Continuing on through my many credits cards, here’s a post about the airline cards that I have. You can read information about the cash back credit cards and points earning credit cards that I have in their respective posts.
I currently have the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer, Bank of America Alaska Airlines, Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines, Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines, Citi American Airlines Visa, Citi American Airlines Amex, and Barclays US Airways cards. I applied for each one primarily for the sign-up bonus, but I’ll also list some other benefits for the card.
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer
When I applied for this card, I got 50k miles after first purchase, 5k miles for adding an authorized user, a $50 statement credit, and the annual fee was waived for the first year. I think the current best publicly available offer is 30k miles after $1000 of spend and first-year annual fee waived. Other benefits include priority boarding, a free checked bag if you book your ticket with your credit card, two free United Club passes, and double miles on United purchases. Another random perk of this card that I’ve used is access to shopping mall pop-up lounges during Christmas (free snacks, wifi, gift wrapping, and lounge passes if you give a toy donation).
Essentially, getting this card is like having silver status on United, except you don’t get free upgrades or access to Economy Plus seating at check in (you’re unlikely to get free upgrades as a silver anyway, at least flying out of SFO). In my experience, priority boarding isn’t applied for your outbound segment on your trip if you book through a portal, although it will get applied to your return segment. The club passes can be nice if you have somewhat long layovers at NRT or HKG, as those are some of the nicest United Clubs. Otherwise, they can be helpful to get you quicker access to an agent at the airport if you need help getting rebooked if your flight is cancelled or seriously delayed.
I’ve barely used this credit card since getting it; the most I’ve actually used it was to get into the lounge at the Westfield Mall in San Francisco to get free gift wrapping and lounge passes for toy donations. I’ve got elite status on United, so those benefits don’t matter to me, and I can already get 2x on travel purchases with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which can be transferred into United miles or other programs. So this card sits in my drawer, and it’ll get cancelled once my free year is up.
Bank of America Alaska Airlines
The sign-up bonus I got was 25k miles for getting approved, $79 annual fee not waived. It also came with a $99 companion pass, valid for coach tickets. I don’t think I’ve used this card since getting it, although I might use the companion pass for a pair of flights to Hawaii or Seattle.
Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines + Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines
These cards are nearly identical, except they’re technically issued by different banks, so you can get both at the same time. 20k miles after first purchase, 15k additional miles after spending $1k, $79 annual fee not waived. I got them to transfer those 35k miles each into 70k Hilton points to book hotels with them, but this is less of a good deal now that Hilton has announced a major devaluation of their award chart. Fun fact: my Bank of America card came with a chip, which could be useful in foreign countries, but they charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, so I’ll never use it. Both of these cards were stuck in my drawer after hitting the spending requirements.
Citi American Airlines Visa + Amex
In the past, it was easy to get both of these cards at the same time. There have been various offers floating around, but mine were for 50k miles after $3k in spend, $100 statement credit after first eligible AA purchase, a companion pass, and annual fee waived for the first year. Other benefits include one free checked bag, priority boarding, and 10% back on miles redeemed each year (capped at 10k miles).
I haven’t used these cards much after hitting the spending requirement, but I find AA miles to be super valuable, and AA is unfortunately not a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards, so I’ll likely use them more in the future. The 10% rebate on award redemptions is a pretty cool feature and could make it worthwhile to keep at least one card around if you’re redeeming lots of award tickets.
Barclays US Airways
This card is probably going away due to the US + AA merger, which makes me sad. I got 40k miles after first purchase, first-year annual fee waived, 10k miles upon account anniversary, free lounge pass, and up to two companion passes on a single itinerary. Other benefits include priority check-in and boarding and a 5k mile discount when redeeming for award travel on US Airways.
The mileage discount offers some great values, particularly when combined with the US Airways off-peak award travel chart. Although they no longer offer my favorite redemption of off-peak Envoy class to Europe for 55k miles, you can still get off-peak economy class to Europe for only 30k miles, assuming you have this credit card. I took advantage of these awards recently, and it was a great use of miles considering coach tickets were over $1k.
Another great thing about this card is that most people report getting an offer for 15k additional miles if you spend a certain amount for each month for three months consecutively (in my case, it was $750 per month). You can think of this offer as a pseudo sign-up bonus add-on, which makes this card even better. Assuming that I can, I’ll definitely hold on to this card for as long as possible and pay the $89 annual fee, just for the annual 10k miles anniversary bonus and access to off-peak awards, even if I don’t actually put much spending on the card.