Does Your Credit Card Include Hidden Travel Perks?

Flickr user 410(K) 2013

Millions of travelers are holding discounts to thousands of museums, concerts and airline rewards in their pocket without realizing it.

Credit-card companies offer hundreds of perks that most holders never use. How good are some of these perks? It depends on the card.

The great
The American Express Platinum cardholders can receive unlimited access to several airport lounges, including those run by the Delta, US Airways and American. According to MSN Money, those memberships would cost well over $1,000 if purchased individually.

Airline credit cards carry perks beyond earned miles. Some airlines, including American and Delta, allow cardholders to check their bags for free.

The pretty good
Bank of America credit cards entitle users to one free general admission to select museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, on the first full weekend of every month. A great way to save an easy $10 or more, but not worth getting a card solely for that reason.

Many cards include a small amount of travel insurance when you purchase your trip, although it’s likely only to accentuate the travel insurance you purchase. A much better perk is the free crash insurance for rental cars that comes standard with many cards.

The so-so
Citi’s Easy Deals allows you to cash in earned points for travel perks, including slightly discounted gift cards for cruises, rental cards and hotels. The hotel and rental car deals featured on the site aren’t much better than offers you can find on Travelocity or Expedia. You can also book tickets to popular attractions, but again, the discounts are virtually nil. Tickets to the Kennedy Space Center are $50 on its website, while Citi offers the same ticket for $48 and five of your earned points.

My wife had her iPhone stolen in the Paris Metro earlier this year. Had we used a Wells Fargo credit card, we may have been eligible for $600 replacement coverage. But, of course, there are caveats. First, we would have had to pay our monthly cellular bill with the card. Also, after the phone was stolen, we would have first had to file a claim against our homeowners insurance before Wells Fargo would have paid the difference.

Before making any travel plans, check your monthly credit card bill for any potential offers, visit your bank’s website or call the toll-free number on the back of the card to find out what perks are available to you.

*This post was updated from its original version to remove reference to a credit card offered by Continental.

Art Institute Of Chicago Opens Roy Lichtenstein Exhibition

Art Institute of Chicago, Roy LichtensteinThe Art Institute of Chicago has one great exhibition after another and is definitely on Gadling’s top ten list of things to see in the Windy City. Now they’ve opened the largest exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein’s artwork ever to be shown.

Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective includes more than 160 works from all phases of the famous Pop artist’s career, from his early comic book imitations through his experiments with Surrealism to his later nudes and Chinese landscapes.

Although Lichtenstein died in 1997, his work is immediately recognizable and collectable today. This exhibition shows how truly diverse he was as a creator. While the comic strips will undoubtedly get the most attention as they always do, visitors will have a chance to see what else this influential artist got up to.

“Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective” runs from May 22-September 3.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

The top 10 U.S. city summer destinations: Chicago

When I read in Steve Stephens’ column “Ticket to Write,” that Chicago made it to the the list of top 10 cities for U.S. summer travel in 2008, I thought, “I second that.” Of the several cities I visited on a cross-country tour, mostly by bus, Chicago was my favorite–except for San Francisco. And, of course, New York, which has been and will remain my number one forever.

If you do head to Chicago, here are my suggestions of what to do. These are not in any particular order. Each is from personal experience. If you have your own suggestions, do tell.

The museums we hit:

The Art Institute of Chicago–I absolutely love this art museum. Although the movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off “is not one of my favorites, the scenes shot in this museum were wonderful. Don’t miss Marc Chagall’s stained glass piece, “America Windows.”

The Field Museum-In what must seem like uncanny timing given the latest in natural disasters, the exhibit, “Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters” opens May 23. The museum also has Sue, the largest, intact T-rex dinosaur skeleton. Whatever your natural wonder pleasure, you’ll find it here.

Museum of Science and Industry–Here you can tour a coal mine and the U-505, a German submarine that was used during WWII, You can also can learn about the history of glass and the various ways it’s used, as well as, get a refresher on that genetics unit in high school biology through the baby chicken hatchery exhibit.

The attractions:

Head to the Sears Tower Skydeck. At 1,353 feet, this is the best bird’s-eye view around.

For the best view of Chicago’s shoreline, hop on a tour boat that goes out on Lake Michigan. The best part of the tour was traveling through the locks to get to the lake from the Chicago River. The Wendella tour company’s lake and river tour is one you might want to try. There is one you can take at night, but we did ours during the day.

Walkabout note worthiness:

The architecture and the public art make Chicago one of the most visually stunning cities in the United States. In case you don’t want to miss anything that is a must see–like Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” located outside the Federal Building, consider taking an architecture and art tour. We were staying with a relative who took us around, but going with an expert, would be well worth the time if you don’t have a person who is from Chicago to show you the highlights.

Nearby:

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. This is where Wright lived and worked from 1889 to 1909. From this place in Oak Park, 20 minutes from downtown, Wright designed 125 structures, including Unity Temple and the Robie House, also not far from downtown Chicago. Both are being considered for World Heritage status as part of a group of ten Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

What we ate: Pizza at Pizzeria Uno (now called Uno Chicago Grill) This may not seem like the most creative, adventurous food choice, but we made it here before this became the mega national restaurant chain that it is today.

What’s new in Chicago that I wish was there when I visited: Millennium Park. This 24.5 acre downtown mecca for arts and entertainment, encompasses historic Grant Park and more. Here’s a place for bike riding, listening to music, wandering among sculptures, and enjoying flower gardens.

At the park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater designed by architect Frank Gehry, the free Grant Park Music Festival takes place from June 11 to August 16.

What I wish we had: Chicago City Pass. With the city pass, you can visit five attractions for $59 which will save you 50%.