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Airline credit cards come with lots of great perks, but many folks don’t know exactly what they’re entitled to. TPG reader Cuong tweeted me and asked if it’s necessary to use his United MileagePlus Club Card to purchase the airline ticket in order to get the card’s benefits when traveling. Here was his question:

“@thepointsguy, Is it true that you don’t get premier access level if you don’t use United MileagePlus Club card to purchase tickets?”

The good news is, you can still get the card’s benefits even if you purchase your ticket without using the United MileagePlus Club card. Here’s how it works:

United Club

Once you apply and get a co-branded card for an airline, they attach that profile to your frequent flyer account. Anytime that frequent flyer membership number is associated with a ticket, you get most of the benefits of the card you carry – whether you purchase your ticket with the card or not. Therefore, it’s not purchasing the ticket with this card that gives you the benefits, it’s simply having the account open that will allow you to take advantage of these perks. The one exception with the club card is the free checked bag waiver. Per the card’s terms, “To receive first and second checked bags free, the primary cardmember must include their MileagePlus number in their reservation and use their MileagePlus Club Card to purchase their ticket(s).” So be sure you do. You also wouldn’t earn extra miles that you would by purchasing United tickets using the card, which is 2 miles per $1 (and 1.5 miles per $1 on everything else).

For example, having a Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express card will give you the option to pay with miles that only Delta cardholders can get. Once you get approved for the card it will automatically be linked to your SkyMiles account. Now that the new Medallion Qualifying Dollars program is in effect, your account information will also show you how much you spend throughout the year since you can spend $25,000 on a co-branded Delta Amex instead of meeting the tier-based spending requirements on Delta tickets.

You can take advantage of the benefits like a free checked  bag and priority boarding even if the ticket wasn’t purchased with your Delta Gold American Express card.

You have access to benefits simply by having the card open.
You have access to benefits simply by having the card open.

So, to put it simply, just having the co-branded credit card open will usually allow you exercise a card’s extra benefits whether you use it to purchase your ticket or not. In fact, in many instances, it might be better to use another card to make those ticket purchases anyway. For instance, in Cliff’s case, he might want to use a Sapphire Preferred instead since that gives him 2.14X points per $1 (including the 7% annual points dividend) on travel purchases including airline tickets, and he can then transfer those to his United MileagePlus account if he so chooses, and he’ll still get the premium access he wants, though not hte baggage fee waiver.

If you’re a Delta flyer and have the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, you earn 3X points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines and can transfer those to your Delta account, so that’s an extra mile per $1 right there compared to the Delta Gold SkyMiles Amex. For more information, check out my post on the best sites and credit cards to maximize points on airfare purchases.

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on FacebookTweeting me or emailing me at

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

With great transfer partners like United and Hyatt, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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