Frequent flyer credit cards used to be the golden eggs of the business-traveller market.
Any air carrier that gave their customers the chance to rack up miles with the swipe of a card was guaranteed to turn a respectable profit.
These days, though, offering frequent-flyer cards has become less of a business strategy for airlines and more like a standard of practice.
As a result, several air carriers have decided to up the ante with their credit card rewards and now offer priority boarding to cardholders as well.
Although priority boarding seems like more of a gimmick than a bonus, the chance to avoid the mad dash for prime carry-on space can be a tiebreaker for business travellers debating between two different airline credit cards – especially if you don’t fly enough to get priority boarding as part of an executive rewards package.
Here’s a look at a few of the priority boarding credit cards offered by some of the leading air carriers:
- United. United has partnered with Chase and Visa to issue their flagship United MileagePlus Explorer Card. In addition to the standard card bonuses – 25,000 bonus miles for signing up and one mile for every dollar spent after – the MileagePlus card also offers travellers priority boarding, a free checked bag for every flight and two yearly passes to the United Club, the carrier’s executive boarding lounge. While these bonuses are attractive, the card also carries a $95 annual fee which can make it an expensive piece of wallet-filler for travellers who don’t fly every month.
- Continental. Continental Airlines offers several MasterCards that come with priority boarding privileges, but most people without a corner office will be looking at the Continental OnePass PLUS card. Since Continental was acquired by United earlier this year, don’t be surprised that the OnePass PLUS bonuses are identical to the MileagePlus Visas – frequent-flyer miles, priority boarding, United Club passes and all. The annual fee, too, is $95. At the other end of the spectrum – and for a $395 annual fee – Continental offers the Presidential Plus card. In addition to increased mileage bonuses and full access to the United Club, the card also grants VIP privileges at hotels, car rental agencies and other businesses around the world.
- Delta. Delta is the largest U.S. airline, so it makes sense that they would partner with American Express to issue their Gold Delta SkyMiles line of credit cards. The most basic model, the Gold, comes with priority boarding, frequent-flyer miles, a free checked bag and 20% off of all flight-related purchases. Although the annual fee for the card is also $95 and the APR can be as high as 20%, the availability and price of Delta flights can make this card a good value.
Priority boarding cards are almost identical in terms of benefits and fees, and so if you’re considering signing up for this type of credit card, you should go with the airline you fly most often.
While the annual fees attached to these cards will make them costly for infrequent travellers, people who spends a lot of time in the skies – for work or for play – may appreciate the perks.