The best cards for booking private jet travel
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While it’s no secret that flying private is almost always much more expensive than going commercial, you don’t necessarily have to be ultra rich to do so. Sometimes, you can book heavily discounted empty-leg flights or find deals with industry players looking to make luxury flying more affordable. With the recent surge of charters due to COVID-19, there’s been an increase of last-minute deals available, especially on popular leisure routes.
Just about every points-savvy traveler knows that the best card for airfare purchases is The Platinum Card® from American Express, with its 5x (equal to a 10% return based on TPG valuations) on eligible airfare booked direct or via Amex Travel (which will be capped at $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year starting on Jan. 1, 2021) and the recent addition of travel protection benefits. But what about those flights that aren’t operated by a major airline, including private flights? Can you earn valuable rewards for jet setting aboard a Gulfstream G500?
Often times, private jet services do not code as travel purchases and won’t earn bonus points with credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to forego rewards completely. There are credit cards that pay rewards as valuable as 4 cents per dollar spent on these types of transactions.
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The best credit cards for flying private
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
Comparing the best credit cards for flying private
Here’s an overall look at the six best possibilities for maximizing private jet flights that don’t code as travel expenses, ranked by value on spend:
|Earning rate on private jet travel||Value of points (based on TPG valuations)||Total value per dollar spent|
|The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express||2x||2 cents each||4 cents|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||1.5x||2 cents (when paired with a UR card) each||3 cents|
|The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express||1x, plus a 50% bonus when you use the card 30 times a month. Terms Apply.||2 cents each||3 cents|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||2x||1.4 cents each||2.8 cents|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||2.625x (for Tier 3 cardholders in the Preferred Rewards program)||N/A||2.625 cents|
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Amex EveryDay Preferred and the Bank of America Premium Rewards cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
While the Blue Business Plus card appears to be the clear winner from a purely numerical standpoint, it’s important to break these options down one by one, taking a look at how these returns are calculated and which cards are right for you personally.
Earning rates: Earn 2x points per dollar on the first $50,000 in purchases each calendar year, then 1x
Welcome offer: Now through Nov. 4, 2020, earn up to $300 in statement credits after making eligible purchases at Dell, DocuSign and FedEx (up to $100 each) in the first three months of card membership.
Annual fee: $0 (see rates and fees)
Analysis: As you can see from the table above, The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express offers the greatest rewards-earning potential for private jet spending. The no-annual-fee card earns 2x Membership Rewards per dollar, amounting to a 4% return based on TPG’s valuation of 2 cents per point. The only bummer is that the 2x points bonus only applies to the first $50,000 spent each calendar year — then drops to 1x. While that’s still solid earning potential for a no-fee card (100,000 Membership Rewards points are enough for two round-trip A321T premium transcontinental business class flights or a round-trip business class ticket to Japan), in most cases, you’ll be spending more than $50,000 a year on private flights and will want to use another card after you reach that cap.
Earning rates: Earn 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining, 3% back at drugstores and an unlimited 1.5% cash back on everything else.
Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 in their first three months and 5% cash back on up to $12,000 of grocery store purchases in their first year.
Annual fee: $0
Analysis: The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a no-annual-fee card that earns a flat 1.5% cash back on general spending with no cap. While that’s a solid return on its own, you could potentially double the value of your rewards by pairing the Freedom Unlimited with a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. By doing so, you’ll be able to redeem your cash-back as full-fledged transferable Ultimate Rewards points, amounting to a return of 3% per dollar spent based on our valuation of 2 cents per point.
While this won’t necessarily help with your private jet bookings, the card was refreshed in September and now also offers a generous 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and 3% back at drugstores.
Earning rates: Earn 3x points at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 2x points at U.S. gas stations and 1x points on other purchases. If you use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period, you’ll earn 50% more points on those purchases (less returns and credits).
Welcome offer: You can earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $1,000 in purchases in your first three months — though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a higher welcome offer (targeted offer subject to change at any time).
Annual fee: $95
Analysis: The Amex EveryDay Preferred can be a lucrative option, but only if you’re willing to commit to it. The card earns 3x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year), 2x points at U.S. gas stations and 1x point on everything else. Now, 1 point per dollar on private airfare isn’t a great return, but if you make 30 or more purchases in a billing cycle, you’ll earn a 50% point bonus. If you’re able to do this, you’ll effectively be earning 1.5x Membership Rewards points, or a 3% return on all your private jet bookings. As an added bonus, you’ll earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months.
