Southwest bought AirTran Airways and is phasing out the brand. What does that mean for cardholders?
Issued by Barclays, the AirTran credit card came in a couple different versions:
- AirTran Visa w/ fee – $59 annual fee. 2x miles per dollar spent on their airline and 1x elsewhere. The mileage program wasn’t anything special, but a major selling point was that you got two $50 vouchers each year (after the annual fee, you were basically coming out ahead $41 every year).
- AirTran Visa w/o fee – 1x mile per dollar on their airline, 1 mile per $2 dollars everywhere else. Unlike the other credit card, this one didn’t come with the $50 vouchers.
The very weird post-merger predicament
2 airlines + 2 different credit card co’s = 1 airline w/ 1 card?
See the dilemma? Because Chase manages Southwest, the AirTran cards from Barclays will be phased out. So what’s happening to the AirTran Visa accounts? Well that’s where things get interesting…
- If you attempt to cancel your Barclays card, there’s a good chance they will “bribe” you with a lower annual fee and/or other freebies. During 2012 I have heard from many who were given worthwhile incentives for not cancelling… very strange considering the fact that AirTran won’t be around much longer. However, I have also heard from customers who weren’t offered anything when they cancelled.
- If you keep your Barclays AirTran credit card there’s no official word on what will eventually happen to your account. Unless Chase decides to buy the accounts from Barclays last minute (highly unlikely) they will not be transitioned to Southwest. As a result, AirTran cardholders will soon be orphans. My guess is that after the AirTran A+ Rewards program is discontinued, Barclays will convert the accounts over to another rewards card they issue.
- American Express is out of the game. Previously, AirTran was a transfer partner for the AmEx Membership Rewards program, but anymore.
AirTran has a list of FAQs on their site talking about the merger. I’ve picked out the ones most relevant (as of April) and pasted them below for you:
What should you do?
Even though Barclays hasn’t discontinued current accounts, you can no longer apply for an AirTran credit card. The application is gone. So if you were thinking that right before the sunset you could score some free miles by applying, sorry but that’s not going to happen.
If you are a currently an AirTran cardholder and still plan on flying with them (via Southwest) then you should consider applying for the Southwest credit card which is arguably a better deal anyway since (a) you get more opportunities to earn rewards, and (b) unlike AirTran, SW doesn’t charge for your first checked bags.
2013 Update: Right now your best bet is to snag the insane offer Chase has right now for the Sapphire Preferred. Why? Because only this card allows you to convert Ultimate Reward points to SWA Rapid Rewards points on a 1:1 basis. Since you can use Rapid Rewards to book flights on both Southwest and AirTran, it means the Sapphire Preferred bonus is the best deal for this airline.