Airlines want you to think they're offering the best credit card deals mid-flight, but experts say you shouldn't sign up

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  • Though in-flight credit card offers may be enticing with bonus offers and companion ticket awards, experts say to hold off.
  • It’s smarter to wait until you can adequately compare how the offer stacks up to others, and you might not want to share personal information over public Wi-Fi, or on paper forms collected by the staff.
  • To see the best credit cards available to you, use’s free Card Match tool »

We’ve all been dozing during a flight only to be awoken with a flight attendant touting a “special” credit card offer over the speakers about the airline’s co-branded credit card.

Are these “in-flight” offers something to grab? Experts say no.

You might be able to get a better offer elsewhere

Immediately signing up for credit card offers on a flight is almost always a bad idea, says Scott Keyes, founder and CEO of Scott’s Cheap Flights, an airline deals site.

“The primary reason is that, many times, the in-plane offer is not as good as others that are publicly available,” he says. Because you’re on a flight, you may not know all the offers out there. He continues: “For example, it’s common that airlines would offer an in-flight sign-up bonus of 40,000 points, whereas with just a bit of Googling, travellers could often find the same card with a 50,000-point sign-up bonus.” Even though there may be Wi-Fi on board, he says, many consumers don’t think to compare offers while in the sky.

Read more:

The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and benefits of 2019

Plus, even smart credit card users might not be in the best position to make a financial decision.”While a big bonus is always appealing, you aren’t in the best position to make financial choices when stressed – and travelling is stressful,” says Sara Rathner, credit cards expert at NerdWallet. “If you fly a particular airline often and are thinking about applying for their card,” she continues, “it pays to research the offer you can get before you fly so you’ll know if the in-flight offer is actually a better deal. “

Instead of pulling the trigger in the air, ask if you can take the offer back to the ground. “Many airlines will let you take the offer pamphlet (or offer code) with you after landing, which is a great idea if you’re potentially interested in signing up,” Keyes says. That way you can compare at home, and make a decision with all information available.

You could limit your ability to apply for other cards

The other reason to hold off signing up in-flight, says Keyes, is that banks are increasingly limiting the number of cards consumers can sign up for. “If you sign up for a sub-optimal card, you may be limiting your ability to get future cards,” Keyes says.

For example, many cards now have language limiting a customer to one sign-up bonus per lifetime, so if you signed up for an in-flight card with a 30,000-point bonus and find out upon getting home that the same card regularly boosts its bonus to 100,000 points, you’d no longer have a shot at that elevated bonus, he says.

It’s not the most secure way to share personal information

Even if the in-flight offer is generous, there are security concerns to think about.

“You have to provide very personal information on a credit card application. It’s never a good idea to use the public in-flight Wi-Fi to conduct any sort of business online that could compromise that information,” says Rathner. “Plus, handing a paper application to a flight attendant isn’t much better, because you don’t know who will see that information before it gets to the credit card company.”

The free CardMatch tool at can help find the best offers available to you right now »

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