The card comes somewhat short of the Blue Business Plus, but could still be a good choice for those who don’t qualify for a business card or expect to max out the other card’s $50,000 cap.
Earning rates: Earn 2x miles on every purchase.
Sign-up bonus: 100,000 bonus miles after spending $20,000 on the card within the first 12 months of account opening. Or still earn 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months
Annual fee: $95
Analysis: The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a simple way to earn and redeem miles without sacrificing value. All purchases earn a flat 2 miles per dollar, so there’s no need to worry about how your private jet bookings will code. Miles could be redeemed at a fixed rate of 1 cent each as statement credits to “pay” for travel purchases you’ve made in the last 90 days or they could be transferred to a selection of airline partners. Based on TPG valuations (and not provided by the issuer), transferring to these partners could get you about 1.4 cents per mile in value, meaning the 2x earning rate on this card equals a 2.8% return. This card has an annual fee of $95.
APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture Rewards Card
Earning rates: Earn at least 2x points on travel and dining, 1.5x points on all other purchases
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee: $95
Analysis: If it’s cash-back you’re after and want a card that’ll continue providing significant value after the first year, your best bet might be the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card. Anyone who holds considerable assets in a BofA or Merrill account — including retirement or investment accounts — is eligible for the Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program and will get increased rewards when spending with this card. If you maintain $100,000 or more in your accounts, you’ll qualify for Platinum Honors status and earn 3.5% back on purchases that code as travel or dining and an unparalleled 2.625% on everything else.
|Spend Categories||Regular Cardholder||Tier 1 – Gold ($20,000 – $50,000)||Tier 2 – Platinum ($50,000 – $100,000)||Tier 3 – Platinum Honors ($100,000+)|
|Travel/Dining Earnings||2x points||2.5x points||3x points||3.5x points|
|Other Earnings||1.5x points||1.875x points||2.25x points||2.625x points|
The card offers a 50,000-point ($500) sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. It has a modest annual fee of $95, but it’s more than offset by perks such as an annual $100 airline incidental credit and an up to $100 Global Entry application fee credit. Members of the Preferred Rewards program also get a host of banking benefits such as waived ATM fees and discounted auto loans, depending on the tier.
Saving on your private jet flights
There are a number of services that offer charter subscriptions and private jet-like experiences for less than you might think.You can score significant savings by booking empty leg specials — when an aircraft is scheduled to fly without any passengers — and “by the seat” on scheduled charter flights. Some World Elite Mastercards also offer discounts from private jet charter operators. For instance, eligible cardholders can get up to $1,000 off a round-trip private air charter from Vitesse Worldwide, plus a $500 credit toward ground transportation.
“With more companies and individuals buying private aircraft, there are more jets flying under capacity so they look for different ways to offset their cost of ownership. That has resulted in an increase in the accessibility to flying private through different digital platforms that connect the consumer to a private aircraft,” Andres Morales, executive vice president of global operations of aviation consultation company Skyline Group MC, told The Points Guy.
Ordinarily, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express® Green Card are two of the best cards for travel purchases, as they earn 3x points on travel, amounting to a 6% return. However, since private jet spending doesn’t always code as travel, you’ll want to look into cards that have a high return on everyday spending.
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to picking credit cards. The best strategy for you will depend on your typical spending habits, which type of rewards you’re chasing and how complicated of a redemption scheme you want. For instance, if you value Ultimate Rewards points more than Membership Rewards points based on your redemption patterns, the Freedom Unlimited might be a better fit for you personally than the Blue Business Plus. You’ll also need to consider other factors, such as whether you even qualify for business credit cards and whether you’re willing to move assets to a new bank to maximize your rewards-earning potential.
For more on private jet travel, see:
- Everything you need to know about booking empty leg private jet flights
- What it’s like to fly BLADEone from NYC to Miami
- What it’s like to fly with private-jet operator JSX
- Look inside the world’s largest, most luxurious charter jet — a $50,000-an-hour 777
- My very first flight on a private jet, Gulfstream’s G500
- Best travel credit cards
- Best hotel credit cards
- Best gas credit cards
- Best credit cards for entertainment spending
- Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Featured photo courtesy of Andres Morales (Ajetsetter) for The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Card, please click here.
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WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.