Despite concerns about the Delta variant of the coronavirus, more and more Americans are flying again. Airlines are still wary — Southwest, for example, just warned investors that people are booking fewer and canceling more flights — but so far in August, the TSA has screened on average more than three times the people it did one year ago. That’s still a lot fewer passengers than before the pandemic, and demand for air travel may drop again if the Delta variant continues spreading.
In any event, the airport experience that you’ve grown accustomed to pre-pandemic isn’t necessarily the one that will be waiting for you these days. Besides the safety precautions and mask mandates, which we encourage you to follow, expect long lines and plenty of delays and cancellations as airlines adjust their schedules.
One way to improve your experience getting through the airport can be by employing credit cards that offer credits you can use to pay for expedited screening. While those cards have annual fees, consider whether you’ll be able to offset that cost with the perks and benefits they offer. Some of those cards, for example, also provide access to airport lounges, which can give you a quiet, often uncrowded space to relax, work, and eat.
If your credit card offers a free credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, be sure to pay for the application fee with it so that you can get a statement credit.
If you are, or plan to be in the future, a frequent traveler, these cards can provide you with outsize value, and save you time and money.
American Express® Gold Card and Other Consumer Amex Cards
Some cardholders — myself included — of the Amex Gold card recently found a targeted offer in their accounts: 100% back on a single purchase of up to $189 on a CLEAR® membership, which is the cost of an annual membership. This can help offset the cost of the card’s $250 annual fee.
“The new CLEAR® Amex Offer is targeted to select U.S. Consumer American Express Cards,” a spokesperson for Amex wrote, without specifying how people would get selected for it or which specific cards you may find it on.
You’ll have to move quickly if you are targeted for the offer, though. It expires on October 30, 2021.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $100 credit for a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership every four years (which is how long a membership lasts.) To get the credit, you must pay for your application fee using your Sapphire Reserve card. Chase will automatically recognize the credit and subtract the $100 cost from your statement.
The Reserve carries a $550 annual fee, but frequent travelers can find value in the card enough to offset that cost. And as of August 16, the Reserve will be getting some new benefits such as increased points earning abilities on dining and airfare.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card also comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which includes access to all of the airport lounges worldwide participating in the Priority Pass Select network, same as The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Intro offer:60,000 points
- Annual fee:$550
- Regular APR:17.74% – 24.74% Variable
- Recommended credit:740-850 (Excellent)
- Apply Now At Chase’s secure site
The Platinum Card® from American Express
When the Amex Platinum card raised its annual fee from $550 to $695 earlier this summer, the question was whether people would still find enough value in the card to keep it. Among the benefits that may make the card worth it for some frequent flyers: A $179 annual statement credit for a CLEAR® membership. Clear uses biometrics, such as your fingerprints or eyes, to confirm your identity. It’s found at airports across the country, and those with a Clear membership can speed past both regular security and even TSA PreCheck lines.
Having this membership can save you a ton of time at the airport, not to mention help you avoid crowds and touching surfaces while going through security — and this new benefit for Amex Platinum cardholders covers the cost of a full year of CLEAR®.
Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve it competes with, the Amex Platinum card also offers up to a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years. We recommend applying for Global Entry, since getting approved for it includes TSA PreCheck access — essentially getting you two services for the price of one. While TSA PreCheck gets you faster through security (but usually not as fast as CLEAR®), Global Entry lets you breeze through customs when flying in from abroad.
Amex Platinum cardholders also receive access to airport lounges. That includes the American Express Global Lounge Collection, including Centurion Lounges, and Delta SkyClubs (when flying same-day Delta Air Lines flights). That access also includes Priority Pass Select membership, which gives you access to more than 1,200 lounges in airports around the world.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards card, with a $95 annual fee, comes with a very notable benefit: Up to a $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry every four years, the same as cards with far higher annual fees. In fact, it’s one of the few credit cards with an annual fee under $100 that offers this benefit.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
In the same vein, the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card also carries a $95 annual fee and comes with up to a $100 fee credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. It’s even more valuable if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member with a qualifying balance in your accounts with the bank, since you’ll earn between a 25% to 75% bonus on points earned.
The right card in your wallet can give you a credit towards a membership that can save you time and money at the airport. Especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting air travel deeply, being able to breeze through airports may give you peace of mind.