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In February I wrote a post about the best credit cards to use for airfare purchases. Usually these kinds of posts remain useful for a while, though lately we’ve seen a lot of improvements to the bonus categories offered by credit cards. As a matter of fact, over the past couple of months we’ve seen a change in the two very best credit cards to use for airfare purchases.
There are a couple of different things to consider when deciding which credit card to use for airfare. It’s not just about the direct return you get on spend, but also about the travel protection offered by different cards.
With that in mind, I figured I’d cover the two important things to consider when deciding which credit card to use for your airfare purchases: the best rewards and the best travel protection.
Which cards offers the best rewards on airfare spend?
First let’s rank the cards that offer the best return on airfare purchased directly with airlines, without considering travel protection (all of these cards have no foreign transaction fees):
|Category||Rewards||Value of rewards|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||5x Amex Membership Rewards points||~8.5%|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points||~5.1%|
|Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express||3x Amex Membership Rewards points||~5.1%|
|Citi Prestige® Card||3x Citi ThankYou points||~4.8%|
|Citi ThankYou® Premier Card||3x Citi ThankYou points||~4.8%|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points||~3.4%|
Which cards offers the best travel protection on airfare purchases?
Rewards on credit card spend are only one of the factors to consider. You should also consider which card offers the best travel protection, as this is a perk that many people value. Of the above six cards, three cards offer noteworthy travel protection at no additional cost, as follows:
|Card||Benefit active after:||Reimbursed expenses:||Includes award tickets:|
|Citi Prestige® Card||3 hours||$500||Yes|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||6 hours||$500||Yes|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||12 hours||$500||Yes|
For more information on airline delay coverage in general, see this post. However, as you can see, the best protection is offered by the Citi Prestige Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Which credit card will I use going forward?
By my valuation, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a ~3.4% better return on airfare purchases than the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Is it worth sacrificing included airfare protection for ~3.4%? In general I’d say yes, and I plan on using my Amex card for airfare purchases going forward.
Why? In reality I’ve only used credit card airfare insurance twice in my life, and the marginal 3.4% return exceeds the value I got out of that protection. Of course everyone values things like this differently — many will gladly give up a ~3.4% return for the peace of mind of knowing they’re covered if there’s a delay, lost baggage, etc.
I suppose one option would be to purchase airline gift cards with the Amex Platinum Card, which qualifies as an airfare purchase with many airlines. Then you could use the gift cards for most of the purchase cost, and use another card for a small portion of the ticket purchase to get travel protection, since the above cards offer insurance even when you only partially pay for your ticket cost with them.
Still, in my case I’ll take 3.4% “in the bank” over insurance, but everyone values travel coverage, and even the above points currencies, differently.
What’s your go to credit card for airfare purchases with recent improvements we’ve seen?