So, you are considering applying for an airline credit card. Great to have you on board! Now that you have decided to make a move, we just need to figure out which move that is – i.e. determine which airline credit card fits your travel lifestyle and will assist you in achieving your travel goals!
Driving Factors when determining what airline credit card is right for you:
Frequency of Flying an Airline – The more you fly a specific airline, the more that you will benefit from perks and benefits offered by an airline credit card. If you live in ATL and only fly Delta, an American Airlines co-branded card will not provide you with much, other than the initial sign up bonus (though that may be all that you are after anyway)! Choose a card that provides the most bang for your buck!
Award Redemption Plan – See the AYP Starter Guide – Know your travel goals! Is your goal to earn the initial sign-up bonus for a specific redemption or for the bonus + ongoing benefits? Will the initial sign-up bonus be enough or will you need to continue earning?Are you accruing miles in order to spend on international first class? Is you goal to earn the Southwest Companion Pass for maximum domestic economy travel? These are all questions you should be asking yourself pre-application!
Earn the right points/miles on the airline that is going to take you where you want to be! Remember, earning Southwest points can’t (effectively) get you to Europe and American Airlines AAdvantage miles won’t get you in Singapore Suites Class!
Companion Travel – Are you a solo flyer or do you travel with a squad? The answer matters! If you are always traveling with a companion, you will want a card that extends benefits to your companion – i.e waived check baggage fees, priority boarding, even lounge access privileges. The deeper the squad, the more the potential savings – the Delta cards provide checked bag fee waivers for up to 8 companions! Also, the Southwest Companion Pass… need I say more?
Elite Status Considerations – Are you on a quest for elite airline status but need a little help? Well, your airline credit card may be able provide you that extra little boost! Cards like the Delta Platinum, the Delta Reserve, and the Citi AAdvantage Executive card will ll provide you with the opportunity to earn elite qualifying miles through your credit card spending.
Home Airport – Your home airport is going to be the origin or the destination for the majority of your air travel… to state the obvious! This factor is intertwined with the frequency you fly a particular airline, as well as your preference for lounge access!
Questions to ask yourself:
Does an airline have a strong presence at my home airport?
For example, Delta runs the show at ATL but lets Southwest have their fun, while United and American have a very weak presence.
Does an airline feature a lounge at my home airport?
TPA is my home airport, which features just two airline club lounges – belonging to American Airlines and Delta. A card providing United Club access will do little for me…
Lounge Access – Airport lounges are a saving grace, providing a pleasant break for the hectic airport terminal traffic! While the majority of airline credit cards do not offer lounge access, some do – it may just cost a bit extra on your annual fee! Most standard airline credit card annual fees hover around $100, while an airline card offering lounge access will run you more like $450.
Business Travel – Travel for business? Does your company allow you to use your personal card for business travel expenses? Lucky you! Take advantage of that generous policy and earn 2x+ bonus miles per $1 utilizing your airline credit card on the airline you fly most frequently! Also, if you have a small business that involves air travel, make sure you maximize your business spending by using an airline business credit card!
Top 3 Airline Credit Cards – My Picks:
In order to determine what card is right for you, I suggest ranking the factors above in terms of importance and let that be your ultimate guide! For instance, 99% of my travel is for personal purposes with my companion (my wife), therefore I will want a card that provides benefits to me AND my companion!
If you are primarily a solo business traveler, you will have a much different travel lifestyle and accompanying travel goals and therefore will need to do your own analysis in order to determine which card is the right fit for you!
(1) The Southwest Credit Card Combo for the Companion Pass
Interested in companion travel? The Southwest credit cards (offering 50k bonus points each) will lead you to the single most valuable reward travel tool in the game – the Southwest Companion Pass! Get the pass by earning 110k Rapid Rewards points – and the Companion Pass = Buy One, Get One flight for you an a friend the remainder of the calendar year, as well as the following calendar year!
(2) Your Go-To Legacy (AKA THE OGs) Carrier Credit Card – For Me? Citi AAdvantage Platinum or Delta Gold from American Express
The Legacy Carriers – aka the OGs – Delta, American Airlines and United. If you fly domestic, sooner or later you will be flying one of these airlines. Determine which airline best serves your home airport (and which you fly most frequently) and apply for the associated credit card. A solid legacy airline credit card will provide a standard level of benefits – free checked bags and improved boarding position at the least!
(3) Whatever Card is Offering the Highest Sign-up Bonus!
Have your travel goals in mind and follow the BIG bonuses! A single credit card bonus on a co-branded airline credit card may be all that is standing between you and your travel dreams! Achieve them! Earlier this month it was Delta, and soon it will be something new – United? American Airlines? Who knows!?
The list of airline credit cards is a long one (see the rundown below)! It can be overwhelming, but ultimately, the longer the list, the better for you as an eager points and miles traveler! Familiarize yourself with the factors above, rank them, and make an assessment!
