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

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

by joeheg

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 from a foreign airline program? 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 are still plenty of opportunities to use miles on partner airlines.

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

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 receiving. However, if you’ve already applied for the cards from major U.S. airlines, these cards give you some additional options. I’d categorize this as a medium risk, medium reward approach to earning points and miles.

Here’s are some, but not all, 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.

For the first year after account opening, spending on the card earns 5 Avios per $1 spent on Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and LEVEL, 3 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations purchased with the hotel and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

After that, spending on the card earns 3 Avios per $1 spent on Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and LEVEL, 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations purchased with the hotel 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

TD Bank used to offer an Aeroplan credit card but the co-brand contract has now gone to Chase. The card isn’t yet available but if you register now, you can get a 10,000 point bonus over whatever offer the card has when it’s launched.

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

Air France/KLM

Bank of America offers an Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard which earns points in the Flying Blue program.

The card earns 3 miles per dollar spent directly on Air France, KLM and SkyTeam member airlines and 1.5 miles per dollar for all other purchases.

Cardholders receive 5,000 miles every year on their account anniversary if they spend more than $50 on the card over the past year.

If you’re looking for status, the card awards you 60 XP on approval. You’ll also get 20 XP each account year and can earn an additional 40 XP if you spend $15,000 on the card over the previous year.

Flying Blue partners with all of the major transferrable point currencies so it’s easy to add to your account balance when you want to make an award booking.

British Airways

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

For the first year of card membership, you earn 5 Avios points for each $1 spent on flight purchases made directly with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and LEVEL, 3 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations purchased with the hotel and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

After that, you earn 3 Avios points for each $1 spent on flight purchases made directly with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and LEVEL, 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations purchased with the hotel 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. You can earn 2 Asia Miles per $1 spent on eligible Cathay Pacific travel and in-flight purchases with the card. 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 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 that vary for each airline partner.

China Airlines

China Airlines is the state-owned national carrier of Taiwan. They offer a co-branded card in the US issued by First Bankcard. The China Airlines Gold World Mastercard earns 2 miles per dollar spend on China Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. Miles in the Dynasty program expires 36 months from earning.

With no other US transfer partners, there is limited usefulness for this card.

Emirates

Barclays offers the Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard, which earns Skywards miles.

With the card, you’ll earn 3x Skywards Miles on eligible Emirates purchases, 2x miles on eligible travel purchases, and 1 mile on all other purchases. The annual fee is $99.

New members also receive Emirates Silver tier status during their first year and the ability to retain that status by spending $20,000 each cardmember year.

For those interested, there’s also a premium card that has a $499 annual fee and comes with Gold status for the first year, Priority Pass Membership, Global Entry/PreCheck reimbursement, and Emirates business class lounge access for the cardholder and a guest.

It’s easy to add to your Emirates Skywards balance as you can transfer points from every bank, including American Express, Chase, Citi, Capital One and Marriott Bonvoy.

Iberia

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

For the first year, cardholders earn 5 Avios for each $1 spent on flight purchases made directly with Iberia, 3 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations purchased with the hotel and 1 Avios for each $1 spent on all other purchases.

After that, cardholders earn 3 Avios for each $1 spent on flight purchases made directly with Iberia, British Airways, LEVEL, and Aer Lingus 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations purchased with the hotel 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, Eurowings, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, 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. The card’s additional yearly benefits are a companion ticket subject to taxes and fees and 2 Lounge Vouchers valid for one card member 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.

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 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

1 comment

Christian July 26, 2020 - 10:46 am

Nice compilation, particularly with the notes. Thanks.

Reply

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