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, #2: LANPASS by US Bank

As we plow through the foreign airline co-branded credit cards issued by American banks, we continue with another card issued by US Bank.


US Bank issues two LANPASS co-branded credit cards that earn LATAM Pass miles:

  • The LANPASS Visa Signature Card has an annual fee of $75 after the first year, offers 4,000 annual bonus miles, and gives a 20% discount on LATAM purchases up to $1,000 once per year. The current signup bonus is 20,000 bonus miles after your first purchase. Cardholders also receive 25% bonus miles on certain paid flights, according to the following inscrutable language:

"LANPASS Visa Signature Cardmembers only will receive a flight mileage bonus of 25% in additional miles above the actual miles accrued on every LATAM Airlines or its Affiliate carriers’ flight. For example, if a cardmember accrues 6,000 miles, the cardmember will receive 1,500 extra miles. To renew this benefit, the cardmember must have net spending of at least $15,000 each calendar year."

  • The LANPASS Visa Card has an annual fee of $45 after the first year and offers 2,000 annual bonus miles. The current signup bonus is 15,000 miles after your first purchase.

Just as in yesterday's edition of this series, the LANPASS credit cards earn miles, but the LANPASS award chart is in kilometers, so as LANPASS helpfully explains, the 20,000-mile signup bonus is worth 32,187 kilometers and the 4,000 annual bonus miles are worth 6,437 kilometers.

Earning LANPASS miles

Unfortunately, neither card offers any interesting category spending bonuses, so you're left earning 1 mile (roughly 1.61 kilometers) per dollar spent on either card everywhere.

Unfortunately necessary digression about Starpoint transfers

Starwood Preferred Guest transfers to LANPASS are into kilometers, not miles. So while 1 Starpoint transfers into 1.5 LANPASS kilometers, that's somewhat less than the 1.61 LANPASS kilometers you'd earn putting spend directly onto a LANPASS co-branded credit card.

Of course, 20,000-Starpoint transfers earn a 5,000-point (7,500 kilometer) transfer bonus, bringing the earning rate on $20,000 in Starwood Preferred Guest American Express spend slightly above the earning rate on a LANPASS credit card (37,500 kilometers versus 32,200 kilometers).

Redeeming LANPASS miles

LATAM is a member of the oneworld alliance, so its LANPASS kilometers should be redeemable on oneworld carriers, and indeed LANPASS has a distance-based award chart for flights on its oneworld partners.

But according to the LANPASS website:

"You can redeem your LATAM Pass KMS. for flights with American Airlines, Qantas and Iberia through our Contact Center or at one of our offices. For other oneworld and associated airlines, this service is not available."

I have no idea what this means. Can LANPASS kilometers be redeemed for flights on other oneworld carriers? Maybe, but not through the Contact Center or any of their offices?

Nonetheless, for American Airlines flights with low-level availability, LANPASS miles can be a strong choice. This FlyerTalk thread about LANPASS redemptions seems to cast them as less valuable than British Airways Avios redemptions, but that's only from the perspective of Starpoint transfers. If you're earning LANPASS kilometers directly at 1.61 kilometers per dollar spent, you're virtually certain to be better off compared to a 1:1 Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to Avios.

In other words, your best redemption will depend on your best alternative.

Is it worth it?

Just as I concluded yesterday, the question of whether earning a more exotic loyalty currency is worthwhile will depend on whether you're able to leverage it for better value than you would the currencies in your wheelhouse. In 2014 Thought Leader from Behind Gary Leff reported that "you can redeem BA F without fuel surcharges using LAN kilometers."

If that's still possible, then LANPASS's distance-based award chart may still offer out-sized value, if you can redeem miles earned on unbonused spend for premium awards without paying extortionate fuel surcharges.