Should You Get US Airways AND American Cards Before the Merger?
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Earlier this week, TPG Reader Chris tweeted me to ask:
"@thepointsguy Is it worthwhile to get separate US Airways and American Airlines cards for individual signup bonuses before merging into a single oneworld account?"
Though their merger has been underway since last December, and though flyers on both American and US Airways can earn/redeem miles on both airlines and US Airways recently joined Oneworld, at present US Airways and American are operating their frequent flyer programs completely separately, and could do so likely into 2015. They have two separate loyalty card products, both of which currently offer some great deals.
For example, American offers a 100,000 mile bonus after $10,000 in purchases (within three months of account opening) on the Citi Executive AAdvantage MasterCard. The card also comes with Admirals Club membership, and allows cardholders to earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles when they spend $40,000 in a calendar year. It also has some other great benefits like access to reduced-mileage awards. However, it has an annual fee of $450 (not waived the first year), which should be taken into consideration.
US Airways has the US Airways MasterCard issued by Barclaycard (which will continue to issue it for some time). This card offers a 40,000 mile bonus after first purchase with no minimum spend requirement, as well as a valuable annual companion ticket. The annual fee of $89 is reasonable, and you get 10,000 Preferred-qualifying miles when you spend $25,000 per calendar year. You can also have the annual fee waived the first year on this offer of 30,000 miles with first purchase and 10,000 bonus anniversary miles.
TPG reader Chris is wondering whether to get both cards, assuming that they will merge their programs at some point and I think that is a decent idea, but you should also take into account:
1) What other Citi/BarclayCard products might be better? Diversification is a good idea and as we've seen with no-notice changes from AA, the program could become worse after the programs already merge.
2) Can you hit the minimum spending? $10k in 3 months is no small number- make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew.
3) The US Airways Mastercard will lose its benefits in 2015 so maybe you should apply for that card now so you still get the preferred miles and companion ticket.
That way you can earn miles on both ends. Barclays is a bit stricter about giving credit, but if you've never had one of their cards before and you have a good credit score, you should be fine. Generally I think US Airways miles are more valuable than American miles right now-you can do crazy routing all over the world, stopovers and more. Plus, due to American's most recent changes, they've now got some of the most restrictive award stopover and routing rules out there. That's not to say American AAdvantage miles aren't valuable, but if I could have one or the other, I'd pick US Airways.
At some point (most likely in 2015) the two loyalty programs will merge, so if you're focused on building up both balances you'll eventually be able to combine them. Just be aware that changes will happen, so I personally recommend using your miles sooner rather than later, since some of your favorite awards may no longer be available once the programs finally do merge completely.
In conclusion, go for both cards, but have a strategy in mind for earning and using those miles.
Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on Facebook, Tweeting me or emailing me at email@example.com.