Airline Credit Cards vs General Rewards Credit Cards

What is more beneficial - an airline or hotel loyalty program credit card, or a general rewards credit card?
Expert answer by Mira Nurdin,
6+ years in marketing and finance, online shopping guru

Consumers tend to have fewer cards in their wallets today (with Millennials leading the way, according to recent studies).

With affinity cards, you have to deal with several accounts, carry all your cards in your wallet, and decide which one to use at the moment. It adds more frustration and inconvenience to our regular life and often leads to missing payments just because of the confusion. People also often overspend in a chase for bigger bonuses on a card.

Companies are not making it easier for consumers with rewards expiration dates, revolving promotions, and minimum requirements to redeem rewards.

Many customers find it more beneficial to have a couple of cash back or rewards cards for all expenses than a full stack of cobranded cards for every store or provider. Another story is the affinity cards that are offering a discount for your purchase – like Target RED card that offers 5% discount every day – it is still good to have one if Target is your preferred grocery.

Today affinity cards compete fiercely with more flexible rewards cards.

For instance, in travel credit cards, you can choose between an airline affinity card like Southwest Airlines Premier or Delta SkyMiles and a general travel card like Barclaycard Arrival or BoA Travel Rewards.  

The major benefit of airline cards is the airline specific perks, like priority boarding and free first bag checked, that you use when traveling with the airline.

On the other side, usually an annual fee applies; however, often it is waived for the first year. Another downside is that you are limited to one airline, however, it is common to exchange your miles to another frequent flyers program miles

For general travel cards, a major advantage is a flexibility and convenience – it is common that you can cover not only your air tickets with your bonus miles but all travel related expenses. You just use your miles as a credit to cover your expenses in a credit card statement.

Both types of cards usually offer sign up and spending bonuses are usually offered (for example 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1000 on a card in the first 3 months).

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