If you’re an avid points and miles traveler, chances are you have multiple premium credit cards in your wallet. This is for a good reason: these cards tend to have excellent perks that can make your travel experience more enjoyable.
You might also have some perks you’re personally unable to use. For example, most travel credits, companion passes and free hotel night certificates are valid only for a year. These will go to waste if not used before the expiration date, potentially flushing hundreds of dollars down the drain.
If you have overlapping or expiring perks you can’t take advantage of, consider giving them as a gift this holiday season. The odds are that someone in your circle of loved ones would greatly appreciate Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, a free hotel night or access to an airport lounge.
In this article, I’ll show you all of the credit card perks you can give as gifts to travel-loving friends. Let’s dive in!
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
Almost all premium travel credit cards include a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application reimbursement worth up to $100 once every four or five years, depending on the card. These programs give you access to expedited security lines at airports for up to five years.
Luckily, the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit isn’t restricted to the cardholder. Thus, if you have multiple cards that offer this benefit, you can use one to pay for your own application, then you can gift another to someone else by using one of your other cards to pay that person’s application fee. It will appear on your credit card statement as a charge from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the credit should come through within a few days.
To choose the perfect gift for speeding through security lines, remember the difference between the two programs. TSA PreCheck makes it easier to go through security for flights (passengers don’t have to take off belts and shoes or remove laptops from their cases). On the other hand, Global Entry speeds up U.S. Customs clearance on arrival at select airports and land borders.
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TSA PreCheck is included with Global Entry, and the price difference is minimal ($78 for the former versus $100 for the latter). Both will be reimbursed in full by most credit cards that have this type of fee waiver. Even if your friend or family member only travels a handful of times every year, the time savings can be huge when traveling during peak holiday seasons — especially when crossing back into to the U.S. with Global Entry.
The Amex Platinum and Business Platinum cards offer reimbursement for Global Entry once every four years and reimbursement for TSA PreCheck once every 4½ years. The Citi AAdvantage Executive card offers reimbursement for either program once every five years. The other cards on this list offer reimbursement for either program every five years.
Free hotel nights
Some hotel credit cards offer an annual free award night on your account anniversary, and you can use these awards to book someone else a stay. These generally expire after a year. If you can’t use an award night, you can give it to a friend or family member instead.
In most cases, you can either book the hotel under someone else’s name with the certificate or book the stay under your name and add the recipient as an additional guest. The guest can then check in without you being present.
Your hotel certificates can make for a great gift. Whether your friend books a staycation, road trip hotel or a night in a new city, they’ll save money and experience a great getaway. Many of these certificates can be used for luxury properties, too, so you can make it a fantastic experience for those new to the credit card travel perks world.
That said, be aware that all free nights aren’t created equal, as there are restrictions on the hotel category and point value. Here’s a look:
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Airline companion tickets
Several airline cobranded credit cards include companion certificates as an annual perk. You can use these to bring a companion with you on a flight for just the cost of taxes plus other related fees. If you have a certificate available, invite a friend to go with you on a future trip and cover the cost of their flight reservation with the companion ticket.
That said, each airline companion ticket is created differently. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card includes an annual companion ticket that lets you bring a companion with you for $121 ($99 fare and the cost of taxes and fees from $22). It can only be used on economy fares, but tickets are eligible for upgrades with a certificate or a complimentary elite upgrade.
Delta offers companion tickets as an annual benefit of two of its cobranded cards: the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. You can use these certificates to bring a companion with you on a round-trip flight within the contiguous U.S.
The companion ticket that comes with the Delta Reserve differs slightly from the one included with the Delta Platinum. The Delta Reserve’s companion ticket can be used in first class, Comfort+ or the main cabin. The Delta Platinum’s ticket can only be used in select main cabin fare classes. Regardless, you can get excellent value with this certificate and give your travel-loving friend or family member a great trip.
Here’s a look at all the cards that offer companion tickets:
The information for the Aviator Red, Aviator Silver, Lufthansa Miles & More and the Virgin Atlantic cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Annual travel credits
If you have a credit card with travel credits, you could use these to improve the travel experience of a friend or relative. That could be a nicer seat, hotel stay or paying for that person’s checked bags.
