Airline Branded Cards vs. Hotel Branded Cards

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Credit Cards' started by vickers, Mar 25, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Im still a bit new to this game, and I wanted to verify something....

    From my understanding, to receive the benefits from the Airline Branded credit cards, you have to book your ticket with that card. If you do not, having the card does not give you the benefits (free checked bag, priority boarding, etc....)

    However, to receive the benefits from the Hotel Branded credit cards, you do not have to pay for the room with that card, as the benefits are built into the status itself. However, in most cases, you can earn bonus points by charging the hotel room to that branded credit card.

    Here is the reason I am asking.... I fly every other month or so from HSV. Due to the varying costs, I split my travel between American and Delta. I also use a corporate credit card. I just applied for and was approved for Hilton Citi Reserve card, mainly due to the gold status.

    I dont really churn, or at least I have not yet, but from my understanding, since I am not loyal to one airline, I should steer away from Airline Branded credit cards for more universal ones. Or am I missing something...

    Thanks.
     
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  2. pointshogger

    pointshogger Silver Member

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    It depends how you want to earn your points. You can focus on calculating the credit card that gives you the best return for your $.

    One option if you do fly often enough, would be to use the co-branded airline credit card to pay for the ticket of the airline that you are about to fly. If you have a Delta flight, then pay with a Delta-branded credit card.

    If you do not have a co-branded branded credit card with that airline, then just use the credit card that gives you the greatest value of return for paying for that flight.
     
  3. gconnery

    gconnery Silver Member

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    Depends. You'll generally need to read the terms & conditions for the card in question carefully.

    The Citi Executive card for example, which is currently available with a 100K miles offer for $10K spend (on anything) a $450 annual fee (-$200 first year credit for first $200 spend). It comes with a full Admirals Club membership for example. You don't have to be flying on American or have paid for your ticket with that card to get access to the club. It also provides what they call an "enhanced airport experience" meaning you can checkin at first or business class checkin, use priority lanes, get priority boarding etc. The T&C's for that are:

    "6 For benefit to apply, the Citi® / AAdvantage® account must be open 7 days prior to air travel AND, reservation must include the primary cardmember's American Airlines AAdvantage® number 7 days prior to air travel. If your credit card account is closed for any reason, these benefits will be cancelled. Citi Executive℠® / AAdvantage® World Elite™ MasterCard® cardmembers will have the following benefits: priority check-in (where available), priority airport screening (where available), and priority boarding privileges when traveling on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines, or on flights marketed by American Airlines and operated by American Eagle Airlines, Inc., SkyWest Airlines, Inc., ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., Republic Airline Inc., or Chautauqua Airlines, Inc. Up to eight customers traveling with the eligible primary cardmember will also get priority check-in (where available), priority airport screening (where available), and priority boarding privileges if they are listed in the same reservation. Priority boarding group will only be printed on the boarding pass of the eligible Citi® / AAdvantage® primary credit cardmember. You may check in at any Business Class check-in position or First Class check-in when Business Class is not available, regardless of the class of service in which you are traveling on American Airlines. These benefits will not be available for travel on US Airways flights or on codeshare flights booked with an AA flight number but operated by another airline. Exclusive lanes at security checkpoints are available, subject to TSA approval. Applicable terms and conditions are subject to change without notice."

    Doesn't say anything about having to pay for the ticket with the card. I'm not certain of this however. I'd prefer to have found a discussion of this subject and I haven't in a quick google search.

    Other cards are probably different. You may have to pay for the ticket with the card for the benefits to apply.
     
  4. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    I would, but 90%+ of my travel is for business. I have an American Express Travel Card I have to use for those purchases. Id prefer to use my own card and submit for reimbursement, but unfortuatnly that is not allowed.
     
