5 Credit Cards for Flyers Who Love Special Treatment

If you’re looking for a better flight experience, you might want to see what an airline credit card can do for you.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Frequent flyers know constantly crisscrossing the skies is a grind. Dealing with security, airline fees and other hassles can make any trip a headache.

If you’re looking for a better flight experience, you might want to see what an airline credit card can do for you. Most major airlines offer credit cards with perks that can improve your flight experience.

Here are five credit cards that get you special treatment with the airlines.

1. United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Rewards: Two miles per dollar spent on United tickets, one mile per dollar spent on everything else
Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 16.74% to 23.74%
Why We Picked It: Special treatment from United starts before you step foot on the plane.
For Your Flight: The first checked bag for both you and a companion is free. Plus, you’ll get priority boarding ahead of general passengers. The card also provides two one-time United Club lounge passes each year with your card anniversary.
Drawbacks: If you tend to only carry on, you won’t get the benefit of the free checked bag.

2. Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select Card

Rewards: Two miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases, one mile per dollar spent on everything else
Signup Bonus: 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95, waived for first year
APR: Variable 16.74% to 24.74%
Why We Picked It: You’ll get special treatment at the airport and save on in-flight meals. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
For Your Flight: Cardholders and up to four companions get their first checked bag free with domestic American Airlines flights. Plus, they’ll get priority boarding and a 25% discount on in-flight meals and beverages.
Drawbacks: Perks like priority boarding and free checked bags are restricted to domestic flights.

3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines flights and with select hotel and car rental partners, one point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Signup Bonus: 6,000 bonus points each card anniversary
Annual Fee: $99
APR: Variable 16.74% to 23.74%
Why We Picked It: Southwest’s credit card helps flyers avoid fees.
For Your Flight: Cardholders get first and second checked bags free. There are no change fees if you need to modify your flights, although fare differences may apply.
Drawbacks: Southwest does not offer priority boarding with this card.

4. JetBlue Plus Card

Rewards: Six points per dollar spent on JetBlue purchases, two points per dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores and one point per dollar spent on everything else
Signup Bonus: 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, 5,000 annual bonus points on your card anniversary
Annual Fee: $99
APR: Variable 12.74%, 20.74% or 25.74% on purchases, 0% intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers, then variable 12.74%, 20.74% or 25.74%
Why We Picked It: You’ll get deep discounts on in-flight meals and free checked bags and you can earn elite status with JetBlue.
For Your Flight: Cardholders and up to three companions get their first bags checked free. You’ll also get 50% off eligible in-flight beverages and food. If you spend $50,000 on your card in a calendar year, you can join the TrueBlue Mosaic program, which provides benefits including waived change and cancellation fees, expedited security lines, priority boarding and free alcoholic beverages.
Drawbacks: Earning Mosaic status requires a steep spending minimum.

5. Gold Delta Skymiles Credit Card

Rewards: Two miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, one mile per dollar spent on everything else
Signup Bonus: 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first four months, plus a $50 statement credit with your first Delta purchase in the same time frame
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95
APR: Variable 16.74% to 25.74%
Why We Picked It: Delta’s credit card provides basic flight perks and the potential for Medallion membership.
For Your Flight: Your first checked bag is free and you’ll enjoy priority boarding. In-flight meals, beverages and audio headset purchases receive a 20% discount. Each year, you’ll get a round-trip companion certificate for a domestic main cabin seat. The card also provides discounted Delta Sky Club lounge access. Finally, spending $25,000 in a calendar year can earn you Medallion Member status, which includes a number of additional premium benefits including upgraded seats, additional waived fees and more.
Drawbacks: Earning Medallion membership requires a steep spending minimum or earning Medallion Qualification Dollars.

How to Choose a Card for Airline Perks

Because most cards that convey special flight perks are offered by specific airlines, you should first examine the card that’s tied to your airline of choice. If the perks that come with that card aren’t particularly impressive, you may want to check competitor cards to see if it could be beneficial to switch loyalties.

Of course, you’ll want to weigh the offered benefits against the annual fee and other associated card costs. For instance, airport lounges are great for those that frequently arrive at the airport early or experience layovers. But if you tend to get to your gate at the last second and usually take direct flights, this benefit might be worthless. Make sure to look for benefits that actually enhance the way you travel.

If you have no specific loyalty to one airline and tend to choose flights based on factors like price or convenience, you may be better off with a general travel card.

What Is Required to Get a Credit Card With Special Treatment at Airlines?

