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How Do Inflight Credit Card Offers Compare to Public Offers?

Jan. 24, 2019
4 min read
How Do Inflight Credit Card Offers Compare to Public Offers?
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While deciding which credit cards belong in your wallet is a tricky question thanks to bonus eligibility restrictions (such as Chase's infamous 5/24 rule and Amex's once-per-lifetime welcome bonus policy), deciding when to pull the trigger on your application is equally important. This is because credit card welcome bonuses vary over time, and you can get extra-valuable offers with limited-time promotions (like the current Companion Pass offer on the Chase Southwest Card), or even targeted inflight offers for cobranded airline credit cards.

We asked TPG Lounge readers to share the targeted inflight credit card offers they've received, to see how they stack up against publicly available offers. Sometimes the difference is substantial, while in other cases it's not really enough to move the needle.

Noah O. has definitely flown on American Airlines a few times recently...

"How could you NOT hear [an ad] on American? Every. Single. Flight. Sometimes 500 bonus miles, sometimes 10,000. Over. And. Over"

He's referring to the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard, which is the only AA credit card that can be marketed inflight. TPG values AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents each, so while 500 bonus miles are only worth $7, 10,000 extra miles are worth a nice $140. Other readers have reported seeing bonuses as high as 60,000 miles in flight.

One of the best features of the Aviator card is that you earn your welcome bonus after making your first purchase and paying the $95 annual fee, there's no minimum spending amount to worry about. As a point of comparison, the current public offer is 50,000 AA miles after making your first purchase.

Alaska MileagePlan miles are some of the most valuable in the game, thanks to the ability to redeem them for cheap premium-cabin awards on Cathay Pacific or JAL. Reader Greg K. got a good, but not amazing, inflight offer on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card:

"Recent inflight offer was 32,500 miles vs. public offer of 30,000. Of course, neither was as appealing as the targeted 40,000 mile offer from the fall."

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JetBlue consistently offers bonuses as well, with a number of readers reporting an inflight offer for the no-fee JetBlue Card of 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, double the public offer of 10,000 points for the same spending requirement.

Before the current Companion Pass offer came around, Southwest would frequently offer bonuses as well. Reader Siddharth M. remembers one, and raises a good point about the risks of an inflight application:

"Last November, the Southwest [Rapid Rewards] Priority Credit Card was offering 40,000 points online and 50,000 inflight... Not sure about signing up for a credit card on open Wi-Fi."

He's absolutely right. If you can even manage to connect to the Wi-Fi on board, your connection may not be as secure as if you applied on the ground. In many cases you also have the option of filling out a paper application and handing it to the flight attendants, though writing your Social Security number on a piece of paper and handing it to a stranger might be even more dangerous.

Bottom Line

While some AAirlines certainly overplay their advertising hand when it comes to inflight credit card offers, it's worth keeping your eyes and ears open for any limited-time deals you might stumble across during your flight. Of course, before you pull the trigger on a spontaneous application, you should consult TPG's monthly valuation series as well as the list of top travel rewards card offers to make sure you're actually getting a good deal.

Featured image by (Photo by Omar Prestwich via Unsplash)
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.