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I love using my credit cards. This may come as a surprise, because cards often get a bad reputation. But if you pay the bill in full from your bank account every month and never carry a balance that you owe interest on, credit cards are really pretty great.

Cards offer some benefits that have improved my life in meaningful ways. Here are four big credit card perks I’d never want to live without, so you can see why I believe cards can be such a good thing.

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1. An in-flight incidentals credit

One of my credit cards offers me a $100 credit for “airline incidentals.” This means if I pay for things like picking my seats, checking luggage, or in-flight snacks or wifi, I’m able to get the money I spent back, up to $100 per year.

Because of this card, I don’t feel guilty if I am hungry on the plane and I want to buy the overpriced cheese-and-crackers box — a glorified Lunchable at an obscene price. Or I can opt for the in-flight wifi and pass the time more quickly without getting annoyed at the excess cost.

Sure, I could spend the money for these things anyway — but why pay out of pocket when my card will give them to me? I do pay a $95 annual fee for the card, but between this credit and all of the rewards I earn with it, the fee is more than covered and I get to enjoy in-flight perks without spending my own cash.

If you fly often, like I do, choosing a travel card that offers these perks could make your own flights a lot more pleasant.

2. Airline lounge access

Airline lounge access is one of the single best things my credit card offers to me. I get my lounge access from another credit card in my wallet, which does come with a $595 annual fee. But the other perks the card offers, including money back on GrubHub, Lyft, and car rentals plus free checked bags, make this card more than worth paying for.

The lounge access, though, is life-changing. Instead of having to eat overpriced, bad meals at the airport, I can go to the lounge and fill up for free on slightly more appetizing food offerings. I can find comfortable seating, enjoy free drinks, and actually relax in the time leading up to my flight taking off.

Again, if you are a frequent traveler, a card with airline lounge access is an unbelievably awesome perk. These cards can either be cobranded with airlines or general purpose travel cards, so check out the best credit cards offering lounge access to see if any are right for you.

3. Rewards

It may seem obvious to state that credit card rewards are a great benefit of using a card. But they really are. When you earn rewards and pay off your balance in full so you don’t pay interest, your card issuer is basically giving you free money.

I charge a lot on my cards because I put most bills on them, including my income tax bill. As a result, I earn hundreds of dollars a year in credit card rewards, as well as enough miles for several free airline tickets.

If you can find a card offering generous rewards for your spending, you can make all of your purchases cheaper. Say, for example, you get 2% cash back and you charge $10,000 a year on your credit cards. You’d end up with a free $200. Why pass that up?

4. Purchase protections

Finally, I love the purchase protections my credit cards can offer me. I know if a merchant doesn’t deliver, I can contact my creditor, and it will help me with a chargeback so I’m not out the money. Some cards also offer extended warranties or return protection, so you have even more security in case you’re disappointed by a product.

These are all awesome perks that you can take advantage of — as long as you can use credit cards responsibly. This means charging only what you can afford and paying off the balance monthly. Check out the best credit cards to find one that offers bonus rewards for your spending activities and valuable perks, and start enjoying these benefits today.

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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.Christy Bieber has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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