6 reasons why you need an airline credit card

6 Reasons

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

Award ticket, here I come!

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:

US

Asiana Airlines

Citi AAdvantage

Gold Delta Skymiles

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite

Australia

Quantas American Express

Velocity Platinum

UK

British Airways Amex

Virgin Atlantic White

Canada

Aeroplan Plus Platinum

Airmiles Reserve

France

Air France/KLM Gold

 

2. Free checked bags

Check all of these for free! photo credit: Shanghai Daddy via photopin cc

Check all of these for free! photo credit: Shanghai Daddy via photopin cc

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:

US

Citi AAdvantage

Gold Delta Skymiles

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite

US Airways Credit Card

 

3. Priority boarding

No more of this photo credit: Jaako via photopin cc

No more of this! photo credit: Jaako via photopin cc

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:

US

Citi AAdvantage

Gold Delta Skymiles

US Airways Credit Card

 

4. Discounts on in-flight purchases

Mmm... cheap wine.

Mmm… cheap wine.

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:

US

Citi AAdvantage

Gold Delta Skymiles

 

5. Discounts on airfare or free annual tickets

Where to? photo credit: uncleboatshoes via photopin cc

Where to? photo credit: uncleboatshoes via photopin cc

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:

US

Citi AAdvantage

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite

US Airways Credit Card

Australia

Velocity Platinum

6. Companion tickets

I love free flights...

I love free flights…

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:

US

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite

 Platinum Delta Skymiles

US Airways Credit Card

Virgin America

UK

British Airways Amex

Virgin Atlantic White

Canada

Aeroplan Plus Platinum

Airmiles Reserve

Australia

Velocity Platinum

 

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!

Cheers!

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Awesome tips! We have had a United MileagePlus card for a while, and have a decent amount of miles now. We just got a free upgrade to first (no miles required) the last time we traveled since we have elite status now! Woot!

    • Thanks Katie! Gotta love elite status! I’m a Gold medallion with Delta and get upgraded about 50% of the time. It’s awesome. Unfortunately, it’s not looking like I’ll keep my status next year. All the more reason to have one of these cards!

  2. I’m really out of the loop when it comes to things like this – I’m not signed up to anything at all regarding airlines, I literally just look for the cheapest flight and book it – I’ve never built up any air miles, never been upgraded to first class or anything lol, maybe I need to invest some time into it? These perks certainly look tempting, especially the companion tickets and free checked bags

  3. I do have a rewards Visa card but I have to admit that I don’t have an airline credit card. I didn’t realize that there were so many perks other than just accumulating points. I’ll have to consider getting one!

  4. Free checked bags!! I didn’t realize that . I’ve always opted for a general travel points card like Amex or Capital One to maximize where I could use the points but I had no idea of these others airline perks. Those bag fees alone can really add up!

    • They really can! I generally like the general travel points cards better for rewards value, but the perks from the airline cards can’t be beat!

  5. I’m ashamed to say that I have yet to sign up for an airline card. I really need to look into Delta since my home airport is a huge Delta hub! Thanks for the info.

    P.S… I had never heard of Companion Tickets until now! Thanks for teaching me something new… :)

  6. Great tips! We have an Alaska Airlines card and it’s amazing how quickly those miles add up! With a family of 5 we find it essential if we are ever going to be able to afford air travel. Companion fare, lower rates, checked bags…it’s GREAT!

  7. awesome tips. i have the Qantas American express card, still have not managed to get enough points to get anything worthy from it, but the points are slowly adding up. definitely a good way to get something back from just spending what you normally would

  8. Super helpful post Amy. If your a frequent traveller, an airline credit card is a great idea. I have a Woolworths Everyday Rewards Qantas Credit Card which I earn points for spending and then extra points when I shop at Woolworths which is where we do all of our Grocery shopping. We accumulate points really quick this way and the best part was the 20,000 point sign up bonus.

    • Those sign up bonuses are the best. It’s awesome that you get extra points for grocery shopping – something we all end up spending a bunch of money on anyways!

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