Eight Work Perks That Can Turn a Bad Job Into a Good One

by Katy on September 2, 2016 · 24 comments

This post first appeared over at Clark Howard.com.

Unless you’re self employed, you likely have a few work perks that sweeten your compensation package. For most people it’s medical and dental insurance, a retirement plan and maybe a deal on your company’s retail products. Oftentimes there are discounts on local attractions, cell phone plans or a gym membership. But occasionally a company’s work perks are significant enough to tip the scales and transform a low paying or unsatisfying job into one that’s worth your consideration.

Free flights

Everyone knows that pilots and flight attendants get free flights, but did you know that other airline employees also receive this benefit? From the desk clerks to the cleaning crews, taking a job in the airlines industry can transform your vacations from backyard camping to jet-setting adventures. Add in that airline employees often enjoy hotel discounts, and you’ll even have a cheap place to stay once you arrive at your destination.

Free tuition

Few people would recommend teaching as a fast track to wealth, but if you work in higher education or at a private school, the free or discounted tuition can change that scenario. University and college employees (not just teachers) usually receive free tuition for themselves and even their dependents, which can add tens of thousands per year to a compensation package. You might even consider searching out a job with a non-education based company that provides a free tuition benefit. When even Starbucks pays for their employees to matriculate, you’d be smart to snag one of these jobs.

Free food

Who among us can claim to not be a fan of free food? Whether you’re lucky enough to work for a company that provides free meals, (many do!) or simply work for a restaurant or caterer, free food can be a terrific perk with your job. Restaurants usually provide a free meal per shift, but will often send employees home with unserved food.

Free ambulance services

This one may sound odd, but my husband is a paramedic with a national company, and one of his perks is that he or his immediate family members can receive one free ambulance trip per year. Although this is a benefit we’d rather not use, we’ve actually used it twice through the years. Once when my son broke his arm and another time when my father in law took a nasty spill. Transportation and treatment by ambulance can cost upwards of a thousand bucks, so this benefit is pretty great.

Free sports tickets

Sports teams and stadiums are usually sponsored by big name companies, which means that their employees can get free or at least discounted tickets. My employer sponsors the soccer stadium here in Portland, Oregon which means that employees can sign up for the occasional free ticket. Go team!

Adoption assistance

Many employers provide an amount that can be put towards the expenses of adoption, often in the range of $2000. Not enough to pay the average cost of $40,121 for a traditional adoption, but still extremely helpful. Ask your human resources representative if your company offers this benefit.

Free museum passes

Whether you work for a cultural attraction with a reciprocal admission agreement or a private company with ties to a museum, this perk can save you a lot of money. With admissions ranging in the $25 range for NYC museum such as The Museum of Modern Art or The Whitney, a museum visit can turn into a significant investment. A friend of mine works for a large financial company that provides these passes to their employees, and he’s been kind enough to share them when I visit.

Student loan forgiveness

There are a number of organizations that participate in student loan forgiveness programs. Usually as an incentive to cover underserved areas, these programs forgive the payoff on federally insured student loans after a specified period. This government site can be a good start to researching these opportunities.


I’ve held a number of interesting jobs throughout my forty-eight years, ranging from British shoe sales to Macy’s elf. Although I had my favorites, a few of them provided work perks that I look back upon with fondness. The retail store that provided a cost-plus-10% discount on absolutely everything in the store, and the free movie admissions from a local theater stand out in my mind. My current job as an RN provides a free $888 public transportation pass, which brightens my day when work gets tough.

Whether it’s free food or free college tuition, works perks can and should be considered when looking at a compensation package.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Randi September 2, 2016 at 9:38 am

I’ll add: Getting out of speeding tickets. ( My wife is a cop : )


Lindsey September 2, 2016 at 11:14 am

In college, I worked in a small yarn shop and once a quarter, as they were rotating in new stock, the other non-owner employee and I were allowed $100 of free yarn—at the season’s end discounted rate so really it was more like $150. I didn’t knit, but had friends and a grandmother who did, so my Christmas presents for them were all taken care of.

I had another job, with only 6 employees, where on your birthday you got a $50 gift certificate to a bookstore or grocery store (your choice) plus the entire staff went to the lunch place of your choice and the business paid. (Too bad four of us had October birthdays because it would have been nice to spread things out!) This same place also gave each of us a turkey at Thanksgiving and every year on your hiring anniversary, a nice pen engraved with your name. So mine would say, Thank you Lindsey for another year of being part of our family. I have to say, the turnover at this place was very low. I think in a decade of working there only one person left—good pay and they contributed to our retirement account. We used to laugh that we would all just leave there and move into a retirement home together, we had so much history with each other. And not one drama queen or king in the bunch—I was sorry when we moved to another city!


Katy September 2, 2016 at 11:57 am

That sounds lovely!


Krystal September 2, 2016 at 2:01 pm

The free food is a good one. The perk: I worked at a start-up that would order in lunch and also have a fully stocked kitchen! The downside: I worked a start-up. I also gained 10 lbs (as most newbies did)!
My husband pays about $24 a month for a subsidized, unlimited bus pass for the King County region. It would cost closer to $75 a month if he was to pay for all his bus trips, as driving and parking downtown is way too ridiculous and biking is quite hazardous from our highest-point-in-the-city neighborhood.


Kristen September 2, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Not sure that free flights are true. My dad was a pilot for American Airlines and we got very discounted flights. It wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds – we also had to fly stand-by. I got bumped off many flights and sat in airports for hours/days. A lot of times, we bought full price tickets because it was less of a headache.


tonya parham September 3, 2016 at 9:21 pm

I know when I read The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (nonfiction biography) Rob took a job at Newark NJ airport specifically so he could travel for free and he did. Now, he have have had certain limitations but being a baggage handler had that huge perk for him.

