FoundersCard Free Trial: Elite Status and Air, Hotel, and Business Discounts

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I’ve talked to several entrepreneurs lately that are in the pre-launch stage of travel startups. They’re navigating some tricky waters – they want to charge for their service, but consumers are reticent to pay for something up front. Trust is at an all time low, so businesses need to show consumers value first before they fully buy in.

The same phenomenon helps drive credit card initial bonuses. In other for a credit card to become top of wallet, cardmembers need to see that it’s driving real value. The only way to do that is to have a good redemption experience quickly. So banks need to front a bunch of points to customers to generate the proof point that drives ongoing spend.

I was emailing with Eric Kuhn, the CEO of FoundersCard, and asked if he might extend a 3-month free trial of his membership program to readers. Several readers have recommended the great deals they’ve gotten through FoundersCard here on the blog (for instance here, here, and here). But it would be great to let folks poke around and see for themselves the kind of value they’d get out of membership.

  • This is for new FoundersCard Members only.
  • Application is subject to approval.
  • You’ll be charged after the free period if you don’t cancel
  • There are some benefits that are restricted to fully paid members, but this is a great opportunity to take advantage of many of the benefits right away and see if it makes sense for you.

By creating a community of entrepreneurs and connecting them with rich offers, FoundersCard has essentially created a two sided market that works well for both companies and members. They’re delivering the attention of a valuable customer segment to travel brands, and delivering valuable deals back to customers.

The trick is that they don’t market many of their valuable benefits outside of sharing them with existing members, because doing so would jeopardize the offers themselves. I’ve called hotel ‘book direct’ and ‘best rate guarantee’ pitches a scam, and hotels can offer better rates to FoundersCard members (since it’s a paid membership organization, it’s exempt from best rate promises), but given the emphasis on the best deals supposedly being direct they can’t rub they deals they’ve got in chains’ faces.

Poking around their materials I find:

  • Airline discounts: 10% off British Airways; 5% off JetBlue; up to 25% off Qantas; 15% off Cathay Pacific; 5% off Emirates; up to 10% off Etihad. Some have fare restrictions.

  • Hotel elite status: Hilton Gold; Caesars Diamond; Omni Select Guest Platinum; Marriott Platinum challenge

  • Airline elite status: American Airlines Gold/Platinum challenge, they recently had a status challenge with United, and I recall reading about a past Cathay Pacific elite status offer too.

  • Transportation status and discounts: Hertz status and discounts; 20% off SIlvercar; discounts with GroundLink, zipcar, Getaround, EmpireCLS, and Carey Transportation.

  • Hotel deals: Discounts with Park Hyatt, W Hotels, Peninsula, Four Seasons, Omni and several others both in the U.S. and throughout the world. These are the deals they’re most sensitive about being about to discuss outside of members.

  • Business discounts: Lenovo, Shopify, Apple, UPS, Salesforce, and Dell

cathay pacific first class

The specific offers change, because travel brand partnerships come and go and travel providers try different things to entice business, but these current offers provide a flavor.

Strictly speaking they take an application. They’re able to get these benefits because FoundersCard is for entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, and the like. However they’re also an inclusive community and many (though not all) readers will benefit.


Are you a current or past member, and what’s been your experience with their deals? Will you take advantage of the free trial?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. I don’t understand the target audience. If you travel enough then you can get the status they are offering. If you are booking significant travel then you can negotiate discounts with either a travel agent or airline directly.

  2. Re FoundersCard. I paid mightily for a first year and got zip, zero, niente, nada value. They didn’t even correspond in that 12 months to assist, concierge, check in to see why I hadn’t attended anything. I felt ripped off! Suddenly when I announced I was not renewing they shamelessly hounded me with attention, multiple discounted 2nd year renewal membership etc. Too little too late I fear. Apart from a very expensive metal card in a box (which I get with Amex) I considered that it was a very big waste of my hard earned income.

  3. I have a well-established travel consulting company with 16 employees and they denied my application because they said they deny nearly all travel-related companies for fear of us using the discounts for our customers. I asked if I could sign a document saying I would not and never heard back. Bizarre.

  4. I dunno this sounds sketchy. Seems like I have a lot of these benefits via credit card for less and looking around it seems like some of the benefits are more limited (like only a few park hyatts not the whole chain) or rotating benefits so what is available now may not be available in a month or two.

  5. I signed up with them last year when I was getting back into the travel game after having been out of it for 5 years. If you’re already traveling a bunch and have the right mix of cards and status, they don’t add much, but they had a few offers, including Diamond with Caesar’s and Gold with Hilton that added real value for me that first year when I was restarting from zero.

    I kept it a second year simply because I forgot to cancel. There won’t be a year three unless some incredible new offer drops from the sky.

  6. None of these offers really move the needle for seasoned travelers. People want significant discounts off everyday pricing (think 30%) or significant top level benefits (mid-level Gold status and challenges don’t cut it).

  7. I’m with most of the above commenters. There are a lot of low to mid tier status challenges but not a lot of intrinsic value with the card. 15% off United or Alaska would show some tangible value. A status challenge with Bonvoy not so much.

  8. Founders card is THE biggest SCAM. E.V.E.R. Bogus offers. BS discounts. I can get & obtain & retain virtually all of its “specials/discounts” by myself without paying $450 for a fake useless POS metal. World MC, World Elite MC offers a bunch of benefits & discounts. Bigger discounts? Hello AARP ($10 a yr membership). Even bigger discounts & benefits? Perhaps Amex Platinum/Visa Infinite/WEMC ($0 to $550 annual fee). Telecom? Dial 611.

  9. It is just a ‘portal to discounts’. I cancelled before the free trial was over because:

    1) Most of the offers are available elsewhere;
    2) The best offers are not available during the free trial;
    3) Supposed lower prices actually amounted to a lesser product in return for the lower price. Specifically, the offers were so hedged with conditions and restrictions as to be aimed at students, et. al. rather than entrepreneurs, who don’t have time to dodge hoops.

    I expect there are occasions where it saves money in excess of the steep $450 fee (soon going up to $600) but they are edge cases, not worth pursuing.

    I was surprised that @Gary did not mention the high fee or the impending increase. Leaving it out is doing a disservice to his readers as it robs the article of context.

  10. Wow. I’m pretty surprised at the comments here – I’ve been a member for awhile and I feel like I break even but this is *NOT* a scam. First off I probably make my membership fee back with the ATT discount. I’ve also scored discounts on Apple products and I nailed it when I stayed at the Andaz in Tokyo. I had a rate so good that they needed to see my (cool looking) physical card. BTW that is probably my fave hotel ever.

    I understand the retort that it’s a “portal to discounts” – maybe – but I would never be able to have a full time job and assemble the discounts – even if that’s true It gives me value b/c I don’t have the time to go to coupon cutting websites all day…nor do most Entrepreneurs or busy professionals like me.

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