Use the annual travel credits on the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum
The Amex Platinum comes with up to $200 in annual prepaid hotel credits and up to $200 in annual airline incidental credits each year. The Amex Business Platinum also comes with up to $200 in annual airline incidental statement credits. (Enrollment is required in advance for select benefits.)
If you haven’t claimed these annual credits, consider using them to help a loved one out with holiday travel. Maybe you can cover checked bag fees for your in-laws or book them an economy seat assignment with extra legroom if they’re flying on the airline you’ve selected for your credit.
We’ve also found that Amex reimburses United Club and American Admirals Club day passes. So if you have all $200 available to you, you can buy four United Club passes (as long as United is your selected airline) and use them as stocking stuffers for the travelers on your shopping list.
Check out TPG’s complete guide to using the Amex airline fee credit to find even more ways to use your credit. There’s bound to be something for the traveler in your life. (Enrollment is required in advance for these credits.)
With the Amex Platinum, you can book a prepaid hotel stay ahead of the new year — even if the hotel stay isn’t until after New Year, so long as you make the payment before this year ends. Do note, however, that you as the cardholder must be checking into the hotel too, so this is only possible if you are traveling with your loved one.
Chase’s travel credits are broader
Those with a Chase Sapphire Reserve card enjoy up to $300 in annual travel credits. This covers any expense that codes as travel, including Uber rides, hotel stays, airfare and just about anything else related to travel.
Most of us probably have used our Chase travel credits by this point in the year, given how broad it is, but if you happen to still have some of that credit kicking around, you can get creative in how you gift it. For example, if a hotel or another travel vendor near you sells gift cards, you can charge one to your Sapphire Reserve and most likely be reimbursed for the expense, then put the gift card in a loved one’s stocking. Alternatively, you could book a flight or hotel room for your loved one and be reimbursed for the charge.
Other cards with travel credits
There are other credit cards offering travel credits each year, as well. You can use these to gift travel experiences or trip improvements for others:
The information for the Altitude Reserve, Ritz-Carlton, Bank of America Premium Rewards Elite, Citi Prestige and Hilton Honors Aspire cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Annual shopping credits
The Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cards offer several annual shopping credits each year, which come in the form of statement credits after qualifying purchases. You can make purchases for items you plan to gift to others, such as a new carry-on bag or even a new set of headphones.
Amex Platinum annual credits include the following:
Amex Business Platinum annual credits include the following:
Enrollment is required in advance for these benefits, and your reimbursement will come in the form of a statement credit after qualifying purchases.
Authorized user perks
One of the easiest ways to give a variety of benefits to someone — and not just during the holiday season — is to make them an authorized user on your credit card.
The specific perks granted to authorized users vary from one card to another, but this also can be an excellent method for helping someone build or rebuild their credit. The advantage to the primary cardholder is that all the spending on the auxiliary card earns points and/or miles.
Two of the best credit cards for authorized user benefits are the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and the Capital One Venture X. The Citi AAdvantage Executive card gives Admirals Club access to the primary cardholder and up to 10 authorized users. Lounge memberships aren’t cheap, so it’s the perfect gift for the American loyalist in your life. The Venture X card also offers lounge perks to authorized users, as well as rental car elite status — both at no cost for up to four authorized users.
Likewise, The Platinum Card from American Express gives authorized users access to a solid group of lounge networks, including Amex’s Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, and Delta SkyClubs on same-day Delta flights. (Enrollment is required for select benefits.)
Of course, remember that you’re responsible for all charges on your authorized cards. Only add authorized users who you trust — especially if you have an agreement that the recipient only uses your card for travel benefits. Here are some cards with significant benefits for authorized users:
The information for the Citi Prestige Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The holidays are a great time for sharing the benefits of premium rewards cards. Whether it’s a lounge pass, companion certificate or another travel perk, it can go a long way for someone who doesn’t have points and miles of their own.
Plus, when you give those perks as gifts, you’re letting friends and loved ones experience the value of the points and miles hobby. Who knows? The gift alone might inspire them to get started on their own points and miles journey.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Ryan Smith.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Business card, click here.