The question that I am asked repeatedly is “which credit card to sign up for?” The answer is often difficult because everyone’s goals differ, but for the average consumer co-branded airline credit cards simply do not make sense. Let me explain.
A co-branded credit card is a credit card which is linked to a specific airlines loyalty program. A dollar spend on the card generally equals one airline mile. There are several co-branded credit cards, but majority of them do not make sense unless you have a specific goal in mind. The reason is that co-branded airline credit cards are too limiting.
Imagine if you spent a couple of years earning miles with a specific airline with a general idea of your redemption goals. Think, travel to Europe in Business Class for 50,000 miles. You know that you spend about $10,000 a year on a credit card meaning it will take you about 5 years to earn enough miles to reach your goal. Then imagine the airline updates their award chart suddenly and the cost is now 70,000 miles. It will now take you TWO YEARS to earn enough miles with that airline to make your dream trip come true.
Instead, it may make more sense to open a Citi, American Express, or Chase credit card with transferable points. That way when you hit a certain point threshold you can transfer your points to a specific airline with a specific redemption (that you know is available) in mind.
Also, co-branded airline credit cards usually only offer bonus point multiples when making purchases directly with the brand. Generic reward credit cards often offer bonus on any travel with any brand, any restaurant, or any type of retailer. This means not only are your points more flexible to use, but you will earn them faster. An extreme example would be someone who spends $10,000 on dining each year alone. With a co-branded airline credit card they would receive just 10,000 miles, but with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card they would earn 30,000 points and Ultimate Rewards points can go a long way!
It is important to note that there are situations where it makes sense to have a co-branded airline credit card, but for the average consumer who picks the cheapest flight with any available airline an airline co-branded credit card just does not make sense.