The Airtran Visa from Barclays bank hasn’t been offered to new cardmembers since November 2011. Existing cardholders are still earning on those cards, but there’s been no ability to get an Airtran credit card over the past year.
Now that Airtran has been acquired by Southwest, and Southwest’s primary co-branded credit card relationship is with Chase, they’ve introduced a new Airtran credit card.
Earlier in the week I spoke with Kian Conley, General Manager for Chase Card Services, and with Jonathan Clarkson, the director of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program, about the offering.
Jonathan explained that since integration of the two airlines was on a timetable to be done by early 2015, there’s still quite a bit of time during which they’ll be actively managing and promoting the Airtran program.
Cardmembers can choose the Southwest card or the Airtran card, and redeem across either airline. In fact, members will continue to be able to transfer points between programs.
- Signup bonus: 16 A+ Rewards credits after $1000 spend within 3 months
- Additional bonus: 2 business class one-segment upgrades after first purchase, which Jonathan thought were confirmable 24 hours in advance of travel
- Annual fee: $69, same as with the Southwest Visa
- Earning: 2 A+ Rewards Dollars per dollar spent on Airtran, Southwest, and on the programs’ hotel and car rental offerings, and 1 A+ Rewards Dollar on all other purchases. 1200 A+ Rewards Dollars equals an A+ Rewards credit.
Since it’s 1200 A+ Rewards Dollars to an A+ Rewards Credit, and 8 A+ Rewards credits for a one-way economy flight redemption, that means $9600 in most spend yields a free one-way or $19,200 yields a free roundtrip through the Airtran A+ Rewards program.
That’s better than spending $25,000 for a free domestic ticket, of course most readers know that’s not how I prefer to earn and burn my points.
But the card offers a pretty good arbitrage opportunity between the Southwest and Airtran programs, since points can be transferred between them.
$19,200 is a free roundtrip with Airtran or $324 with Southwest. So when tickets are more expensive than $324 roundtrip, you’re better off using Airtran credits. When tickets are less expensive than that, it makes sense to move the credits over to Southwest to redeem for the ticket value.
Pre-card launch they targeted existing members of the Airtran program for a bigger signup bonus, they offered 32 A+ Rewards credits after $2000 spend within 3 months, so twice as generous with a slightly higher spend requirement. That offer was set to expire today, and no indication whether it or something like it will be back in the near future.
I did ask whether Airtran would be added as a transfer partner of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program and was told that’s not imminent. Of course it doesn’t much matter, since you can transfer points to Southwest and on to Airtran already if you wish.
Ultimately this is just an interesting development, seeing that there’s still life in the Airtran program and that we can expect that to continue over the next couple of years. It’s a new card product, with entirely separate signup bonus, and some folks who put spending on the Southwest card will find it attractive to earn Airtran credits.