In the ever increasing world of airline fees, cramped seats, and angry passengers, there are few things to look forward to when it comes to air travel. When asked what people dislike about travel, most people respond that it’s the “getting there” part they dread. And with good reason! Air travel has become increasingly uncomfortable and it isn’t getting any cheaper. So what’s one to do, aside from suck it up and be miserable? There are ways to make flying better – some take a lot of flying, some take a bit of work, and some are as easy and filling out a credit card application. By far, one of the easiest ways to make flying better is to have a co-branded airline credit card. These cards come with a number of awesome perks. If you can’t afford business class and don’t have status with an airline, you should definitely have an airline credit card in your wallet. Here’s why:
1. Faster airline award tickets
One of the most obvious perks of the airline cards is the accumulation of miles from everyday spending. Most of the cards earn at a rate of one mile per dollar spent and several earn two miles per dollar spent on the airline. That $100 you spend on groceries each week could net you an extra 400 miles per month you wouldn’t be earning otherwise. I realize it can take a while to accumulate enough miles for free travel this way, but everything adds up. If you can control your spending and put all of your monthly expenses on a rewards earning credit card, you’ll be there in no time.
Some airline credit cards offering miles earned for spending:
2. Free checked bags
With the increasing number of fees for every little aspect of air travel, the possibility of free checked bags is just too enticing to pass up. Nowadays, many airlines charge $25 and up for just one checked bag, one way. And those fees can sure add up. A family of four traveling round trip to Disney World and back can expect to pay $200 in baggage fees alone! Although most airline credit cards come with an annual fee, often one or two trips with checked bags can offset that cost. Most of the cards allow free checked bags for not just the card holders, but also a certain number of travel companions, so couples and families can certainly save a ton of money on checked bag fees. Many of the major European airlines (non-discount airlines) still don’t charge for the first checked bag, so this perk doesn’t seem to come up as often with their credit cards.
Some airline credit cards offering free checked bags:
3. Priority boarding
With everyone looking to avoid checked bag fees, people are trying to cram bigger and bigger bags into the limited carry on space in the overhead compartments. How many times have you gotten on the plane only to find all of the overhead space above your seat completely taken up? It’s not uncommon these days to see some lady wandering up and down the aisle, blocking dozens from being able to get to their seats, while she looks for a place to cram her over-sized roll on. With some airline credit cards, you and your traveling companions get access to early boarding, before the masses. You’ll still have to wait until after the first class cabin and passengers with status are seated, but you’ll beat out the vast majority of coach and secure those prized spaces in the overhead bins.
Some airline credit cards offering priority boarding:
4. Discounts on in-flight purchases
Along with the increased number of fees we’re paying to travel, we’ve seen a gradual decrease in complimentary stuff on the planes. Remember back in the day when you’d get a warm cloth before snacks were served (am I dating myself with this)? Or even a free meal on a domestic flight? Unless you’re flying in first class, those days are generally gone. Most airlines now provide limited snacks and drinks with more premium offers available for purchase. Knowing they have a captive audience, the airlines haven’t exactly made these snacks and beverages cheap. With several of the airline credit cards, purchases made in flight are discounted 10-25%. If you’re buying a $10 sandwich for each member of the family, the savings can really add up.
Some airline credit cards with discounts on in-flight purchases:
5. Discounts on airfare or free annual tickets
Some airline cards go beyond the in-flight savings and offer discounts on airfare or award fares. Card members may receive $100 or more annually to put towards a flight or other airline fees. Still others will allow you to book award fares at a discounted rate. Ether way, this is a great perk for saving money on travel.
Some airline credit cards with discounts on airfare:
6. Companion tickets
By far, one of the most lucrative perks of an airline credit card is the possibility for a companion ticket. Companion tickets allow you to take a passenger with you on a flight for a free or reduced cost. As you can imagine, there are several restrictions in place with the companion tickets, but they can be a great value when used wisely. A companion ticket alone can often negate the cost of the annual fee, and then some.
Some airline credit cards with companion tickets:
As I mentioned, most airline credit cards come with some sort of annual fee for the many perks they provide, so the less-than-casual traveler will want to crunch the numbers before jumping in. These cards aren’t worth it to everyone. But if you fly a few times a year and you value the many perks that come with the cards, find your airline’s card and dive in!