Airlines are increasingly offering more perks besides just miles when you sign up for their frequent flyer-affiliated credit cards. True, these cards are not free of annual fees, as some credit cards are. But the 15,000 bonus points that most offer may be worth trying them for a year.
Here's a run down of some of the special offers.
Continental Airlines Chase MasterCard
This card offers the usual 15,000 bonus points on first purchase, but in addition you get 5% off all Continental fares charged to the card. There's also a low intro 8% APR, two one-day Presidents Club passes (that's their VIP lounge, and this is a $90 value); and two vouchers for up to $200 every year after the first year (they can only be used on certain more expensive fares, like full fare coach and first class, but if that's how you fly, what the heck).
United Airlines Signature Visa Card
Here you get 20,000 bonus miles, almost enough for a free economy ticket. You also get a one-way 1000 mile upgrade certificate although this can't be used on all fares, plus a $25 voucher good on any fare. There is, however, a limit of 60,000 miles that you can earn each year, other than bonus miles.
The business version of this card offers 17,500 bonus miles and 2 miles for every dollar spent on United purchases. More info.
British Airways Chase Visa Card.
15,000 miles on first purchase, plus unlimited free companion tickets in full fare premium economy, business or first class (they key phrase here is full fare, since there are discounted fares in these classes although they're seldom half the cost of full fare); 5% initial APR; 2 miles for every dollar spent on BA fares; $250 off advance purchase business class fares to London, $20 off of all BA fares purchased with the card.
JetBlue American Express Card
Until March 31, this card is offering free unlimited companion tickets when you buy one fare using it. You also get enough bonus points to be 1/4 of the way to a free ticket, not as generous as United's 20,000 mile offer which gets you 4/5 of the way. But an unusual perk is that you earn double points on restaurants, entertainment, sporting events, gym memberships, and some travel purchases. More information.
The business version of this card also offers 5% off of all JetBlue fares charged to the card and also offers a $50 statement credit.
American Express Gold Business Card
Although this Card costs $125 per year (it's free the first year) it does have its advantages. As with all Amex cards, you get emergency card replacement, sometimes the same day depending on where you are, a benefit that Amex should do a better job promoting. In addition, you can spend your points on a wide range of airlines, instead of just one. Then there are the bonus points. You get 5000 on your first purchase, 5000 when you reach $20,000 in spending each year, another 20,000 when you spend $50,000 and another 10,000 when you renew the first year.