“Miles to go before I sleep.” Yes, you can take that quote literally. In the world of air travel, there is a category of people that is all about the miles it earns. If you are a frequent flyer or love traveling, then you should definitely apply for an Airline Credit Card. These cards offer numerous benefits that include air miles in terms of points, huge discounts on hotel bookings, air tickets fare, discounts on renting a car, vouchers for shopping, access to airport lounges, etc.
Airline credit cards have been around almost as long as frequent flyer programs themselves.
At first, the formula was simple: You signed up for a card and earned a bonus worth a free flight or two. After that, you would make everyday purchases with your card to rack up enough miles for another free flight every year or so, depending on your spending patterns. Award charts and earning rates were, at a minimum, predictable.
Since then, however, not only have airline mileage programs changed dramatically but so have the number and types of travel reward credit cards available to consumers.
Let’s have a look at the common benefits offered by airline credit cards.
Earn air miles: All the airline-related transactions done using an airline credit card will earn air miles which can be redeemed for purchasing tickets on both domestic and international airlines.
Bonus miles: It could be as a welcome gift or a renewal gift, credit card issuers typically offer bonus miles within a few days of card issuance. The miles can be encashed in the form of airline tickets during your next trip.
Accelerated miles: What’s more fun than earning more reward points. With the accelerated miles program, some credit cards offer accelerated miles on certain transactions. Make sure you’re aware of the transactions eligible for accelerated rewards to make the most of the program. You must keep checking your emails - generally, credit card companies email the users with such offers.
Airport lounge access: Sit back and relax in the airport lounges in times of delayed flights with the complimentary lounge visits offered by airline credit cards. The access is limited to select airports in India and abroad. Cardholders need to display their credit cards at the eligible airport lounges and can enjoy the refreshments, internet facility, and amenities offered by the lounges.
The most credit card offers lounge access - ensure that they are not chargeable and in which airport is it available before you go swiping your cards for free access.
Fuel surcharge waiver: Of the other benefits offered by airline credit cards, a fuel surcharge waiver is something useful even for less frequent travelers. Every time you purchase fuel using an airline credit card, the fuel surcharge, which is typically charged on all card transactions at fuel stations, will be waived. Cardholders can thus enjoy fuel savings using an airline credit card.
How to pick an airline credit card?
Before you pick a credit card to use for flights, you should answer a few questions.
Do you always fly the same airline?
If you don’t always fly the same airline, it almost certainly makes sense to pick up a flexible points card, at least if you’re only looking to add one card to your wallet.
For eg - Vistara has great tie-ups with credit cards. You can check them out.
Jet Airways used to have one of the best loyalty programs but we all know what happened to that.
Do you have a status with an airline?
If you already have status with an airline, you’re unlikely to pick up much in terms of benefits from a mid-tier airline-specific credit card as many of the benefits, such as free checked bags, are also benefits of status.
Do you want to access airport lounges?
If you want access to airport lounges, you have quite a few options. Would you prefer to access a specific airline’s lounge? If so, look into its top-tier credit card. If you prefer more general lounge access, consider a card that includes Priority Pass. In many cards, priority passes are chargeable so ensure you check terms and conditions beforehand.
Do you want travel insurance?
Some credit cards include various types of travel insurance as a benefit of using the card to book your tickets. If this is something you think you can benefit from, choose a card that offers protection.
Many Indian cards like HDFC cards and Amex cards have their own flight booking portals where you can use the accumulated reward points on your cards to book flight tickets across various airlines. This works as the best way to use it. Generally, the conversion points are 0.25 paise or 0.30 paise. Do check the terms & conditions and charges before you get all excited for the next free travel.
Whether or not it makes sense to carry an airline credit card will come down to several key factors.
- First, think about whether you will use its ongoing benefits like day-of-travel perks and discounts enough to offset its annual fee. (yes a good card with good rewards will always come with an added fee)
- Next, make sure you are getting a great deal on the sign-up bonus. (you can always negotiate for this one)
- Finally, think about whether a rewards card that earns transferable points instead will suit your spending habits and travel needs better.
By answering those few questions, you will have all the information you need to make your decision. If you travel often, you can get an airline credit card and a no-fee general travel card for all other travel-related expenses.
As long as the rewards you get from a card outweigh the costs of carrying it, you'll come out ahead, no matter your destination.