Credit card companies keep inflating the status of their cards. 20 years ago a Gold card was something worth bragging about. Now everybody gets at least a Platinum card. Look at the credit cards in your wallet. Chances are you have a Visa Signature or MasterCard World card.
These cards come with a free concierge service. You may remember seeing it in the welcome brochure when you first received the card. The concierge service can be of service if you let them do the legwork for you.
Some time ago I was asked to find a hotel room for one night in a small town in southern Russia. Because I don’t trust the Russian taxi service at late night, I also wanted to have the hotel pick up the passenger from the airport.
My usual tools failed at this task. Online travel sites like Expedia or Travelocity didn’t show anything in this small town. Google didn’t help because Russian hotels have their sites in Russian. Out of options, I decided to try the concierge service. Not sure who would be able up to the task, I contacted both Visa and MasterCard’s concierge service.
They are run by different contractors but they work similarly. A US-based agent answered the phone and took the request. They offered a next-day turnaround for these research requests. I suspect the actual research is done offshore. The US-based agent called me back the next day with the results. She gave me three hotel names, with address, phone number, and the rate.
I called one hotel on the list and tried to ask if they offer airport pickups. "Do – you – speak – English?" I asked slowly. "Speak, speak." a woman answered. "Do – you – pick – up – passengers – from – the – airport?" She apparently couldn’t understand. She spoke Russian to me. I spoke English to her. The conversation couldn’t continue.
I called the concierge service again and asked them to find out if the hotel offers airport pickup. The guy put me on hold and called the hotel himself. He couldn’t get the point across either. "Don’t worry. We have a language department."
The language department did it. The concierge made the reservation and arranged airport pickup. I was very satisfied with their service.
In a second occasion, I was going to stay at a hotel in a large city for one night. The hotel charges $50 a night for parking — too expensive. I asked the Visa concierge to find some cheaper alternatives. Once again, they gave me three choices, with address, distance to the hotel, and rates. Maybe I could’ve got the same info if I Googled or called around. But why not just delegate to someone else?
Budget-minded readers please note these concierge services focus on getting things done. They are not necessarily going to shop for the best price. They can be very helpful if you want to save some time.
I heard some high-end credit cards that charge hundreds of dollars in annual fees have better concierge service. Since I’m not in that market, I will make do with the free service for the mass.
- Visa Signature Concierge (run by Mondial Assistance): 800-953-7392. visasignatureconcierge at mondialUSA dot com. All Visa Signature cards are eligible.
- MasterCard Concierge (run by VIPdesk): 800-336-6420. MasterCardConcierge at vipdeskservice dot com. Enter the first six digits of your card number on the web site to see if it qualifies.