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  5. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Vickers, I don't think that you're new to this game as much as being careful about whether to get involved in an airline-branded credit card, that is very wise indeed! ;)

    The various airline-branded credit cards can permit you perks such as a free checked bag or early boarding privileges. But I'm pretty sure that you're correct about other benefits received by purchasing your tickets with your own airline-branded card - such as better access to complimentary seating upgrades, etc. If I'm wrong about this, I'll gladly be corrected. :(

    Unless you fly exclusively with one or two airlines (and want to receive benefits from having their co-branded credit cards), I think that your strategy of receiving perks from a more universal card might be the best choice. AmEx is fine, and you may want to consider Chase Sapphire Preferred, where you can convert dollars spent/points earned into airline miles with either United Airlines or Southwest Airlines. The current sign-up offer is up to 45,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months, see: https://creditcards.chase.com/sapphire2

    But it is a shame not to get some credit for your credit card purchases. We've had the American Airlines CitiCards for over 20 years, and have used our miles earned this way to enjoy many long-haul vacation trips in FC as a result. :)

    Newscience
     
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  6. Wandering Aramean
    Original Member

    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I don't know that I'd pay the annual fee on that card just for HH Gold status, especially staying every other week, a pace which will likely earn it "naturally" pretty quickly. Do you pay for the hotel with the corporate card or your own? If your own I'd go after a card with good earning for travel/hotel bookings. Chase offers a couple.

    The other thing to consider is what you want to eventually redeem for. That may skew your card habits.
     
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  7. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    When I use my Delta Amex or SunTrust MCs, to purchase Delta flights, I get 2 miles/$1.

    I believe the Marriott Visa (and I can't recall the bank) gives you 5 more points/1$ spent but only if you use that card to pay.

    I don't churn CCs either, but all 3 of my cards give me DL benefits. I prefer loyalty to one airline, hotel chain and car rental, but everyone plays differently. (And FWIW, I work contracts and stay far away from those I can't lay out and be reimbursed for expenses.)
     
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  8. gconnery

    gconnery Silver Member

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    American is a bit problematic with respect to "flexible" currencies. Neither Chase Ultimate Rewards nor American Express Membership Rewards transfer to American. The only obvious choice for them is Starwood points which transfer 1:1 to American. But its generally pretty hard to earn Starwood points... You can book American Airlines SAAver level awards via British Airways miles and you can transfer Amex MR points to BA, but those can be a bit difficult to find availability on sometimes, unless you're willing to book pretty far out.

    For Delta, you have the option of American Express MR points or Starwood. Again, you can transfer Starwood points as well.

    So... you could just accumulate American miles using an American Airlines card that earns you 2X miles on top of whatever you get for the tickets themselves. Let the miles accumulate slowly over time. Make sure the miles don't expire by doing something minimal at least every 18 months. Use them when you get enough.

    Ditto Delta.

    Or pick something like the Chase Sapphire or American Express Premier Rewards Gold card that will earn you 2X or 3X in a flexible currency, and transfer that to the airline you want to fly for your free vacation flights, or free hotels or whatever you're looking for.

    Or look at something like the Barclaycard Arrival, or the Fidelity card that just get you cash back. And spend the money on whatever you want.
     
  9. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    It is worth reiterating that DL SMs don't expire.
     
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  10. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Thanks. I put all corporate travel related purchases on my American Express Corporate Card. :( My hotels are pretty split between Marriott and HIlton (depending on where my team stays if I travel with a group). The free certificate for 2 weekend nights annually when spending 10K on the card and the gold status were appealing to me. I also want to apply for a general travel card, but have not decided on one yet.
     
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  11. gconnery

    gconnery Silver Member

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    Well, the general points & miles crowd tends to believe that Hyatt is the best program and SPG is second. However, the most important thing is probably what chain you stay at when you're traveling. So if you stay at Marriott & Hilton properties then you may want to accumulate points at both and perhaps look into whether there are properties with either chain that you'd like to stay at for free on vacation.

    I don't know much about Marriott. Gary from VftW at least thinks their loyalty program is pretty useless. Hilton has massively devalued their points currency recently so is taking a lot of crap about it on places like Milepoint. But you'll generally find that people think the program itself (free Wi-Fi with Gold, nice lounges etc) is fine. And they have LOTS of properties.

