1. Airport incentives
You know those well-dressed individuals who bypass long security lines at the airport and breeze through the fast lanes? They may have a premium credit card.
Premium travel rewards cards typically give cardholders reimbursement for Global Entry and TSA Pre-check fees, credits back for airline fees, luggage or other incidentals and free Wi-Fi access while on the go.
That's not all. You'll likely also see them chillaxing in style at a members-only airport lounge.
Many of the premium rewards credit cards also provide access to airport lounges worldwide. The most high-end travelers can obtain access to the most high-end lounges.
One airport lounge in Frankfurt, Germany is only accessible with a same-day first class airline ticket. That exclusivity gives you a chauffeured Mercedes ride from the tarmac to the terminal, private shower and bath facilities, a full gourmet restaurant and a cigar bar-all at no extra cost to you.
If you're a world traveler, a world-class airline credit card is a must have.
2. Hotel rewards
The perks keep coming once you reach your destination for travelers who carry a card that offers premium hotel rewards.
American Express Platinum cardholders, for example, can receive room upgrades and special amenities, like free breakfast, a spa credit, or complimentary food and beverages at participating hotels and resorts worldwide.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card from Chase bestows additional upscale benefits. Cardholders receive complimentary upgrades three times a year to the hotel's signature club-level service, known for its living-room-type lounges with panoramic views, with hot breakfast buffets, lunchtime sandwiches and salads, afternoon tea with scones and small bites, pre-dinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and late-evening cordials and chocolates.
3. Personal assistants and other unique services
Premium rewards credit cards also come with personal assistants, or something very close to it. Most issuers offer a concierge service 24/7 to help cardholders with such mundane tasks as procuring hard-to-get tickets (we're looking at you "Hamilton!"), booking a table at Gordon Ramsay's newest restaurant or coordinating one-of-a-kind experiences like floor seats at the Knicks.
Other unique customer services include emergency translation services, weather forecasts, ATM locations, referrals for specialty services such as dog groomers and tailors, or locating rare books or other items for purchase.
American Express includes holiday shopping as part of its concierge services for Platinum cardholders. Those lucky enough to qualify for the card can submit their holiday shopping lists to the concierge gift-buying service, which would research gift options, compare prices, buy the presents and ship them.
4. VIP travel rewards
Top-tier credit cards can make it easier to earn rewards. Many premium rewards cards offer simple ways to earn points faster than the conventional 1-for-1 rate, such as travel or purchase bonuses.
Last year, Chase launched the Sapphire Reserve with a limited-time 100,000 point sign-up bonus (which has since been cut to 50,000 points), equal to $1,500 in travel benefit, if you spent $4,000 within the first 90 days. The pioneering offer set a new standard in luxury rewards cards.
With a bonus that sizeable, card members could could use it for travel as varied as a luxury exterior stateroom cabin on a 7-day Alaskan glacier cruise to a junior suite in a former prince's home in Laos.
If you can't meet that minimum required spend, though, look for a cash-back credit card with fewer requirements.
Card companies also work overtime to create elite rewards events available only to their premium clients.
For example, American Express offers "by invitation only" events for its members. Past events included access to The Wimbledon Club at the 2016 Championship with a 3-day VIP package that included prime seats for the final match, a four-course lunch and a champagne meet and greet with a tennis legend. Not your cup of tea?
Perhaps you'd rather test-drive a trio of Lamborghinis under the tutelage of a professional instructor? Or, attend a pop-up summer carnival in the Hamptons catered by a Michelin-starred chef? With some elite cards, those dreams can become reality.
5. Rent a private jet
Imagine skipping the chaos of the airport entirely. No standing in lines, waiting to board or bland airport food. Traveling by private plane is a plush perk enjoyed by few. Play your cards right and you could cross it off your bucket list.
Several of the premium rewards cards can make flying on your own private jet more accessible. One silver elite card allows you to use their exclusive concierge services to book a flight. Another card allows you to transfer your accumulated rewards to redeem them for a flight in cushy comfort.
The Brazilian Mastercard from the Santander Group, whose membership is so exclusive it's rumored only 3,000 people were invited to be cardholders, offers discounts on private jet flights. Another U.S.-based card, the Merrill Accolades American Express, requires holders to pay a $295 annual fee, on top of having a minimum of $250,000 in their brokerage account. Parking this much cash will get you a discount on private jet membership. Apparently, even the 1 percenters enjoy a good deal.
The Coutts World Silk card rewards its high-spending British-based clientele with high-priced presents. Those who spent at least £25,000 annually — about $32,000 USD — can choose from a range of gifts including Wedgwood china and crystal to Montblanc pens to Michelin-starred meals. You have to have at least $1 million in the bank to qualify and it's rumored that Queen Elizabeth II is one of the just 100 people who hold this purple card.
At least two other cards offer complimentary companion airline tickets when flying business class on international flights. For perhaps the ultimate elitist perk, one card's stiff combination of $5,000 “initiation fee” plus $2,500 annual fee earns you the right to shut down certain luxury retail stores so you can shop in private.