Airline credit cards are cards co-branded with airlines. Usually, the cards can be used both for purchases with the airline as well as for other spending. These cards are an alternative to general purpose travel cards.
For a long time, I was against signing up for an airline card. But I changed my mind recently and I now have one in my wallet. I'm very glad about it — here's why.
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The big reason why I signed up for an airline credit card
The single biggest reason why I signed up for an airline credit card is because my family and I almost always fly with one particular airline.
For a long time, we used to shop around and pick our flight based on which airline offered the cheapest rates. But, because of our current family structure and our needs as far as when, where, and how we fly, we now have to fly with the same airline for all of our trips.
Since we are loyal to one particular airline, it made a lot of sense for us to sign up for a card offered by that airline. That's because airline credit cards typically offer a huge host of perks, which can include things like access to their airline lounges, free checked bags, upgrades to premium seats, and more. However, you can usually benefit from using these perks only if you are flying with the airline that the card came from.
If I was flying with lots of different airlines like I used to, most of the perks the card offers would go unused or would be underutilized. I might get to take advantage of the free lounge access once or twice a year if I happened to be flying on the airline my card came from, but this wouldn't be good enough to justify paying an annual fee. And, most airline cards offering the most generous cardholder benefits do charge a fee — so I wanted to make sure that paying it was justified.
My airline credit card gives me a lot of bang for my buck
I'm very glad I signed up for my airline credit card, because my family and I took 12 flights last year (including round-trip flights) — and on each and every one of those flights, we flew with the airline that issued our branded credit card.
This meant we got to enjoy airline lounge access 12 times at no extra cost which, by itself, was enough to make signing up for the airline card worth it. Of course, I could pay for a day pass at a cost of around $60 per flight, or join a program like Priority Pass that offers discounted rates to access lounges.
But, even with Priority Pass, which charges membership fees starting at $69, there's still a charge for each lounge visit. The only way to get unlimited trips to the lounge without having to pay each time would be to pay $469 for a Prestige Membership — and even then, I'd have to pay for guests each time.
My card offered me not just lounge access, but tons of other airline-specific perks as well. As long as I continue to fly with this airline for all my trips, which is the plan for the foreseeable future, keeping the card will be well worth it. If I go back to choosing flights based on price and end up flying with all different carriers, though, I would absolutely cancel the card.
Anyone who is considering getting a card from a particular airline should take the time to think about how they prefer to travel. If you're loyal to one airline and travel often on it, getting a co-branded card if that carrier offers one is often well worth it — even if you have to pay an annual fee to get all of the best benefits the card issuer offers.
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