Cons:High yearly fee
The Bottom Line: For the occasional and frequent US Airways flier who has good control of credit card expenses and likes to collect miles, this card would be a very good option.
Deciding what credit card to apply for, depends on several factors ranging from the need for occasional online/phone purchases to the desire to earn rewards (cash back, miles, free goods, rebates etc.).
While everybody's eyes will light up when some offer mentions cash back, free travel and so on, I'd suggest that the first thing to do is to look at your credit card spending habits. If you generally carry over balances or are an occasional credit card user, reward cards with an annual fee might not be the right cards for you.
To be clear, there isn't such a thing as free lunch in this industry, after all, credit card companies are in this business to make money, but reward cards are a good tool for you to "stretch your dollar". The good reward card user would be the one that pays the balance in full every payment cycle and pays with the card as many purchases as he/she can (of course, good for the consumer - not necessarily for the card issuer)
The US Airways Dividend Miles family of cards by Bank of America comes in three levels - classic ($50 fee), gold ($70 fee) and Platinum ($120 fee).
Generally, Bank of America gives a Platinum card only to those customers whose credit limit is at least $10k but I'm not certain whether this applies also to the Dividend Miles Platinum.
This card is one of the best - if not the best - of the industry.
It does offer:
- an unparalleled 1.2 miles/dollar reward rate with no spending limit.
- 2 miles/dollar spent on US Airways tickets
- 5000 miles first use bonus
- $99 companion ticket/year (if your ticket is $350 or more)
- $75 off a US Airways Club membership fee (first year only)
- the usual Platinum card services like insurance, Platinum Customer Service etc.
Of course, it does come with a $125 yearly fee as well, which is also the highest in the industry and a very steep interest rate (22.40% as of Nov. 2000). Now, if you don't carry a balance, it means that you pay $125/year for the free miles. If you think your charges on the card won't justify the yearly fee, you can as well apply for a Classic or a Gold card which offer a less "fancy" service.
In my case, I'm practically charging everything on the card - all it's left to pay by check is what I can't pay using a credit card.
Although I've contacted them rarely, their Customer Service is pretty good and quick.
You can also check the balance on the Bank of America web site where the interface is simple and effective.
Naturally, it goes without saying that this is a good card for you if you fly US Airways or at least live in an area where US Airways is a major carrier, otherwise you won't have too much choice for award travel.
Overall, my experience with Bank of America US Airways Dividend Miles Platinum Visa has been great. It has offered me considerable advantages for award travel and their service is one of the best. I'd suggest it to everybody who travels on US Airways and has a good control of his/her expenses.
May 2001 update:
The above review was written in November 2000 and I got a letter from Bank of America about a month ago, in which they were explaining some changes to the program. They are quite major changes so I thought they're worth mentioning and comparing to previous features. I'll list them here preceded by NEW if it's a new feature, CHANGED+ if it has been changed for better for the consumer, CHANGED- if it has changed for worse for the consumer and SAME if it has not changed:
- CHANGED+: Annual fee $90 (instead of $125) which brings it more in line with other Affinity Credit Cards
- CHANGED-: 1 mile/dollar reward rate (instead of 1.2) with no spending limit.
- CHANGED+: 7000 miles bonus miles (instead of 5000) the first time you use the card
- NEW: Preferred Miles: 10000 Miles will be counted as Preferred Miles if you spend $25000 or more. This is a novel offer for Affinity Cards. I think it's quite appealing because for those who are close to the Next Highest Dividend Miles membership level, the 10000 miles might make quite a difference. I think this is the feature I like the most from the changes to the program.
- SAME: 2 miles/dollar spent on US Airways tickets
- CHANGED+: $99 companion ticket/year (if your ticket is $350 or more) for up to two companions like friends or family (instead of one companion certificate)
- SAME: $75 off a US Airways Club membership fee (first year only)
- SAME: the usual Platinum card services like insurance, Platinum Customer Service etc.
Web Site Update: Now the revamped Bank of America online service offers several additional features related, among others to the Credit Card accounts including AutoPay etc.
As a recap, I still think that the Bank of America Dividend Miles Platinum Visa remains the best Airline Affinity Credit Card in the market. It offers services that are above the others, and I think the 10000 Preferred Miles feature is very intriguing. While the miles/dollar rate has dropped in line to other cards, the Annual Fee has dropped too, making it more affordable.
Always keeping in mind the caveats I've mentioned above (above ==== ) I think this card is a winner.
Merger Note: Neither US Airways, nor Bank of America have mentioned anything in relation to the potential merger between US Airways and United Airlines. United Airlines' Affinity Credit Card is from First USA and I'm not sure what the arrangement will be between the merged airline and the two Credit Card issuers (Bank of America and First USA)
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