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Airline credit cards offer friendlier flying

Airline credit cards can earn you more than miles -- they can earn you better treatment at the airport and lower prices on the plane.

By Stacy Johnson Apr 11, 2012 12:42PM

This post is from Jason Steele at partner site Money Talks News.

Airline travel isn't what it used to be. We now wait in longer lines, pay for checked bags and get charged for food on board. In fact, airlines seem to compete with each other to take away services that we once took for granted. Recent example? Delta just announced a new sub-economy fare class with seats that can't be changed once assigned.

Image: Woman holding set of fanned-out credit cards (© Sheer Photo Inc./Photodisc/Getty Images)But there is good news: Airlines are also competing with each other to offer more perks to their credit card customers. For example, American Airlines recently added new benefits to its Platinum Select AAdvantage from Citi -- and existing cardholders will receive them immediately. In addition to priority boarding, the new perks include:

  • Free bags: You and four companions get one free checked bag each.
  • In-flight discounts: 25% off all in-flight food, drink and entertainment purchases.
  • $100 flight discount: after spending $30,000 in a calendar year.
  • Discounted awards: 10% rebate on the miles redeemed, up to 10,000 miles per year.

This card has a $95 annual fee, waived the first year. (Post continues below.)

How it compares with other cards

Here are competing cards from other airlines:

  • Delta: American Express Gold SkyMiles cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to nine other people. They also get priority boarding and save 20% on in-flight purchases. There's a $95 annual  fee for this card, waived the first year.
  • United:Explorer Card from Chase cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and one companion, along with priority boarding. They also get two United Club lounge passes each year. The $95 annual  fee is waived the first year.
  • US Airways:Premier World MasterCard from Barclays Bank cardholders get first-class check-in privileges, priority boarding and awards for 5,000 fewer miles than non-cardholders. But they don't get free checked bags and the $89 annual fee isn't waived for new cardholders.
The bottom line

It's awesome that existing American Airlines cardholders will now get these great perks -- sometimes changes only affect new cardholders -- but American is simply playing catch-up with competitors.

Which is the best card for you? That's easy: the one affiliated with the airline you fly the most.


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