Cards that provide special flight perks and elite status with airlines usually require excellent credit. You should be reasonably confident you can get approved before you apply, because a hard credit inquiry from a credit card application can ding your credit score a few points. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: beer5020

At publishing time, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select, JetBlue Plus and Gold Delta Skymiles credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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Debt Collection Is Going Digital. Here’s What it Means for Debtors

Your next debt collector may never say a harassing thing to you at all. That debt collector might also not be human.

The next time you speak to a debt collector, you might find yourself negotiating with a computer. And you might actually prefer that.

Consumers buy toothpaste and bread without talking to a person. They get boarding passes for flights with a few swipes of a credit card or mobile phone. Why not pay off debt with a click or a text? After all, many consumers expect self-service now, and would rather perform these kinds of transactions without ever interacting with another human being.

Debt Collection Is Going Digital

In April, Experian announced a self-service platform named eResolve, which it says will let consumers negotiate and resolve past-due obligations without ever talking to a debt collector.

“The eResolve platform negotiates with the consumer on the client’s behalf and direction to resolve their obligation in a frictionless environment,” Paul DeSaulniers, senior director for risk scoring and trended data solutions at Experian, said in an email. ”eResolve is providing a way for the consumer to interact on their terms, at any time of the day or night using a digital channel that is more preferred over the traditional phone call and avoids aggressive collection tactics.”

A firm named TrueAccord attracted a lot of attention in 2014 promising to create a similar digital debt collection platform. CEO Ohed Samat says that since then, TrueAccord has generated plenty of success stories. He claims more than 60 clients with 1.4 million consumers are “on the platform.” There have been “hundreds of thousands” of resolutions — including consumers who could easily click and tell the firm they’d been victims of ID theft, or had filed bankruptcy, so collections efforts should stop.

Adios, Debt Collector Misbehavior?

It’s easy to see the potential advantages of digital collections. For starters, the obvious: Misbehaving debt collectors top most lists of consumer gripes, so getting rid of the “human element” can get rid of the illegal threats. After all, computers don’t get frustrated.

“Debt collection is a powder keg. There are explosive situations,” Samat said. “A computer doesn’t get tilted (frustrated). You can’t yell at computers and scare them.”

The old-fashioned method of debt collection resembles telemarketing, and when done badly, adds a layer of badgering that can violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. While more phone calls don’t mean higher collection rates, they do mean greater risk for harassment allegations. Both Experian and TrueAccord claim their technologies work to optimize the timing and method of communication with customers to get the best results.

“Consumers desire a more seamless and convenient way to resolve their debts, without what is often felt as an uncomfortable exchange,” DeSaulniers said. “The process is about making the experience less threatening for consumers and gives them the flexibility to access their account at any time. Doing so increases the consistency and efficiency of the debt collection process.”

ACA International, a trade association that represents collection agencies, did not immediately respond to request for comment for this article.

Negotiations Are Straightforward

Negotiating debt with a computer is exactly what it sounds like.

“First, the lender or collection agency contacts the consumer to remind him of his debt owed. At the same time, a website link is provided to the consumer, who can negotiate the payment of his debt without human interaction,” DeSaulniers said, describing the process. “Next, the consumer logs on to the website to submit a reference number associated with their account and then explores repayment options. Here, the consumer may negotiate payment amounts, terms and dates within parameters set by the lender.”

For example: Debtors get an email with an offer such as making three payments with 0% interest, or 90 cents on the dollar if paid in full. Depending on what lenders say they’ll accept, a consumer who turns down that offer might get a subsequent pitch for an 80-cents-on-the-dollar settlement. (Do you know your state’s statute of limitations on debt collections? Check them out using our handy map on debt collection statutes of limitations by state.)

Samat says machine-based debt collection solves several problems. Chief among them: thorny regulatory issues. Computers don’t call or text at the wrong times. They don’t use forbidden language, such as threat of law enforcement.

“Because of our machine-based approach, almost every line of text we send (to consumers) is pre-written and preapproved. It’s much easier for us to be compliant,” he said. He claims TrueAccord gets 66 times fewer complaints than traditional collection agencies (the sample size is still small).

Digital debt collection also fits into modern consumer behavior, Samat said. More than 60% of the interactions his firm has with debtors happen after hours, when it would be illegal to call.

“It’s people at 2 a.m., on their mobile phone, looking at their options,” he said.

Collection Efforts Tailored to Your Behaviors

But there’s more going on than just staying on the right side of the law. TrueAccord’s computers watch consumer behavior and learn when best to ping them for a resolution. If someone has spent several nights clicking through settlement options, perhaps that’s a good time to send a text, or even make a better settlement offer.

