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U.S. Airlines revamp credit cards to keep pace with competition

For more than two decades, airline credit cards offered consumers a simple formula: Spend a dollar, earn a mile, pay an annual fee, repeat. If you played the game correctly, you’d score at least a free ticket each year — just by making everyday purchases.

Enter the new generation of airline credit cards. They’re not for everyone — but this time, that’s the point. With new earning opportunities and perks valuable to both very frequent and very casual travelers, they’re an aggressive bid to attract new cardholders, retain existing ones, and cement loyalty among their fans.

Delta’s Reserve card in partnership with American Express is also getting a makeover, adding access to Amex’s excellent Centurion lounges and boosting earning bonuses so that airline purchases earn three points per dollar, instead of two. It also covers the cost of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. For those enhancements, customers will pay a top-tier fee of $550 per year — up from $450.

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