Free Nights and Free Flights

Well… mostly free! The 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!


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.


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.


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.



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.


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 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!


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.


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 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.


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.

Credit Card Referrals: American Express

I have been an American Express customer for quite a few years, now. They are the card we were given to use for work, and since then I have been a huge fan of their pro-active customer support.

As with my recent post for Chase, the links in this post are affiliate links, and I will get credit from American Express if you use them, so thank you in advance if you do! That said, if you find a better link (directly from American Express, or otherwise), please use it instead.

For those of you in the market for a new credit card, American Express (AmEx) offers two that are particularly attractive for travelers as well as every-day use: the Platinum Card, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Card, and the EveryDay Card. While the Platinum Card and SPG Card do not have any foreign exchange fees, the EveryDay card does carry fees of 2.7%.

Both the Platinum card and the EveryDay card earn Membership Rewards points – AmEx’s rewards currency, similar to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points, while the SPG Card earns points directly with Starwood. This is an important distinction because it affects where your points can be transferred!

One last point before I go further… the Platinum card, below, is a charge card, not a credit card. This means that the balance is expected to be paid in full with every bill, but does not have a traditional credit limit. Different credit reporting agencies handle this differently, and it can sometimes be misrepresented as you are increasing the spend without increasing the available credit. As with all cards, credit or charge, be responsible with the use!

All cards here offer enrollment in a program known as ShopRunner, which offers free 2-day shipping from many retailers – Neiman Marcus, NewEgg, Lucky Jeans, and so on. They also offer access to AmEx Offers, which are allow for redemption upon activation on the card – simply use the card and get a credit back!


Application Link (Alternate)

Though this card is not for everyone with a $450 annual fee and mediocre earnings rate of membership points (1 point per dollar), the Platinum charge card offers quite a few perks! If you are a frequent Delta flyer, for example, but not often enough to reach Diamond Medallion Status, the Platinum card will grant you entry to any Delta SkyClub while traveling on Delta. It also offers access to the exclusive Centurion Lounges.

I had the opportunity to visit the Centurion Studio in Seattle a few weeks ago and was quite impressed, even with the limited options of it being smaller than the full-sized lounges at other airports.

Centurion Studio Entrance
Centurion Studio Entrance
Beer & Wine List
Beer & Wine List

In addition to access to these two lounge families, you also receive access to the Priority Pass Select program, which partners with airport lounges around the world. This includes such lounges as The Club, which can be found in ATL’s international concourse and offers Glenlivet 12 year complimentary! While access to you is covered by the agreement between AmEx and both Delta and Priority Pass, guests are extra.

The Platinum card also offers access to the Boingo wireless service offered at most airports. This is the worldwide coverage plan, so as long as the airport is partnered with Boingo, you are set. Furthermore, if you use your Platinum card to pay for either your TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry application, AmEx will reimburse you for the fee — once every five years.

Though the card has a $450 annual fee attached, you are given a $200 airline credit. Though this cannot (officially) be used for tickets, there are ways to turn that credit into cash. Some Google-fu will reveal everything! 😉 Keep in mind that the annual fee is by membership year, while the credit is by calendar year. This means that you can get up to $400 back depending on when you apply for the card! Unlike the SPG card, below, the annual fee for the Platinum card is not waived for the first year.

The other major perks for the Platinum card are: premium roadside assistance, Gold status with both the SPG and Hilton Honors loyalty programs, elite status with the three major car rental agencies, purchase and return protection, and access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts program. These are on top of access to a concierge that is available 24/7.

This application link is good for an offer of 40,000 Membership Rewards points if you meet the minimum spend of $3,000 in the first three months of membership. There are often private invitations to offers of 100,000 Membership Rewards points, so it never hurts to check the AmEx site directly!

