SouthWest Airlines completed their merger with Air Tran earlier in 2012. When an airline mergers, one would normally expect one entity to take over in terms of reward programs and credit card. For example, when Delta took over NorthWest airlines, the WorldPerks Visa was discontinued and US Bank lost their business to American Express, who was the issuer for Delta. Likewise, when Continental and United merged, the Continental affinity cards were soon discontinued and the United Explore Card became the card for the combined entity.
So it was quite a surprise to me when Chase introduced this new card from AirTran even though their reward programs is in the midst of merging? But perhaps, this is an opportunity to earn some extra bonus points. The features are eerily similar to SouthWests' offerings and has a couple of unique features. Let's take a closer look now.
How You Earn Points? - Let's start first with how you earn points. You will earn two A+ Rewards Dollars (as they are called) when you spend on AirTran Airways and SouthWest Airline tickets. You will also earn double A+ Reward Dollars when you book your hotels and car rentals at either AirTran or SouthWest website with their partners (ie hotels and car rental). AirTran is trying to get you to book your whole travel with them in return for letting you earn more points.
For other regular purchases, you will earn one A+ Reward Dollars for every dollar that you spend on the card.
Understanding Reward Dollars - Before we go on to discuss their sign up bonus, I think it is worth spending some time explaining how does AirTran points work. With this card, you will earn "A+ Reward Dollars". 1,200 A+ Dollars gets you one A+ Reward Credit. And 16 Reward Credits gets you a free flight. That means that you need to earn 19,200 (1,200 X 16) A+ Dollars to get a free ticket for a roundtrip flight (which is better than most frequent flyer program).
With that out of the way, let us now look at the sign up bonus for this card.
Anniversary Bonus - Like most airline affinity cards these days, this card offers card members an yearly bonus after anniversary. You will receive 2 A+ credits.
Sign Up Bonus - This is how the bonus works. If you spend $2,000 within the first three months, you will get 32 A+ credits. Question is what will they get you? As mentioned earlier, 16 credits can get you a roundtrip ticket. So 32 credits can get you potentially 2 roundtrip tickets (though depending on your trip and flights, it may be less).
Business Class Upgrade Certificate - Another great perk for new card members is that after you use the card for the first time, you will get two one-way business class upgrade certificates. These will be sent via email to your primary email account about 6 to 8 weeks after your first purchase. You have to use them within twelve months. To reserve your upgrade to Business Class, you just simply call the A+ Rewards Travel Department at 1-888-327-5878. You have to call them beginning midnight the day prior to your departure.
Balance Transfer Bonus - It seems to be the trend these days to offer a bonus based on balance transfer. This is becoming prevalent in airlines cards and I would think it would not be popular since many people who get these affinity cards tend to pay their bills in full? But anyway, you can earn one A+ Reward Dollars (not credit) for every dollar of balance that you transfer over from another card within 90 days. You will earn up to 9,600 A+ Dollars, which means you'll earn points for up to $9,600 in balance transfers.
Is this a good card - Since AirTran and SouthWest are now merged, I find it strange that they will issue an affinity card when SouthWest is clearly the entity in control. Perhaps they intend to keep separate brands for the quite some time. If we look at the features closely, they resemble those of SouthWest's card. In fact they resemble's SouthWest regular version (not the premier one).
I wish they could add a couple of features. For example, unlike SouthWest, AirTran does charge baggage fees. It would be nice to have your first baggage fee waived for card members. The premier version of SouthWest's card also has no foreign transaction fees. It would be nice if this card had this perk too. But like I just said earlier, the annual fee for this card is similar to the lower tiered version of the SouthWest card and so that should be the comparison.
But if you fly AirTran Airways (and SouthWest Airlines), I think you should take advantage of this offer and get some nice sign up bonus and the business class upgrade certificates. The reason is because I do not know how long this card will be around. I would assume that it would be around for while since it has just been launched. But you never know. It is a pretty decent card and I would suggest frequent flyers definitely get this card.
New AirTran A+ Card Launched with Chase