United747 posted on FlyerTalk some screenshots from a recent survey by American Airlines and Citi on their credit card benefits. I found it interesting because most airline-branded credit cards are not very appealing (to me) given recent years’ improvements to generic travel rewards cards like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Barclaycard Arrival Plus. Why settle for double points with one airline when I could get double or triple points on all airlines, the flexibility to use them in the program of my choice, plus benefits other than the priority boarding and baggage waivers that I already receive as an elite member?
I won’t copy and paste all the screenshots. You can find them and the discussion on FlyerTalk, though I did save them in case FT mods decide to take them down. I’ll just provide a summary of what AA/Citi are considering and which benefits I’d like to see.
Baggage fee waiver/Preferred seating/Priority access
These may seem like automatic benefits since so many carriers offer them, but they don’t need to be. See Alaska’s credit card for an example. Besides, you shouldn’t be checking a bag.
2X or 3X miles on AA purchases
Only 3X miles would get my attention.
Admirals Club membership or day passes
I’ve never viewed two day passes a year as a worthwhile benefit. If traveling with a companion, that’s only enough for a one-way trip. And they certainly aren’t worth $50 each despite the listed price. I’d have to be looking at a 4+ hour layover before I paid that much, longer than most domestic connections. Give me 8-12 day passes (4-6 round-trips) and I’ll pay attention.
Global concierge service
Never use it. I can call restaurants and make my own reservations.
Always nice to have a way to reach elite status without doing a mileage run.
PreCheck/Global Entry waiver
Unless I can credit the $85 to a Global Entry fee instead (only $100, or $15 more), a PreCheck fee waiver would be wasted. Also, this is of minimal value to customers between renewal periods.
Mileage bonus for international flights
This could be lucrative, especially if combined with international mileage runs and EXP systemwide upgrades.
Basically an automatic retention offer. If they made the card worthwhile, they wouldn’t need a retention offer.
No foreign transaction fees
I have several cards with this benefit, and they get priority in my wallet. That’s why I often don’t use my SPG Amex at SPG hotels.
Redeem miles for an award ticket
Whaaat? Since when does this become a premium, cardholder-only benefit of an airline loyalty program? (The language doesn’t say anything about “last-seat availability,” just the ability to redeem miles for award flights.)
Discount on in-flight purchases
Never have I been motivated to buy something on-board or apply for a card just because of this benefit. Not saying it isn’t useful, but it is overhyped.
Offering upgrade priority to elite members with a credit card vs. those without doesn’t seem like a differentiating factor. I am guessing that a lot of members have a card. But offering upgrades on award tickets, like United does, could be useful.
I’m not a fan of monthly or annual GoGo passes. I travel a lot, but I don’t think I travel enough to get the kind of value reflected in their cost. I also don’t need WiFi on every trip. But if a few day passes or an annual membership were included with a credit card, that could help justify a credit card’s annual fee.
Benefit Combinations and Fees
There are several different A/B menus that list different combinations of the above benefits along with their proposed annual fees. These fees were nearly all higher than existing cards, suggesting that American Airlines and Citi are trying to create a mid-tier card — one that appeals to frequent flyers who maybe don’t need all the benefits or expense of the Executive AAdvantage card and its annual Admirals Club membership.
One of the more interesting combinations I saw was similar to the existing Platinum AAdvantage card, with double miles on AA purchases but included an annual WiFi membership and was priced at $150. As I noted above, I wouldn’t pay $50-60 a month for an monthly pass. But for an extra $50 increase in my credit card’s annual fee? Sure thing!
This card would also let you pre-purchase five Admirals Club day passes for $200, a 20% discount that I would find more useful than getting just two free passes even though the savings off the retail price is less ($10 x 5 passes vs. $50 x 2 passes). To make this benefit worthwhile, I think there would need to be no cap on the number of purchases.
AA/Citi are also considering a “bundle” discount if you also have another AA card — what looks to be the Business AAdvantage card. You’d automatically get a $100 credit on the combined annual fee, and if you spent $40,000 on each card in a calendar year you would get an additional $200 credit. For those who have a business and can put that kind of spend on a card, I think it’s a pretty good deal. At the very least it’s nice to see companies acknowledge that their customers may have more than one of their products and reward them for that increased loyalty.