TPG reader Jennifer works for an airline, and is wondering what the best travel credit card to get is in her situation:
“Hi Mr. Points Guy,
I was wondering if I could ask your advice on the best credit card for airline employees? This is a challenge, because generally, we do not use points for tickets, baggage or upgrades. Rather, entry to airline clubs and lodging would be preferable benefits. Currently, I have the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card, but I really haven’t used the points for anything other than an iPad, and it’s never really gotten me anything at a hotel. I have been thinking that I should change to the Starwood Amex, but again, airline employees get favorable discounts at hotels a lot too, so the benefit may not be anything special.
What do you think? Is there a card for people like us?”
TPG reader Jennifer wants to know what credit card is best for an airline employee. Most airline employees get free flight benefits and hotel discounts, so she wants a card that is going to give her flexibility. Since airline employees generally travel internationally, I wanted to recommend a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees. I would also pick a card that gives a lot of value on everyday spending, and flexibility towards redeeming for many different things, not just airlines or hotels, which she already has covered.
There are two main cards that come to mind here.
Card Number 1: Barclaycard Arrival
The first card I think could be a really good fit is the Barclay card Arrival. This card does not transfer points to any specific airline or hotel. You simply bank miles to your account that can then be redeemed for a variety of travel expenses. The redemption ratio is also pretty good at 1 cent per mile with a 10% rebate on travel redemptions. You earn 2X miles per $1 on all purchases. So essentially, this means you are getting 2.2% cash back on everything you spend if you redeem your Arrival miles for travel.
Since Jennifer mentioned she spends about $3,300 per month on her credit card. If you double that by two, its 6,600 miles per month, times 12 months, plus the 40,000-point sign up bonus for the card, she is looking at about 120,000 miles – the equivalent of $1,300 worth of miles to use towards any travel expense – like trains in Europe, bed and breakfasts, rental cars, or even buying flights in a last-minute situation or weather-related circumstances where maybe her flight benefits won’t come through.
Card Number 2: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The second card I would recommend for Jennifer is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. With this card you get 2x points on travel and dining, and there are no foreign transaction fees on this card either.
You can redeem the Ultimate Rewards points you earn on it directly for travel with Chase’s Pay With Points feature, and you get a redemption rate of 1.25 cents per point. You can also transfer to 10 different travel partners. For example, you can transfer points to the program’s airline partners and upgrade paid tickets. You can transfer to Amtrak for train travel, or you could use them at hotel partners like Hyatt or Marriott if you’re not getting the hotel rates you’re looking for. You also get a 7% dividend at the end of the year on all the points earned within the year except on the sign-up bonus. So the first year, if Jennifer redeems for travel using Pay With Points at 1.25 cents per point, including the 40,000-point sign-up bonus and her usual spending habits, I calculate she is looking at about $1,100 in value. She could even get that to be exponentially higher if she transfers to airline or hotel partners for premium awards.
Overall, the Barclaycard Arrival card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card provide solid redemption options for someone who already has free travel benefits. Both cards can help eliminate costs of unexpected travel woes, like fees and taxes on award tickets or companion tickets.
For more info on the best credit cards out there, check out my Top Deals page.
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