Love Travel, But Hate Airline Miles? Try AmEx's Blue Sky Preferred

By Jason Steele. Last updated 25 April 2016. 0 comments

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Sometimes, the best way to earn a free flight with a reward credit card is to avoid frequent flyer miles altogether. Cards that offer cash back and other benefits are often more valuable than frequent flyer miles, as these rewards can be used for any flight at any time. In addition, those who make advanced reservations and those who travel shorter distances rarely see as much value from their airline reward card spending as they would from a good cash back card.

American Express offers its Blue Sky Preferred card that returns 1x points on purchases and 2x points at US restaurants, hotel rooms purchased directly from hotels, and with car rentals purchased directly with select car rental companies. In addition, it offers features and benefits not found on many airline reward cards.

How This Card Works

Most purchases earn one point per dollar spent, while transactions at U.S. restaurants, hotels, and car rentals earn two points per dollar spent. Once 7,500 points are accumulated, cardholders can redeem the points for a $100 statement credit towards travel expenses such as airfare, hotel rooms, and rental cars. Terms and limitations apply. The annual fee is $75.

Other Benefits

Annual airline allowance. Cardholders will receive a statement credit up to $100 for airline incidental fees such as checked baggage charges, in-flight food, and entertainment.

Return protection. If a retailer will not accept a returned item within 90 days of purchase, American Express will reimburse cardholders for up to $300 per eligible item, with a limit of $1,000 annually.

Extended warranty coverage. This policy will extend a manufacturer's warranty coverage for up to one year.

Travel accident insurance. This policy provides a benefit for death or dismemberment resulting from an accident on any plane, train, boat, bus, or other common carrier transport.

Costs

  • $75 Annual Fee
  • 13.99% - 18.99% variable APR (purchases and balance transfers)
  • 3% Balance Transfer Fee (minimum $5)
  • 2.7% Foreign Transaction Fee

Pros

Respectable rewards program. This card offers a respectable 1x points on most spending and a very competitive 2x points on US restaurant, hotel, and rental car spending. (See also: Credit Cards with the Best Travel Redemption Value)

Travel reinbursement. Travelers can purchase tickets and then get reimbursed. In this way, travelers earn points and miles for their travel and are eligible for upgrades. (See also: Credit Cards with the Best Travel Perks)

$100 annual airline fee credit. The $100 annual airline fee credit takes a bite out of the myriad of airline fees while nicely offsetting this card's $75 annual fee. (See also: Cards with the Best Airline Sign-Up Bonuses)

Cons

Foreign transaction fees. If you frequently travel outside of the U.S., the foreign transactio fee of 2.7% will minimize the value of the rewards you earn and the benefits the card offers. For foreign purchases, a travel rewards credit card with no foreign transaction fees is a better option. (See also: Best Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees)

Better rewards offered elsewhere. This card's rewards simply don't add up to those offered by the similar Capital One Venture Rewards card. Capital One offers two "miles" per dollar spent in a similar program where each mile is worth one cent each as a statement credit toward travel related expenses, no foreign transaction fees, and a lower annual fee. Therefore, the Capital One card comes out ahead everywhere except for the $100 airline fee credit.

Who This Card Is Best For

This is the ideal card for domestic travelers who have had enough of frequent flier miles that are hard to redeem. And although other similar cards may offer more valuable rewards for most purchases, the airline fee credit and other benefits may make this card a winner for those who plan on utilizing them. 

Terms and restrictions apply.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.

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