Analysis

3 Credit Card Perks That Make Flying Economy Feel More Like Flying Business Class

Flying business or first class undoubtedly offers you a premium travel experience, but it can come at a hefty price. Business class tickets can cost as much as five to 10 times the price of an economy ticket. That may be much more than you want — or can afford — to spend.

But there are some credit card perks that can get you a lot closer to that business-class experience — if you have the right card.

Here are a few benefits that can significantly upgrade your travels, along with some cards that offer you these special advantages usually reserved only for those flying in an expensive seat.

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1. Airline lounge access

Airline lounge access is a perk of flying international first or business class. But you don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars for a first class ticket to gain access to a comfy lounge with nice seating, free drinks, and complimentary food. You just need the right credit card.

There are more than a half-dozen credit cards offering airline lounge access on The Ascent’s list. While the cards on this list do have annual fees, they also offer ample benefits beyond just entry to the lounge. And if you fly often, the lounge access alone may justify signing up. Free drinks and food at airline lounges can save you money on airport food every time you travel.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is an especially great choice for lounge access. While this card has a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), it opens the door to over 1,400 airline lounges — far more than any other card. There are also statement credits for goods and services that are valued at over $1,500 including credits for Uber, streaming services, hotel stays, and airline fees (enrollment requirement; terms apply).

2. Early or priority boarding

When you’re flying first or business class, you get to board the plane earlier than your peers. There’s no fighting for overhead space or standing in a long line waiting for the passengers in front of you to figure out how to actually put their bags up or sit down in a timely manner (why this is so hard, I’ll never know).

Flying economy, on the other hand, means you wait to get on with the crowds — unless you have a credit card providing priority boarding. The rules vary by card for exactly how early you’re allowed to get on, but often you’ll be in the very first group to enter the main cabin with these cards.

Typically, cards offering this are cobranded with airlines, so you’d want to sign up for one offered by an airline you travel on often. You can check out our list of the best airline credit cards to see your options.

Some cards that provide early access to the plane include:

3. Free checked bags

Typically, when you fly first class, at least one checked bag is included. Most economy customers have to pay a fee to check a suitcase. But with airline cobranded credit cards, free checked bags are a common cardholder perk.

In fact, some cards allow you and up to nine guests to bring a bag at no extra cost. You’ll usually need to make sure your bag meets the airline’s weight requirements, as oversized luggage isn’t covered.

Here are a couple cards offering this feature:

With free checked bags, a lounge to relax in, and the ability to get on the plane first, you’ll have a premium travel experience — even flying on an economy ticket.

As a bonus, some of the best travel credit cards may even offer you an opportunity to get upgraded to first class seats. If you travel often, check them out to find a card that gives you the perks you need to make travel a whole lot more fun, and sign up before your next trip.

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