Home > Credit Cards > Want to Avoid Airline Fees? A Credit Card May Help

Comments 0 Comments

If you haven’t heard, the airline industry has all but given up trying to make a profit just by charging for airfare. The notion that these companies will stay in business by charging passengers for transportation has been replaced by a new model: Passengers pay for their tickets, but then face the possibility of many fees, which can often add up to more than the ticket itself. In addition, airlines now earn substantial income by selling their miles to banks that offer them as rewards to their credit card holders.

One of the most bothersome of these fees is the change fee. In 2013, many carriers increased those fees to $200, and happily collected the fee and re-sold your seat to someone else. Now, upstart carrier Virgin America has released a new credit card that offers a change-fee waiver as a benefit to cardholders.

A New Credit Card Offer to Cut Fees

Virgin America just released two new credit cards through its partner Comenity Capital Bank. While both cards offer the benefit of a free checked bag, the Virgin America Premium Visa Signature card also grants cardholders a waiver of change or cancellation fees. This means that just by holding the card, travelers are exempt from the airline’s $100 change and cancellation fees on paid tickets. Unfortunately, cardholders will still be responsible for paying an applicable fare difference. In addition, an award redeposit fee of $100 will still apply when changing an award ticket issued with Elevate frequent-flier points. There is a $149 annual fee for this card, and new applicants can earn 15,000 Elevate points, worth about $330 toward airfare, after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.

Other Cards That Alleviate Change Fees

The American Express Platinum card offers a $200 annual airline fee credit that can be applied to change fees. Cardholders must first designate an airline to which they want to apply the credit. Once that is done, cardholders will automatically be credited for up to $200 a year in fees, which include seat selection fees, baggage fees, and in-flight meals and entertainment charges. There is a $450 annual fee for this card. Similarly, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase offers a $200 fee credit against non-ticket charges by any airline. There is a $395 annual fee for this card.

Another popular strategy for rewards card holders is to earn rewards with an airline that doesn’t charge those fees. Southwest Airlines offers several credit cards from Chase that earn points in its Rapid Rewards. Since Southwest Airlines charges no change fees for paid or award bookings, this program is a great way to avoid change fees altogether. In fact, customers who cancel award bookings immediately receive all of their points back, while those who cancel paid bookings just receive a credit toward future flights. This means that award bookings are essentially fully refundable tickets, a feature other airlines normally charge a large premium for.

Other Ways to Avoid Change Fees

While some credit cards can help travelers find relief from excessive change fees on some airlines, most carriers still impose these charges. Thankfully, there are still ways to avoid these fees. First, airlines are now required to issue full refunds upon request within 24 hours of purchase, and many airlines extend that offer to midnight of the following day.

If it’s too late for that, you could try to rely on a bit of luck by hoping for one of two things to happen. The first is that the airline cancels a flight or changes its schedule, which is somewhat common with domestic flights booked far in advance. When that happens, carriers will offer to make a change for free or offer a full refund. The other possible event is a change-fee waiver due to weather. When storms are predicted to affect several cities in a region, airlines will issue change-fee waivers that allow passengers to rebook travel to avoid delays.

Finally, travelers who need to make a change due to a medical condition or the death of a close friend or family member can try to appeal to the airline to waive its change fees. To have the best chance of success, speak with a customer relations supervisor and be prepared to offer some written documentation of circumstances that are beyond your control.

Credit cards have been offering travelers a way around baggage fees for some time, and hopefully more banks will start offering products that help cardholders avoid the dreaded change fees as well.

At publishing time, the American Express Platinum card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com may be compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team