DIY Thursday: Throw a St. Patrick’s Day Party on Any Budget
By Tony Mecia
Free checked bags are the top travel benefit offered by credit cards, according to a random telephone poll of 1,005 consumers commissioned by CreditCards.com.
The poll, conducted by GfK Roper Jan. 24-26, asked consumers which credit-card travel benefit respondents found most valuable. Twenty-two percent selected free checked baggage, beating out rental-car insurance (20 percent), travel insurance (14 percent), priority boarding (12 percent) and airport lounge access (4 percent). Twenty-three percent of respondents said “None.”
The preference for free checked bags is a sign of the times. Since 2008, all major U.S. airlines except Southwest and JetBlue have started charging fees of around $25 for the first checked bag on domestic flights. Airline co-branded cards typically offer at least one free checked bag on domestic flights, as well as priority boarding and, of course, frequent-flier miles that can be redeemed for free trips.
The baggage fees can outweigh the annual fee for a credit card, especially if you travel with family. Let’s say you, your spouse and two kids take a vacation and each member has a suitcase they want to check. That’s potentially $100 in baggage fees.
But if you buy that ticket with a Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express, you and up to nine people traveling on the same reservation get a free checked bag. The card’s annual fee is $95, waived the first year, so one trip can more than pay for the card. It also offers priority boarding and 20 percent off in-flight purchases of food, drinks and movies.
Similar savings are available with the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard. For an annual fee of $95, waived the first year, you and up to four traveling companions get a free checked bag each. Plus you get priority boarding, 25 percent off certain in-flight purchases and $100 a year in flight discounts.
More general bank-issued travel reward cards lack the boarding and baggage perks, which the airlines control, but their rewards for free travel can be redeemed at a much wider variety of airlines and other travel providers. Most travel-rewards cards, issued with or without an airline’s participation, include rental car insurance and travel-accident insurance.
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