What Is The Best Credit Card For Airline Employees To Get?

by on January 19, 2014 · 18 comments

in Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.


The Arrival is a great choice for all kinds of travel redemptions.

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.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great all-round credit card for anyone interested in travel.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great all-round credit card for anyone interested in travel.

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.

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on Facebook, Tweeting me or emailing me at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Previous post:

Next post:

  • Wade

    Why would anyone get the CSP as an employee who gets free flights and hotels?? How would they get value out of chase points in this situation??

    The second card on this list should have been the Capital One Venture card, no? It’s similar to the Arrival except gets slightly less points (2.0) than the Arrival (2.2). Why not recommend the Venture here TPG?

  • KT

    so you think airlines pay for employee vacation flights and hotels for them and their families too? haha… good one

    Why would he recommend the Venture when there is the Arrival? If there was a 2.2x available why would you go for the 2.0x?

  • iman

    I completely agree with Wade. The Venture card is a better choice.

  • Chris

    Airline employees (and their immediate family) have access to highly discounted flights, and they get lots of discounts at any major hotel chain. My brother is a pilot with a major airline and both he and his wife get flights to anywhere for only a nominal fee. Doesn’t matter whether they are traveling on vacation or on business.
    And about the venture: it has a lower annual fee, and the miles are easier to redeem since you can use smaller increments. Not a huge deal, but still…

  • Dizzy

    Did either of these address her main requested benefit of airline lounge access? I don’t see it unless you count paying for it with the card.

  • Guest

    Jennifer asked about lounge access and other “perks.” But you only mentioned the cash back style cards. Makes sense to be able to buy the odds and ends that aren’t included in the airlines discounts, but for lounge access, why not get her airlines card with lounge access or the Amex platinum? I think the annual fee still beats buying lounge access outright. Plus priority pass for intl lounges, and possibly the status at SPG and Hilton might let her stack benefits on top of discounts? I’ll admit I don’t know much about how airline employee discounts work, but it feels like there should be something to be had there. Just my $0.02.

  • Mike

    I too work for an airline and would like to weigh in. While we do get discounted air travel, it is standby and does not always work out if flights are full. I like the flexibility of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the AMEX Platinum cards. When standby flights do work out, Hyatt transfers from Chase are great (Hotel discounts are not much different than any other company corporate discount). I used AMEX points last year to guarantee seats to Tahiti for a cruise. Flying standby for a cruise is much too risky. Plus, the AMEX has great lounge benefits, which the original poster asked about.

  • Charlie

    I have flight benefits on United through family. I have actually found the Southwest card with the 50,000 sign up bonus to be incredibly valuable. Since Southwest reservations can be cancelled with no penalty, if I am flying Domestic and absolutely have to be somewhere, I often times will book a return flight on Southwest in case I cannot get back on United through my benefits. If there is indeed Standby space available through my United Flight benefts, I simply cancel the Southwest Reservation. It has saved me a few times!!

  • SeaBee3

    “Double that times 2″ – doing video can be pretty hard! :)

  • thepointsguy

    Free cancellation is a huge perk of Southwest and the points can be valuable

  • thepointsguy

    Sadly the lounge benefits have been hacked away this year with the impending loss of American/US Airways and no free guests with Delta. But still it can be a decent option if you can extract more than the $450 annual fee from the card (which is possible)

  • thepointsguy

    I guess it depends too much on the airline she flies.. I couldn’t recommend the Platinum card if she is flying AA/US since they are withdrawing from the program in April. I’d recommend saving hundreds on the annual fee and buying access as needed unless you fly Delta, in which case Platinum card might make sense

  • thepointsguy

    Because Venture has a terrible sign-up bonus and only 2% back vs. double the sign-up and 2.2% with Arrival.

  • thepointsguy

    How is it better than Arrival? Arrival has a 40k signup vs 20k and 2.2% back towards travel vs 2% on Venture

  • thepointsguy

    I can’t justify a $59 annual fee vs $89 when the difference in signup bonus is worth $220 more with the Arrival vs. Venture. But it still lis a decent card

  • Chance Bradford

    The Venture card just had a 50k sign-up bonus- I was all over that like white on a paper plate.

  • Chance Bradford

    It seems like you guys missed the 50k offer a couple of weeks ago…

  • thepointsguy
Print This Page