5 Signs Your Airline Credit Card Is a Waste of Money


I’ve had a number of airline credit cards over the years. A couple of those credit cards still have a place in my collection, but others…not so much. It’s not that there was anything wrong with those cards, but they simply weren’t right for me at the time.

Like me, you may have a cobranded airline card or two hanging out in your wallet. But should it be in your wallet? Here are a few warning signs that it may be time to ditch your airline card.

1. You don’t fly very often

There is an argument to be made that some airline cards can be worthwhile even for one or two flights a year. But that isn’t always the case, especially if you have a top-tier airline card with a three-figure annual fee. Even lower-fee cards may not make sense if you’re not flying enough to maximize their perks. And all those airline miles are of limited use when you don’t fly much.

2. You never check bags

The main way mid-tier airline cards — those with fees in the $95 range — make up for their fees is through waived bag fees. You usually get the first bag free for up to eight people in your reservation. With fees starting at $30, this can add up quickly.

At the same time, a lot of frequent flyers are Carry-On Only flyers, meaning they rarely, if ever, check bags. Without this value, it’s a lot harder to justify that $95.

3. You don’t care about priority boarding

Priority boarding is an airline card feature that’s hard to value, but it may be worthwhile for certain people. Specifically, if you tend to buy discount seats that board last, you run the risk of overhead space disappearing. Cards that offer priority boarding can jump you up the line, making it more likely you find space for your carry-on bag.

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Folks who are checking bags won’t care as much about overhead space, however. And if you’re a first-class flier, you’ll typically have dedicated space for your carry-on luggage. In either case, you aren’t going to get much value out of this particular card perk.

4. You don’t make on-board purchases

Here’s another peripheral benefit that you may or may not actually get use out of (no matter how much you fly). Basically, some cards offer a discount on food and beverage purchases you make on board the plane.

How often you use this will depend a lot on the way you fly. Lots of finance-minded people will probably pack their own snacks. And people redeeming points for free travel may very well be in first or business class, where food and drinks are provided.

5. You don’t need the lounge access

Several of the major airlines have luxury cobranded cards with an extra special perk: lounge access. Cardholders will get into that airline’s lounges whenever they fly on eligible flights, often with a guest.

As handy as lounges can be, not everyone flies enough to make a pricey card like this worthwhile for lounge access alone. Beyond that, you may already have another credit card with lounge access that makes a dedicated airline card less valuable.

Consider a general travel rewards card instead

Any of the above reasons could be enough to make you rethink your airline card. But you don’t have to forgo the rewards and perks entirely. A more flexible travel rewards credit card may be a much better fit.

Some of the best travel rewards cards have similar perks, such as airport lounge access, that can make them valuable for frequent flyers. You may also find other travel perks, like hotel status or airline fee credits, that give you even more bang for your buck.

Not only do you have more potential for value, but there’s so much more utility, too. Flexible points can often be transferred to multiple airlines, giving you flexibility in which brand you fly. You could even put them toward hotels or rental cars, giving you a way to pay for your entire trip.

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