Free Nights and Free Flights

Well… mostly free!┬áThe reason I say mostly free is that though the cost of the night or flight is covered, you are still responsible for paying the security costs and taxes (for flights), and resort fees and taxes (for hotels).

It’s no secret that I am a fan of responsible credit card use, and all the perks that come with them. One of the biggest perks offered by certain credit cards is that of free nights at certain hotels, or free flights for companions. Most of these are limited to once a year, with the coupon code reissued each cardholder anniversary.

I’ve broken down a few of the more common certificates, broken apart by hotel and airline. I have omitted the Companion Pass from Southwest as it is in a category of its own. After 100 one-way flights on Southwest, you get unlimited companion flights anywhere Southwest flies! You can also get it through credit card signup bonuses and creative spending. By timing when you get the Companion Pass, you can have it last for two years.

None of the credit card links below are affiliate links. Please check with the bank directly to see if you are eligible for a better promotional offer, though!

Airlines

Alaska Airlines

Bank of America offers both personal and business versions of the Alaska Airlines co-branded credit card. In addition to the 30,000 mile signup bonus after spending $1000 within the first 3 months, you get a coupon code for a companion ticket. The coupon code can be applied directly when booking online – you will see an icon next to the prices for eligible routes. Note that you can only apply this discount to flights on Alaska Airline metal, not code-shares or partner flights, and all seats must be in economy.

However, you don’t need to be the one flying, nor do you need to use this credit card for the flight purchase. I used this for my brother and his girlfriend last year, and further reduced the price by paying with my Citi Prestige card to apply the $250 airfare credit.

American Airlines

Before the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, BarclayCard offered a credit card for US Airways that had a companion fare offer. As these cards have been converted into American Airlines Aviator cards of varying tiers, many of their perks also translated. The companion fare is only available for the Silver Aviator card, though.

As with the British Airways card, below, the cardholder must spend $30,000 in a calendar year to earn this ticket, but unlike the other coupons in this category, you can apply this to two guests at $99 (plus taxes) each. This is only valid for economy class travel in the 48 contiguous States. You also earn 5,000 elite-qualifying miles for every $20,000 you spend annually, to 10,000 miles.

It is not currently possible to apply for this card, but there has been talk of BarclayCard being allowed to allow new applicants for credit cards starting January 2017. They are limited to advertising in airports and on flights, though.

British Airways

Chase is no stranger to the co-branded credit card game, and I be going into their other offerings below. Their British Airways credit card has a standard signup bonus of 50,000 Avios for $3,000 spend in 3 months, and can easily peak to 75,000 or 100,000 Avios. If you collect Avios, you might want to hold off until one of those offers return.

The companion ticket offered with this card is known as a “Travel Together” ticket. Unlike other cards, this offer requires a hefty spend of $30,000 per calendar year, but the coupon code is offered for two years. The nice thing is you can apply this code for any cabin class: Economy, Business, or First, so long as you pay the associated fees. These associated fees can easily reach into the thousands of dollars when you look at fuel surcharges, though, so book carefully! Also note that this ticket applies specifically for reward tickets, not purchased tickets – you must use Avios to book your ticket, and your flight must originate from and return to the US.

Delta

American Express offers two credit cards that have companion ticket offerings with Delta, and they are slightly different from one another. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card offers an economy class companion ticket, while the Delta Reserve SkyMiles card offers an economy or first class companion ticket (matching that of the paid flyer). Both flyers are denied upgrade opportunities when companion tickets are used, officially, though not always in practice according to FlyerTalk.

The Platinum SkyMiles card offers 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Of those, 5,000 are Medallion Qualifying Miles. You can also earn 10,000 MQMs every $25,000 you spend annually. There is currently an offer with a $100 statement credit, as well, which helps offset the annual fee of $195.

Similarly, the Delta Reserve card offers 10,000 miles after your initial purchase. All of these miles are also MQMs, which helps you maintain status. You also earn an extra 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend annually. Though this comes with a $450 annual fee, you get unlimited SkyClub access in addition to the companion ticket to help soften that blow.

Lufthansa

The Miles and More credit card by BarclayCard was recently upgraded from a World MasterCard to a World Elite MasterCard, and given a visual makeover as well. In addition to the standard co-branded card perks (extra miles earned for related spend), you receive a companion ticket annually. There are quite a few restrictions associated with this application, unfortunately, specifically in the fares you can apply the ticket against. The good news is there is no minimum spend associated with this as with British Airways.

Hotels

Fairmont

The Fairmont card from Chase has an introductory offer of two free nights after meeting the $3,000 spend, and follows up with an annual certificate for a night – every year you spend more than $12,000.

Hilton

Citi offers two Hilton cards, though only one comes with free nights. The Hilton Reserve card starts with two weekend night certificates after spending only $2,500, and also has an annual weekend night certificate for years that you meet a spend of $10,000. Keep in mind that these are only for weekend nights. There are limitations where you can apply these nights.

Hyatt

Hyatt currently has a promotion where you can get two nights at any Hyatt, world-wide, once you meet the $1,000 minimum spend. You are also given a complimentary night on your cardholder anniversary for hotels that are categories 1 through 4. There is no minimum spend associated with this certificate.

