Airline credit cards have turned up the heat lately in an effort to distinguish themselves from competing cards—both other airline cards and cards outside the airline space—and to give consumers more reasons to use their cards more often.
Most recently, Continental relaunched its cards to feature special perks at more than 650 hotels, the ability of cardholders to redeem Continental miles for hotel stays and car rentals, and primary Collision Damage Waiver coverage (versus the secondary coverage typically offered). Next year, cardholders who are elite OnePass members will be eligible for upgrades when traveling on award tickets, just as they would be when flying on paid tickets.
And Delta, beginning June 1, began exempting holders of its Gold, Platinum, or Reserve SkyMiles credit cards from the first-checked-bag fee when flying Delta and Delta Express.
The Citibank-issued cards linked to American's AAdvantage program haven't been in the headlines lately, but the cards have long featured a benefit that can represent real extra value, to cardholders and general program members alike: discounted award tickets.
Every quarter, holders of the various AAdvantage-affiliated credit cards can book awards to select destinations at discounted prices.
The discount varies, according to the card type.
For the higher-annual-fee Platinum cards, first-class award prices are reduced from 50,000 miles to 42,500 miles; and coach awards are discounted from 25,000 to 17,500 miles. That's a 15 percent discount for first class and a hefty 30 percent discount for coach.
For Gold cardholders, the first and coach awards are discounted by 10 and 20 percent, to 45,000 and 20,000 miles, respectively.
The list of eligible award destinations for the July-through-September quarter includes one destination in the Northeast, 20 in the Midwest, 17 in the Southeast, 19 in the Southwest, and two in Canada.
Discounted awards must be booked by phone, so there will be a $20 service charge for non-Executive Platinum elite members.
Deal or No Deal
The discounts range from decent, at 10 percent, to compelling, at 30 percent.
High-demand destinations are notably absent from the list—no discounts on award flights to San Francisco, New York, or Orlando.
But there are some cities well worth visiting. Among the destinations that caught my eye: Key West, Memphis, Nashville, Corpus Christi, Roswell, Ottawa, and Toronto.
And while I have no reason to visit Peoria, you might have relatives there, or a college reunion to attend.
The bottom line here is that if the discounted destinations correspond to your travel needs, getting there for fewer miles is a no-brainer.
American should consider waiving the telephone booking fee for these awards—forcing customers to pay more to get what they're promoting as a special deal sends a mixed message at best.
Reader Reality Check
Have you taken advantage of these credit card award discounts?
Is the book-by-phone requirement, and the associated $20 fee, a deal-breaker for you?
Are there destinations on the list that you'd like to visit?