Airline Rewards Advice

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Airline Rewards Advice

Postby bigred » Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:17 pm

Hello -

I've done a lot of research on which airline card might be best for me, and have narrowed it down to 4 cards, but still wanted your advice before I make a final decision.

My situation:
*I am interested in a) sign up bonus (meeting the various limits is not an issue, e.g. $4k/3mo), and b) airline-specific rewards (e.g. early boarding, waived checked bag fees, etc. - especially when they are implicit with carrying the card, and not contingent on spend)
*My primary credit card is an Amex PRG (Gold); this new card would only be used for a) specific purchases where more points were earned than with my PRG, or b) places where Amex is not accepted (e.g. the new card will not be my primary card; therefore, I would be less concerned about benefits relating to putting all my purchases on this card - for example, I wouldn't get this new card to earn "status")
--based on this, it would also be nice to have points earned not expire, as they will accumulate slowly (keeping the card "active" is not an issue)
*I plan to upgrade my PRG to a Platinum in February '18, so cards with "luxury" benefits are not a draw for this new card as I will eventually have them with my Platinum (lounges, Uber credit, airline credit, etc.)
*My primary airlines are American and Southwest; I fly out of Phoenix-Sky Harbor, of which American and Southwest both have hubs
*I fly for work anywhere from 4-10 times a year and will often fly American (these purchases are generally booked through my corporate travel agency and with my corporate card, although I could potentially use my new card for the latter and be reimbursed if it made a difference); I fly for pleasure about 4 times a year, usually on either American or Southwest (sometimes Alaska), and could use either my PRG or this new card

Cards I'm considering:
0) Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards (Plus or Premier) - I've all but ruled these out. I like Southwest, but it appears the only benefits to be gained from the card (outside of the below-average sign up bonus) deal with status which I will never reach. Included here in case you feel I'm missing anything.
1) Citi American Airlines AAdvantage - This is appealing as there are implicit benefits not tied to spend on an airline I frequent, e.g. preferred boarding (not as big a deal as it sounds - everyone arrives at the same time, so unless you get seat upgrades, it's not critical) and first checked bag free (again, not critical - if I'm flying for work, I don't pay for this anyway, and my Platinum card will have airlines credit to cover such fees). It does appear to offer a large # of upfront miles, although they are also often reported to be difficult to redeem on domestic flights. These miles expire if something isn't redeemed every 18 months, which even though I accrue AA miles from work trips could be an issue.
2) Alaska Airlines Visa Signature - True, this airlines doesn't have a hub in Phoenix, but I can connect to many western cities by flying through either Seattle or Portland. What intrigues me most about this card is a) the annual companion fare (free for the first year, $99 each year after +taxes), b) one of my annual trips is to Portland which has a direct route from Phoenix, c) points don't expire (while active), and d) first checked bag free. This seems to be a very underrated card on the major travel card sites based on the companion fare along (I'm thinking a companion fare to Hawaii each year, via Seattle, for example) - am I missing something?
3) Chase Sapphire Preferred
4) Barclay Arrival+ World Elite

On both 3 & 4 I'm having a hard time understanding their value relative to the others. They seem to have some very good things going for them, e.g. Arrival+ has a flat 2x miles on all purchases, while Sapphire has a better sign up bonus (including for adding an authorized user) + rewards structure with Chase Ultimate Rewards, and partnership with Southwest. Both have no point expiration, and neither have implicit (non-spend) airline benefits.

Thanks in advance for reading my novel - (hopefully it represents my attempt to research benefits for myself and identify my priorities rather than assume you'd do that work for me); however, I'm sure there are some experts here more well-versed than I could hope to be, so I'd love to hear your opinions and if you think there are other cards I should consider.

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Re: Airline Rewards Advice

Postby kcm7 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 1:22 pm

Forgive me if I missed this, but how often do you fly and how often do you check a bag?

I got the AA card for the free-checked-bags, but then realized I almost never check a bag anyway. And maybe flew AA like 6 times a year. So I dropped the card. Boarding in the first general boarding group was nice to basically ensure I ALWAYS would get overhead space, but honestly, it wasn't worth it to me to pay $95 a year.

One thing to consider with the Chase Sapphire Preferred is that you can use British Airways miles (which, like Southwest is a transfer partner) to book American Airlines flights.

FWIW, if I were going to pay a $95 annual fee for another card, it would be the sapphire preferred.

-Capital One Quicksilver
-Barclaycard Arrival (no AF)
- US Bank (no rewards)

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Re: Airline Rewards Advice

Postby TXviking » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:29 pm

I second the advice to look closely at the Sapphire Preferred. You don't get the free checked bag, but you get most of the other benefits with far more flexibility.

Of course, if you check a bag four times a year on either AA or Southwest, those cards may make more sense. May also make sense to do both.

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