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Airline credit cards may bring benefits

Airlines are offering sign-up deals for their credit cards that you might like. Here are a few.

November 13, 2011|By Tom Parsons, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Affinity credit cards — that is, a card tied to a certain organization — are a big moneymaker for the airlines, and even if you don't really need another credit card, you'll see some enticing sign-up offers designed to lure new customers.

When choosing a card, look at the bonuses being offered, consider how often you fly on the airline and consider the other businesses or carriers with which the airline is affiliated.

Note that many cards waive the annual fee for the first year, and spending with an affinity card is an easy way to keep your miles active. But some airlines do charge additional fees when you try to redeem your points so that free ticket will cost you more than you might plan. Here's a look at some of the cards. To look at others, go to websites such as Creditcards.com, Cardratings.com or Bankrate.com, or Google "credit card comparison."

Southwest is offering 50,000 bonus points if you sign up for a new Rapid Rewards Plus Visa by Thursday. That number of points would convert to $800 in Southwest's Wanna Get Away fares. The annual fee is $69, and it is not waived for the first year. Visit http://www.mychasecreditcards.com/southwest/octhero.

I like the flexibility of the Rapid Rewards program. The points are not restricted on holidays or peak summer dates, though you will likely be using more points during those times, but not nearly as many as double the miles you often see required on the legacy carriers during peak times.

The American Aadvantage is offering a bonus of up to 40,000 miles, plus a $100 statement credit for new cardholders with certain spending requirements. Typically the annual fee of $85 is waived for the first year. Visit http://www.aa.com/AAdvantage.

British Airways is offering a $100 credit if you dine twice at a one-, two- or three-star Michelin-rated restaurant in New York City through the end of the year. Participants include Jean-Georges, Gordon Ramsay at the London and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Taxes and fees on British flights can be steep, so you may not want to use them on international flights. But you can use the miles for domestic flights and to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean on partner airlines American and Alaska. Visit http://www.britishairways.com/travel/creditcardsublic/en_us.

The American Express Membership Rewards program is flexible. You can use your points to buy travel — for example, a $100 fare will cost you 10,000 points, or a $300 fare will cost you 30,000 points — or you can transfer points to your choice of participating airline or hotel programs. The annual fee for the green card is $95, and the first year is waived.

The annual fee on the Platinum Card is $450 a year, but the perks more than make up for the cost. You get 20% of your points back when you use points to pay for your travel; you get free entrance to American, Delta and US Airways airport clubs, and you qualify for up to $200 in credits annually for airline fees such as baggage, reservation change, in-flight food and beverage and phone-reservation fees and more.

If you travel internationally, you can also be refunded the $100 fee for the Global Entry expedited entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program, when you pay with your card. The fee for the Platinum Card is not waived. Visit http://www.membershiprewards.com.

Before you sign up, contact the issuing bank or institution and ask what other promotions may be available, because you may find an even better bonus.

Parsons is chief executive of BestFares.com.

travel@latimes.com

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