“People are different. Some need encouragement. Some need inspiration. Some need to be pointed to the facts,” he said. “We reach out in the right channel at the right time in the right language.”

Some of that language is funny – one note tells a debtor that a bill feels neglected and is “listening to breakup songs and eating ice cream” because it is unpaid. Per one consumer’s report, however, some were more sanctimonious, or even menacing.

“(It) feels like you’re taking advantage of (the debtor), and they ‘re kind of right,” says a consumer who posted a note quoting a TrueAccord email. “Let’s just take care of this balance now and be done with it. It’s not like we’re going to give up.”

When asked about the complaint, Samat said that if the cited email was really from TrueAccord, it was probably “very old and long decommissioned.”

“It did take us a while to find the right type of honest and clear communication that consumers respond well to,” he said. “And, of course, we have unfortunately seen cases where consumers confused us with other agencies.”

Dealing With Robot Debt Collectors 

Of course, even robot debt collectors have to obey federal law. Send a cease-and-desist letter, and the emails and texts must stop.

But digital debt collection might have a secret weapon: embarrassment – or rather, the lack of it.

“Consumers feel less judged,” when talking to a computer, Samat said. “Consumers in debt are afraid and overwhelmed. We speak to them in a tone they appreciate … we give them more flexible choices, so they feel like they aren’t being harassed.”

If you have debt that has gone to collections that you’ve either paid or should have aged off, you may want to check out some of our tips on ways to remove collection accounts from your credit reports. You may also want to see if the account if affecting your credit. You can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com.

Image: Geber86

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Does Having Multiple Credit Cards Hurt or Help My Credit?

will having several accounts affect your credit? The answer to these questions often comes down to personal habits and goals.

Credit cards are a staple of Americans’ wallets. The average adult has at least two bank-issued accounts, according to Experian’s 2016 State of Credit report. Consumer credit plays a key role in financial health, and, when used wisely, can strengthen your stance in the credit score range and help you secure loans with the best interest rates.

On the other hand, bad credit often leads to higher interest rates and could even disqualify you from the lending process. (Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com, which will not hurt them in any way.)

So how many credit cards are too many? And will having several accounts affect your credit? The answer to these questions often comes down to personal habits and goals, and there are several pros and cons to consider.

The Benefits of Multiple Credit Cards

If you’re an experienced and responsible credit user, the benefits of maintaining more than one card could outweigh the risks.

Earning Maximum Rewards

Credit card issuers offer a variety of perks for cardholders. Using multiple cards allows you to strategize and earn for every dollar you spend. For example, suppose you are a frequent flyer who is also interested in funding your child’s education. Card A is tailored to suit travel-related rewards, while Card B’s sole focus is college savings. You can take advantage of multiple benefits by considering your most frequent expenditures and choosing credit cards that align with your goals.

Safety When One Card Is Compromised

Credit card issuers are cracking down on identity theft, but chip technology still isn’t perfect. If your credit information is compromised, your issuer will probably send you a new card and instruct you to shred the old one. If this occurs, it’s useful to have a second option for emergencies.

The Drawbacks of Multiple Credit Cards

While there are potential benefits of maintaining multiple credit cards, there are a few drawbacks worth considering.

Losing Track of Spending

The case for fewer credit cards often comes down to simple math: Fewer credit cards means fewer chances to overspend. If you struggle with budgeting, it can be difficult to curb spending with a high credit limit. You also run the risk of digging yourself into a hole of debt that’s difficult to escape.

Forgetting to Pay a Bill

If your life is chaotic or your memory is lacking, the last thing you need is multiple account balances to keep track of. While it’s possible to create reminders for yourself with budgeting apps, the potential credit damage caused by late payments, fees and accruing interest may not be worth the trouble.

While there is no ideal number of credit cards to keep in your wallet, learning how your credit score is calculated can help you use them wisely. Bolster your score by creating deliberate spending habits and credit usage along the way.

Image: PeopleImages

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The 10 Best Roadside Attractions in America

What better way to celebrate our country than by visiting its run-down, kitschy roadside attractions? 

It’s summertime, which means if you aren’t planning your next road trip, you should be. With Fourth of July on our radar, now is the time. Given that there’s no better way to celebrate our country’s pioneer spirit than by paying homage to some of its quirkiest and kitschiest roadside attractions, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorites, based on cursory research. Read on for 10 roadside attractions you won’t want to pass by.

1. Bamahenge, Elberta, Alabama

Bamahenge may not be Stonehenge, but for us Americans, it’s close enough. You’ll find this incredible replication of the prehistoric monument, built in late 2012 by a man named Mark Cline, in the woods off the marina entrance road in Elberta, Alabama. There are only four different stone shapes, but Cline repositioned them all to look different. They’re also storm-proof, thanks to interior concrete and telephone poles. Admission is free.

