It is a competitive business in the credit card/loyalty industry for sure. Each credit card has to have something that will encourage you to retain it past the first year and after the sign-up bonus is long gone. Here are 5 valuable benefits on airline credit cards that try to help do just that.
5 Valuable Benefits On These Airline Credit Cards
The high-end airline credit cards – like the United Club card, the Delta Reserve card, and the AA Executive AAdvantage card – really do not have to do anything too special to protect their customers from one of the competitor cards. That is because the people that have largely applied for those cards have done so because they have some form of loyalty to the airline that draws them to pay the $450 for those cards.
For the other airline cards, it is much more competitive. Here are 5 benefits that these cards use to try and retain their customers.
Alaska Airlines – Companion Ticket
While Alaska Airlines does not have the network size of other US airlines, they do have a good airline with many strong points. With their credit card, they give you a chance to bring someone along with you for the ride on your Alaska Airlines flight.
For cardholders of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you will receive an annual companion ticket. It costs $99 for the companion ticket plus that taxes which would bring the total to $121. This ticket can be used to fly anywhere on Alaska’s network as the companion to the regular paid ticket. That means flights to Alaska, Hawaii, and on the mainland. Paying only $99 plus taxes for such a ticket is a really good deal!
Not only that, but the companion ticket will also earn miles for the traveler. That is another great benefit that is not shared on other airline companion tickets.
Annual Fee: $95
American Airlines – 10% Rebate
This is a very valuable benefit to me as it can be worth as much as $180 (in my valuation of AA miles at present) in new miles after you have redeemed the miles you have. That is because you will receive a rebate of 10% on up to 100,000 miles redeemed per year. So, if you redeem 100,000 AA miles in a calendar year, you will receive a total of 10,000 miles back as a rebate. The same holds true for lesser amounts, it is just that 10,000 miles is the cap on the rebate. Getting 10% back on your miles used is great!
Not all the AA credit cards offer this benefit and, strangely enough, the top card (Executive AAdvantage) is one of the cards that does not even offer it! The AA cards that offer this are: AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard, AAdvantage Platinum Select cards, AAdvantage Aviator Red card. Unfortunately, even if you hold all the cards, you are capped at 10% rebate on your miles for your account. This benefit is based on a calendar basis.
Annual Fee: Varies, but the lowest is $89 for the Red card
Delta Airlines – Pay With Miles
It can be difficult to find good things about the Delta Skymiles program these days, but there are still some valuable benefits out there depending on what your uses are. With Delta, it is apparent that they have viewed their ideal redemption rate for their award miles at 1 cent per mile and they have begun to offer different uses for miles with that in mind.
Even with the changes to the award redemptions, you can still get some great value (certainly over 1 cent per mile) with Delta miles. But, for some people, being able to use those miles to decrease the cost of a ticket is a great benefit. If you have just 5,000 miles, you can drop the cost of your ticket by $50. It is available in 5,000 mile increments and can be good for when you do not have that many miles or you need to use miles for a trip but the cost for the award is more than the cost of the ticket itself (it does happen!).
As an extra benefit for this feature, you can earn miles on tickets purchased using Pay With Miles. Again, there are many ways to get more than 1 cent per mile on your Delta miles but if you need it, having the ability to use your miles to pay for a ticket outright can be a great benefit and it is available to you as a cardholder. It is available for these cards: Amex Delta Gold, Amex Delta Platinum, and Amex Delta Reserve.
Annual Fee: $95 for the Gold
JetBlue – 10% Rebate
The new JetBlue cards are out and they certainly offer more than they did under the Amex header. One of the great things about two of the cards is that they also (similar to AA) offer a 10% rebate on points redeemed. Unlike AA, it is an unlimited feature. That’s right, if you were to redeem 200,000 points in a year, you will receive a rebate of 20,000 points. A little up there for most of us, but it is nice to know there is no ceiling on the JetBlue point rebate!
This benefit is available on two of the three new cards: JetBlue Plus card and the JetBlue Business card.
Annual Fee: $99
United Airlines – Award Availability
The United Airlines MileagePlus Explorer card does not offer some of the valuable benefits offered by other cards on this list. What they do offer, however, can be very valuable when you are redeeming your miles.
A stated benefit of the MileagePlus Explorer card is that it allows you to book any seat on any United flight with miles. Yes, it will cost you, but it is always a great thing knowing that, no matter what, you can book that last minute seat in the case of some emergency and not pay $1,000 for the ticket. But, it will cost you a lot of miles for being a standard award.
But another benefit of this card with redeeming miles has to do with award availability for cardholders. Dans Deals has discussed this in-depth how cardholders have access to a different bucket for awards over non-cardholders. This can be huge when you are trying to secure an award and it looks like all the saver award space is gone.
Annual Fee: $95
We know about the primary benefits and sign-up bonuses on the various credit cards but it can also be useful to look at benefits that may help to sway you on whether or not to keep the cards. These 5 valuable benefits on these airline credit cards could help with making the annual fee worth it, especially when you take into account the other benefits on some of these cards like the free bags.
What are your favorite benefits on these, or other, airline credit cards?