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Best Frequent Traveler Program Perks

Posted by Rachel Felder on September 7, 2012 at 10:32:53 AM EDT | Post a Comment

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Who doesn't want a great travel deal? Counter-intuitively, sometimes the best value involves spending more upfront. Investing in a frequency program with great perks or a credit card with benefits that essentially pay for themselves can actually save you money in the long run, and definitely improve a trip. Here are our favorite reasons to spend a bit more when planning your travels, which are particularly worthwhile for frequent travelers.

Room upgrades: Leading Hotels of the World—which, as the name suggests, includes many of the most luxurious properties around the globe—offers a membership program for guests, the Leaders Club. There's a $150 annual fee to join, but you get a hotel room upgrade, free breakfast, free internet, and early check-in (a fabulous perk if you're flying to Europe or the East Coast on a red eye.) If you really travel a lot, it's worth investing in a higher tier Leaders Club Unlimited Membership: it's a whopping $1200 a year, but includes free airport transfers (in a chauffeured car—a super expensive journey in many cities) and, at golf-focused properties, free club rental and driving range usage.

Insider tip: Even though it includes Ritzy properties (like, indeed, London's Ritz), Leaders Club members are also regularly offered special rates at affiliated properties.

Lounge access: If you have a long layover between flights—or, as happens so often, your flight's delayed—having access to an airport lounge definitely takes some of the sting out of the experience. American Express' Platinum card is pricey at $450 a year, but it comes with a Priority Pass that grants access to more than 600 airport lounges worldwide. Other perks include Global Entry (to speed through passport control coming home from trips abroad) and a $200 credit towards flight-related fees like baggage and flight change fees.

Priority Boarding: We all know that getting through the airport can be a hassle, particularly with long lines at security and check-in. Having preferred tier status on an airline can speed you through...but earning it requires lots of travel. USAirlines sells miles to upgrade to silver, gold, or platinum status in its mileage program, which also helps earn bonus miles when purchasing tickets.

Free food and drinks: Several hotel chains, like the InterContinental and Ritz-Carlton, offer club floors. Rooms on these floors typically cost more, but include access to a private lounge that serves food and drinks throughout the day, with wine in the evening. Particularly in cities where eating out is pricey—like, say, London or Paris—these rooms can make a lot of sense. And they're typically swanky, with (like, say, the Ritz-Carlton's Central Park property in New York fabulous views as well.

Insider Tip: Club lounges also often offer a dedicated concierge and check-in desk, which can be a timesaver, particularly at large hotels where there can be a wait for both services.

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