Your airline card may still give you decent value, says Ben Woolsey, president of CreditCardForum.com, if you:
- Fly on that carrier a lot (because you live near its hub, for example).
- Spend enough to score one or more free tickets each year.
- Are gunning for special perks, such as upgrades on long flights or free or discounted companion tickets.
Plus, your airline card typically lets you check a bag for free, a perk that could pay the annual fee even if you only take two round-trip flights a year, says Jelena Ewart, credit card and banking manager for NerdWallet.
Lavish bonuses to sign up
Airline cards are also known for some spectacular sign-up bonuses, Ewart notes. Southwest frequently runs promotions that offer 50,000 miles on their Chase cards, while British Airways Visa has offered 100,000 points at times.
Still, most casual travelers, and those who aren't loyal to a particular airline, can often get richer ongoing rewards elsewhere.
"It used to be that if you liked travel rewards, airline cards were just about the only game in town," Ray says. "But now there are all kinds of cards linked with hotels and cruise lines and online travel providers, and banks have really beefed up their own travel programs."