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Points of View: Which card should I use for flights in case things go wrong?

July 18, 2022
6 min read
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With all of the problems surrounding flights in 2022 (such as cancellations, lost luggage, delayed lugagge and flight delays), you have an important choice to make when booking your next ticket. Will you use the credit card that earns the most points on flight bookings or use the credit card that provides the best protections in case things go wrong?

Depending on which cards you have in your wallet, the amount of points you forfeit by choosing the "stronger protections" option against the "earn the most points" option might be significant. However, if things go sideways, you might be happy to have extra insurance and benefits on your side.

Let's look at your options for credit cards you can use to pay for your next flight and why you might choose one over the other.

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Which cards offer bonus points on airfare purchases?

Whether you're paying for the whole ticket or just paying the taxes and fees on an award ticket, you could choose pay with these cards that offer bonus points for airfare purchases:

Further down on the earning rates, you could use these cards:

The information for the American Express 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.

(Photo by FamVeld/Shutterstock)

Related: Maximize your airfare: The best credit cards for booking flights

How you book can determine how many points you will earn. And remember that there are some important things to consider before booking through a portal.

Let's look at an example of booking directly with the airline using two popular premium cards: the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Based on TPG's points valuations, a $500 plane ticket bought with the Platinum Card will earn you $50 worth of points, whereas the Sapphire Reserve will earn only $30 worth of points.

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum: Comparing travel protections

"How many points will I earn?" is not the only thing to consider, however. What if you experience lost luggage or a delay that forces you to buy meals at the airport or spend a night in a nearby hotel?

Related: Amex Platinum vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is right for you?

The Sapphire Reserve offers up to $10,000 per covered person in trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. The card also offers $100 per day (up to five days) for baggage delay insurance and up to $3,000 in coverage for lost luggage. In terms of trip delay reimbursement, you'll get up to $500 per ticket after a delay of six hours or more.

The Platinum card offers trip delay reimbursement of up to $500 (if delayed by six hours or more) and trip cancellation/interruption insurance of up to $10,000 per covered trip.* You can also enjoy baggage insurance coverage of up to $2,000 per checked bag and up to a combined maximum of $3,000 for checked and carry-on bags. These protections are in excess of coverage provided by your flight carrier.**

Related: Your complete guide to travel protections on American Express cards

*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
**Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Platinum: Making a decision

The Sapphire Reserve and Platinum Card offer similar values for trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance and have the same coverage values that kick in at the same time for trip delay reimbursement. Both cards also offer similar values for lost luggage.

The key differentiator is if your luggage is delayed. Sapphire Reserve cardholders can claim $100 per day (up to five days), while Platinum Cardholders can't claim anything. Note, however, that in both situations, you'll still have rights with the airline.

Bottom line

When you book your next flight, you should consider not just how many points you'll earn but also what protections are offered by the card you pay with. What if something goes wrong on your trip? Will that card provide the protections you need? If your luggage is lost or your flight is delayed, these two popular cards offer similar protections. If your baggage is simply delayed, however, the coverage couldn't be more different.

The choice comes down to a choice of whether you'd have that plus 3 points per dollar or earn 5 points per dollar — but have no delayed baggage coverage.

For a more in-depth look at the differences between these two cards, check out our comparison guide to built-in travel insurance with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum.

Points of View is a new series evaluating decisions on which credit card to use. If you're facing a dilemma about which card is best for an upcoming payment, email us at tips@thepointsguy.com.

Also in this series:

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
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.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases