New Travel Cards Aim for Leisure Over Luxury

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American Express and JPMorgan Chase have introduced a pair of co-branded airline cards with no annual fees and fewer frills. The new cards aim to attract casual travelers, particularly Millennials, who take leisure trips instead of luxurious excursions.

Last week saw the unveiling of the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card and the United TravelBank Card. Company officials and industry analysts say the new cards are geared more toward the mass market than typical airline cards, which often have sizeable yearly fees to go along with their lavish perks.

How big a deal is no annual fee?

There are already a few travel credit cards with no annual fee on the market, but these new cards are still something of a rarity.

Premium airline cards that cater to wealthy business travelers can charge annual fees as high as $550. (By contrast, a 2015 study estimated the average annual fee for all types of rewards credit cards at about $60.)

Premium cards do come with premium benefits, though, such as complimentary lounge access and travel credits worth hundreds of dollars. Combined with generous rewards rates, these benefits usually make airline cards with annual fees worthwhile for frequent travelers.

That’s not to say that the new cards don’t offer benefits — they just don’t include free checked bags, priority boarding and other features typically offered by premium cards.

How do the new cards stack up?

The cards have some similarities beyond the lack of an annual fee. But while the United TravelBank Card offers cash back that’s redeemable for travel rewards, the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card operates like a standard miles-for-purchases travel card.

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

Annual fee

$0 (See Rates & Fees)

Foreign Transaction Fee

None

Welcome bonus

Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Rewards

  • 2X Miles per dollar at restaurants, now worldwide.
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on eligible Delta purchases
  • 1 mile per $1 on other eligible purchases

Travel benefits include:

  • 20% savings (statement credit) on eligible Delta in-flight purchases or food, beverages, and audio headsets
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Global Assist® Hotline — 24/7 access to medical, legal, financial and other assistance services on trips 100+ miles from home

United TravelBank Card

Annual fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee

$0

Signup bonus

$150 in TravelBank cash after spending $1,000 on purchases in first 3 months

Rewards

  • 2% back in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased from United®
  • 1.5% back in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • $1 in TravelBank cash = $1 when used toward ticket purchase on flights operated by United and United Express. (TravelBank cash can be used alone or combined with select forms of payment.)

Travel benefits include:

  • 25% back as statement credit on food and beverages purchases onboard United-operated flights
  • Complimentary guest privileges at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection properties, including daily breakfast for two, Wi-Fi, and room upgrade and early check-in/late check-out (when available at select properties)

Please Note: The United℠ TravelBank Card is currently unavailable.

Experience vs. extravagance?

It seems that American Express and Chase are banking on simplified, scaled-down products that will appeal to occasional (but enthusiastic) leisure travelers who place more value on experience and exploration than getting VIP treatment. Time will tell whether Millennial consumers get onboard.

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, please click here.

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