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I’m only a Silver Medallion member on Delta this year. But I love the priority boarding it awards me.

It’s nice not having to wait.  While my fellow travelers are fighting for overhead bin space, I’m already in my seat.

Not a frequent flyer? There are still ways you can beat the crowds and qualify for priority boarding privileges. Here are your best options:

1.     Try the “$10 or Less” option.

Several airlines now offer you the opportunity to pay for priority boarding. This is great if you have a carry-on bag you want to stay close to you on the flight.

United’s “Premier Line” offers priority boarding and it also speeds you through the airport – giving you access to exclusive check-in lines and the priority security lines where available. You can buy “Premier Line” online anytime at or use the check-in kiosks at the airport. The price starts at $9. (Note: Although Continental has merged with United, this option is currently not available on Continental-operated flights.)

American Airlines offers “Group 1 Boarding” as part of its “Your ChoiceSM” program. You can purchase “Group 1 Boarding” at least one hour prior to departure, only at an airport self-service check-in machine. It’s $10 each way.

And, Southwest Airlines (the airline that lets ALL their customers fly with two bags, free) offers an “EarlyBird Check-In” service. If you have a Wanna Get Away Fare, Anytime Fare, Senior Fare or DING! Fare, you can purchase “EarlyBird Check-In” up to 36 hours prior to your flight’s scheduled departure time. It’s only available on, its mobile site, or apps. It’s NOT available over the phone or at the airport. (Cost: $10 one way.)

2.     Travel with children.

Most airlines offer priority boarding for people traveling with small children under the age of two or children with a purchased ticket sitting in a car seat.  Check your airline’s website to be sure.

3.    Use credit cards that serve as VIP passes.

Continental Airlines’ “OnePass Plus” card gives you priority boarding and your first checked bag is free.  It also lets you redeem miles for car and hotel rewards: The first year is free, too. (Value: $95)

United’s “MileagePlus Explorer” card also gives you and your companion your first checked bag for free as well as priority boarding. Click here for their website. The first year is free with this card, too. (Value: $95)

And US Airways’ “Premier World MasterCard” (click here for US Airways website)  has an $89 annual fee but comes with priority boarding and first-class check in.

4. Pick the right seat for early boarding.

Not all airlines board passengers the same way. But most board from back to front so a seat in the back will get boarded before a seat in the front.  You can find out which seats board first at this website.

If you have a carry on you’d like to keep close, you’re not a frequent flyer, you don’t want to spend the extra $10 to board first, and you’re not traveling with a child, this site can help you plan your seat better, so you can strategically place yourself in an earlier boarding group.

Stay tuned tomorrow for details on how to get a free flight to Hawaii (while using only 50% of your frequent flyer miles).

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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