Last week I wrote about the temporary increase in the sign-up bonus for the Lufthansa Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard®, but some readers asked me if it was worth considering The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® instead. Barclays launched new offers for both cards through its affiliate channels at the same time, which is why you may have noticed an up-tick in the number of card-related posts. How different are the two cards, and which one should you apply for?
The current US Airways offer is actually not that different from what’s been available previously. US Airways has often provided an opportunity to get 40,000 miles with little or no minimum spend after a new approval. What distinguishes the current offer — 40,000 miles after first purchase and paying the $89 annual fee — is that it’s being offered through affiliate channels. Past affiliate offers have often been less generous. The card also has new benefits like a free checked bag for you and four companions, and some older benefits like a $99 companion fare.
Contrast that with Lufthansa’s card, which tends not to offer different offers through different channels but which does vary the number of miles offered. When the bonus goes up, it merits consideration regardless of the application channel.
I believe the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® has a better offer for some people because it can be used to book up to two round-trip domestic flights on United Airlines or, if you’re willing to pay fuel surcharges, go toward the cost of an international award on Lufthansa with greater award availability than if you had to use United miles. In fact, you can get an economy class transatlantic award for just 50,000 miles, and business and first class awards are priced less than United charges for partner awards to Europe. Are there cases where United’s miles are better? Sure. But Miles & More makes sense where award availability is a concern and you care less about routing rules. It’s also a good idea to diversify. I accrue both and use them for different purposes.
However, you should still consider applying for the US Airways credit card sooner rather than later. The merger between US Airways and American Airlines is progressing, and though it isn’t moving as quickly as I anticipated it does look like the loyalty programs will be merged sometime close to the beginning of 2015. At that point your ability to apply for a US Airways credit card may be restricted, but your miles will still be useful as part of a new American AAdvantage program.
Until then, there are some valuable opportunities to earn and use US Airways miles. They have, for example, much more generous routing rules than American Airlines while working with the same oneworld Alliance partners. You can still book awards with some former Star Alliance partners, including EVA Air, Turkish Airlines, and Singapore Airlines. And you can add to the miles you’d earn from a credit card sign-up bonus with regular promotions to buy or share miles at under 2 cents per mile.
What it comes down to are changes you know will probably happen vs. changes you probably don’t expect. You probably know that US Airways and American Airlines will devalue their award chart further after they merge. You probably know that this combined loyalty program will restrict access to the remaining Star Alliance partners. And you probably know that you won’t have another chance to apply for this US Airways credit card. One might even argue that by providing one of their best historical offers through affiliate channels, Barclays is making a last go to get as much publicity as possible and keep those customers after the programs merge.
Meanwhile, the Lufthasa Miles & More credit card has a limited time offer, and potentially more utility in some situations, but it isn’t going to go anywhere in the next year or so. Someone with a long horizon could apply for The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® now and the Lufthansa card next year (if not sooner).
UPDATE: A reader asked me to include another offer for the US Airways MasterCard. This one provides only 30,000 miles after first purchase as a sign-up bonus and waives the first year’s annual fee, but it does include 10,000 miles as an anniversary bonus after paying the second year’s annual fee. The net result is that if you’re willing to wait a year, then you can get the same 40,000 miles with no annual fee for the first year and an additional 10,000 miles every year thereafter. You can learn more about it on FlyerTalk.
Is this a better offer? It depends. The Terms & Conditions say that you still have to pay the second year’s annual fee to get the 10,000 anniversary miles. But if you’re going to keep the card for two years or more you have the potential to earn more miles over the long term. My own opinion is that I’d rather have 40,000 miles up front and pay the $89 for the convenience, canceling the card before the second year’s fee is due. More miles usually makes it easier to book high-value awards.