7 Valuable Benefits You Can Get With Airline Credit Cards
by Lyle Daly | Published on Aug. 29, 2021
An airline credit card could be your ticket to big discounts and upgraded travel experiences.
If you're a frequent flyer who usually travels with the same airline, an airline credit card is worth considering. Most of the major airlines offer their own credit cards. So whether you fly with American, Delta, United, Southwest, or another carrier, there are likely cards you can choose from.
Every airline credit card has its own set of features, but there are quite a few perks you see often. Here are the valuable benefits airline credit cards frequently offer, and how each one works.
1. Free checked luggage
Airlines often let their cardholders check one or two bags for free. Since the first checked bag typically costs $30, you can save $60 on a round trip.
This benefit may also apply to one or more companions traveling on the same reservation. If you travel with family or friends and everyone checks a bag, you could easily save over $100.
Some airlines require that you pay for the reservation with your airline credit card to get free checked luggage. Others offer it whether you pay with that card or another one.
2. A companion pass
A companion pass allows one person to travel with you without paying for a ticket, or at a discounted rate. Payment of government-imposed taxes and fees is still required.
For couples and anyone else who frequently travels with others, a companion pass can be a big moneysaver. Some companion passes are only valid in economy class, while others also work in first class. Either way, a free or discounted fare can be worth hundreds of dollars.
3. Sign-up bonus offers
Airline credit cards earn miles in the airline's frequent flyer program. You earn miles on every purchase made with your card, and most also offer sizeable sign-up bonuses for new cardholders.
A sign-up bonus is a set number of miles you earn after opening a credit card and completing the bonus requirements. The bonus requirements usually involve spending a certain amount. For example, if you spend $5,000 on purchases with your new airline card in the first three months, you get 100,000 miles. Bonuses like these can sometimes get you one or more free flights.
4. Airport lounge access
Airport lounges provide a more comfortable place for travelers to wait for flights. The major airlines offer their own lounges in some airports. They usually provide access to passengers in business class, first class, and who are members of the airline's lounge program.
High-end airline cards with higher annual fees may include a complimentary membership to the airline's lounge program. There are also less expensive card options that include one-time lounge passes every year.
5. Discounts on in-flight purchases
One of the most common airline credit card benefits is a discount on in-flight purchases such as food, beverages, and Wi-Fi. Airline cards usually get you 20% to 25% back as a statement credit on these purchases. Even some no annual fee credit cards offer this.
6. Complimentary travel protections
Travel protections don't always get as much attention as other credit card benefits -- until you need them. If you run into any trouble on a trip, credit card protections could be extremely helpful. Here are some complimentary travel protections that many airline cards offer:
- Baggage delay insurance
- Lost luggage reimbursement
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
- Trip delay reimbursement
7. Spending credits
A spending credit pays you back up to a set amount on specific types of purchases. Several airline cards offer spending credits on purchases with that airline. Another common type of credit is a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, which covers the cost of a membership to either of those expedited airport security programs.
Like airport lounge access, spending credits are a popular perk with the more expensive airline credit cards. If you can use a credit, it helps balance out a card's annual fee.
With all the benefits airline cards offer, there are plenty of ways they can save you money. It's just a matter of finding the one with an airline you like and features that fit your travel habits.
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