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New Charge Card Awards Triple Points for Airfare

If you thought the meltdown of the global financial system would tamp down the availability of consumer credit, you'd be at least partly right. Credit—including credit cards—is indeed harder to come by. Yet there have never been more credit cards to choose from, in particular cards with a travel rewards component.

Between affinity cards linked to particular airlines or hotels and bank-issued cards with independent travel rewards programs, there are scores of cards competing for a place in consumers' wallets, each with its own costs and benefits.

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The subject of today's review isn't a credit card (which allows consumers to rollover their outstanding balance every month)—it's a charge card (which requires the outstanding amount to be paid in full every month), the new Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.

Again, this is a charge card, the chief selling point of which is clearly designed to appeal to frequent flyers: For every dollar spent on airline tickets, the cardholder earns three Membership Rewards points.

Other cards offer bonus miles or points for purchasing airline tickets, but triple points puts the Gold card in a class pretty much by itself.

Other key features of the card:

  • Annual $175 fee waived the first year
  • Double points on gas and grocery purchases
  • One-time 15,000-point bonus for spending $1,000 or more during the first three months
  • 15,000 bonus points after spending $30,000 per calendar year

Deal or No Deal

With its stiff $175 annual fee and pay-in-full requirement, this card clearly isn't for everyone.

Who is it for? Consumers with some combination of the following traits:

  • Debt free - Obviously, charge cards are not for those who rely on credit cards to manage their finances.
  • Big spender - That annual 15,000-point bonus requires $30,000 in spend during a calendar year.
  • Frequent flyer but airline agnostic - Triple points are only awarded for airline tickets. And the points are not readily combined with flight miles.
  • Membership Rewards partisan - If you're already familiar with Membership Rewards points and are satisfied with the rewards options, you're halfway there.

If you fit the above profile, it probably makes sense to wait until 2010 to sign up for the card. That way, you have the full calendar year to reach the 15,000-point bonus for spending $30,000. And you'll be earning the bonus fee-free. By the end of that first year, there will probably be another card that offers more, for less.

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