Review: AirTran Airways A+ Rewards Credit Card

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Editor’s note: As of December 2012, the offer described below regarding the AirTran Airways A+ card has expired and is no longer available.

When it comes to offering incentives to apply for their credit cards, banks and airlines seem bent on outdoing their competitors.

Their sign-up bonuses have traditionally included perks like enough miles for a free domestic round-trip flight. And lately, they’ve gotten even better. Example? Chase’s AirTran Airways A+ Rewards Credit Card, which comes stocked with enough points for two round-trip domestic tickets on either AirTran or its merger partner, Southwest. And that’s not all…

Advantages:

  • Get a big sign-up bonus. New applicants will earn 32 credits in AirTran’s A+ Rewards program after spending $2,000 on their card within three months. This is enough for two round-trip domestic tickets.
  • Receive upgrade certificates. Cardholders will also be sent two one-way upgrade certificates for business class after making their first purchase.
  • Earn rewards for spending. Cardholders earn 2 reward dollars for each dollar spent on AirTran and Southwest, with 1 reward dollar for each dollar charged elsewhere. Twelve hundred reward dollars earn a credit, and 16 credits are needed for a round-trip award. Do the math and you find that only $19,200 of spending is needed to earn a round-trip – less than the $25,000 required by most airlines’ reward credit cards.
  • Get a renewal bonus. Cardholders will receive two credits each year when they renew their card. This is the equivalent of spending $1,200.
  • Credits can be used on Southwest Airlines. AirTran is being acquired by Southwest Airlines and the companies will allow credits to be transferred between their programs.
  • Use points on other airlines. AirTran offers a round-trip coach flight on another airline between the contiguous 48 states and Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and Mexico for 50 points or a round-trip coach flight on another airline anywhere else in the world for 100 points.

Disadvantages:

  • Annual fee. There is a $69 annual fee for this card that’s not waived the first year.
  • Foreign transaction fees. There is a 3 percent surcharge on all transactions processed outside of the United States. This is unwelcome from an airline that serves many destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
  • Few perks. Unlike many other airline cards, cardholders will not receive checked bag fee waivers, priority boarding, or any other perks for holding this card.

Bottom line:

Get it if: You fly AirTran and Southwest, but don’t travel much internationally.

Forget it if: You’re too loyal to another carrier to be courted by AirTran and S0uthwest.

(Note: While we attempt to be completely objective when reporting on credit cards, this site may be compensated by issuers when a reader applies for a credit card through the links within credit card stories or on our credit card search page.)

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