Labor Day weekend, one of the busiest travel periods of the year, will be here in a few short weeks. While you may not be able to avoid crowds of people at every turn, there are a few ways to make your travels easier. And some of these solutions may even be hidden in your wallet right now.
Here are three relatively common credit card perks that can make even the busiest travel days of the year feel a little less laborious.
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry credit
The lines for airport security and U.S. customs can be unbearable on a normal day, so expect them to be even longer at peak holiday travel times. Having TSA PreCheck or Global Entry — a perk many cards offer — can help.
TSA PreCheck provides a special line through security for those who pass an accompanying background check. PreCheck is valid for five years. Since those who hold TSA PreCheck are prescreened, the airport security process often takes a fraction of the time, with the Transportation Security Administration reporting average wait times of only five minutes in June 2019.
PreCheck holders don’t have to remove shoes, belts, or jackets, or even take laptops and liquids out of their bags.
Global Entry provides the benefits of TSA PreCheck along with expedited entry back into the U.S. when traveling from international destinations. The application requires an in-person interview, but frequent international travelers will probably find it worthwhile.
The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100, along with a wide host of other travel-related benefits to offset its hefty annual fee of $695. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also offers this perk, with an annual fee of $550. Normally, you'd pay $85 for PreCheck or $100 for Global Entry (which includes PreCheck).
Travel lounge access
On Labor Day, you may find yourself at the airport early to minimize the impact of the crowds, even if you already have TSA PreCheck. If that’s the case, you don’t need to fight with the masses for an outlet at a cramped boarding gate. Instead, investigate the spacious and calm oasis that is the airport lounge.
Priority Pass enables members to access over 1,200 airport lounges throughout the world and is a popular feature of some credit cards, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. To expand your options, you can also use LoungeBuddy, which allows anyone to buy single-use lounge access to select airport lounges throughout the world starting at just $25.
Some airline credit cards include airline-specific lounge membership or one-time passes as a perk, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. If you already have one of these cards, make sure you’re taking advantage of these benefits as well as others often offered by airline-specific cards, such as free checked bags, in-flight savings, and priority boarding, to further ease the struggles of travel. (Also watch for restrictions; certain lounge passes require you to fly certain airlines in order to access them.)
During high-traffic travel days, the likelihood of travel mishaps increases. In that case, you can always look to your card for travel protections. While such protections can’t magically make your trip perfect, your card company can be an advocate to help you minimize some of the damage when travel goes wrong. Lost or delayed baggage? Flight canceled and stuck overnight? There’s a card for that.
The American Express® Gold Card offers a $500 benefit for replacing lost checked luggage. If you need more coverage, The Platinum Card® from American Express increases that coverage up to $2,000 per person on checked bags that were lost or damaged. It’s always worth reading up on your card benefits to see if lost and damaged bag protection is included.
Read the fine print on your policies. Not everything will be covered, and limits change based on a myriad of factors. Also, in some cases the application process for reimbursements can be onerous.
Travel protection benefits aren’t limited to your luggage. Some cards include roadside assistance, rental car collision insurance, trip cancellation coverage, and more. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® both offer lost and delayed baggage coverage as well as trip delay and cancellation coverage.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: How to get a refund if nature thwarts your vacation plans Find the best travel credit card for you 6 ways to use travel rewards to elevate your staycation