If you fly one airline consistently, these cards can be a very good option. They are not for people who carry a balance, because interest rates tend to be quite high. Rates have risen steadily during the past few years.
Many budget travelers believe airline credit cards are a less than attractive option unless you live near an airport dominated by one airline or your company requires a particular carrier. Often it pays to also consider bank-based cards that can offer more reward options.
Before you look at specific cards, it is best to look at your finances and travel patterns. Ask yourself seven simple questions about travel reward credit cards.
Please take these recommendations as a starting point for a more personal and in-depth study focused on your individual travel needs. Here are a few selections worth consideration as you begin your research.
British Airways offers travel options around the world that few others can match. The current offer is up to 100,000 avios (miles). You start with 50,000 for signing up and charging at least $1,000 on the card within the first three months. If you reach $10,000 in charges with the card within 12 months, another 25,000 avios are awarded; you'll receive 50,000 avios if you spend at least $20,000 with the card in the first year.
Reward partners such as American Airlines and Alaska Airlines combine with British Airways to offer about 600 destinations to which you can fly. You'll get 2.5 miles for every dollar spent with British Airways, and 1.25 miles for every other dollar spent. Chase Bank USA is the issuing company. There is a 15.24 percent variable APR for unpaid balances.
The good news: A large choice of domestic and international flights, and an offer of a second, free companion ticket when you pay full price for the first fare. The card is equipped with a microchip for better security and more convenient use in Europe. The bad news: The high annual fee of $95, and only U.S. residents are eligible.
This card, for those who fly mostly within U.S. borders, is set up a little differently from most: Receive one point for every eligible dollar you spend, including gas, groceries, and household bills. One-way award flights start at 5,000 points and round trip award flights start at 10,000 points. The variable APR for purchases is 15.24 percent. You'll receive 20,000 TrueBlue points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. There is an annual fee of $40, but it is waived for the first year.
The good news: Relatively short path to the first free ticket; lower annual fee than many other airline cards. The bad news: JetBlue only flies in the U.S., Caribbean and Bermuda. Other cards allow for more destination options.
Delta's extensive network of cities and partners around the world makes anything they offer worth a look. American Express is welcomed in many fine outlets worldwide, but some budget travelers complain it skews upscale--and therefore is not as useful in their daily lives as other cards. Delta adds 30,000 SkyMiles if you charge $500 on the card in the first three months.
Holders of the card may check their first bag for free on every Delta flight, a nice perk in this age of ever-increasing baggage fees. The annual fee is waived the first year, and $40 thereafter if you have a qualifying American Express Consumer Charge Card. If not, the annual fee is a rather steep $95. The APR for purchases is variable, between 15.24-19.24 percent.
Miles do not expire as long as you do one of the following every two years: takes a qualifying flight on any Delta service; earns Delta miles through one of its program partners; or redeem miles for any Delta miles award. Not available in Puerto Rico, Saipan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can earn double miles for Delta purchases. Beware: Delta also offers an "options" card, with no annual fee, but it takes $2 to earn each mile.
The good news: SkyMiles are also accepted on 13 international carriers, including Air France, Air Jamaica and Singapore Airlines. Delta now awards 2,500 bonus miles when you make $10,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year. You also get the first checked bag at no charge on any Delta flight. The bad news: The annual fee that can hit $95.
You'll receive 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of service. The promotion states that quantitiy is worth more than $400 in Wanna Get Away?® Fares that can be redeemed for a round-trip flight.
You also receive 6,000 bonus points every year after your Card-member Anniversary, which can be redeemed for a $100 Wanna Get Away? Fare or applied to the hefty $99 annual fee. APR is 15.24 percent.
The good news: It's possible to get a free round-trip ticket fairly quickly. The bad news: The high annual fee of $99 annual fee applied immediately -- no one-year grace period as found with many other offers.
There is no annual fee the first year and up to 30,000 bonus miles after $1,000 in purchases with the card in first three months. This choice combines the resources of a banking empire and one of the North America's largest airlines. APR is 15.24 percent.
Card-holders get their first bag checked at no charge.
The good news: No blackout dates for reward travel and a chance to earn lots of bonus points. The bad news: At the beginning of the second year, you'll pay a steep annual fee of $95.