When You Should(n’t) Use Airline Co-Brand Credit Cards To Pay For Airfare

All of the larger airlines in the U.S. offer co-brand credit cards. These cards, which provide extra benefits to cardholders, range from ones with no annual fee to premium cards costing up to $450 per year. While you’d think that using a co-branded card would be the best choice for earning points with your flight purchase, that’s usually not the case. For most airlines, you don’t earn any extra points for airfare purchases for having a more expensive card either.

In most cases, instead of using a co-brand card, it’s better to use a card that earns flexible points like Membership Rewards, Thank You Points or Ultimate Rewards. These cards provide the opportunity to earn more points as well as the flexibility to use points on multiple airlines. You’re able to transfer points from these programs into your airline mileage account when you need them.

Here are the earnings multiples on airfare for the main flexible points cards from each bank:

American Express (Membership Rewards)

  • Platinum card ($550 annual fee) – 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • Gold card ($250 annual fee) – 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel

Chase (Ultimate Rewards)

  • Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee) – 3x points on travel worldwide (including airfares purchased from airlines or travel agencies/websites)
  • Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee) – 2x points on travel worldwide (including airfares purchased from airlines or travel agencies/websites)

Citi (Thank You Points)

  • Citi Prestige ($495 annual fee) – 5x points on purchases at airlines and travel agencies
  • Citi Premier ($95 annual fee) – 3x points on purchases at airlines and travel agencies

The AMEX Platinum and Citi Prestige both offer 5x on airfare but the AMEX card only counts purchases direct from the airline or their website. When I had both cards, I used the Citi Prestige because I valued the additional travel insurance coverage but I know people would rather earn Membership Rewards than Thank You points. Of the $95 cards, the Citi Premier earns the most points on airline purchases at 3x.

So how many miles will you earn by using an airline co-brand card to purchase airfare and when does it make sense to do so? I’ve indicated which airlines are partners of one (or all) of the flexible currency cards so you can compare earnings potential between cards.

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The JetBlue Plus Card Saved Us $120 On A Single Trip

We’re returning from a trip to New York where we flew with JetBlue, one of our favorite domestic airlines. They have a number of non stop flights from Orlando, and all their flights have seat back entertainment as well as free WiFi that works reasonably well. That ticks off many of the boxes for what we want when we travel. One of the negatives about JetBlue is that they joined with the other airlines (except Southwest) in raising checked baggage fees in the fall of 2018. So now the fee for your first checked bag is $30.  That is unless you have the JetBlue Plus credit card

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JetBlue Will Soon Let You Combine Points With Anyone You Want (UPDATE: They Now DO!)

JetBlue’s been making headlines recently. First it was increasing checked bag fees from $25 to $30, a move that was quickly followed by the other airlines. In more positive news, they’ve announced that members of True Blue, their frequent flyer program, will be able to combine points with anyone they wish.

JetBlue is not new to letting you pool points, as they’ve offered “Family Pooling,” which lets two adults and up to five children add points to the same pool, since 2013. There were restrictions to the program that made it difficult to use for anyone except a typical family unit traveling together:

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How To Avoid The Higher Checked Bag Fees On JetBlue and United Airlines

U.S airlines have all charged $25 for your first checked bag up until August 27th, when JetBlue became the first US airline to break the $25 barrier. That’s when JetBlue raised the price of the first checked piece of luggage from $25 to $30. Four days later, on August 31st, United also raised their price for the first checked bag to $30. Because of course they did.

airport baggage
Photo by Calle Macarone on Unsplash

It’s disappointing to see JetBlue increase their baggage fees, considering that up until 2015 they didn’t charge anything for your first checked bag. I’m not surprised that United quickly matched the fee increase, as they’re really good at copying what other airlines do, even if it’s not a great idea to begin with.

I’ve read people say that instead of paying these increased fees, they’re not going to check a bag anymore. If you’re the type of traveler who can live out of a carry on bag for a week, good for you. But that’s just not something we’re going to do to save on baggage fees. Luckily, there are other ways to avoid these increased fees.

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