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US Airways Gets A Competitive Rewards Card

by Jason Steele

I can still remember all the CARD Act opponent’s claims that the days of credit card rewards would disappear once those well meaning banks are pummeled by oppressive regulations.  According to the industry, these regulations were only going to hurt consumers, as banks would be forced to end their reward programs in order to survive in the post-CARD dystopia.  They really only had your interest in mind, after all.

Glad I Called Them On It

Sure enough, credit card companies have tightened credit and raised interest rates.  They are still in business to make a profit, but now they have to try harder to find customers that represent the best risk.  Predictably, this has led them to use more bait to lure potential new customers. If you are trying to catch customers, the bait you use is called a sign up bonus.

US Airways Card From Barclay Comes With Plenty Of Goodies

One by one, each airline offered a card that waived annual fees, threw in some perks, and bowled you over with a great sign up bonus.  Chase had a British Airways card that offered 100,000 miles, and Citibank has a card that offers 75,000 bonus miles at sign up.  US Airways seemed to be the lone hold out, but no longer.

Here is what their new Barclay’s card offers:

  • A modest 35,000 sign up bonus.
  • An annual fee that is waived the first year
  • 2 $99 companion certificates
  • A single club pass
  • Preferred check in and boarding

After the first year, they give you a 10,000 mile annual bonus that might persuade you to justify their whopping $89 annual fee.

So How Good Of A Deal Is This?

Lets just say that since US Airways went to a three tiered system like Delta’s, 35,000 is the new 25,000.    35k is about how much you can reasonably expect to find a domestic award seat for.  In fact, their system is worse than Delta’s in that they still charge a$75 ticketing fee for itineraries booked within 14 days.

On the other hand, the $99 companion tickets are a great deal.  They require the purchase of a $250 fare or higher, but it would be a shame to waste them on a cheaper trip anyways.  There are few blackout dates, but they should be useful for some expensive trip for two in the lower 48 or Canada.   In fact, I could definitely see a lot of value if you were to redeem them for trips to Canada, which suffers from very high airfare and a slight aftertaste in their beers. (cue hockey brawl)

The priority boarding and preferred seat assignments confirm my long held belief that credit cards affiliated with loyalty programs are moving towards intangible benefits or ones with little or no marginal costs.   Look for more of the preferred this and priority that when it comes to credit card rewards.   These perks are valuable for travelers and a revenue enhancing free-be  for the airlines.

As a credit card for day to day use, it really goes out of it’s way not to stand out of the pack.  1 mile per dollar for purchases, double miles for purchases from US Airways, blah, blah, blah.   Savvy cardholders know that you will get more US Airways miles if you used your Starwood Amex, and more value (2 cents per dollar) out of your purchases with a Capital One Venture Rewards card.

This card makes great sense if you are planning on flying US Airways sometime soon.  The bonus miles will boost your account, and the companion certs can be valuable.  Just don’t use this card every day and think that you are getting some great deal.

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