    I don't personally know much about Marriott, so somebody else will have to cover that, but one of the ways of dealing with how little Hilton points are worth is to earn as many of them as you can. One way of doing this is to have one of the co-branded cards and put the Hilton charges on it. The Citi Reserve HHonors card earns 10 points per $. It also earns you a free weekend night (in addition to the 2 in the first year) in any year in which you spend $10,000. The Amex Surpass actually has slightly better--12X per $, but no free nights. Which you consider better is up to you. You could even get both for the sign up bonus of course and then only put spend and use one of them long term. But you said you're not interested in churning.

    The other nice thing about status is you'll earn more points because of that too. With Gold you get your 5th night free on award redemptions and earn 25% more points. With Diamond you earn 50% more (so 25% + 25%). Getting Gold to start with is a nice way to boost your point accumulation.
     
  12. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Correct.

    With respect to airline cards, with the employer insisting you use their card, I would be questioning the value of getting an airline card. If the primary benefit (since you're not putting bonused spending on the card) would be the waiver of checked bag fees, I think I'd let the employer eat them. They insist you to use their card, and one consequence of that is that they get to pay some fees. But you could decide that other perks are worthwhile.

    Looking at the terms of the USAir Premier World card: for early boarding and first class check-in, it seems you only have to have your dividend miles number in the record. Redeeming the annual companion cert does require using the card, but that appears to be the only thing that specifically does.

    If you're only flying "every other month of so" for business and 90% of your travel is for business, that suggests you're only making one fun trip a year (or less). The way I look at the world, you're doing something wrong. :D

    On a serious note, if you aren't trying to increase the amount of fun travel you do, I might reconsider playing the miles game. Getting redemptions to work out the way you want may be too much hassle and too chancy if you're only doing one trip a year. Instead of applying for a "general travel card", you might consider a cash back card.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2014
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  13. satman40

    satman40 Gold Member

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    Sounds like your employer is playing the miles game.

    You are on your own, bottom line.
     
  14. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Well, not according to this rather lengthy head-to-head GP vs. HHonors comparison. Me thinks Hyatt is overrated, and that is from one who has stayed at some great Hyatt properties in Asia, including very recently at the spanking new Park Hyatt Siem Reap...
     
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  15. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Great thread and it really makes sense. Thanks for the post.
     
  16. Wandering Aramean
    Original Member

    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Hyatt was all the rage because a couple years ago they were aggressive in growing their elite ranks. There were many bonus opportunities and the redemption rates were comparatively very low. With the end of the unsustainable bonus offers and the raising of redemption rates recently the shine has come off a bit. Plus other programs have improved in many ways, from guaranteed suite night upgrades for top tiers to other on-site amenities. No one program really stands out as spectacular any more.

    Also, depending on what you actually expect from a hotel and your travel budget there's a good chance that chasing status on your own dime is a bad "investment."
     
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  17. othermike27

    othermike27 Silver Member

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    Anyone have any experience-based views on how programs like LHR, Virtuoso, etc. stack up as alternatives to hotel program status? (I know, I know, my usual Hampton Inn-class stay isn't covered.)
     
  18. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Are you thinking that the hotels are overrated? Or that Gold Passport is overrated? I have my own opinions, but I want to clarify what I'm hearing first.
     
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  19. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Outstanding question. GP is overrated; it is the stingiest program with respect to elite perks. GP Platinum, e.g., is an elite status in name only when compared to what HHonors or Marriott Rewards Golds get, and you may already have seen my comparison of GP vs. HHonors Diamond perks. On the other hand, Hyatt has some of the most tastefully done properties around, which, while generally pricier than comparable Hilton or Marriott properties, seldom disappoint and they have overall high quality service to match. I stay quite a bit at Hyatt properties (usually on revenue), not for the elite perks that I'd get because as a GP plat I'd get very little, but for the quality of their hotels and overall service. Someone made the comment in another forum that one cannot separate the loyalty program from the other business of a company. That's bunk and GP and Hyatt prove it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014
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  20. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Thank you very much! It turns I see things differently, but that may be because I'm looking at Hyatt's Diamond tier v. Platinum. Platinum (which only requires five stays/year!) is, indeed, pretty useless (but, hey, guaranteed 2pm check-out).

