The History of Airline Credit Cards

The history of airline credit cards is more interesting than you think. Airline credit cards are a fairly new addition to the credit card rewards arena. Nonetheless, airline credit cards have quickly gained in popularity and can be found partnered with every major airline.

white toy airplane sitting n top of three credit cards

The First Airline Credit Card

The first airline credit card to be offered to consumers was the City AAdvantage MasterCard. When it came out, the card allowed consumers to earn miles with every purchase made. These miles could then be redeemed for free air travel through a variety of airlines. This card remains one of the major players in the airline credit card industry. Today, you can redeem your airline miles at over 25 different airlines. In addition, you can redeem miles for discounts at numerous hotels and car rental companies.

Airlines Follow Suit

Realizing what a great idea this was, other airlines started following suit. The United Airlines Plus card was next. This card was the first airline credit card to be specific to an airline. Although the card did not offer the flexibility of receiving discounted tickets with numerous airlines, those who frequently traveled on United Airlines enthusiastically embraced this United Airlines credit card.

Not to be outdone, Continental Airlines unveiled its airline credit card, the Continental Airlines World MasterCard, shortly after United Airlines. Both airlines still offer their own airline miles credit cards, but provide their own special incentives to set them apart from the competition. Today, the United Airlines Plus Signature Visa Credit Card offers 17,500 bonus miles after the first purchase with the card, a certificate for a free one-way 1,000 mile one-class upgrade, and a $25 certificate for discount travel. The Continental Airlines World MasterCard offers 15,000 OnePass bonus miles after completing your first purchase. In addition, you can earn double OnePass miles with purchases made at Continental Airlines and with partner merchants and a 5% discount on Continental Fares purchased at their website using the card.

Airline Miles Credit Cards Today

Regardless of the history, today, airline credit cards are in abundance. Every major airline has partnered with a credit card company in order to bring their credit card to the consumer. In addition, competition to gain and to retain flying customers is fierce. Airline credit cards offer a number of incentives, bonuses, and special deals to entice customers into acquiring their credit card.

In addition, the number of “generic” airline miles credit cards is on the rise. It is not unheard of for an airline credit card to allow the consumer to choose from over 200 different airlines when redeeming earned miles. Many of these airline credit cards also offer other discount options. You typically will find things such as hotel, car rental, and vacation package discounts that can be purchased with earned miles.


The Future of Airline Credit Cards

With the competition being so strong when it comes to airline customers and credit card customers, the future of airline credit cards looks bright for consumers. In all likelihood, the number of incentives and bonuses will continue to rise in order to draw in new cardholders. A trend that is currently starting to develop are special low APRs and annual fees. Traditionally, airline miles credit cards have had annual fees and high APRs when compared to credit cards without rewards programs. While this remains true, more and more airline credit cards are starting to offer competitive APRs and waiving annual fees in an attempt to attract more customers.

One thing is for certain: airline miles credit cards will continue to be popular among consumers, particularly for those that can pay off their balance in full at the end of each month and take full advantage of the special rewards.

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