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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Arrrrrgh – A Hacked Credit Card Cost Me Points!!

Whether you’re a points and miles person, a cash back type or even if you only use a debit card, getting your card hacked eventually happens to everyone. Since I have a good amount of cards, I keep a close tab on my accounts looking for any unfamiliar charges. It makes it pretty hard for Sharon to surprise me with any presents, ’cause I see the charge before I get the gift, but that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

Back in November, I saw two separate $300 Ticketmaster charges for Orlando Magic tickets on my Sapphire Reserve. We’re not sportsing people and the charges weren’t ours, but since we live in Orlando, Chase’s systems didn’t flag them as fraudulent charges. I went online, filled out the form saying I didn’t make these charges (yay for no direct human contact) and was informed the charges would be removed. They canceled my card, sent me a replacement and a mailer to send back the indestructible metal card. I thought that was the end of the story, and it was, until now.

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The Reason You Need To Pool Your Chase Ultimate Rewards (It’s Not What You Think)

In May of 2018, I wrote an article that told everyone to pool their Chase accounts into whichever one was the most valuable because the ability to do so might be going away. It was a big story for like a week and there was plenty of hand wringing and mumbling (Sharon: “Was this all happening in the points and miles blogger world?” Joe: “Yes.” Sharon: “Oh, OK. Cuz I don’t remember wringing my hands and mumbling but I don’t do the points and miles thing, so that make sense now.”) but eventually, nothing happened. Everyone moved along to the next crisis and the issue was pretty much forgotten with no new news. And when it comes to points and miles, Gary Gnu taught me growing up that no gnews is good gnews.

 

The Great Space Coaster, but I digress. Back to the topic, combining Chase Ultimate Rewards.

At the beginning of 2019, Gary from View from the Wing (no relation to the Gnu) posted that while Chase had considered stopping customers from combining points, there was no current plans to implement such a restriction. He provided a quote from an article in the Wall Street Journal:

JPMorgan executives debated whether to stop letting cardholders pool together points from multiple cards, according to people familiar with the matter. JPMorgan’s [spokeswoman Mary Jane] Rogers said the bank has no current plans to stop cardholders from pooling points.

Like he says, this is no guarantee they won’t change their minds about this but I guess it’s still more of a positive than a negative for them, both from financial and publicity standpoints.

So why do I think it’s wise for you to combine your points into a single account?

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How Many Guests Can You Bring Into A Lounge With Priority Pass Select? It’s Complicated.

Priority Pass is a program that provides access to airport lounges, business suites and credits you can use at airport restaurants. While you can buy a membership into the program, most people from the United States have a Priority Pass Select membership through having a credit card which provides it as a perk. That’s where things get interesting. While the access to the club may be limited due to capacity issues, the cardholder will get in by showing their Priority Pass card (or a digital card if available). If you want to bring in a guest, each card has rules that are worded slightly differently and those small differences may cost you an additional $32 for each extra guest in your party.

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Save Money On Every Fill Up With Fuel Rewards

Fuel Rewards is a program that provides discounts at Shell gas stations. It’s free to sign up and everyone who joins automatically gets some type of savings. You can save more by taking certain actions (i.e. using a shopping portal or dining program) or by having a card belonging to one of their partners.

Let’s first talk about signing up for Fuel Rewards.

If you’re not already a member, you can get 25 cents off per gallon on your first fill up after joining. We have a referral link where we’ll also get a credit for for new signups. You want to support YMMV, don’t you?

Once a member, you have automatic gold status for 6 months. The ongoing membership process is a little more difficult to follow:

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