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How Your Credit Card Can Help You Get More Legroom on Your Next Flight

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If you try to save money by buying a basic economy airline ticket, it might cost you in other ways. Basic economy airfares can be cheap, but they also bring hassles — less legroom, no checked bags, and sometimes (on U.S. flights), no free carry-on bags.

Want to have a more enjoyable experience as an airline passenger? Sometimes legroom is worth paying for. The best credit cards can help.

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Here are a few ways that perks and points from the best travel credit cards can help get you more legroom on your next flight.

1. Get a free checked bag with airline credit cards

The best airline credit cards offer a free checked bag. Just being a member of an airline frequent flyer program and signing up for an airline credit card can help you avoid the hassle and extra expenses of baggage fees. And getting a free checked bag can also give you more legroom on the plane.

As an air traveler on most U.S. domestic flights for major airlines, you’re typically allowed one carry-on bag and one small personal item (like a laptop bag or backpack). When you check your carry-on bag (for free) instead of cramming it into the overhead bin, this can let you stow your personal item in the overhead bin — freeing up more space under the seat in front of you. Bonus legroom!

2. Buy a better airline ticket with credit card points

When you sign up for the best travel credit cards, you can earn credit card reward points that can be used to book travel. This is like building up an extra, separate “savings account” of alternative currency that you can use just for buying airline tickets, booking hotels, and more.

If you’re a longtime budget air traveler (like me), sometimes it’s hard to overcome the reflex of just buying the cheapest, basic economy class ticket — even if buying a higher-class fare (like premium economy) would make your flight more comfortable. If you don’t want to spend hard-earned cash to buy a higher fare class, redeeming points for a better plane ticket could feel easier. Spend the points! Treat yourself!

3. Use credit card points to upgrade your seat

Another way that travel credit cards can help improve your flight experience is by giving you an easy way to upgrade your flights. Many airlines will let you use frequent flyer miles to upgrade flights — for example, upgrading from economy class to premium economy, or even to business class.

The best travel credit cards let you transfer your credit card rewards points to partner airline frequent flyer programs, and immediately convert your points to frequent flyer miles. Then you can use the points/miles to upgrade your plane ticket to a more spacious part of the plane with better legroom.

Based on the airline, flight date, and overall demand for the higher-priced seats, you might get a better deal by redeeming your points for upgrades. For example, you might find an opportunity to upgrade an airline seat for 30,000 points (converted to miles) that would have cost you $400 of cash.

Bottom line

On your next flight, the best travel credit cards can help you avoid suffering through cramped legroom and extra baggage fees. Earning credit card reward points gives you a powerful way to treat yourself to an upgraded airline experience. Sometimes it’s easier to splurge with credit card points instead of paying with cash — and airlines might offer good deals on upgrades that make your points worth more than you expected.

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We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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