Foreign airline co-branded credit cards, #8: Conclusions

Reviewing the 7 foreign airline co-branded credit cards issued by US banks that I covered in this series, the cards can be handily arranged into 3 groups:

  • Cards worth getting and keeping for manufactured spend;
  • Cards worth getting for the signup bonus and cancelling;
  • Cards that are probably not worth getting.

Manufactured spend powerhouses

When looking at a card's value for manufacturing spend, it's essential to look at both the earning and redemption rates the card offers. For example, a Marriott Rewards point is more valuable than a Hilton Honors point, but not 6 times more valuable — that makes a dollar spent in a bonus category with the Hilton Honors Surpass American Express more valuable than the same dollar spent with a Marriott Rewards credit card that earns just 1 point per dollar.

Similarly, the two co-branded credit cards in this series that are valuable for ongoing spend are the US Bank AeroMexico Visa cards and the Barclaycard Asiana Visa Signature card. The former earns 3.2 AeroMexico kilometers per dollar spent at gas stations and grocery stores, which can be redeemed on SkyTeam carriers (with fuel surcharges) and the latter earns 2 Asiana miles per dollar spent in the same categories, which can be redeemed on Star Alliance carriers and their non-alliance partners.

It's especially worth noting that the recent increases in Delta redemption rates on SkyTeam partners make it even more likely that redeeming other SkyTeam partner miles, even ones that pass along fuel surcharges, will be more valuable than earning and redeeming Delta SkyMiles.

Valuable signup bonuses

Three of the cards I covered in this series have signup bonuses you might find valuable, depending on your situation:

  • The British Airways Visa Signature card earns 100,000 total bonus Avios after spending $20,000 on the card within one year. Those Avios can be extremely valuable if redeemed on US flights without fuel surcharges or on certain off-peak sweet spots.
  • The Miles & More World Elite MasterCard offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within 90 days, which can be extremely valuable for domestic first class redemptions, including to Hawaii.
  • The "Black" Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard offers 75,000 Flying Club miles after spending $12,000 within 6 months and adding two authorized users. If nothing else, those miles can be moved to Hilton Honors points at a 1:1.5 ratio, earning you 9.4 Honors points per dollar on unbonused spend.

Cards that are worthless, or at least worth less

Finally, the LANPASS Visa Signature Card and SKYPASS Visa Signature Card, both from US Bank, offer minimal signup bonuses and weak earning rates, so even in the case of SKYPASS, where points can be valuable on certain routes, their co-branded credit card is unlikely to be the most efficient way to earn them. However, it's worth being aware of the cards and their potential redemption opportunities in case the signup bonuses on either card are temporarily or permanently increased.

Foreign airline co-branded credit cards issued by American banks, #1: AeroMexico by US Bank

Most travel hackers take advantage of the loyalty programs of foreign airlines through flexible points currencies, like transfers of Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club Avios, American Express Membership Rewards points to Singapore KrisFlyer, or Citi ThankYou points to Air France KLM Flying Blue.

But US-based banks also enter into co-branded credit card relationships with the loyalty programs of foreign airlines. Some of those relationships are more familiar than others, so I thought it would be useful to put them all in one place.

So, without further ado, here is the first in a series on foreign loyalty programs with co-branded credit cards issued by US banks, with commentary and analysis as needed.

AeroMexico by US Bank

US Bank issues 2 co-branded credit cards that earn AeroMexico Club Premier miles:

  • the AeroMexico Visa Signature Card has an $80 annual fee after the first year, 4,000 annual bonus miles and an annual $99 "Companion Certificate." The current signup bonus is 20,000 bonus miles after first use and a "Complimentary Companion Certificate."
  • the AeroMexico Visa Card has a $45 annual fee after the first year, 2,000 annual bonus miles and an annual $99 Companion Certificate. The current signup bonus is 15,000 bonus miles and a Complimentary Companion Certificate.

This is going to sound insane, but bear with me: apparently, the AeroMexico Club Premier award chart is in "kilometers," while the AeroMexico Club Premier credit cards earn "miles." The conversion rate between the two is 1.6 AeroMexico Club Premier kilometers per AeroMexico Club Premier mile. That means you can either multiply the mileage earning by 1.6 or divide the award chart by 1.6 to normalize the ratio between your earning and redeeming rates.

If you're looking at AeroMexico's SkyTeam award chart, this explains why a domestic US ticket costs 40,000 "Premier Points:" once converted into miles it's a standard 25,000-mile roundtrip redemption.

Earning AeroMexico Premier Club Miles

Both US Bank AeroMexico credit cards earn 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) per dollar spent at gas stations and grocery stores. While gas station manufactured spend isn't as widely available as it used to be, grocery store manufactured spend is still available in many parts of the country, which creates an opportunity for these cards to outperform.

Of course, that depends entirely on the opportunities for...

Redeeming AeroMexico Premier Club Miles

Here I'm going to shamelessly lean on Travel Codex, who took a look at the AeroMexico award chart during an American Express transfer bonus back in 2015, while translating those results into bonused spend on the US Bank co-branded credit cards. The sweet spots Omar identified are:

  • Roundtrip business class to Europe. 160,000 Premier Club kilometers (100,000 Premier Club miles) require $50,000 in bonused spend at gas stations or grocery stores.
  • Roundtrip business class to North Asia. 180,000 Premier Club kilometers (112,500 Premier Club miles) require $56,250 in bonused spend.
  • Roundtrip business class to Southeast Asia. 240,000 Premier Club kilometers (150,000 Premier Club miles) require $75,000 in bonused spend.
  • Roundtrip business class to the Middle East. 224,000/248,000 Premier Club kilometers (144,000/155,000 Premier Club miles) require $72,000/$75,500 in bonused spend.

Is it worth it?

Having a higher-than-average co-branded credit card earning rate for a SkyTeam carrier and lower-than-average redemptions rates for a SkyTeam carrier together seem like an obvious opportunity to seize for redemptions on SkyTeam partners. However, since AeroMexico Premier Club passes along fuel surcharges on award tickets, the value you'll ultimately get from the program depends on the airlines and routes you fly. AeroMexico does allow one-way redemptions, so it seems most obviously valuable for reservations on carriers with low fuel surcharges in one or both directions.

You can find some of my earlier research on SkyTeam fuel surcharges in my post on Korean Air SKYPASS.