Remember, one credit card bonus can make it all happen!
Hate having too few options? Don’t you worry! Here’s a rundown on some of the popular airlines and their card offerings:
Citi AADVANTAGE Platinum Select World MasterCard – 50,000 AAdvantage miles after $3,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership – $95 annual fee, waived the first year.This card also offers the cardholder 10% miles back on award redemptions.
Why I would apply? Bonus miles (always my #1), free checked bag for me and up to 4 of my companion, priority boarding, and the 1st year annual fee waiver
Citi AADVANTAGE Executive World Elite MasterCard – 60,000 AAdvantage miles after $5,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership – $450 annual fee, NOT waived the first year.
Why I would apply? Bonus miles (always my #1), Admirals Club Access for me and my 2 companions, free checked bag for me and 8 companions, priority boarding, and the opportunity to earn elite status Elite Qualification Miles.
AADVANTAGE Aviator Red MasterCard from Barclays – This card is the converted product of the US Airways MasterCard and is not available for new sign-ups, though based on recent news Barclays has reached an agreement with American Airlines to issue new credit cards in airports and in-flight as early as January 2017!
Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card – 50,000 bonus Avios after $3,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership – $95 annual fee, NOT waived the first year.
Why I would apply? Bonus miles (always my #1), potential for a companion ticket (after meeting $30,000 spend requirements in a calendar year) and the 1st year annual fee waiver
Delta Gold from American Express – 30,000 bonus Skymiles after $1,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership, plus a $50 statement credit on a Delta purchase – $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
Why I would apply? Bonus miles (though the bonus is down from the recent 50k Skymiles), the $50 statement credit, a free checked bag for me and 8 of my companions, priority boarding, and the 1st year annual fee waiver.
Delta Platinum Card from American Express – 35,000 bonus Skymiles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after $1,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership, plus a $100 statement credit on a Delta purchase – $195 annual fee, NOT waived the first year.
Why I would apply? Bonus miles (though the bonus is down from the recent 60k Skymiles), free checked bag for me and 8 of my companions, priority boarding, the $100 Delta credit (cha-ching!) and the Medallion Qualification Miles + opportunity to earn more MQMs after meeting spend thresholds.
Delta Reserve Card from American Express – 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 10,000 bonus Skymiles after the first purchase on your card. This card also features complimentary SkyClub access – annual fee of $450, NOT waived the first year.
Why I would apply? Delta SkyClub Lounge Access, a free checked bag for me and 8 of my companions, priority boarding and the Medallion Qualification Miles + opportunity to earn more MQMs after meeting spend thresholds.
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card – 30,000 bonus miles after $1,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership, plus 5,000 bonus miles after adding an authorized user to your account – $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
Why I would apply? The miles (though 30k seems low, hold out for increased offers), priority boarding, 2 one-time United Club lounge passes (per year?), a free checked bag for me and a companion and ???
Chase United MileagePlus Club Card – This card features United Club membership to the cardholder and eligible travel companions.
Why I would apply? I probably wouldn’t… but some may for the United Club Lounge access!
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card – 50,000 bonus Rapid Rewards after $2,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership – $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
Why I would apply? The bonus points! Also, the opportunity to earn my way to the Companion Pass and buy one get one flights!
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card – 50,000 bonus Rapid Rewards after $2,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership – $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
Why I would apply? Same reason as the Premier!
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card – 50,000 bonus Rapid Rewards after $2,000 in spending in the first 3 months of card ownership – $95 annual fee, waived the first year. Note – I included the business version of this card since combining this card with the Premier or Plus cards above is a great way for folks to reach the 110k Rapid Rewards points needed for the Companion Pass.
Why I would apply? Same reason as the Plus and the Premier above!
Barclay – The JetBlue Card – 5,000 bonus points after $1,000 in 3 months $0 annual fee.
Why I would apply? I probably wouldn’t with such a whimpy bonus… but it is a good option for frequent JetBlue flyers wanting a no-fee cedit card.
Barclay – The JetBlue Card Plus – 30,000 bonus points after $1,000 in 3 months, $99 annual fee NOT waived the first year. The card also offers 5,000 points at your account anniversary (every year) and 10% points back on redemptions.
Why I would apply? The bonus points! Plus, priority boarding and a free checked bag for me and up to 3 companions.
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card – 30,000 bonus miles + $100 statement credit after $1,000 in spending in 3 months, $75 annual fee not waived the first year
Why I would apply? The bonus miles + easy money ($100 statement credit). Note: Alaska miles are valuable since they can be used on Alaska, American Airlines, AND Delta flights! I also would enjoy the annual companion certificate (companion will fly for $121), the priority boarding and the free checked bag for me and up to 6 companions.