a dime. Here are some of the perks that can spice up your holidays.

1. Skip the Black Friday hassle with price matching

Available on: Discover, MasterCard and Citi credit cards

Examples of no annual fee cards: Discover it, Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – No Annual Fee, Citi ThankYou Preferred

MasterCard, Discover and Citibank offer price matching, also known as price protection: if you see a lower price on an item you purchased, the card issuer will refund the difference. While these programs exclude jewelry, auto parts, perishables and other goods, they are still a great way for consumers to save money without the hassle. Consumers can avoid Black Friday crowds by purchasing an item in early November, then submitting a dated Black Friday ad to take advantage of the price drop. Even better, they can check leaked ads to make sure the items they want will go on sale, and that they’re within the price protection coverage limits.

2. Travel in comfort with free international upgrades

Available on: World Elite MasterCards

Examples of no annual fee cards: GM Card from Capital One

World Elite MasterCards are offering a host of luxury perks on international travel. To name a few:

  • Free upgrades to business class on:
    • Australian Airlines
    • Aer Lingus trips from the US to Europe
    • Lufthansa
  • Companion tickets:
    • Free companion ticket with purchase of Aeromexico business class ticket
    • 50% off companion ticket with Eithad business class ticket
  • Discounts:
    • 15% off coach class on Aeromexico
    • 25-35% off LAN Airlines
    • $1,000 off an Eithad first-class ticket

To redeem, cardholders can call the phone number on the back of the card to make a reservation.

World Elite MasterCards (WEMC) have always provided a host of great travel perks, but they’ve typically been restricted to top-tier cards with high fees. The Citi Executive / AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard comes with a steep $450 annual fee, while the Citi Prestige has a $400 fee. But the revamped GM credit card from Capital One has no annual or foreign transaction fee, and boasts WEMC status. Its rewards won’t do you much good unless you’re planning to get a General Motors car, but the perks are well worth it.

3. Do better than a clunky rental car

Available on: World Elite MasterCards and Visa Signature cards

Examples of no annual fee cards: GM Card from Capital One (WEMC), Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

Top credit cards offer both discounts and upgrades on rental cars, which can be quite a benefit if you’re looking to show up your overconfident brother-in-law. Here are a few examples of the discounts that are in effect at least through 2013:

  • World Elite MasterCard:
    • Complimentary access to Avis Preferred and up to 15% off rentals
    • Complimentary membership to Emerald Club Executive program and up to 25% off rentals
    • Sixt Rent-a-Car Platinum status and up to 15% off rentals
  • Visa Signature:
    • Free upgrade or $25 off Hertz rentals
    • Free upgrade, one free day or 20% off Avis rentals

4. Upgrade your hotel room (or stay a little longer)

Available on: World Elite MasterCards and Visa Signature cards

Examples of no annual fee cards: GM Card from Capital One (WEMC), Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

Both the World Elite MasterCard and Visa Signature programs offer discounts, upgrades and free nights at hotels. Here are a few sample offers:

  • World Elite MasterCard cardholders get upgrades and complimentary breakfasts at luxury hotels including:
    • Affinia Dumont, New York City
    • Canyon Ranch Hotel, Miami Beach
    • Andaz San Diego
    • Alexis Hotel, Seattle
  • Visa Signature:
    • 4th, 5th or 6th night at Marriott hotels free (depending on the property), plus a $50 resort credit daily
    • Room upgrade and free daily breakfast at Fairmont hotels
    • 20% off InterContinental Hotels Group

5. Do something different

Available on: MasterCards and Visa Signature cards

Examples of no annual fee cards: Chase Freedom (MasterCard or Visa Signature), Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – No Annual Fee, Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

Finally, to make your holiday truly memorable, your credit card can get you access to exclusive events. Some of these include:

  • MasterCard Priceless Cities events (open to anyone with a MasterCard):
    • Early access private tour of the FAO Schwartz store in New York City
    • 2-for-1 tickets to Madame Tussaud’s in London
  • World and World Elite MasterCard:
    • First tee time of the day and welcome on select PGA tour courses
    • Access to private Tournament Players Club golf courses
  • Visa Signature events:
    • Free wine tastings in many Sonoma, CA wineries
    • 10% off Cloud 9 hot air balloon rides and skydiving
    • 20% off Legoland tickets
Stay informed about the world of finance
Subscribe to our weekly financial news digest!
We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet's official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
  • Johncito

    I have a trip to Peru planned in the spring, it is on American Airlines. Do a Visa Signature or Mastercard World Elite entitle me to any type of upgrade with them?

    • NerdWallet

      Unfortunately no, it’s only on a few international carriers like LAN, AeroMexico and Lufthansa.

      • Johncito

        Well, LAN flies to Peru also, it’s my wife’s home country. I may have to look at using them in the future!