Why Credit Card Concierges Are the Most Magical Benefit You're Not Using

Driven by intense competition in the high-end travel market, issuers including Chase, American Express, and Citibank offer more cards and better perks than ever. But one benefit tends to get lost in all the buzz: free, unlimited access to a live assistant who can research trips, make reservations, and even help you find gifts for finicky in-laws. Below, we answer the most common questions about how the system operates and offer ideas for how to make good use.

Which cards provide concierge services?

A few popular options are American Express Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve (a Visa Infinite card), and Citi Prestige (a Mastercard World Elite card), all of which have an annual fee of around $500. The concierges associated with these higher-cost products also have access to exclusive preferred rates and hotel perks like complimentary breakfast and spa credits.

Related: The Ultimate Credit Card Battle: How the 3 Best Travel Rewards Cards Stack Up

How exactly do credit card concierges work?

By calling the toll-free phone number on the back of the credit card, consumers can talk to an actual human being 24 hours a day and get help with booking hotels and flights — overcoming language barriers and time crunches. Still haven't seen Hamilton? Some concierges can secure tickets to sold-out sporting events, concerts, and theater performances, as well

as VIP tables at hot restaurants. In addition, they can locate lost items in taxis, arrange roadside towing, contest erroneous charges, and do the research for sightseeing activities or a full itinerary based on your preferences. Most concierges will also find public parks that have restrooms, inexpensive long-term parking near airports, and bookable conference rooms. Basically, you can call them any time you have a problem that needs to be solved, even while you're traveling.

How can cardholders get the best results?

Phone calls and online chat produce instant responses, but you can also use e-mail, which is searchable and captures the conversation in writing. Some concierges will also send texts. As you might expect, the more advance notice you give, the more likely you are to have your request fulfilled by the deadline; plus, concierges will be more thorough if given a few days to do research. But if need be, they can check prices and availability — and even book travel — while on the phone. If you adore a particular concierge, you can request that person in the future (no guarantee, though). New VIP offers are often announced via the card's e-mail newsletters, so it's smart to sign up.

Anything they won’t do?

Concierges cannot plan a wedding, run errands, or procure anything illegal. And though they can often work wonders, they'll never promise access anywhere.

What are some more unusual asks?

A concierge at Ten Lifestyle Group (a company utilized by clients like Merrill Lynch, US Bank, Visa, HSBC, and American Express) once sourced a rare 18-year-old whiskey for a member and set up a match with a chess grand master for another. Mastercard's World and World Elite concierges found doggy day-care options for a pet owner seeking a day trip sans pooch, booked a hot-air-balloon ride for a romantic getaway, and located a tailor for a last-minute dress repair.

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