Credit cards that offer free and discounted inflight Wi-Fi

Feb 16, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current credit cards information. It was originally published on July 27, 2019.

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, but it may be years until more airlines offer it for free.

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

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

Credit cards that offer inflight Wi-Fi passes

There are three cards that currently include Gogo passes as a benefit:

The information for the UBS Visa Infinite and the City National Bank Crystal Visa has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Gogo offers inflight internet access on selected airlines, and passengers can buy passes in advance or on board. Ordinarily, a pre-purchased, one-hour pass would set you back $7 for use on domestic flights on Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta or United or $19 for an all-day pass on the same carriers (again, domestic flights only). For $28, you can buy a Delta Global Day Pass that provides 24 hours of coverage on any Delta Gogo-equipped flight.

Note that some airlines, such as American and United, use multiple Wi-Fi services in addition to Gogo, such as ViaSat or Panasonic, and it’s not always easy to know in advance what service your particular flight will offer. Thanks to a partnership that American Airlines brokered between Gogo and ViaSat, AA flyers can use their Gogo subscriptions to log into the Wi-Fi on all of its aircraft installed with ViaSat, although that perk does not extend to the complimentary one-time Gogo passes.

In addition to the cards listed above, there are several cobranded airline cards that provide statement credits and discounts toward Wi-Fi purchases on their respective airlines. For instance, Southwest uses Global Eagle Wi-Fi on its aircraft, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, with an $199 annual fee, includes reimbursement for up to 365 $8 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.

Even better? The card is currently offering an elevated sign-up bonus that could allow you to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass outright as a new cardholder.

The information for the Southwest Performance Business 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.

Related reading: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card review

(Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)
The Southwest Performance Card gets you free Wi-Fi on Southwest every day of the year. (Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)

For American Airlines passengers, there’s the $99-a-year Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard that offers up to $25 of statement credits toward Wi-Fi purchases on AA flights and the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard (not currently open to new applications) 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® World Mastercard®.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red 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 reading: When, where and how to save on Wi-Fi on American Airlines

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
The Aviator Red Card comes with annual Wi-Fi credits. (Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

United fields a similar 25% discount on Wi-Fi (and other onboard purchases) through the United Explorer Card, United Business Card and the no-fee United TravelBank Card.

The information for the United TravelBank and United Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Select premium and business American Express cards used to offer unlimited Boingo plans as a card benefit. With this, cardholders had access to a number of Wi-Fi hotspots around the globe, including airports and other public locations, but the benefit was discontinued Jan. 1, 2020. (Those who have an eligible card and were enrolled in the Boingo Preferred Plan as of Dec. 31, 2019 will keep their access until June 30, 2020.)

It’s also worth noting that airline fee credits on certain American Express cards will generally not cover inflight Wi-Fi purchases on your selected airline.

Select HSBC Mastercards issued in Argentina, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom still offer complimentary plans via a separate-but-similar partnership announced in 2017, though that benefit does not extend to Mastercard products in the United States. Fortunately, most airports in North America nowadays offer fast, free Wi-Fi so not having Boingo access anymore isn’t a big loss.

Airlines offering free 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, but finding a free connection can be challenging. Here are the exceptions:

Aer Lingus: Free for business-class passengers

Alitalia: Free for Magnifica or Premium Economy class passengers

China Eastern: 258 yuan (about $38) of free Wi-Fi; must apply in advance

Emirates: First 20MB of internet are free for everyone. First- and business-class passengers get unlimited free internet, as do those with Gold/Platinum status in economy class.

Finnair: Free for one hour for business class and Economy Comfort and for Finnair Plus Gold members; free for the whole flight for Finnair Plus Platinum members.

Icelandair: Saga Class passengers and Saga Gold Members get free Wi-Fi for two devices.

JetBlue: Free

Norwegian: Free

Philippine Airlines: Free for the first 15 minutes or up to 5MB

Qantas: Free

Qatar Airways: Free when booked at qatarairways.com

SAS: Free for passengers in SAS Business, SAS Plus; free in SAS Go for EuroBonus Gold and Diamond members

Singapore Airlines: Free for first-class and Suites passengers. Business class and Solitaire PPS members receive 100MB for themselves and supplementary cardholders.

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

Turkish Airlines: Free for passengers in business class and Miles & Smiles Elite/Elite Plus passengers

Virgin Australia: Free Standard Package on domestic flights

Xiamen Air: Free, but registration required prior to flight

(Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)
Swiss first-class Wi-Fi voucher. (Photo by 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
  • Nok Air
  • Saudia
  • Southwest
  • TAP Portugal

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 US-based traveler. To summarize, complimentary Gogo passes cover Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta and United, but it’s also possible to get free or discounted Wi-Fi on Southwest, American and United with its cobranded cards.

Related reading: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Featured image by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

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