US Airways MasterCard Has New Benefits That Aren’t New at All

Yesterday an email went out declaring new benefits for the US Airways MasterCard from Barclays.

Exciting New Benefits Give You More Privileges

It listed all of the benefits, but didn’t distinguish between those that were old and those that were new.

At first it appeared that, in addition to existing US Airways MasterCard benefits:

  • zone 2 boarding
  • first class check-in
  • 5000 mile discount on award tickets booked exclusively on US Airways
  • annual $99 companion ticket (you can take up to two people along with you for $99+tax each on a minimum $250 plus tax ticket)
  • lounge pass each year
  • 10,000 elite qualifying miles after $25,000 in spend on the card in a calendar year

They had added a new benefit: waiver of award processing fees if you hit $25,000 spend on the card in a calendar year.

Beginning 10 business days after the Purchase Requirement has been met and for 12 months thereafter, the US Airways Award Processing Fee will be waived provided the customer meets the Dividend Miles Select Eligibility Criteria above. The Award Processing Fee Waiver applies only to the Processing Fees listed below and is not a waiver of (i) any government or regulatory agency taxes, fees and surcharges or (ii) any other US Airways fees including quick ticketing fees, paper ticketing fees, change/redeposit fees and fees for tickets that are not booked on-line. The Award Processing Fees waived are: $25 per continental U.S./Alaska/Canada ticket, $35 per Latin America or Caribbean ticket, $50 per Hawaii or all other international destination tickets.

“Award processing fees” are the bogus charges for the privilege of redeeming an award. It’s a junk fee if I’ve ever seen one. This is not related to recouping any cost, it’s a revenue grab that US Airways has in place to tax their mileage holders who want to use their miles for airline tickets.

Except calling this a new benefit didn’t seem right. US Airways MasterCard holders have had award processing fees waived on US Airways itineraries for quite some time, and in my experience there wasn’t any enforcement of a $25,000 spend requirement.

My next thought was that this was an actual downgrade then, since they were now imposing a $25,000 spend requirement to get the processing fees waived.

Except the $25,000 requirement has been in writing for quite some time. This June 2009 page lists the award fee waiver as a benefit of the card after spending $25,000.

Award processing fee waiver: (this benefit is available only for US Airways Cardmembers accounts with an annual fee amount equal or greater than $51.00) Upon spending $25,000 in posted eligible Net Purchases (see terms and conditions for more detail), during a calendar year that are not later credited back to or rescinded (“Purchase Requirement”), the Primary Cardmember will be eligible to have the US Airways award processing fee waived beginning 10 days after the Purchase Requirement has been met and continuing for 14 months thereafter. For accounts that met the Purchase Requirement prior to July 1, 2009, the award processing fee waiver will begin on July 1, 2009 and continue through September 1, 2010. The award processing fee waiver applies only to the US Airways award processing fees listed and is not a waiver of (i) any government mandated taxes, fees and surcharges, (ii) any other regulatory agency fees and (iii) any other US Airways fees including quick ticketing fees, paper ticketing fees, change/redeposit fees and non-refundable service fees for tickets that are not booked online. The award processing fees waived are as follows: for domestic U.S. tickets: $25 per ticket, for tickets to/from Mexico/Caribbean: $35 per ticket; for tickets to/from Hawaii/other international destinations: $50 per ticket.

At first I thought it was interesting to see them adding a card benefit with the future of Barclays issuing the card in flux. If the American Airlines merger proceeds, it’s a virtual certainty that Barclays will lose the co-brand contract with the airline. And yet they have to proceed as though they will retain the product (and even if the merger is consummated, the card may be around for awhile still just as the Bank of America card didn’t go away right after after US Airways and America West merged).

But then I just went away perplexed.

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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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  1. I got this email yesterday. I actually honestly don’t remember that getting a free one day lounge pass was a benefit.
    Any idea on how to get that benefit (is it like companion pass where they send a voucher)?

  2. @Steve – It should be on the same sheet as the companion certificate in the packet they send after you receive the card or after your anniversary.

  3. I’m just hoping that the keep the 10,000 Anniversary Miles Benefit. No mention of that anywhere in any mailings/emails that I’ve received, but my original T&C definitely says I should be getting it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed in a month when the annual fee is due!

  4. @Steve – yep, it’s one big sheet with everything printed on it and performated – the lounge pass, the membership card, and the companion pass. Also, just redeemed one of these lounge passes last week at DCA and despite me not being able to find this in print anywhere on the pass, the pass was good to get two people in.

    Received this email yesterday and was a bit perplexed myself as it seemed indeed that nothing was new. Though it is a good remind that I always forget about first class check in. Though I also always forget that, unlike the AA cards, this one doesn’t waive a bag fee :(.

  5. It’s this kind of business behavior that frightens me thinking that US Scareways would run anything at American Airlines
    I’m all for the merger until US Airways and their stingy anti consumer policies come into place
    Poor customer service, bad food, stingy award availability and excessive nuisance ok bogus junk fees.
    This is exactly why I don’t want the merger because of the US Air mentality. Pathetic
    Sadly I have this odd faith the merger will go through
    Time will tell all

  6. @Brian S – Annual fee charged Aug 30. my 10k annual bonus posted Aug 24 to my US airways account

  7. I’d think people generally only need to go to check-in if checking bags, so taking advantage of first class check-in (if non-elite and flying domestic) goes with paying a fee.

  8. The actual new benefit is:

    10,000 ELITE QUALIFYING miles after $25,000 in spend on the card in a calendar year

    which could help in attaining/retaining status.

    From the T&C, after spending $25,000 in a calendar year:

    …10,000 of those miles will be converted from base miles to Preferred miles 4 to 8 weeks after the Purchase Requirement has been met…

  9. Dug up the T&C from the USAir card I got back in 2012, and that benefit is listed, so you are correct Gary.

    My mistake…*goes to sit in corner for timeout* 🙁

  10. I booked an award for my parents this summer using their US Airways miles and their US Airways card, and the processing fees were not waived. I booked it online. How did you normally go about getting the fees waived? Did you have to ask, or would they just not add them if you were booking over the phone?

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