2. General Sherman Tree

They don’t call this giant sequoia the General for nothing. Standing 52,500 cubic feet tall and weighing 4.2 million pounds, the General Sherman Tree in California’s Sequoia National Park is something you have to see to believe. Located at the north end of Giant Forest, one of Kings Canyon National Park’s five sub-regions, the tree can be reached by trail or via the free Sequoia Shuttle, which runs daily from May through September. Theoretically, the General could be turned into almost 120 miles of standard sized lumber planks, but what heartless soul would want to cut down a nearly 3,000-year-old tree?

3. Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue

OK, so maybe it isn’t the finest testament to a living former president, but does it matter? The Jimmy Carter Peanut statue in Plains, Georgia, still makes us smile, and at 13 feet tall, it’s easily one of the world’s largest nuts. Crafted from plaster and mesh, the peanut pays homage to Carter’s past life as a peanut farmer and features a similar wide-mouthed grin. Today, you can find it near Route 45 outside Carter’s hometown.

4. Leaning Tower

If a trip to Pisa, Italy is not in the cards, check out the Leaning Tower of Niles in Niles, Illinois. True, the Midwestern version is half as tall (94 feet versus the Italian’s 177 feet), but your friends will still like it on Instagram. Built in 1934, it was anchored in concrete so its lean stayed consistent. It was originally a utility tower, though a plaque at its base says it was built in honor of the Italian polymath Galileo, who conducted scientific experiments at the original Pisan monument.

5. The Spud Drive-In

Not every drive-in theater went the way of the dodo. Since the summer of 1953, the Spud in Driggs, Indiana, has been showing flicks — almost as long as Old Murphy, the 1946 Chevy truck with a two-ton potato on the back, has been parked in front of the screen. Though the potato is nothing more than a hunk of painted concrete, you probably won’t be able to resist snapping a photo of it.

6. World’s Largest Light Bulb

Keep your eyes peeled for this 134-foot tower in Edison, New Jersey, home to Thomas Alva Edison’s greatest invention. The man perfected the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb right here, so it’s no wonder a 13-foot version sits on top of the tower. (Rumor has it it’s lit by LED, not Edison’s technology.) Built in 1939, the art deco building houses a museum that traces each step of the inventor’s fascinating journey, particularly his invention of sound recording.

7. Shoe Tree

Even if seeing a tree of shoes isn’t on your bucket list, you’ll still want to check out this oddity off U.S. 50 in Middlegate, Nevada. Tourists and locals come to drape their old footwear on the cottonwood tree’s branches, to the point where the tree looks like it sprouted the footwear itself.

8. Porter Sculpture Park

Twenty-five minutes west of Sioux Falls, in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota, you’ll find Porter Sculpture Park, a smattering of recycled metal structures made by Wayne Porter. A self-taught artist who says he’s lousy at math and drawing, Porter ditched law school to return to the town of St. Lawrence, where he was raised, to work on sculptures in his father’s blacksmith shop. Today more than 50 of his works can be seen in the pet-friendly park. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for teens 13 to 17 and free for children 12 and under.

9. The Lost Sea

After taking a guided tour of giant caves more than 100 feet below ground in Sweetwater, Tennessee, you and the rest of your 12-person group will board a glass bottom boat to explore “The Lost Sea.” It’s cool down here — the temperature is a constant 58 degrees Fahrenheit — and filled with strange rock formations, some of which were passed by an ancient jaguar. Don’t forget to bring a good flashlight with extra batteries. Admission for adults is $19.95; children ages 5 to 12 are $10.95 and children 4 and under are free.

10. Cadillac Ranch

Standing up like a series of headstones along Route 66, just west of Amarillo, Texas, the Cadillac Ranch has been luring visitors since 1974, when a group called The Ant Farm created a piece of public art to baffle the locals. The Caddies face west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville. Though they’ve been in the ground longer than they were on the road, the ranch is a must for anyone traveling The Mother Road. Tourists are always welcome, so bring a can of spray paint. Admission is free.

How to Save on Your Road Trip 

Before you pull out of the driveway, make sure you’ve got a plan for your travels. Budgeting is useful, as is swiping with gas rewards credit cards when you fill up your tank. These handy pieces of plastic can earn you kickbacks for spending as you normally would, which can cut down the cost of your road trip. Just remember to track your purchases so you don’t lose your rewards to high interest or rack up unwanted debt. (You can see how your behaviors are impacting your credit by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

Image: StevenStarr73

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