Perks like frequent flyer points and free travel insurance are common on most gold and platinum credit cards – but how about the lesser-known benefits?
Whether you’re after a hotel room upgrade with breakfast on the side, free dessert in a fine dining restaurant or need help planning your wedding, credit cards are oddly the perfect match.
We’ll show you where to find some of the better perks, and how to use them to your advantage.
1. Free Starwood Gold status after just one night
If you’re brandishing a World or World Elite MasterCard, you’ll be able to reach Gold status in Starwood Preferred Guest after staying for just a single night.
Although you’ll need to register for this promotion, a CBA Diamond Awards card or a Westpac Earth/Altitude Black account is all you’ll need.
After the obligatory stay, perks like room upgrades, a priority customer service line, 4pm late checkouts and 50% more Starpoints are yours to enjoy.
When you check in, you’re also given the choice of a ‘welcome gift’ of bonus Starpoints, free in-room Internet access or a free drink, making this one a no-brainer.
2. Discounts and freebies at hotels, restaurants and on car hire
As found with Starwood, the American Express Entré program gives free room upgrades, late checkout and free breakfast and Internet, although it's limited to bank-issued American Express cards.
On the books are Swissotel, Worldhotels – including Stamford Hotels & Resorts in Australia – and the Mandarin Oriental chain (among others), with discounts on room rates available in some locations.
Hertz and Avis give Entré users 10% off car hire, with Hertz going the extra mile by throwing in free car upgrades and Gold Star Rewards loyalty status.
A worldwide network of restaurants provide little niceties – either free starters, dessert or a discount on the bill – including the lavish China Doll restaurant in Sydney.
3. Discount hotel rooms for Visa cardholders
Visa cardholders have a much simpler offer at their fingertips: up to 15% off hotel reservations made through HotelClub.
It's intended for use only with Visa Platinum and Visa Signature accounts, but even if your Visa isn’t a shiny one, it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Of course, this violates the cardinal rule of booking directly with the hotel for loyalty points and stay credit, although with a 15% discount, the savings may be more valuable than any points you’d earn.
4. Shipping services for online purchases
Some online retailers won’t deliver goods to Australian addresses, which can be a problem if you’re looking to buy from the USA or the UK.
By using American Express’ Globaleshop as the shipping middleman, just sign up for an account to get a personalised shipping address in both of these countries.
Then, when you’re shopping at an unfriendly merchant, have the goods sent to your AMEX ‘local’ address. With your credit card on file, the package will be forwarded to your home in Australia at a nominal fee.
If the store won’t accept your Australian credit card, you can also pay the good folk at American Express to shop for you, with the total purchase and shipping cost billed as one transaction to your Aussie card.
5. Free concierge services
This one’s more obvious and one that’s frequently touted by the banks. Nonetheless, how often do you actually use your card’s concierge services?
At the basic end are travel arrangements and restaurant reservations, which are the simplest and most frequent requests.
Most concierge services can also be used for wedding/party planning, destination advice, finding the perfect gift or even getting your name on the VIP list of a hot nightclub, although it pays to double-check their work.
While the services are free, the staffing quality varies from bank to bank. Our experience with the Westpac Black concierge team highlighted that you really do get what you pay for…
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