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Have you ever considered that your credit card might hold more value than just its rewards-earning potential? While you might expect benefits like rental insurance coverage and extended warranties to come standard with most credit cards, issuers are rolling out more enticing perks to win your loyalty and set themselves apart. 

Not every credit card is created equal when it comes to the unique benefits they offer. From convenient credit limit transfers that increase your spending power where you need it most, to free museum admissions that turn an ordinary weekend into an educational adventure, the spectrum of credit card perks is as diverse as cardholders themselves. 

Before you embark on your next credit card application, or if you're simply curious about the hidden gems lying dormant in your wallet, it's worth exploring the lesser-known benefits that could significantly enhance your lifestyle.

1. Free Checked Bags

woman sending luggage through security

Adobe Stock

Who doesn't love saving on travel costs? The ability to check your travel bag for free is one of my favorite credit card perks. This often-overlooked benefit can save you and your travel companions significant amounts on baggage fees. 

For instance, the United℠ Explorer Card awarded my travel buddy and me a free checked bag on domestic and international flights. On a round trip, these savings could easily amount to more than $70 per bag. Some United Airlines credit cards, like the United Quest℠ Card, offer two free checked bags per round-trip flight, unlocking even more savings. 

This incentive is typically only available with airline cards, not general travel rewards cards. And you'll need to use that card to book flights to access the benefit.

Compare United Consumer Credit Cards

Credit Card Intro Bonus Annual Fee Perks Learn More

United Gateway℠ Card

20,000United MileagePlus Miles More Info

Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Dollar Equivalent: $280 (20,000 United MileagePlus Miles * 0.014 base)

$0
  • 25% back on inflight purchases

United℠ Explorer Card

50,000United MileagePlus Miles More Info

Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Dollar Equivalent: $700 (50,000 United MileagePlus Miles * 0.014 base)

$95 More info

$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

  • 2 United Club 1-time passes annually
  • Free 1st checked bag for you & a companion
  • Up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS credit

United Quest℠ Card

60,000United MileagePlus Miles More Info

Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Dollar Equivalent: $840 (60,000 United MileagePlus Miles * 0.014 base)

$250
  • $125 annual United credit
  • Free 1st & 2nd checked bags
  • 2 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits
  • Up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS credit

United Club℠ Infinite Card

80,000United MileagePlus Miles More Info

Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,120 (80,000 United MileagePlus Miles * 0.014 base)

$525
  • United Club membership
  • Premier Access travel services
  • Free 1st & 2nd checked bags
  • Up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS credit

2. Free Memberships

Credit cards often come packed with free memberships that make life a little more exciting. For instance, holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® enjoy free Priority Pass™ Select membership, offering access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide.

Foodies will also love the complimentary DashPass membership for DoorDash and Caviar that comes with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® and other Chase cards. This membership waives delivery charges and reduces service fees on food orders. If you order food delivery a lot like me, this perk is a major money saver. Some Chase cards also come with complimentary Instacart+ memberships as a perk.

3. TSA PreCheck® and Global Entry Credit

TSA precheck at Reagan Airport

iStock

Long lines at the airport are everyone's nightmare. Thankfully, some credit cards offer to reimburse the application fee for TSA PreCheck® and Global Entry, usually up to $100 every four years. And if you're carrying the Chase Sapphire Reserve, that credit can also be applied towards NEXUS, which is designed for those who frequently travel between the U.S. and Canada. 

With this perk accessed via my card, I saved on the TSA PreCheck® application fee and enjoyed a smoother and faster travel experience through security checkpoints.

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4. Virtual Card Service

The virtual card services provided by select credit card issuers, like Capital One and Citi, offer an added layer of protection when making purchases online. By generating a temporary card number for online transactions, it ensures that your primary card details remain safe from potential fraud. 

For example, I create virtual card numbers for all my Capital One cards. They can be turned on and off at will, or I can schedule a time for them to deactivate. It’s ideal for software trials, streaming service memberships, or anything that renews annually. I usually keep the virtual card deactivated and activate it during checkout using the Capital One web browser extension, Eno®, then turn it off after the purchase.

