From financial analyst Clyde Anderson:
From free round trip tickets to checked bag fees being waived, airline credit cards promise to give you the biggest bang for your buck, but is it really worth it? The answer is both yes and no. It really depends on several factors. So, before you sign on the dotted line make sure you do your homework. I think the first thing you must do is ask yourself a few questions:
Are you already in deep debt?
Do you travel infrequently?
Do you travel on multiple airlines?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, my advice to you would be to stay away from airline credit cards and consider a card affiliated with a bank. Airline credit cards often come with baggage (no pun intended). Points or rewards are accumulated and distributed based on how much the credit card is used. If you’re already deep in debt, more credit isn’t what I would prescribe. Instead I would recommend paying down your debt. If you are unable to create a budget, consider seeking assistance through non-profit organizations such as CCCS that provide assistance to individuals carrying a large debt load and not quite sure how to shake it. High APR is the first thing that jumps out at you, but if you shop around you may be able to find a few deals with low introductory rates. You also have annual fees on some as much as $95.
If the extent of your travel is family vacations once a year, this may not be the card for you either. In order to get the rewards you need to fly often and use your credit card to book the ticket. If you do this about six times on some cards you just may be ready to reap some of the rewards, but beware of blackout dates and minimal free seats. Last, but not least, if you change your airline of choice frequently to the lost-cost provider of the day, you may want to pass on the airline card.
The true benefit comes to the frequent traveler and active credit card user who prefers to fly one airline consistently.
Look for Clyde Anderson's Home School segment in the 7 o'clock hour of CNN Saturday Mornings with TJ Holmes.