When it comes to offering incentives to apply for their credit cards, banks and airlines seem bent on outdoing their competitors.
Their sign-up bonuses have traditionally included perks like enough miles for a free domestic round-trip flight. And lately, they’ve gotten even better. Example? Chase’s AirTran Airways A+ Rewards Credit Card, which comes stocked with enough points for two round-trip domestic tickets on either AirTran or its merger partner, Southwest. And that’s not all…
- Get a big sign-up bonus. New applicants will earn 32 credits in AirTran’s A+ Rewards program after spending $2,000 on their card within three months. This is enough for two round-trip domestic tickets.
- Receive upgrade certificates. Cardholders will also be sent two one-way upgrade certificates for business class after making their first purchase.
- Earn rewards for spending. Cardholders earn 2 reward dollars for each dollar spent on AirTran and Southwest, with 1 reward dollar for each dollar charged elsewhere. Twelve hundred reward dollars earn a credit, and 16 credits are needed for a round-trip award. Do the math and you find that only $19,200 of spending is needed to earn a round-trip – less than the $25,000 required by most airlines’ reward credit cards.
- Get a renewal bonus. Cardholders will receive two credits each year when they renew their card. This is the equivalent of spending $1,200.
- Credits can be used on Southwest Airlines. AirTran is being acquired by Southwest Airlines and the companies will allow credits to be transferred between their programs.
- Use points on other airlines. AirTran offers a round-trip coach flight on another airline between the contiguous 48 states and Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and Mexico for 50 points or a round-trip coach flight on another airline anywhere else in the world for 100 points.
- Annual fee. There is a $69 annual fee for this card that’s not waived the first year.
- Foreign transaction fees. There is a 3 percent surcharge on all transactions processed outside of the United States. This is unwelcome from an airline that serves many destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
- Few perks. Unlike many other airline cards, cardholders will not receive checked bag fee waivers, priority boarding, or any other perks for holding this card.
Get it if: You fly AirTran and Southwest, but don’t travel much internationally.
Forget it if: You’re too loyal to another carrier to be courted by AirTran and S0uthwest.
(Note: While we attempt to be completely objective when reporting on credit cards, this site may be compensated by issuers when a reader applies for a credit card through the links within credit card stories or on our credit card search page.)