I Hold Just One Airline Credit Card…..And Here’s Why

a close up of credit cards

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What credit cards we all hold will vary considerably depending on our individual circumstances but I thought I’d share with you why it is that, despite holding over fifteen credit cards (which isn’t that many compared to some), I only actually hold one airline card in my collection. This isn’t by chance or by omission this is simply because I don’t think I need any more airline credit cards right now.

My Primary Credit Cards

Because I spend so much time outside of the US all the cards that I keep front and center in my wallet are cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card for all my dining purchases and most of my travel purchases…..

a hand holding a credit card

…..I have the Starwood Preferred American Express card for all my non-bonused spend outside of the US….

a close-up of a credit card

…..I keep the Citi Prestige card handy in case I need a Mastercard or in case I need to pay for something in the entertainment category (on e of the card’s bonus categories)…..

Citi Prestige Credit Card

….and I have the Chase Ink Bold card to hand (no longer available) in case I pass an office supplies store that sells gift cards I need:

Chase Ink Bold Charge Card

That’s it…that’s all I carry around with me because that’s all I need on a day to day basis.

I hold a number of other cards in a drawer by my bed and the one airline card in there is the AAdvantage Aviator Red card from Barclays:

a close-up of a credit cardAs you can probably guess considering it’s not in my everyday wallet, the reason I hold it has nothing to do with earning AAdvantage miles from spend on the card.

I Don’t Like Earning Airline Miles From Airline Credit Cards

Ever since American Express improved its offering on the personal Platinum Card to include 5 points per dollar spent on airfare that has been my go-to card for airline purchases because, quite simply, I don’t like earning miles with one specific airline.

A bit like death and taxes one of the things you can be sure of in this world is that airlines will devalue their currencies…and I like to mitigate the risk of that as much as possible.

The way I try to protect myself from airline devaluations is by concentrating my credit card earnings on transferable currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards Points and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

a group of logos of different brands

All of these currencies transfer over to multiple airlines so, should one airline devalue its program, I still have a good selection of others to choose from – I’m not stuck with a devalued currency.

Interestingly, American Airlines isn’t a transfer partner of any of the three major bank currencies so, if I want to earn AAdvantage Miles outside of my flight bookings, I have to transfer over SPG points to my AAdvantage account….but I very rarely do that.

AAdvantage Miles are a hugely devalued currency nowadays as, not only has American Airlines slashed earnings while increasing the cost of awards, it has also made SAAver Awards (the ones we all want to book) very hard to find.

Why would I transfer valuable Starpoints to a program where using miles economically is a challenge and a chore?

airplanes parked on a tarmacI’m struggling to think of a program that’s devalued more than AAdvantage in the past 18 months

With that in mind, even if I thought there was no risk of an AAdvantage devaluation, I wouldn’t use my Aviator card for spending – I may not be earning a currency that’s going to lose value but I would still be earning a currency I can’t really use effectively.

So Why Do I Hold The Aviator Card?

Primarily the card offers this:

  • 2 miles per dollar spent with American Airlines – as explained above I don’t need this
  • First checked bag free – I have oneworld status that gives me this anyway
  • No foreign transaction fees – I have plenty of other cards that offer this
  • 3,000 EQD for spending $25,000 on the card – I’ll discuss this a bit later.

But it also offers one very useful reward – 10% of your redeemed miles back in the form of a mileage rebate (maximum rebate of 10,000 miles per year).

While it’s extremely hard to use AAdvantage Miles effectively on American Airlines flights, I do still manage to spend at least 100,000 miles every year on partner airlines (usually Cathay Pacific or JAL).

a row of seats on an airplaneCathay Pacific’s Reverse Herringbone Seating is a good use of AAdvantage Miles

The Aviator card therefore gives me a rebate of 10,000 miles per year and, with a $95 annual fee, that sees me effectively buying miles for less than a cent…and that’s a price I’m happy to pay.

I addition to that I occasionally get my annual fee waived on the Aviator card or get given an opportunity to earn bonus miles by hitting a small spend target and that goes a long way to cancelling out the annual fee. That makes the 10% rebate even cheaper.

Why I Don’t Hold Other Airline Cards

Aside from earning miles in airline loyalty programs there are other reasons to hold airline credit cards….but most don’t apply to me.

Lounge Membership

Some airline cards offer lounge membership but, because most of my travel is international in nature, my oneworld status takes care of most of my lounge needs.

If I do happen to be traveling domestically my Priority Pass membership (courtesy of my Chase Sapphire Reserve card) and my Amex Platinum card (which gives me access to Centurion lounges) mean that I don’t really need membership of a US domestic lounge network. In the rare cases where neither of those help I’m more than happy to “suffer” airport seating rather than pay another credit card annual fee.

a row of chairs in an airport terminalGate areas aren’t always all that terrible

Help With Minimum Spend Targets

A number of co-branded airline credit cards offer holders a path to earning credit towards the minimum spend criteria that airlines now require if you want to earn status in their programs…..but this isn’t that useful to me.

At the moment my main airline status is AAdvantage Executive Platinum (EXP) so, if I want help earning the 12,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) required to re-qualify for EXP……

a screenshot of a computer

……I need to spend heavily on one of the AAdvantage Aviator cards….and when I say “heavily” I really mean heavily!

The Aviator Red card offers just 3,000 EQD for spending $25,000 dollars on the card and, as I don’t have easy access to manufacturing spend methods, that’s way more than I’m happy to spend on the card.

I would much rather earn EQD at an accelerated rate by booking flights through American’s partner airlines than spend $25,000 on a credit card whose currency I’d prefer not to hold in any large quantity.

Baggage Fees

Holding the right airline credit card will offer the holder (and anyone on the same reservation as the holder) a free checked bag….but that’s not that much use to me.

an orange ticket on a wood surface

I mostly fly on oneworld airlines where my status gives me a great checked baggage allowance anyway and, when I’m not flying on oneworld airlines, I’ve usually either booked a fare that gives me a checked baggage allowance anyway or I’m only traveling with hand baggage.

Paying an annual fee for a credit card just to get a checked baggage allowance is a waste of money for me.

Bottom Line

I’m pretty happy with the credit card portfolio I have right now and I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything much by not holding more co-branded airline cards – I genuinely don’t feel I need them.

What I’m hoping some people reading this post will do is take a closer look at the credit cards they hold and have a good think about why they hold them.

Are you actually getting use out of the credit cards you’re paying for or are there some where you’re paying an annual fee but not getting much in return?

I suspect there are thousands of travelers out there who are paying credit card annual fees for no good reason at all and, as this blog is at least in part about saving money, I’d like to see that number cut.



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