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AirTran Launches New Travel-Rewards Credit Card

AirTran Launches New Travel-Rewards Credit Card

Does the world really need another travel-rewards credit card? AirTran thinks you do. Rather, since AirTran is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwest, Southwest thinks you do. The new card is the AirTran A+ Rewards Visafrom Chase. It’s actually a replacement for the old AirTran A+ Rewards credit card from Barclays, which hasn’t been offered to new customers in more than a year. The new card’s particulars:

  • Earning: Two A+ Rewards Dollars per $1 spent on AirTran and Southwest purchases and A+ Rewards and Rapid Rewards Hotel and Rental Car Partner purchases; one A+ Rewards Dollar per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Bonuses: Two business-class upgrades after first purchase; 16 A+ Rewards credits after spending $1,000 within three months; two bonus credits on anniversary
  • Annual fee: $69

In the AirTran program, 1,200 Rewards Dollars convert to one A+ Rewards credit, and a round-trip award flight requires 16 credits. So for most purchases, you’ll have to spend $19,200 to earn a free flight.

That compares favorably with the value proposition of comparable rewards credit cards from airlines such as American, Delta, and United, which typically award enough miles for a free domestic award ticket after $25,000 in charges.

And as sign-up bonuses go, the upgrades and bonus credits are certainly worthwhile value-adds for AirTran partisans.

Which raises the question: What’s the point of being an AirTran loyalist when the airline’s operations and its loyalty program are destined to be merged into Southwest’s?

In a pre-launch briefing for the card, I put that question to Jonathan Clarkson, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards director. He pointed out that the programs may not be merged until 2015, so A+ Rewards could have another two years before its phase-out. And in the meantime, credit may be transferred back and forth between the two programs.

What I didn’t ask, and should have, was why Southwest is taking so long to integrate AirTran into Rapid Rewards.

Having to move A+ credits to a Rapid Rewards account in order to redeem for Southwest awards is cumbersome at best. Clearly the best case for both Southwest and AirTran customers is a single program which allows for earning and redemption on both carriers.

In that context, launching a new credit card, whatever its virtues, seems like a misguided investment of energy and resources.

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  • Matt

    is there a “free checked baggage” benefit with this card?

  • Tim Winship

    Matt – Card benefits do NOT include a checked bag fee waiver.

  • ricky

    how many southwest points does 16 air tran points convert too. I perfer to fly Southwest.

  • striper2

    FYI

    I received a targeted offer from Chase Air Tran Visa 2 weeks ago that I received a few days ago. It gives me 38,400 Rapid reward points, which translates into 32 A+ points, good for two round trips. Spend is $2,000 in 103 days. I’m on my way. Itried to find somewhere to get it for my wife, but it does not exist.

    What a strange way to present the offer. When I called Chase to activate the card, ghey were really confused, saying that it had just come out, but after searching, the girl came up with the 38,400, no charge for the card the first year, than $69.

    Why in the world didn’t they just offer 32 A+ points?

  • striper2

    FYI

    I received a targeted offer from Chase Air Tran Visa 2 weeks ago that I received a few days ago. It gives me 38,400 Rapid reward points, which translates into 32 A+ points, good for two round trips. Spend is $2,000 in 103 days. I’m on my way. Itried to find somewhere to get it for my wife, but it does not exist.

    What a strange way to present the offer. When I called Chase to activate the card, ghey were really confused, saying that it had just come out, but after searching, the girl came up with the 38,400, no charge for the card the first year, than $69.

    Why in the world didn’t they just offer 32 A+ points?

  • Barry

    Ricky, not sure why you would prefer to fly Southwest rather than Airtran.

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