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Do Airline Credit Cards Pair Well with Transferable Points?

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TPG reader Logan sent me a message on Facebook to ask about airline credit cards:

“What are your views on using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card in tandem with the British Airways Visa? Does it make sense to have both?”

It’s important to have a credit card strategy that matches your award travel goals. I often recommend earning transferable points, but airline and hotel cards come with benefits that make them well worth carrying, especially if you’re invested in a particular brand. Of course, you don’t have to choose between them — you can easily get one card that earns transferable points and another one from your loyalty program of choice. However, using these cards together doesn’t always maximize your rewards, and I think Logan’s question serves as a perfect example.

If you’re going to use two cards in tandem, then ideally their benefits should complement each other. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of my favorites: It earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, gives you access to Ultimate Rewards travel partners (including British Airways), and offers some key travel benefits like primary auto rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees. Overall it’s a well-rounded card with a strong sign-up bonus, and it’s one that I recommend often.

Unlike many airline cards, the British Airways Visa Signature Card doesn’t offer flight-related perks such as free checked bags, priority boarding or discounts on in-flight purchases. The main benefits are a higher earning rate of 3 points per dollar spent on British Airways purchases (versus 1 point per dollar elsewhere), and the opportunity to earn a Travel Together Ticket after spending $30,000 in a calendar year.

Comparing the two cards, the BA Visa basically just gets you one extra point on British Airways purchases. The companion fare can offer good value when you redeem for premium awards, but you’ll need to find availability and have a flexible schedule to maximize it. In my opinion, those benefits aren’t a great complement to the ones on the Sapphire Preferred Card, and I think you’d be better off focusing on your Ultimate Rewards account than splitting your spending between the two.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Airline credit cards should at least offer flight benefits like waived baggage fees. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

There are other card tandems that are much more effective. For example, I think the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card pairs well with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, since you get the combination of great bonus categories, Delta flight benefits, access to other Membership Rewards transfer partners and more. The same goes for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from Amex and any of the various co-branded American Airlines cards.

One of the knocks against airline cards is that they don’t offer much in terms of bonus categories. The new JetBlue cards from Barclaycard are bucking that trend, and I’m hopeful that we’ll see others follow suit. Transferable points help you diversify your rewards portfolio and protect you from devaluation, but I’d happily shift some of my spending to airline cards if they offered a better return.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • 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 Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit