Can Your Airline Credit Card Keep You From Getting Bumped?

Find out how the right card can help you keep your airplane seat.

Getting bumped from a flight can be a trying experience, as evidenced by the viral video of a passenger being removed from a United Airlines flight. (Thinking of ditching United? Here are four solid airline credit card alternatives.)

While the situation almost never gets that extreme, many airlines overbook flights and getting bumped is a very real possibility for air travelers. If passengers want to keep their seats, having an airline-branded credit card can help.

Membership in a frequent-flyer program generally makes a passenger less likely to be bumped, said Cecilia Minges, a spokeswoman for AirHelp, a company that provides legal advice to passengers whose flights are delayed, canceled or overbooked. The federal Department of Transportation requires airlines to explain how they decide who gets bumped off oversold flights.

While having a certain card won’t directly help keep you on a plane, having elite frequent flyer status often can, and many cards help holders attain that status. The big three U.S. airlines — United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta, (none returned Credit.com’s requests for comment by press time) — have similar policies on bumping, which take frequent flyer status into account. But their branded airline cards vary in their ability to help you earn elite status.

Here’s a closer look at the policies of America’s three biggest airlines.

United Airlines

United Airlines’ contract of carriage — a document outlining the rules it applies to passengers — says the status of a passenger’s frequent flyer program membership, along with the cost of their fare, their itinerary and when they showed up for check-in may determine whether they are bumped or not.

Having a United Airlines credit card won’t confer a higher status in the United MileagePlus frequent flyer program. Only earning the requisite miles by flying with United and its partners will get a passenger to a Premier level. However, having a United Mileage Plus credit card can help you get there faster. United’s credit cards all award two miles for each dollar spent on tickets purchased from United, though signup bonus miles don’t count toward Premier status.

American Airlines

American Airlines’ contract of carriage contains language similar to that of United Airlines. Membership in its AAdvantage program is one of many factors it considers in deciding which passengers to bump.

Both the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and the AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard help cardholders earn miles faster — two miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines purchases — but only the Executive World Elite card awards 10,000 miles that will help qualify you for elite status, and only after you spend $40,000 in purchases in a year. The lowest level of elite status in the AAdvantage program, Gold, requires 25,000 Elite Qualifying Miles. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) 

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines also favors high-status members of its frequent flyer program when deciding who will get bumped from flights. Unlike American and Delta, it specifies exactly how much it favors elite members.

Its boarding priority rules place Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members behind only passengers with disabilities, unaccompanied children, the elderly and members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Silver members are a few tiers down.

In a recent change to its policies reported by the Associated Press, Delta plans to let its employees offer close to $10,000 to coax customers to give up their seats. The airline’s previous max award was $1,350.

Delta’s branded cards offer signup bonuses that count toward qualifying for elite status. For example, the Delta Reserve Card awards 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after the first purchase on the card. Reaching Gold status, which means almost never being bumped, requires 50,000 Medallion Qualification Miles.

Before you apply for any new credit card, especially a reward credit card, you’ll want to be sure your credit is good enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.

Other Ways to Avoid Getting Bumped

Policies vary by airline. A representative for Southwest Airlines said the company didn’t consider whether a passenger has a Southwest credit card. Rather, passengers are bumped in reverse order from when they boarded, irrespective of other factors like how much they paid.

In most cases, Minges said, the more you pay for your ticket, the less likely you are to get bumped. That’s because when airlines bump passengers, they have to compensate them based on their fares, per DOT rules.

For example, if an airline bumps a passenger and arranges substitute transportation that gets them to their destination between one and two hours after their original arrival time, the airline has to pay 200% of their one-way fare, up to $675 max. Any later than two hours and they must pay 400% of a passenger’s fare, up to $1,350 max. If you paid with miles, compensation will be based on prices for other tickets in the same class.

These compensation numbers are updated every two years to account for inflation, said Charlie Leocha, president and founder of Travelers United, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. So there’s an incentive for airlines to bump people who paid less for their tickets, Minges said. Because of that, buying a higher priced ticket, in addition to joining the airline’s frequent-flyer program, are among the surest ways to keep your seat, she said. “It’s not guaranteed, but it can help.”

Here are some other moves Minges suggested:

  • Check in early, when fewer people fly.
  • Get to the gate early. Some airlines, like Southwest, bump people based on when they check in or arrive at the gate.
  • Check your luggage. It’s easier for the airline to bump people without luggage because they don’t have to find their bags and get them off the plane before it can take off.
  • Pick the right airline. As we said, different airlines have different policies. Each airline posts their contract of carriage online. Dig through the legalese and you can find their overbooking policy. Some are friendlier than others.

At publishing time, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and the AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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This Trick Can Get You a Free Plane Ticket

free-airline-companion-ticket

Planning a getaway? There’s no better way to save on your trip than with a free airline companion ticket. But how to find one? That’s easy: travel rewards credit cards. Here, we rounded up a few notable cards with insight from Lee Huffman, the travel blogger behind Bald Thoughts, along with some smart tips for swiping these credit cards.

American Express Delta Reserve Credit Card

With a hefty annual fee of $450, the Delta Reserve Card isn’t playing around. Still it lives up to its price point, thanks to its ability to grant you access to all Delta Sky Clubs, one free checked bag and, yes, that alluring Companion Certificate. The fare is valid for one round-trip First Class or Main Cabin ticket, which you can only redeem on Delta.com. Not bad for a piece of plastic that also grants you 20% savings in the form of statement credit on certain pre-purchased meals, boozy beverages and in-flight entertainment.

British Airways Visa Signature Card

Spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the British Airways Visa Signature Card, and you’ll receive a cool 50,000 bonus Avios (club currency) rewards. With this card, you’ll also earn three Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways purchases and one Avios for every dollar spent on everything else. But getting that free companion flight — also known as a Travel Together Ticket — will require more planning, as cardholders are required to make $30,000 in purchases in one year, Huffman said. You may also be subject to higher taxes and fuel surcharges, he warned, “so you’re better off redeeming the voucher for a business class ticket instead of an economy ticket.”

Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card 

Whether you choose the Premier or Plus card, Southwest offers plenty of ways to score points toward free flights. Both of these cards come with a signup bonus that hands you a whopping 40,000 points — that is, after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — and additional points on your cardmember anniversary. To earn a coveted Companion Pass, just cash in points from purchases made with either card. “This one is awesome because you can use it an unlimited amount of times,” Huffman said, “the only limit is how many tickets you want to buy with cash or flights.” Fair warning: Both cards come with annual fees, $99 for Premier and $69 for Plus.

Using Your Travel Rewards Card 

Travel rewards cards are hard to beat when it comes to earning perks just for spending. But spend too much — or spend more just to earn the rewards — and you could wind up squandering the savings to debt and high interest. It also goes without saying that lenders don’t like to see excessive debt, as it can be an indicator you’re not so great at managing finances. Experts recommend keeping your debt at 30%, ideally 10%, of your total credit limit for the best effect on your credit. These premium cards typically require you have good credit, so before you apply for one, you’ll want to know where your credit stands. You can view two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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An Airline Credit Card for Not-so-Frequent Fliers?

allegiant-travel-rewards

Most airline credit cards are designed with the frequent flier in mind. You get the most if you travel (and spend) a lot, either because there’s a big annual fee you need to recoup, a giant sign-on bonus you want to earn or a litany of upgrades you’re looking for each time you fly. But low-cost carrier Allegiant Air’s got other ideas about airline plastic.

Its recently released Allegiant World MasterCard by Bank of America is geared toward leisure travelers — that is, someone who only flies once or twice a year for vacation. Its rewards program is designed specifically to provide value to these not-so-frequent fliers, a spokesperson for the carrier told Credit.com via email.

Business Travel vs. Leisure

Allegiant World MasterCard accountholders earn three points per dollar on Allegiant purchases, two points per dollar on qualifying dining purchases and one point per dollar everywhere else. They’re eligible for buy-one-get-one free airfare when they book a minimum four-night hotel stay or seven-day car rental along with their flight through myAllegiant Member Services (some other restrictions apply). Plus, they receive priority boarding and one free beverage on every Allegiant flight when flashing their branded plastic.

The card carries a $59 annual fee and a fairly low-threshold associated with its sign-on bonus. You get 15,000 bonus points (equivalent to $150 off Allegiant travel) after you spend at least $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of the account opening. 

Contrast this with a premium travel rewards credit card — like, say, the also recently released Chase Sapphire Reserve, which touts a $450 annual fee and an eye-popping 100,000 bonus points (equivalent to $1,500 through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal) after spending $4,000 in the first three months of the account opening — and you’ll start to get an idea of how Allegiant’s target demo differs.

To break it down: Business travelers won’t have a hard time meeting the Reserve’s $4,000 spending threshold (thus earning that lucrative $1,500 bonus) if they’re flying around the world and charging expenses to their credit card each month, so it makes more sense to pay that $450 fee. Leisure travelers, on the other hand, could easily earn that $150 Allegiant travel credit (and recoup the lower $59 annual fee) by charging their family vacation and calling it a day.

The Allegiant card carries an annual percentage rate (APR) of 13.24% to 23.24%, based on creditworthiness. There are no blackout dates, no destination restrictions and no minimum points redemption.

Thinking About a Travel Rewards Card?

Whether flying for business or leisure, it’s always a good idea to read a credit card’s fine print to be sure it’s right for you. And you should check your credit, too, before applying because you typically need a good credit score to qualify for rewards credit cards. (You view two of your credit scores for free every 14 days on Credit.com.)

Finally, remember, even for small spenders, travel rewards cards are best-suited to people who don’t to carry a balance. Otherwise, you’ll just lose all those precious points and perks to your APR. If you are balance-prone, you may want to look into a low-interest or balance-transfer credit card to minimize any interest-damage. (You can find a list of the best low-interest credit cards in America here.)

At publishing time, Chase and Bank of America credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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Alaska Airlines Sweetened its Travel Rewards Credit Card

alaska_airlines_credit_card

Alaska Airlines has sweetened the terms on its travel rewards credit card.

The carrier bumped up the bonus miles it’s offering its new Visa signature card holders to 30,000 after a qualifying spend ($1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, according to its website.) It also did away with foreign transaction fees for all card holders. The changes took effect June 1.

Under the rewards program, Alaska Airlines cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to six other passengers in their reservation. They earn three times the miles on Alaska purchases, one mile for every dollar spent on every day purchases, and receive an annual companion fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees starting from $22).

The card has a $75 annual fee and a purchase annual percentage rate between 12.49% and 19.49%, depending on creditworthiness.

This credit card program is issued and administered by Bank of America.

Airline Credit Cards 101

If you’re shopping for a new airline credit card or travel rewards card, it’s a good idea to consider how often you travel and whether you tend to patronize a particular carrier. If you do fly a single carrier, or its partners, that company’s mileage card can be the right choice for you. But if you don’t have a hub in your area or your flights are varied, you might to look into general travel rewards credit cards.

You can also consider maximizing rewards by accumulating airline miles via loyalty programs, and complementing that balance by earning credit card rewards that can be transferred to those airlines.

If you’re in the market for a new credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit before you apply, as a good credit score can help you qualify for better terms and rates. You can see where you currently stand by viewing two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

If your credit is looking lackluster, you can try to improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit reports, paying down high credit card balances and limiting new credit inquiries.

At publishing time, Bank of America credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

 

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More on Credit Cards:

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9 Insanely Opulent Holiday Getaways

winter_getaways

If a trip to Florida won’t cut it, here are nine other adventures you might want to take over the holidays. Just make sure your finances (and your credit score) can handle the trip — prices are subject to change, but, even with some fluctuation, these getaways aren’t exactly frugal.

1. Go on a Ski Safari — by Helicopter

Thanks to The Aplina Gstaad’s new “Ski Safari,” adventurous guests can hit not one, but three slopes in a day, shuttling from one ski area to another by helicopter. First on the to-do list is breathtaking St. Moritz Corvatsch, then it’s off to Zermatt’s Testa Grigia on the Italian side of the Matterhorn. From there, guests are transported back to Gstaad, one of the largest ski spots in the Alps. For CHF 12,000 (about $12,016), the package includes a private shuttle between the airports and slopes in Gstaad, St. Moritz and Zermatt, helicopter flights, all ski passes and one night in a Deluxe Room Schonried — plus breakfast and a CHF 100 culinary credit.

