Should You Sign Up For Credit Cards From Airlines Outside The U.S.?

Every once in a while, I’ll see a post about a credit card from an airline outside the United States. The card is from a bank in the U.S. and marketed to Americans but why should I be interested in a card that earns points in a program from a foreign airline? I guess the answer depends on the program you’re collecting miles from and what you can do with them.

While some of these cards are for programs I’m familiar with, others are for programs I admittedly don’t know much about. While I might not ever fly on that airline, there’s plenty of opportunities to use miles on partner airlines.

While a single sign up bonus might not be enough for an award ticket, if the program is affiliated with a flexible points currency you can combine those points to get the award you want.

Employing a strategy of earning points in airlines outside the U.S. involves more work than just earning Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points or Ultimate Rewards. You need to know ahead of time if you’ll have any use for the points you’re earning. However, if you’ve already applied for the cards from the major U.S. airlines, these cards give you some additional options. I’d categorize this as a medium risk, medium approach to earning points and miles.

Here’s a list of some of the cards available in the U.S. that earn miles for foreign airlines:

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus Visa Signature Credit Card from Chase allows you to earn Avios in the Aer Lingus AerClub.

Spending on the card earns 3 Avios per $1 spent on Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and LEVEL, and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

The thing that makes this card appealing is the ability to transfer Avios between Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia to make the best possible use of your points. Unfortunately, applications to this card are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

You can also transfer Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards into AerClub to have enough points for an award ticket if necessary.

Air Canada

The TD Aeroplan Visa Signature Credit Card earns Air Canada Aeroplan miles. 

Spending on the card earns 2 Aeroplan miles on Air Canada net purchases and 1 mile per dollar for all other purchases.

To add to your Aeroplan mile balance, you can transfer points from AMEX Membership Rewards or Capital One cards that earn transferrable points.

Asiana Airlines

The Asiana Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card from Bank of America earns Asiana Miles.

Spending on the card earns 3 Miles for every dollar you spend on Asiana Airlines purchases, 2 Miles for every dollar you spend on gas and at grocery stores and 1 Mile for every dollar you spend on all other purchases

In addition, every year you get 2 Asiana Airline lounge invitations, 10,000 Bonus Miles Certificate and an automatic $100 annual rebate on Asiana Airlines ticket purchases

Asiana is a member of the Star Alliance so Asiana Miles can be used to book awards on any of the Star Alliance partner airlines, as well as on Etihad.

Asiana isn’t a partner to any other major program, so it’s difficult to earn extra points in the program beyond the signup bonus on the card and from receiving from spending.

British Airways

The British Airways Visa Signature Card from Chase earns you Avios in the British Airways Executive Club program(me).

You earn 3 Avios points for each $1 spent on flight purchases made directly with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and LEVEL and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

The thing that makes this card appealing is the ability to transfer Avios between Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia to make the best possible use of your points. Also, cardholders get a 10% discount for new bookings made by US resident Executive Club members paying in USD with their valid British Airways Visa card issued by Chase, for travel on flights operated by British Airways from the US to London and beyond. This is a favorite perk for those who like to book low-cost business class British Airways tickets. Unfortunately, applications to this card are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

You can also transfer Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards into Executive Club to have enough points for an award ticket if necessary.

Cathay Pacific

Synchrony Bank issues the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card which earns points in the Asia Miles program.

The Cathay Pacific card has a very interesting bonus point structure. With the card, you can earn 2 Asia Miles per $1 spent on eligible Cathay Pacific travel and in-flight purchases. You also earn 1.5 Asia Miles per $1 spent on dining in the US or abroad and 1.5 Asia Miles per $1 spent on purchases outside of the US. All other purchases in the US earn 1 Asia Mile per $1 spent.

New members will enjoy a complimentary Green membership to the Marco Polo Club for the first year of enrollment which usually would cost $100.

It’s quite easy to accumulate Asia Miles as the program is a transfer partner with Membership Rewards, ThankYou points and Capital One cards that earn transferrable points.

Asia Miles is one of the more difficult programs to understand because there are multiple point charts which vary for each airline partner.

Iberia

With the Iberia Visa Signature Card, you’ll earn Avios in the Iberia Plus program. 

Cardholders earn 3 Avios for each $1 spent on flight purchases made directly with Iberia, British Airways, LEVEL, and Aer Lingus and 1 Avios for each $1 spent on all other purchases.

The thing that makes this card appealing is the ability to transfer Avios between Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia to make the best possible use of your points. Cardholders also can save 10% on Iberia flights purchased on Iberia.com. Unfortunately, applications to this card are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

You can also transfer Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards into the Iberia Plus program to have enough points for an award ticket if necessary.

Korean Air

The Skypass Visa Signature card from US Bank earns points in the Korean Air SKYPASS program.

You’ll earn 2 Miles for every $1 you spend on Korean Air ticket purchases, 2 Miles for every net eligible $1 you spend at Gas Stations and Hotels and 1 Mile for every $1 you spend on all other purchases. 

Cardholders also get a $50 Off coupon for Korean Air ticket purchase each year and 2 KAL Lounge coupons each year. 

Unfortunately, the only major credit card transfer partner for Korean Air, Chase Ultimate Rewards, ended their relationship in 2018.

Miles & More (Lufthansa)

The Miles & More World Elite Mastercard from Barclays earns points in the integrated program for Adria Airways, AirDolomiti, Austrian Airlines Group, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Lufthansa Regional, Lufthansa Private Jet, Luxair and SWISS. 

The card earns 2 award miles per $1 spent on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners and 1 award mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Additional yearly benefits of the card are a companion ticket subject to taxes and fees and 2 Lounge Vouchers valid for one cardmember or one travel companion for one visit at Lufthansa Business Lounges worldwide

If you are a Lufthansa Frequent Flyer, the Annual Fee will be waived for Senator and HON Circle Members, as long as they maintain their Senator or HON Circle Member status.

Until recently you could transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to Miles & More to add to your balance. However, those transfers are currently suspended due to a conflict with German financial banking laws.

Virgin Atlantic

Bank of America’s Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard earns points in the Flying Club program(me).

The Virgin Atlantic card earns 3 miles per $1 spent directly on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Unlike the other cards, the spending on the Virgin Atlantic card helps you get status with the airline. You earn 25 tier points per $2,500 in purchases (maximum of 50 per month).

It’s easy to add points to your Flying Club account since Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner with Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points and Ultimate Rewards flexible points currencies.

Final Thoughts

Many foreign airlines offer co-brand credit cards to U.S. residents. Unless you fly with that airline frequently, you might not be familiar with the program or even with the airline. However, it doesn’t mean that the program is worthless. Many sweet spots with airline points don’t lie with flying the sponsor airline but are when you fly a lesser-known route on a partner airline.

Getting points from a signup bonus with a foreign airline co-brand card might make sense but you need to make sure you’re aware of what points you’re earning and what you plan to do with them once you have them.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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