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The One Standing Case for Cobranded Airline Credit Cards

Aug. 06, 2019
4 min read
The One Standing Case for Cobranded Airline Credit Cards
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Cobranded airline credit cards have been taking a beating from the likes of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express in 2019. Even the likes of the Wall Street Journal are taking notice.

Now, there is a bit of conflict of interest between the banks and these large credit card companies. Specifically, United Airlines is arguing that the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a battling product against cards like the United Explorer Card. When measured side by side, there aren't many reasons to have an co-branded airline credit card. Except one: Free checked bags.

a man sitting on a baggage trolley full of luggage and skis in the easyJet check-in area. (Photo by: via Getty Images)
(Photo by / UIG / Getty Images)

Travelers today are becoming less and less brand loyal. From the woes of getting "Bonvoy'ed" with Marriott, to the constant bad press of United Airlines, people are willing to leave brands in a heartbeat, with no turning back.

To add to this lack of loyalty, consumers also have an incredible amount of choice. That large array of choice is a cornerstone of consumerism in 2019, and cobranded airline cards do not reflect this change.

In a metaphor, we all have our favorite cup of coffee, burger place, department store, credit card and airline. But isn't it quiet nerve-racking to think that could be your only choice? That is the downside of cobranded cards.

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However, while bank cards are introducing annual travel credits, these do run out. For example, the American Express® Gold Card comes with an up to $100 airline fee credit (per calendar year), which can cover checked bag fees. However, that $100 will not last more than two round-trip flights on airlines that charge for checked bags. Along with this, you don't want to waste your travel credits on annoying checked bag fees when you can use it on buying airline gift cards or in-flight purchases.

Where Co-Branded Cards Come To The Rescue

Although checked bags fees remain controversial, they are a huge money maker for airlines. In 2018, U.S. based airlines collected $11.8 billion in after-tax profits just on checked bags alone.

In the same year, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue all raised the prices of their checked bags. While suggesting to pack less is the simple idea, that isn't always an option for some travelers.

Having a cobranded airline credit card could potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year, depending on how often you travel. If you are traveling as a family frequently, the savings could be even higher. However, even if you only travel once or twice per year, it is worth holding one of these cards to earn the welcome bonus, then downgrade to a no annual fee if desired. Below are some of the airline credit cards that offer that option:

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
  • United Explorer Card
  • JetBlue Plus Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
  • Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

Bottom Line

Do not settle for a cobranded airline credit card as your main "go-to" card. The earnings are typically not as high as a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

Even though you may have your preferred brands to travel with, it is always better to have options with bank-specific points and being able to transfer them to your favorite airline rewards program with companies such as American Express, Capital One, Chase and Citi.

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

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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