Airlines Push Plastic With Flight Freebies

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Fees for checked bags, blankets, meals and even seat reservations are putting off air travelers, but some airlines that offer credit cards are trying lure in more cardholders with the promise of fewer fees on flights.

Continental Airlines (Stock Quote: CAL) and Delta Air Lines (Stock Quote: DAL) will waive check-in baggage fees for consumers carrying that airline’s credit card, according to The Detroit News.

But this may be yet another deal that sounds too good to be true. While new airline credit cards can mean saving up to $50 on checked bag fees in one trip, The Detroit News notes, annual fees on these cards could cost you $95 or more.

Airline credit cards and other rewards cards have been criticized by personal finance experts for requiring consumers to spend thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars to earn just one domestic ticket. And as credit card companies continue to add annual fees, frequent flyers in the end may not get much, if anything, for their efforts.

“If you're being charged $80 a year for a Visa card that earns miles and it takes you three years to earn a coach ticket, that ticket has cost you $240, enough for you to go almost anywhere in the country on a low-fare carrier,” says David Colgren, spokesman for the California Society of CPAs.

So while frequent flyers and business travelers may get something out of airline credit cards, the occasional vacationer may not see much of a benefit.

For a look at some rewards cards that actually do pay off, check out MainStreet’s article, Rewards Clubs: The Secret to Saving.  And if you’re looking for an effortless way to save for college, read MainStreet’s story on 529 Plan rewards.

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