Everybody wants to fly at the front of the plane. The bigger, more comfortable seats, a constant supply of snacks and drinks, and boarding and deplaning first are some of the perks that come with first class or business class seating. International and U.S. transcontinental flights often offer both classes. Shorter-duration flights may only offer one, generally business class.
But it’s no easy task to land those premium seats without paying full fare unless you fly frequently. Because airlines now fly at near capacity, those seats are a hot commodity. If you don’t fly a lot for business, one of the best ways to fly first class is to use your credit card. Travel-themed credit cards offer rewards you can redeem as loyalty points with major airlines.
Capital One Venture Rewards
Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening or 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first twelve months. You can redeem your points for flights that could include first-class seats. There is a $95 annual fee, and the 13.99%, 18.74% or 21.24% interest rate (based on creditworthiness) falls within the range of most travel cards.
Like other cards in the category, the annual fee is waived the first year. Add to that a 0% introductory rate and no foreign transaction fee and you can see why it’s such a popular card among travelers. (For more, see Comparing The Capital One Miles Credit Cards.)
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Earn two points for every $1 spent on travel and dining at restaurants. For all other purchases, you earn one point. Chase offers a 1:1 redemption meaning 1,000 Chase reward points equals 1,000 miles with participating airlines. Other perks include trip cancellation insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and – if your flight is delayed for more than 12 hours – Chase covers unreimbursed expenses up to $500 per ticket.
The APR comes in at 15.99% and Chase waives the $95 annual fee for the first year. If you spend more than $4,000 in the first 3 months of having the card, you receive 80,000 bonus points. There is no foreign transaction fee. For more, see Chase Sapphire Preferred Vs. AmEx Platinum.
Discover it Miles
Since 1986, the Discover card has been a favorite among consumers for its no nonsense rewards and its use of the most current technology. Recently, the company announced that customers can now instantly turn the card on or off from their app if the card is lost or stolen. If the card is found, simply go to the app and turn it back on.
Like most companies, Discover has a travel card. The it Miles card offers 1.5 miles for every dollar you spend and for your first year, Discover gives you double miles. There are no blackout dates and Discover will credit you up to $30 per year for inflight Wi-Fi.
The APR is 0% for the first year and 10.99% to 22.99% after that. And there is no annual fee. To read more, see Review: Discover it Miles Card.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card
Earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend with the card. Points can be redeemed for travel rewards of any type, including first-class seating on airlines. The APR is 14.99% to 22.99%, depending on your credit, but has a 0% APR for the first year. The card has no annual fee or foreign transaction fee.
Like most cards of its type, if you spend at least $500 in the first 90 days, Bank of America will give you 10,000 bonus points – equal to about $100 in rewards.
The Bottom Line
Even with plenty of miles, getting a spot at the front of the plane is much harder than it once was. Business travelers who fly multiple times per week often get the seats first, but plenty of other travelers use their rewards to fly in the cushy seats from time to time. Vacation travelers may be more flexible, which can give them more options to try.
The travel cards described above help with flights from virtually any airline. If you mostly fly a particular carrier, having its credit card can also help you land first-class seats for that airline, of course. For more, see Do Your Card's Travel Benefits Make The Grade?