2. Sip Wine by the Fire at a Dude Ranch

Ice fishing? Check. Snowshoeing? Check. Ringing in the new year like John Wayne? That’s how to holiday. The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyo., offers a stellar holiday and new year package, complete with hearty feasts, horseback rides and just about every other winter activity there is to do in the country. Prices vary by group size and accommodations, but a family of four has the option to book two lodge rooms for $1,600 per night or larger lodge rooms with queen- and full-size beds for $2,200 per night.

3. Rent a Lakefront Estate

Deep in the pine forests of the Adirondacks is Lake Kora, a historic lakefront property unblemished by time. Built over a century ago and only recently opened to the public, Lake Kora comprises eight buildings, each with its own kitchen. There’s a candlepin bowling alley, media room, three pristine lakes and even a chapel. Guests are served locally sourced meals prepared by an on-site chef. If booking through BeautifulPlaces, a luxury villa rental site, rates start at $14,950 per day for up to 14 guests; additional guests cost extra.

4. Swim in Gianni Versace’s Pool of Gold

In looks and in name, Villa Casa Casuarina is the very definition of opulence. Built in 1930 by architect and author Alden Freeman, heir to the Standard Oil fortune, the South Beach, Fla. mansion was purchased in the ’90s by Italian designer Gianni Versace, who spent $33 million to renovate it. Today the 10-room villa is a luxury hotel, albeit with the kind of amenities even the most worldly travelers aren’t used to — namely a 54-foot-long Million Mosaic Pool lined with thousands — yes, thousands — of glittering 24K gold tiles. Prices vary by suite and date, but a one-night stay can cost $749 and up.

5. Race Dubai’s Yas Marina Circuit

Yes, there are things to do in Dubai besides shopping. Families can soak up views from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, let their kids explore a virtual city and day trip it to Abu Dhabi for a visit to Ferrari World. Speaking of sports cars, they can also head to Yas Marina Circuit, where an elegant Aston Martin GT4 is waiting to be taken for a spin. For AED 1,600 (around $435.62), you can tick that one off of your bucket list.

6. Charter a Private Yacht

You may never set foot on Roberto Cavalli’s Baglietto, but you can always charter your own private yacht instead. Amazing Charters, a boat rental service in the British Virgin Islands, offers seven-cabin superyachts built by Abeking & Rasmussen with en suite showers, jacuzzi tubs and walk-in closets — for starters. An infinity waterfall will impress all your fortunate guests, and it goes without saying there’s a sports bar and gym. All this and more can be had for 595,000 EUR per week or around $648,074. (That’s the high rate. The low rate is 495,000 EUR per week or around $539,154). Did we mention there’s a seven-day minimum?

7. Try “Forage-to-Table” Dining

Rolling hills, sumptuous spas, cooking your own foraged wild mushrooms … No, it’s not the typical getaway, but visitors to Laughing Frog Estate will get a kick out of foraging for food and crashing in the five-bedroom property at night. Operated by No Taste Like Home, a self-described “forage-to-table” company in Asheville, N.C., the tours give people a chance to not only gather their own wild mushrooms and other “extreme cuisine” but transform it into edible dishes (with help from a restaurant or chef, of course). Suggested donations are $75 for adults and $30 for children. The 7,000-square-foot private estate, however, will set you back $1,200 a night.

8. Party Hop in Punta del Este

The airfare to Uruguay doesn’t come cheap, but visiting famed restaurateur Francis Mallmann’s Hotel Garzon will be worth it. Just past the lighthouse at Jose Ignacio Beach, this restored century-old mansion has all the trappings a baqueano (horseback guide) could want (Prices range between $590 and $820 per night, plus tax.) As you sip a cold Quilmes (a favored Argentine beer), relax by the fireplace — every room has one — and strategize how you’ll befriend some locals and weasel your way onto a private party’s guest list. The best parties start well after midnight.

9. Snorkel Among Sea Lions in the Galápagos

Any trip to the Galápagos is essentially a cruise, as they’re accessible only by ship. But rather than opt for a party cruise, you could consider booking Lindblad Expeditions, who lead trips onto eight of the islands. During the day, the company’s trained naturalists lead curious passengers on hikes where they can wave hi to dozens of friendly sea lions and lounging marine iguanas. Later, kids can go snorkeling amid the penguins and brightly colored parrotfish. Lindblad’s MS Polaris cruises year-round, but rates vary widely (from approximately $6,290 to $11,990).

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