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Wealth and Wants

Unlock hidden rewards card value through experiences

A look at unique event-based perks offered by the major credit card companies

Summary

An underrated credit card perk is access to special experiences such as sporting events, concerts and food festivals. Here are some great options from major credit card companies.

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An underrated credit card perk is access to special experiences such as sporting events, concerts and food festivals.

Marriott Bonvoy Moments are my favorite example. They auction off unique perks to the highest bidder (in Marriott points), and the values are surprisingly reasonable.

A VIP experience at the March 2 Manchester United soccer match just went for 60,000 points. It included two tickets to watch the action from a private suite while enjoying complimentary food and drinks.

Each Marriott point is worth a little less than a cent; this is a remarkable experience for the equivalent of about $550. You can earn more than enough points from the sign-up bonus (75,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months) on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. Its annual fee is $95 and you get a free hotel night (valued at up to 35,000 points) each year you renew the card.

If international soccer isn’t your thing, Marriott Bonvoy Moments also has tons of concert listings (Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj, The Eagles, Lady Antebellum, Shawn Mendes, Bob Dylan and many others). Options for foodies range from a meal and a kitchen tour at The French Laundry in California to VIP treatment at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience to a private dinner with Iron Chef Morimoto in Dubai (including a hotel stay). Many of these options cost a lot less than I expected.

Other ‘experiences’ offered by major card companies

Citi

Citi Private Pass is another good example. The most unique feature is Citi Sound Vault, a series of private, intimate performances by popular musicians like P!NK, Muse and Chris Stapleton. Interested Citi debit and credit card holders can register for potential access through a lottery, and if they’re selected, they can buy tickets at remarkably low prices. These events usually coincide with Grammy week.

There’s also the Citi Concert Series, which takes place in Rockefeller Center throughout the spring and summer (on NBC’s Today Show). I got an email earlier this week offering a chance at free exclusive access to this morning’s edition with Maren Morris. Like the Citi Sound Vault, interested cardholders can register for tickets via a lottery.

Throughout the year, more broadly available Citi Private Pass perks include presale access to concert tickets and preferred pricing on professional athletes’ camps for kids. Unlike Marriott Bonvoy Moments, you pay for Citi Private Pass events with cash, not points.

You could certainly apply the cash back you earned from a card such as the Citi Double Cash Card (1 percent back when you buy and another 1 percent when you pay it off). On the plus side, Citi Private Pass experiences are much more widely available than Marriott Bonvoy Moments.

Chase

Chase Experiences blends certain aspects from each of these programs. It’s similar to Marriott Bonvoy Moments in that you can trade points for one-of-a-kind experiences (such as attempting a free throw on the court after watching a Golden State Warriors game). And like Citi Private Pass, Chase Experiences offers presale concert tickets.

In an effort to appeal to the many travelers who flock to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, there’s a special class of Chase Sapphire Experiences. These are offered in tandem with the travel adventure company Atlas Obscura. If you want to follow in the steps of a Galapagos guide for a day or participate in a scavenger hunt in Chicago’s hidden underground tunnels, you’ll love this package.

Mastercard

Mastercard’s Priceless Cities initiative is similar. You can purchase an exclusive guided tour of Miami’s trendy Wynwood Art District, visit the Duomo of Milan after public viewing hours or explore American Revolution sites in Boston with a renowned historian.

Visa

One other example is the Uber Visa Card. As the card’s website puts it, “Whether it’s a private show from one of the hottest artists or an intimate dinner party with one of the country’s top chefs, these are once in a lifetime experiences available exclusively to Uber Visa card holders.” Customers are notified of upcoming local events via email.

Whether you’re traveling near or far, these programs all have some things in common: they’re fun, clever ways to unlock more value from your existing credit or debit card, and they appeal to the adventurer in all of us.

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