The One Standing Case for Cobranded Airline Credit Cards

Aug 6, 2019

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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.

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:

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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

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More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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

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