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90 days until Continental and Amex end mile and lounge access

by on Thu June 30, 2011 • No Comment

Presidents Club entranceWe’re now within 90 days until Continental Airlines and American Express sever their long standing mile and lounge access relationship on September 30th, 2011. What does this mean?

  • Platinum and Centurion cardholders will no longer have access to Continental Presidents Clubs
  • All American Express Membership Rewards program members will no longer be able to transfer their miles to Continental Airlines mile accounts

Our first piece of advice is to wait until later in the summer to apply for any new cards, as it’s possible they will start upping the bonus offers as we get down to the wire. Just make sure you transfer any Membership Rewards points you want to turn into Continental miles by September 30th. But if you want to continue earning Continental miles via a credit card or have access to their lounges after September 30th think about your gameplan now, and consider the following…

Don’t need Continental lounge access, want to earn Continental miles

In this case, the answer is pretty simple — sign up for one of the basic credit cards that earns full Continental/United miles, all of which are from Chase. For now, there are several until they simplify for the merger, most with about a $90 annual fee.  If you never used Delta or other Membership Rewards airlines for miles, you may want to consider cancelling your Amex altogether.

  • Continental OnePass Plus. Also offers free first checked bags on all Continental/United flights.
  • United MileagePlus Visa. No free bags, but generous intro bonus.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Biggest intro bonus, no free bags, but lets you transfer points to British Airways, Marriott, and Hyatt as well as United.

Need Continental lounge access

If you want to keep flying Continental and want Continental lounge access, you have these options:

  1. Sign up for the Continental Presidential Plus MasterCard from Chase, which gives you access to all Continental, United, and US Airways lounges. The annual fee is $395, less than buying a standalone club membership unless you’re a super frequent Platinum Elite flyer. Then decide if you want to keep your Platinum Card for Delta and American Airlines club access. The total cost each year will be $450 + $395 = $845 to retain both cards, a steep bill if you only fly them occasionally.
  2. Keep your Platinum Card, and use the new $200 annual airline fee credit toward purchasing standalone membership to the United/Continental Club. You might not remember this, but after Continental announced it was ending its agreement, American Express added a new benefit to the Platinum Card — $200 in annual rebates on airline charges on the airline of your choice. Amex phone reps have noted this can be used toward the purchase of standalone club membership. So instead of paying $845 to retain all the lounge access you have today, you pay $725 (a United/Continental club membership is $475 per year; less if you are an elite flyer) — $450 Platinum Card + $475 club membership less $200 rebate. If you really want to be frugal, US Airways seems to put its club membership on sale for $259 a couple times a year — it includes full access to Continental/United lounges.

Or, consider another airline altogether in New York

DeltaA disproportionate number of Membership Rewards and Platinum Card members live in the New York area, where Continental is for now the biggest airline. If you don’t live in New Jersey you might want to consider switching to Delta, which is rapidly increasing its presence via more flights from close-in LaGuardia and a new terminal at JFK that will be completed in less than two years. While we think Continental/United has the superior mileage program by far, with easier redemption and more options. However New York is probably the best place in the country to be a Delta frequent flyer, as they are trying hard to gain share in the market. They’re happy to match your elite status and have made great strides in improving customer service training. Your Membership Rewards points are good for transfer into Delta SkyMiles at any time.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
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Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

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