Credit Card Review: Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines Elite World Mastercard

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Last month, Barclaycard launched all-new Hawaiian Airlines credit cards, which are loaded with a ton of new perks and benefits (plus a pretty solid sign-up bonus).

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The New Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

  • Earn 35,000 bonus miles when you make $1,000 in eligible purchases in the first 90 days
  • Enjoy a Complimentary Checked Bag for the primary cardholder when you use your card to purchase tickets directly from Hawaiian Airlines
  • Receive a one-time 50% Off Companion Discount for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii & North America on Hawaiian Airlines
  • Discounted award travel (5,000 miles off roundtrip award fares from North America to Hawaii).
  • 2X miles per $1 on direct purchases from Hawaiian Airlines, 1X miles on everything else
  • Earn up to 10X miles per $1 with participating partners
  • Every membership year you spend $10,000 or more on the card, you get 5,000 bonus miles
  • Primary Cardholders are eligible to earn a $100 discount off one coach companion ticket for roundtrip travel between Hawaii and North America on each credit card account anniversary.
  • Share miles for free. Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard cardholders can receive HawaiianMiles from friends and family online at HawaiianAirlines.com up to 10 times per calendar year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • SmartChip technology
  • $89 annual fee

First things first, the sign-up bonus. The 35,000 miles you get for spending $1,000 is not the highest credit card offer we’ve seen lately, but the $1,000 spend threshold is reasonable and Hawaiian miles can be leveraged for valuable redemptions on a number of partners. On Hawaiian, it’s enough for a roundtrip coach award from North America to Hawaii with the opportunity cardholders have to redeem discounted awards of 5,000 miles off roundtrip fares from North America to Hawaii (normally they would be 40,000 miles).

Note: If you already have the Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines card, your old card will be automatically converted into this new product sometime in April. You will not get the sign-up bonus unless you apply as a new applicant, but Barclaycard will reimburse all foreign transaction and baggage fees accrued from January 1, 2014 thru your conversion date.

The complimentary checked bag is worth $25 per flight if you’re flying domestic economy (on international routes you get 2 free checked bags), so if you take 4 flights a year, you’ve already made back the value of the annual fee. Plus, unlike the old Hawaiian Airlines cards, there are no foreign transaction fees and Chip+Signature (with pin capability) so the card is much better for international travelers.

You could save hundreds of dollars with the 50% companion discount.
You could save hundreds of dollars with the 50% companion discount.

The other way you can make up for that $89 is with the two other major discounts the card offers. The first is for a 50% off Companion Discount on roundtrip economy flights to/from North America. Per the card’s terms, “Primary Cardmembers are eligible to earn a one-time 50% off discount toward one published roundtrip coach fare for a companion upon new account approval” that you must use within 13 months of your new card being issued.  This discount is valid only on economy travel (no First or Extra Comfort) and does not apply to taxes, fees or surcharges. You also can’t use it on Neighbor Island flights, multi-city reservations, or codeshare flights – so it’s pretty much if you just want to fly from the Mainland to Hawaii on Hawaiian in a simple roundtrip. However, given that even roundtrip economy tickets to Hawaii regularly run in the $400-$500 range (or $700 as in the case above!), getting 50% off one of those is like getting $200-$250 back in value, so you’re already way ahead of your annual fee. Just remember that this discount cannot be applied to tickets you’ve already bought, so if you were going to get this card to try to get a discount on an upcoming trip, you’re out of luck – better just book another vacation to Hawaii!

The other interesting discount is that anniversary $100 off one coach companion ticket. The same terms apply as with the 50% discount, so that’s a nice way to offset the annual fee each year as well if you do travel to Hawaii at least once a year.

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You get that benefit automatically upon card renewal each year (ie paying your annual fee), but there’s also another 5,000-mile bonus when you meet a membership year spending threshold bonus – every year you spend $10,000 or more on the card, you get 5,000 bonus miles. That’s like earning an extra 0.5 miles per $1 you spend on everyday purchases, so if you’re not buying many Hawaiian tickets but using the card everyday, your earning rate is closer to 1.5 miles per dollar if you are just stopping around the $10,000 threshold.

As a quick comparison, I thought I’d take Barclaycard’s other major airline card, the US Airways Mastercard as a comparison point, and it comes out ahead in quite a few factors.

That card currently offers 40,000 miles after your first purchase, so a higher bonus with no minimum spending requirement. It offers two $99 domestic economy companion tickets each year, so you’re basically getting a second ticket for $99 – which means you can really max this out on expensive routes. You get a 5,000-mile discount on roundtrip economy awards, and every calendar year you spend $25,000 or more on the card, you get 10,000 Preferred-qualifying miles.

So with the US Airways card, the sign-up bonus is more generous, and with some strategic planning you can max out the award mileage discount on many more economy awards and those companion tickets can be worth a lot if you use them on expensive tickets. It’s also nice to earn elite-qualifying miles on spending, though the $25,000 threshold might be high for some.

However, the new New Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard is a better choice for those really looking to maximize their Hawaii travel thanks to the award mileage discounts, the economy companion discounts, and the lower spending threshold for that 5,000-mile anniversary bonus.

One possible strategy to maximize your credit with Barclaycard might be to get the US Airways Mastercard while it is still accepting new cardholders through 2015 for its domestic travel benefits, and then consider the Hawaiian Airlines card in addition to it to round out your wallet with a great card for Hawaii travel.

However, if travel to Hawaii is your main objective, this new card is an exciting option that can help you score significant discounts and perks on your travels to the islands.

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