International Hotel Group

Just like the Hyatt card, above, Chase has a credit card for the IHG family of hotels that offers an annual certificate that is good for a free night at any IHG property. Not bad at all for $49 a year!

Marriott

Chase (told you they knew the co-branded game!) offers both personal and business variants of their Marriott credit card that will give you 80,000 points for meeting the minimum spend of $3,000. There is also an annual certificate that you receive after your first year as a cardholder that is good for a free night at any category 1 to 5 hotel.

Ritz-Carlton

The last card on my list is the newly upgraded Visa Infinite Ritz-Carlton from Chase. For completing the minimum spend of $5,000, you receive three nights at participating category 1-4 hotels. You do not receive an annual certificate with this card, however.

Bank of America: “Museums on Us”

One of the less frequently publicized benefits to cards offered by Bank of America is their “Museums on Us” program. On the first full weekend of each month, cardholders are allowed free entrance to certain museums around the country. A full list of eligible cards as well as participating museums can be found on the Bank of America website.

An important restriction is that this admittance is limited to the cardholder alone – any guests will have to pay. Additionally, special events and ticketed shows are also excluded from this feature.

It’s hard to argue with free, though, so if you are in the area it is definitely worth taking advantage of! If you would rather see a full list of all participating museums, you can find that here. Note that the Smithsonian museums are not included, but are free for entry, so double-check to be safe!

Visa and MasterCard Benefits

With the different classes of credit cards offered by Visa and MasterCard, it can be difficult to keep track of what perks are associated with which. Add to the confusion the introduction of a new tier, Visa Infinite, and it can get a little crazy.

Visa

Visa Traditional

At the lowest level, cards simply identified as Visa offer very few inherent benefits. That said, card issuers are known to offer quite a few that can be identified in the benefits agreement that is sent to cardholders. All users, however, will be guaranteed the following:

  • Secondary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
  • Emergency Card Replacement and Emergency Cash
  • Lost and Stolen Card Reporting
  • Zero Liability

Visa Signature

The middle tier, Signature, has all the benefits of the traditional Visa with quite a few travel perks.

Visa Signature cards also start with a $5000 minimum credit limit, and card issuers are known to bundle quite a few perks with these cards. Chase, in particular, has the Sapphire Preferred [affiliate link] as well as a variety of hotel and airline cards (United, Hyatt, Marriott, and British Airways) that are all in the Visa family.

Visa Infinite

The Visa Infinite level was previously only offered outside of the United States, but recently there have been two cards that fall into this category with a third on the way. Of the three, two are issued by Chase (noticing a pattern?). The remaining card is issued by Crystal National Bank. In all cases, the cards come with a fairly steep annual fee – upwards of $400.

As with the Visa Signature and Visa Traditional cards, the Visa Infinite will carry with it all benefits from lower tiers. Both issuing companies offer, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry reimbursement every five years, and travel credits of varying degrees.

The biggest perk offered is the Visa Infinite family is that domestic, coach airfare for two to five people will receive a $100 discount. That is – each time the card is used to purchase more than one ticket (where the cardholder is traveling), you receive a discount of $100. There is no limit to the number of times you can use this, and you can be upgraded after the tickets are purhcased from what I have been able to discern. DoctorOfCredit has a helpful breakdown of this feature.

In the same vein, the biggest disappointment is that the brand new card from Chase, the Sapphire Reserve, will not have this benefit.

MasterCard

Traditional MasterCard

As with the traditional Visa, the traditional MasterCard offers the fewest benefits of the MasterCard family. Many of the benefits of this tier are similar to those offered by Visa. Some of the main points can be found below. A full list can be found at MasterCard’s website.

World MasterCard

Keeping with the relationship of Visa Signature to Visa traditional, the World MasterCard carries with it all the benefits offered by the traditional MasterCard level.

Just like the Visa Signature, the World MasterCard offers a concierge service and a variety of travel related perks. Interestingly, World MasterCards can be issued with quite low credit limits – sometimes as low as $1000.

  • MasterCard Travel Offers
  • MasterCard Airport Concierge
  • World Air Program
  • World Cruise Program
  • World Tours and Vacations Program

World Elite MasterCard

The World Elite MasterCard is the luxury level offering in the MasterCard card line. It comes with premium concierge service and a variety of travel benefits. A full list with details can be found on the MasterCard website.

    • MasterCard Luxury Hotels & Resorts
    • MasterCard Airport Concierge
    • Personal Travel Advisor
    • World Elite Air Program
    • World Elite Private Jet Program
    • World Elite Cruise Program
    • World Elite Car Rental Program
    • World Elite Tours and Vacations Program

Trip Cancellation Insurance

As with the World MasterCard, there is no credit limit requirement, unlike the cards offered by Visa. Similarly, not all World Elite MasterCards come with high annual fees. The Arrival+ card offered by BarclayCard clocks in at $89, for example, while higher tier cards such as the Citi Prestige have a fee that reflects it.