5. Free Museum Admission

people in a museum

Unsplash

As someone who appreciates culture and history, Bank of America's Museums on Us® program is a perk I hold dear. This perk offers free museum admission on the first weekend of every month to select world-class museums across the country, and it's a wonderful way to explore art, history, and science without spending a dime. 

I enjoy this little-known perk through my Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card, but it's available to all Bank of America and Merrill customers. This underrated perk is a perfect example of how a credit card can offer more than just financial benefits—it can enrich your cultural life, too.

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6. Credit Limit Transfers

A credit limit transfer is the process of reallocating part or all of an available credit limit from one credit card to another within the same bank or credit card issuer. Although my personal experience with credit limit transfers involves Chase Bank, it's worth noting that other issuers may also offer this flexibility. 

This perk is incredibly useful for maximizing rewards on large purchases. For instance, with my Chase Sapphire Preferred, I financed a luxury car purchase without carrying a balance. Despite earning just one Ultimate Rewards point per dollar, the transaction accumulated enough points for an international round-trip flight.

To leverage this somewhat hidden benefit, you’ll need to contact Chase customer service and request a credit limit transfer. In my case, I redistributed credit from a less frequently used Chase card and a Southwest card I was not planning to renew, and consolidated it onto my Chase Sapphire Preferred.

For cardholders with multiple Chase accounts, reallocating credit limits before closing any card is a strategic move. It helps retain your overall available credit and maintain your credit utilization ratios, both of which are key to maintaining a healthy credit score.

7. No Foreign Transaction Fees

tourists in France

Unsplash

Those who stay stateside may never leverage the “no foreign transaction fees” credit card perk. However, a credit card that waives these fees is a financial lifeline for individuals like me who travel abroad frequently, relocate to new countries with our spouses, embark on study abroad programs, or deploy overseas for military service.

Foreign transaction fees are charges levied on purchases made abroad or with foreign merchants, typically ranging from 1% to 3% of the transaction amount. These fees can quickly add up, making every purchase more expensive. While I've never calculated the exact amount I’ve saved in currency conversion fees over the years, I'm confident it would be in the thousands of dollars.

Most of the top travel rewards credit cards, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (Rates & Fees) and my trusty Chase Sapphire Preferred, come with no transaction fees. But so do a few of the best cash-back credit cards, including the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card.

Recommended Travel Credit Cards

Credit Card Intro Bonus Annual Fee Rewards Rate Learn More

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

60,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

$95 1x- 5xPoints More Info

The card offers 5x points per dollar on Chase Travel℠, 3x points on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery services), as well as 3x points on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs). This card earns 2x points on all other travel spending and 1x point per dollar everywhere else. Chase broadly defines travel to include not just airfare, hotels and rental cars, but expenses like parking, tolls and public transit too.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $700 (50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

$69 1x - 2xPoints More Info

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

United Gateway℠ Card

20,000United MileagePlus Miles More Info

Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Dollar Equivalent: $280 (20,000 United MileagePlus Miles * 0.014 base)

$0 1x - 2xPoints More Info

Earn 2X United miles per dollar on United purchases, local transit and commuting and at gas stations. You’ll earn 1X mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Citi Premier® Card

60,000Citi ThankYou Points More Info

Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou Points after making $4,000 worth of purchases during the first three months of account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,080 (60,000 Citi ThankYou Points * 0.018 base)

$95 1X-10XPoints More Info

10X total ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024. 3X -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels 3X -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets 1X -- Earn 1 Point on All Other Purchases

Bottom Line

With a little research and strategic use, credit cards can be more than just plastic in our wallets—they can be keys to saving money and enjoying experiences you might otherwise miss. From avoiding fees on checked baggage to accessing exclusive memberships and cultural experiences, these unique benefits are valuable tools for savvy cardholders.

So, before you apply for your next credit card or decide to close an existing account, take a moment to explore all the benefits your card offers. You might find that the most beneficial features are the ones you have yet to leverage. 

RT

Ryan Tronier

Ryan Tronier is a personal finance expert and writer. His work has been published on NBC, ABC, USATODAY, The Mortgage Reports, Yahoo Finance, MSN, and more. Ryan is the former managing editor of the finance website Sapling, as well as the former personal finance editor at Slickdeals. Find him online at ryantronier.com.