|by Jason Steele|
Summary – This is the top of the line credit card for Continental Airlines frequent fliers. It offers all sorts of benefits not seen in Continental and Chase’s other offerings. While it’s target market is Continental’s best customers, this card may be of significant value to frequent travelers of other airlines who will soon count Continental as part of the Star Alliance.
Reward Formula – Like almost all travel cards, you will receive one point per dollar spent, and two points per dollar spent with Continental. Unlike most other co-branded airline cards, Continental will also offer you double miles for charges at hotels and rental cars. Furthermore, holders of this card will also receive a 25% mileage bonus on all Continental flights. This multiplier effect will allow you to quickly earn a lot of miles if you travel regularly.
Elite Qualifying Miles – Continental is offering 2,000 Flex Elite Qualification Miles (Flex EQMs) for every $15,000 in purchases. Interestingly, Continental says that “These miles do not expire, so you can redeem them toward Elite status at any time in future years.” Presumably this would alleviate the concern that many have with other cards that offer a one time elite bonus, the concern that they would rather save that bonus for a year when they will not otherwise reach their desired elite status.
Non-Mileage Benefits – While the mileage benefits for this card are good, there are some very important non-mileage benefits that make this card a good deal. Essentially, they are offering cardholders all of the benefits of elite status while at the airport. These benefits include waived luggage fees, priority check in and security, as well as priorty boarding and baggage delivery. The biggest benefit is the access to Continental’s President’s Club business lounge. While they are currently advertising access to Delta and Northwest’s clubs, this benefit will almost certainly be disappearing, and should be replaced by access to clubs at United and US Airways as soon as their move to the Star Alliance is complete. This benefit alone is worth the $375 annual fee. You also will hold Hyatt hotels platinum level status as well.
Business First International Companion Ticket – Your annual fee also covers free business first companion ticket. The significant restriction is that the ticket must be a full fare purchase in order to be elligible. This can still be a significant savings over two discounted business class tickets. It is of unquestionable value if your company is willing to reimburse you for a business ticket, and you would like to take a companion for free.
Fees and Rates - There is a $375 annual fee and the card currently offers a 13.24% variable APR
Verdict – This card is a clear choice for anyone who travels frequently on Continental, especially those near its hubs in Newark, Cleveland, and Houston. Beware of the shifting landscape of airline alliances. This card’s primary benefit is the access to the business lounges for Continental, Northwest and Delta. That alliance will be disolved later this year, and Continental will then become a member of the Star Alliance which includes United and US Airways.
That said, it offers excellent mileage accruing opportunities, and good possibilities for obtaining elite status. In many ways, holding this card is equivalent to having elite status already. The only thing really missing from this being the same as elite status, is the in flight upgrades. On the ground, you will otherwise be treated as one of Continental’s elite. So generous is this benefit, that some amongst Continental’s elite travelers oppose it out of a jealousy for those who have attained elite status without “earning” it in the air.
Between the mileage earning opportunities and the numerous non-mileage benefits I highly recommend this card.