Airline credit cards are credit cards that are used by frequent flyers for their airline-specific perks. They are provided by card issuers, working jointly with a particular airline to reward their customers for both their loyalty and for paying for their travel and other expenses using the card.
With airline credit cards, you earn a certain number of miles for the amount you spend on the carrier and other qualifying services. You can then redeem your rewards to book flights, pay for services, or make eligible travel purchases.
Various airline credit cards vary in the perks they offer, as well as in fees and costs. This means that not every airline credit card is suited for every traveler. Also, not every traveler will benefit from airline credit cards.
That said, you can make a better decision by comparing the pros and cons of airline credit cards.
The Pros of Airline Credit Cards
Attractive Sign-up Bonuses
Most airline credit cards come with attractive welcome bonuses, some of which are large enough to pay for a flight. It is worth noting that you gain the bonus after meeting certain requirements- usually spending a certain amount of money within a specific time of account opening or opening a new credit account.
Hassle-free Way to Earn Miles
As a frequent flyer, airline credit cards provide an avenue for you to earn rewards while doing what you would be doing anyway.
These will vary from one airline card to another and may include free or discounted checked luggage, lounge access, in-flight foods and drinks, companion passes, and upgraded services.
Priority Boarding and Seat Upgrades
If when you board and where you seat during the flight matters to you, certain airline credit cards give you just that; an opportunity to not only be among the first to board but also get a seat upgrade.
Rewards on Non-travel Related Categories
Some airline credit cards can earn you bonus rewards on your other spending areas, like hotel bookings, which helps maximize your earnings. In addition, this feature helps to not only accumulate your miles but also keep them from expiring should you halt your traveling for some time.
Travel Support and Protection
Certain airline credit cards will offer coverage in situations like flight delays or cancellation, trip interruptions, lost luggage, rental car accidents, and access to medical care.
The Cons of Airline Credit Cards
Limited to one Airline
As their name suggests, airline credit cards limit you to one carrier and in some instances, its partner airlines. This can further complicate the reward redemption process due to competition-you may not always redeem your rewards for what you want from what the reward program offers or get flexibility with travel dates.
Limited Opportunities to Earn Rewards
This is especially so if you end up with cards that only offer rewards on airline/travel-related purchases and none on everyday spending.
Hefty Annual Fees
Annual fees for airline credit cards can be anything from a few dollars shy of a $100 to amounts over $500. The more the perks you stand to get the higher the fees. If your rewards exceed the fees, then the credit cards are worth it, otherwise they are an unnecessary expense.
Reward Programs can be Devalued
Airlines can devalue their programs or do away with them at their discretion as has happened with many airlines before. With the limitation of a single airline, there’s no guarantee that your earned miles will be useful.
Are Airline Credit Cards a Good Idea?
You could benefit from an airline credit card if you:
- Fly often
- Always or mostly use the same airline
- Have good credit and can pay off your credit card balances on time
If most of the above doesn’t apply to you, then you are better off without airline credit cards.
The Final Take
It is apparent that airline credit cards can be a good or bad idea depending on your flying habits. Admittedly, they are only a worthy investment if the value you draw from them outweighs the associated expenses. Where do you lie? The above information can help you figure that out.