    At the Diamond level, I find Hyatt's perks and reliability of delivering on them are at the top of the pack. One perk: full breakfast for the whole room (up to 4) when the club is closed or doesn't exist, v. SPG only offering its top-tier Platinums continental breakfast, and for only two people. Hilton is a mixed bag: some properties offer full breakfast , some continental. The delivery: I've had to ask Starwood properties for breakfast v. Hyatt pretty much never failing to volunteer it. And Hyatt will throw you extra points when the club is closed, even though they're also giving you full breakfast. Hilton gets some extra credit here because their mid-tier gold gets the club and breakfast benefits at 20 stays or 40 nights (v. 25/50 for Hyatt), and, as a practical matter, you can get gold for a small annual fee. Another perk: 4pm check-out. This is another case where Hyatt's delivery shines through: I've seen them bend over backwards to offer this, even when the property is clearly near full occupancy. I've had SPG properties deny it (for Platinum, their 25/50 tier). And a third perk: the check-in amenity or points: SPG makes you choose breakfast v. the amenity. At full-service hotels, Hyatt has a choice of typically very nice F&B amenities or a generous 1k points (500k at HP and HH), and you still get breakfast.

    Looking at the hotels themselves, you and I again have different opinions: Hyatt's hotels don't typically wow me. They don't seem that much better than Hiltons, Marriotts, Sheratons, or Westins, and their bedding is often a half-step down from those. But their service tends to be a bit better (hey, we agree!).

    Lastly, I think HGP gets some extra points (not that it needs them) for integrity. We saw a case a few months ago where an errant ad promised diamond (not platinum) status for getting their credit card. It was a mistake, and Hyatt honored it anyway. I've seen a couple of similar cases personally - the answer is consistently "we may have made a mistake, but we'll honor it". That attitude has helped win me over.

    (Of course, all of this is off-topic, since the OP was asking about credit cards and not hotel elite perks, but it's a fun discussion all the same.)
     
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  21. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Continuing the off-topic fun:

    As above, I disagree; I think HGP is still a standout, if only for the consistently good delivery of the perks.

    Absolutely. When traveling on my own dime, I frequently use rates that don't qualify for status, like Priceline name-your-own-price rates. I might pay out of pocket to top-up status (e.g. the last two stays I need for HGP Diamond), but it would require some thought. It's very hard to imagine paying retail rates to get status from scratch.
     
  22. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Which perks?:confused:
    Yup. That's another problem with GP. Unless one has a whole bunch of one- or two-night stays, making GP Diamond can be a very costly proposition, simply because of the usually higher room rates. My stays tend to be relatively long (4-7 days), so that even at HHonors properties, my folios are relatively high. However, at HHonors one can make Diamond based on base points (120K). With each $ earning 10 base points, I make HH Diamond in just 10-13 stays spending around $12K. That is half the number of stays it requires to make GP Diamond. With my pattern of stay, 25 stays to make GP Diamond would leave a huge hole in my travel budget. I might get close to making it on nights (50), but I would need to do mattress runs...

    I should add that my travel during most the year is for reimbursed business, meaning I do not chase status on my dime, which I agree would be a terrible investment...
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014
  23. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I am sorry, I had not seen the post below when I asked "which perks". The so-called perks that you cite below are standard for top elite in most programs. However, they are reluctantly delivered by GP! You really ought to go to this post, which does a head to had comparison or we will be going in circles. For instance, HHonors Diamonds have the option to have breakfast in the club or in the property's restaurant if there is one. In Asia, where I do most of my staying, every breakfast in the hotel restaurant is nothing short of a royal feast...really. As a HH Diamond, the Diamond desk has been extremely responsive to my needs. In short, GP Diamond is really almost like HH or MAR Gold...;)
     
  24. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Please continue. I love the discussion and comparison. :)
     
  25. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Continuing the off topic........ I have been focusing on Marriott and Hilton hotels, usually due to geographic options. Platinum and Diamond may be hard for me to attain, (unless I spend $40k on my shiny new reserve card) so... Which Gold program is the best in terms of consistency and benefits? Marriott, or Hilton? For this discussion, lets stick with domestic locations, as that is where I mainly travel.
     

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