Credit Card Changes to Expect After American Airlines-US Airways Merger

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The recently completed merger of American Airlines and US Airways created the largest airline company in the U.S.

Consumers who carry branded credit cards from the two airlines are likely to be wondering what changes are happening to their frequent flier programs and credit cards. American and US Airways have not revealed too many details on the plans for their credit card programs, but past airline mergers offer a glimpse as to how their credit card offerings may change.

For now, the merged company will continue to operate two separate airlines and their currently loyalty programs will remain intact. No upcoming changes were announced regarding each airlines' credit cards. However, customers will be able to earn and redeem miles on both carriers starting in early January, according to a notice on both carriers' websites.

Effectively, American Airlines credit cardmembers will earn miles that can also be used under the US Airways Dividend Miles program and US Airways credit cardmembers will earn miles that can be redeemed through the American AAdvantage program.

New brand: American
Since the new company will take on the American brand, we can expect the US Airways Dividend Miles program to disappear eventually. Furthermore, the entire line of US Airways credit cards is likely to be phased out. We can also look forward to a relaunch of American-branded credit cards.

Following the merger with Continental Airlines in 2010, United converted Continental credit cardholders to a revamped lineup of United-branded credit cards.

American Airlines and US Airways did not respond to requests for comment on the merger's effect on their credit card products.

American Airlines credit cards are issued in partnership with Citi while US Airways credit cards are issued through Barclaycard. Depending on how the company plans to issue its credit cards, it could opt for one or multiple card-issuing partners if and when the new American relaunches its credit cards.

Overhauling the airline credit cards
Currently, there are two consumer American Airlines credit cards with annual fees of $95 and $450 and a business credit card with an annual fee of $95. US Airways also offers two consumer credit cards with annual fees of $49 and $89 and one business card with an annual fee of $79.

The cards offered by both airlines are rather similar. A majority of the cards offer 2 miles per dollar spent with the airline and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Additionally, most cards come with priority boarding privileges.

However, US Airways cards offer discounted companion travel certificates per year, while American credit cards don't have such a perk. On the other hand, American cards will waive the first checked bag for cardmembers and a number of companions (varies by card). It is unclear which perks will stay or disappear.

Changes to the card benefits will likely also result in changes to annual fees.

Given that the new brand is American, it won't be a surprise if the current American Airlines credit cards are used as the foundation for the new airline's credit card lineup. It will likely mean that the perks unique to US Airways credit cards will disappear.

But, since the process of combining the operations of the two airlines will take years, current cardmembers should not see any major changes in the near future.

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