Starwood Preferred Guest

Application Link (Alternate)

The link above offers a chance to earn 25,000 Starpoints after meeting the minimum spend of $3,000 in the first three months. Starpoints are among the most valuable of transferable currencies because they a) can be transferred to programs that you would otherwise have to earn directly with, and b) receive a 5,000 point bonus if you transfer only 20,000 points at a time. The annual fee for this card is $95, but it is waived for the first year

The SPG card from AmEx offers earnings of 4 or 5 points per dollar spent at Starwood family hotels, depending on your status with SPG, and 1 point per dollar otherwise. Note that you are gifted Gold SPG status if you have the Platinum card, so you are guaranteed 5 points per dollar right out of the gate!

As with the Platinum card, the SPG card offers complimentary enrollment in the Boingo program, which can save quite a few dollars – and headaches! You also get similar purchase and return protection, which is also good news for savvy shoppers.

The other handy benefit of this card is that you receive a credit of 2 stays and 5 nights per year, so you need fewer stays (or nights) to get to the next status level! Each stay will have complimentary premium internet, to boot.


Application Link (Alternate)

The link above offers a chance to earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points if you meet the minimum spend requirement of $1000 in three months. In addition to the 1 point per dollar in general spending you earn, you also receive 2 points per dollars for the first $6000 spent per year at grocery stores. On top of that, if you make more than 20 transactions per month, your earnings for the month increase by 20%!

This card is an excellent daily-use card, and while it isn’t the most lucrative for points generation (look at the EveryDay Preferred for that!), as long as you have a Membership Rewards card in good standing, your points stay alive. Combined with no annual fee, access to ShopRunner, and AmEx Offers, this is a solid entry-level card to begin building a relationship with AmEx.


Credit Card Referrals: Chase

For those of you in the market for a new credit card, Chase offers two that are particularly attractive for travelers: the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP), and the Chase Freedom. There is going to be a new member of the Sapphire family known as the Sapphire Reserve, but it won’t be available until later this month.

The links in this post are affiliate links, and I will get credit from Chase if you use them, so thank you in advance if you do! That said, if you find a better link (directly from Chase, or otherwise), please use it instead.

One word regarding foreign transaction fees before we get started — the CSP does not have any (so you pay the converted rate, per Visa standards), but the Freedom does have a fee of 3%. Be careful what you use, where!

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Application Link

Currently, you can receive 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points with Chase by meeting the minimum spend requirement of $4,000 within a 3 month period. While these points can be used towards travel at 1.25 cents / point, you can also transfer them to various frequent traveler programs (such as KLM/Air France, United, Hyatt, and so on) at a 1:1 ratio. A full list of travel partners can be found over at The Well Traveled Mile.

The CSP offers quite a few perks that other bloggers extol, but my favorites are the Primary Rental Insurance (CDW), guaranteed access to a human representative (24/7), and great trip and product protection. In addition to the 50,000 point bonus for completing the minimum spending requirement, you will earn 2 points per dollar on almost all travel purchases (air, train, taxi, dining out, etc.), and 1 point per dollar on other spending. The downside is that this credit card does have an annual fee of $95, but it is waived the first year so you can see if it is a good fit for you.

In addition to the perks offered by Chase, as a Visa Signature card, you get quite a few treats from Visa directly. A full list can be found on Visa’s website, but some of the nicer ones include: a 24/7 concierge, deals on wine tastings in California, and access to the Signature Hotel Collection – similar to American Express’s Fine Hotels and Resorts.

Chase Freedom

Application Link

The Chase Freedom is an interesting card in that while it advertises itself as a cash back card, if you have either a CSP or Chase Ink Plus, you can use them in their “native” form of Ultimate Rewards Points. This offers a lot more versatility as you can get more than the 1 cent per point that you would get with the Freedom alone. The link above offers $150 cashback after meeting the minimum spend of $500 within 3 months, but that is stored in your account as 15,000 Ultimate Rewards Points. There are occasionally offers of $200 cashback (20,000 Ultimate Rewards Points) available, however.

Similar to the Discover family of cards, the Freedom is built around rotating 5% earning categories with 1% earning otherwise. This is particularly nice as Amazon has been available as a category for both last year and this year, and gift cards count! Adding to the perks – this card has no annual fee, so keeping it around will strengthen your credit score over time.