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Score free and discounted inflight Wi-Fi with these credit cards

Sept. 24, 2022
7 min read
People traveling by air in business class and wearing facemasks on the plane - COVID-19 pandemic lifestyle concepts
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current credit card information.


Staying connected while traveling is important for many of us. For business travelers, it can be crucial. Without consistent and functional Wi-Fi on a six-hour transcontinental flight or a 12-hour international stretch in the air, information or even whole deals can slip away.

Even if we just want to post on Instagram while airborne, inflight access is valuable and becoming more common. However, it may be years until more airlines offer it for free. Having said that, JetBlue does offer its Fly-Fi for at zero cost, while carriers such as Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines offer free access to messaging apps via inflight Wi-Fi.

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Luckily, there are travel rewards cards that offer the opportunity to stay connected at 30,000 feet in the air. The key to free Wi-Fi may already be in your wallet.

Credit cards that offer inflight Wi-Fi passes

There are several cobranded airline cards that provide statement credits and discounts toward Wi-Fi purchases on their respective airlines:

Alaska Airlines cobranded credit cards

For Alaska Airlines flyers, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card both offer 20% back on Alaska Airlines inflight purchases, including Wi-Fi.

American Airlines cobranded credit cards

For American Airlines passengers, there’s the $99-a-year AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® that offers up to $25 in statement credits toward Wi-Fi purchases on AA flights and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard (not currently open to new applicants) that offers up to $50 in statement credits per year. If you exhaust these options, you can get 25% back in statement credits for Wi-Fi purchases made on the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®.

THE POINTS GUY

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red, the AAdvantage Aviator Silver and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum 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.

Related: American trials free Wi-Fi

Southwest Airlines cobranded credit cards

For internet on Southwest Airlines flights, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, with a $199 annual fee, includes reimbursement for up to 365 inflight Wi-Fi purchases on Southwest each year. Southwest charges $8 for an all-day Wi-Fi pass, so this card effectively gets you free Wi-Fi on Southwest every day of the year. Just pay for passes with the card and your account will automatically be credited for the cost.

Related: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card review

However, if you don't have that particular Southwest card, you can receive 25% back on inflight purchases (including Wi-Fi) with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

United Airlines cobranded credit cards

United Airlines offers a similar 25% discount on Wi-Fi (and other onboard purchases) through its MileagePlus credit cards, issued by Chase.

Certain American Express and Bank of America cards

It’s also worth noting that airline fee credits on certain American Express cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and Bank of America cards like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card will generally not cover inflight Wi-Fi purchases on your selected airline. However, that is changing with some of the newer Wi-Fi systems on planes.

Note that you must enroll in advance and choose a preferred airline for American Express cards. With Bank of America, credits only apply to U.S.-based airlines on flights departing from the U.S.

Airlines with free inflight Wi-Fi

Like most things in the tech world, the state of inflight Wi-Fi is fluid. It’s becoming more commonplace for airlines to offer internet access of some type, but finding a free connection can be challenging.

Luckily, T-Mobile customers may be eligible for free Wi-Fi on domestic flights with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

Here are some carriers that offer a free internet connection (assuming the plane is equipped with Wi-Fi):

Aer Lingus: Free for business-class passengers and AerClub Concierge members, but Wi-Fi is only available on A330 aircraft (Wi-Fi, texting and data) and A321neoLR aircraft (Wi-Fi only).

Air New Zealand: Free.

China Eastern: 258 yuan (about $37) worth of free Wi-Fi; must apply in advance.

El Al: Free for passengers in business class flying to/from North America.

Emirates: Free access to messaging apps for Skywards members in business class or Gold members traveling in any class; passengers in first class and Platinum members traveling in any class have access to web browsing without being restricted to messaging apps.

Etihad: Free for Platinum members and those in first class.

Finnair: On long-haul flights, Wi-Fi is free for one hour for business-class passengers and for Finnair Plus Gold members; free for the whole flight for Finnair Plus Platinum and Finnair Plus Platinum Lumo members. On short-haul flights, Wi-Fi is free for 30 minutes for business-class passengers, Gold members and Plus Platinum members.

Hainan: Free trial worth 298 yuan (about $43) on Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

Iberia: Free access to messaging apps for business-class passengers and Iberia Plus members on long-haul flights.

Icelandair: Saga Premium and Saga Premium Flex passengers and Saga Gold members get free Wi-Fi for two devices.

JetBlue: Free.

Norwegian: Free.

Philippine Airlines: Free chat plan of 3MB; business-class passengers get an additional 100MB of data.

Qantas: Free.

Qatar: Up to one hour for free on some flights; free messaging on most flights but length of access varies.

SAS: Free for SAS Business and SAS Plus passengers and for EuroBonus Gold and Diamond members.

Singapore Airlines: Free for first-class and Suites passengers. Business-class passengers receive 100MB of allowance. Those in economy can get 100MB (PPS Club members) or two hours of access to messaging apps (KrisFlyer members).

SWISS: Free for first-class passengers, up to 50MB.

Turkish Airlines: Free for business-class passengers (up to 1GB), Miles & Smiles Elite/Elite Plus members (up to 400MB) and Miles & Smiles Classic/Classic Plus members (up to 10MB). Business-class passengers who are Miles & Smiles Elite or Elite Plus members get unlimited free internet usage.

Xiamen Air: Free, but registration required prior to flight.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

In addition, the following airlines offer free inflight messaging through data-based services like iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger:

  • Aeromexico.
  • Air France.
  • Alaska.
  • Delta.
  • KLM.
  • Nok Air.
  • Saudia.
  • Southwest.
  • TAP Portugal.

Related: The reason Delta doesn’t have free Wi-Fi yet? Tech limits, CEO says

Bottom line

You may not want to apply for a credit card for the Wi-Fi benefit alone, but it’s a nice perk to have if you’re a U.S.-based traveler.

To summarize, complimentary internet — or at least free access to messaging apps — is becoming more common, but it’s also possible to get free or discounted Wi-Fi on Southwest, American and United with cobranded credit cards from these airlines.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Featured image by ANDRESR/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.

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Rewards

1 - 3X points
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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