Loyalty cards and credit cards are slowly working their way together. You've got the nectar infused Sainsbury's Bank card, Tesco's Clubcard points-rich credit card and Marks & Spencer have their offering woven into its own loyalty scheme.
This has been happening for years now, with many retail stores also following suit. But one area has been doing this for even longer: the airline.
Airlines know that many of their users are in need of a simple solution, they want to be able to pay for something and still reap the benefits – usually cheaper flights as they fly all the time. Well, here's 4 of the best airline loyalty credit cards that everybody could learn a thing or two from.
American Express British Airways Premium Plus
Loyalty Bonus: A card that allows you to collect Avios points as you spend, offers a whopping 1800 points if users spend Â£3,000 in the first three months. Essentially giving a customer two return flights to Paris for free.
For continual use, they'll collect 1.5 Avios points for every Â£1 spent and gain another three Avios points for every Â£1 spent directly with British Airways or BA Holidays.
Spending Â£10,000 on the card over a year gives them a âCompanion Voucher' that's valid for 24 months, allowing the redemption of two vouchers at once.
Downfall: Being a credit card, and an AmEx one at that, it's coupled with a hefty Â£150 annual fee, plus an applicant would need an annual household salary of Â£30,000.
Perfect for: Big spenders who love to travel
MBNA AAdvantage Credit Card
Loyalty bonus: Users get 1.5 award miles for every Â£1 spent on the American Express card, but for Visa card users you only get 1.5 award miles for every Â£2 spent.
Users also earn double miles on fuel spends, supermarket shopping and any American Airlines purchases.
A welcome bonus of 5,000 miles is doled out, just for spending on the card in the first three months, with an additional 10,000 miles given to those who spend a minimum of Â£1,500 in this period. Spending Â£5,000 within 180 days of the card opening means you bag a whopping 20,000 bonus miles.
Downfall: It isn't as good as it sounds on paper as 25,000 points equates to an economy flight in the US, or 40,000 will get you an economy flight between the US and Europe.
You'll also need a higher number of points if you decide to fly at peak holiday times.
Perfect for: Anyone who frequently flies with American Airlines.
Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card
Loyalty bonus: This comes with two cards, an American Express that gives two Flying Club Miles for every Â£1 spent, or four miles for every Â£1 spent directly with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays.
The Visa card gives one Flying Card Mile for every Â£1 spent, or two miles for every Â£1 spent direct with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays.
Gain 6,000 Flying Club Miles when you make your first purchase.
Spending Â£5,000 on the American Express card over the year means a cardholder is eligable for a Premium Economy reward upgrade, which is one of two possible upgrades someone can earn in a year.
Spending Â£7,000 gifts the user with a companion reward flight if they purchase a full fare qualifying flight.
Cardholders also get a Regus Businessworld Gold Membership – worth Â£199 a year.
The points don't just have to go towards flights either as you can indulge in other Virgin benefits – such as 30,000 points let you take a balloon flight over the English countryside.
Downfall: It comes with a Â£140 annual fee and a high APR (51.2%) so the most has to be made to make it worthwhile.
Perfect for: Frequent Virgin flyers who just want to get a bit more out of their flights.
Lloyds TSB Duo Avios Credit Card
Loyalty bonus: Comes in two flavours: an American Express card and a MasterCard.
One point is given per every Â£1 spent on the AmEx card and one point is given per every Â£5 spent on the MasterCard, but users do earn double Avios points for spending abroad.
If a cardholder spends Â£180 per week on their AmEx card, they would have collected 9,360 points by the end of the year – equating to a return flight to Paris or Prague, although airline fees, taxes and charges still apply.
However, if a cardholder has collected at least one point in the last 12 months, they'll be able to pay a lower âReward Flight Saver' price instead – which includes airline taxes, fees and charges and can be used on some British Airways and Iberia flights for Â£30 per person in economy.
Users can also buy extra points on the Avios site if they don't have enough to qualify for a free flight.
Downfall: If the card isn't paid off in full every month – or at least hasn't had significant payments made – all the rewards will be lost.
Perfect for: A casual consumer who want's to earn benefits from flights while still gaining the standard perks of a Lloyds TSB card.
Premier Duo Avios Credit Card
Loyalty bonus: A premium edition of the standard Lloyds TSB Avios card, once again coming in two types.
The premium version offers 1.25 points per Â£1 spent on the Premier AmEx card and 1.25 points per Â£5 on the Premier MasterCard.
It also offers 20,000 Avios points if a cardholder spends Â£500 a month for the first three months.
Spending Â£15,000 a year gives you a âCompanion Ticket' allowing you to take someone else away on holiday, and points can be put towards days out and holidays too.
Downfall: Costs Â£50 a year and has an APR of 23.7% meaning balance transfers and monthly spending should be paid off relatively quickly.
Perfect for: Your more frequent flyer who wants the flexibility that Avios' system offers.
It's interesting to see how similar, yet still different the various cards are, with American Express ones offering far better loyalty rates than their Visa or MasterCard alternatives.
One thing is evident though, they aren't the most rewarding of cards around, with thousands needing to be spent before a customer really sees the benefits on offer – a point made earlier this week by prominent members of the tourism board.
Do you think that these four cards, four of the best for airline customer loyalty, are really good enough?
Let us know by leaving a comment below.
At this year's Europe's Customer Festival we'll be taking a look at all aspects of Loyalty, why not join us?