So this may be a case of some airlines are different and some airports are different– not just that it’s not true. I think it’s just not a one size fits all scenario.


A. Marie September 2, 2016 at 3:16 pm

As a telecommuter for 32 years and counting (I started working from home before the “tele-” part became routine, actually!), I would rank not having to go in to an office as a **major** perk. (Costs saved: transportation, work wardrobe, lost time of various sorts…)


Krystal September 2, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Same here! I do travel often enough though, but not too often, so I rotate 2-3 outfits per trip. I can’t imagine having a full formal wardrobe!


Lilypad September 2, 2016 at 3:21 pm

My husband is a buyer for a local drugstore chain, so he gets a good discount on anything sold at the stores. They carry a lot of grocery items too, so it’s very handy. I always tell him I married him for the discount on toilet paper! 😉


April September 2, 2016 at 4:30 pm

My cousin works for a well-known fast food restaurant (one with very healthy menu options), and she’s often complaining about being stuck there. But the reality is that it actually pays better than most office jobs in this area, she has great insurance, and she gets a free lunch up to $8 for each shift she works. To me, that’s not a bad deal at all.


Florencia September 3, 2016 at 8:47 pm

I know that I lives the free food when I worked at McDonald’s (until very recently). I’d custom make my own food and it was pretty healthy, I’d only because I made it myself, but the ingredients were there. When I had short shifts on the occasional weekend, I’d get a $1 item and the rest of my $10 for meals (per shift) I’d use to get food to take home. Sometimes I’d get breakfast leftovers: McGriddles, biscuits, egg, sausage, pancakes. My family loved it. 🙂 The insurance sucked, but I’d been there long enough that my wage was what someone at a low-paying, entry-level office job would make either the same or less than me, although I feel my job was more taxing.


Marcia September 2, 2016 at 8:13 pm

My cousin married a guy who got a teaching job at a university. When her kids got to school age, she started taking graduate courses and eventually got her PhD. and taught there herself until retirement.


Nancy September 3, 2016 at 5:26 am

My daughter works for a great environmental company. During the busy summer season she works basically 6- 7 days per week but can bank those days and take time off in the winter slower season. She’s taking over two months off this year to travel! The nice part is that if she really needs (or wants) a weekend off in the summer she can still take the time off. She also gets a bonus to pay for any sports that she wants to play…She could use it for a gym membership or anything activity-oriented. She loves hockey and pays for the entrance fee to both teams she plays on….which adds up to about $800 per year! Needless to say, she loves her job!


Ruby September 3, 2016 at 9:20 am

If you work for a university or college, you will probably also get a reduced-price pass to the school’s fitness center.


Ruby September 3, 2016 at 9:20 am

And, I meant to add, a discount at the dining hall, campus-owned eateries and bookstore.


John September 3, 2016 at 9:25 am

I get a kick out of the format of your C Howard posts… always ending with ‘conclusion.’ They must have a formating requirement!


Katy September 3, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Not a requirement, just a way to not be constantly reinventing the wheel.


Bee September 3, 2016 at 11:58 am

My husband travels a great deal for business. He is a member of airline and hotel loyalty programs. Although not given to him directly by his employer, he receives points from these businesses towards free airline tickets and hotel rooms. We save these points use them for a vacation or long weekend.


Tish September 3, 2016 at 12:38 pm

I love the work perks at my and my husband’s jobs besides just the insurance and 402k matches. Mine has free tix to minor league baseball games, reimbursed gym/race fees/sneaker purchase/massages/anything health related up to $360 per year, an onsite health clinic, $1,200 to go toward health expenses just for being healthy and my favorite – work from home if you choose so no commuting or wardrobe expenses plus $150 per month to offset internet and phone expenses. Husband has a company car (helps us stay a one car family), HSA contribution, stock purchase match, $500 per year to go to health expenses and although we hate him being gone M-F the hotel points and per diems are nice.


Choices September 3, 2016 at 2:44 pm

When I worked for a law office, I got a free will and trust — the type we charged $1500.00 for!


Katy September 3, 2016 at 7:15 pm

Ooh . . . good one!


dawninsac September 3, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Yes, ma’am. I like to think that one of the great perks to my miserably paid job is that:
1.) I get to work from home half the time.
2.) I work 50% time but receive 100% benefits (healthcare, dental, retirement, vacation and sick time)
3.) I get paid to travel 8 weeks of the year to great amazing places I would not go to on my own and stay in fancy swanky hotels that I would NEVER pay to stay in otherwise.
4.) I get paid to eat in in places I would never eat for breakfast lunch and dinner when I travel – again, something I would rarely if ever do on my own dime.

It all makes me feel like I get live a great adventurous and glamorous lifestyle despite my darn near close to poverty income. I do not take it for granted. I am very very lucky and I know it will not last for ever, because someday very soon I my kids will be old enough to no need me to drive them everywhere and I can go back to work full-time.—–or continue to live frugally and work part time 🙂


Carol Pavlik September 3, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Katie this brought a great memory for me. In the sixties I worked for a shoe company. We got sh o es and purses cost plus 10%. Each payday I bought soes and matching purse for my mom She loved pointy toed high heels. The job only lasted six months but I got to do something nice for someone who did so much for me.


Erin September 4, 2016 at 11:15 am

I work at a private school where employees get free lunch in the cafeteria. I don’t think I could ever go back to a world without it! The energy, time, and attention I no longer have to give to planning and making lunch for the week are worth it without even considering the financial perks!


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