Star Alliance Credit Cards: Everything You Need to Know

Star Alliance Credit Cards: Everything You Need to Know

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Star Alliance is one of the world's largest global airline alliances, with 27 members serving over 1,300 destinations worldwide. Some Star Alliance members have partnered with U.S. banks to offer co-branded credit cards to consumers. These products allow cardholders to supercharge their ability to earn miles, and often come with other benefits on the side that make them worth looking at. The advantage of using a Star Alliance credit card is the fact that you can use the miles earned through it to book travel with one of the other partnered airlines, so long as there is award seat availability.

Star Alliance Credit Cards

A quarter of Star Alliance airlines offer a co-branded credit card in the United States. While other cards exist, you must be a resident of those other countries to be able to apply. For the most part, we've found these card offers to be of good quality. Still, if you decide to apply for one, we suggest looking up a review. We highlighted two standout offers in the next section.

Star Alliance Credit Card

Airline
Rewards
Annual Fee
United℠ Explorer CardUnited Airlines
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
United Club℠ Infinite CardUnited Airlines
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
$525
Avianca Vida Visa® CardAvianca
  • Earn 2 LifeMiles per $1 spent on Avianca purchases and 1 LifeMile per $1 spent on all other purchases
$59
Avianca Vuela Visa® CardAvianca
  • Earn 3 LifeMiles per $1 spent on Avianca purchases, 2 LifeMiles per $1 spent at gas stations and grocery stores and 1 LifeMile per $1 spent on all other purchases
$149
Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®Lufthansa
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 spent on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners. Earn 1 award mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
$89
ANA Card U.S.A. Visa® Credit CardAll Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 in purchases
$70

It's worth pointing out that Miles & More, Lufthansa's frequent flyer program, has been adopted by other smaller European airlines. Therefore, you may be able to book additional flights using the miles earned from those two credit cards.

The Best Star Alliance Credit Cards

We examined each of the Star Alliance credit cards carefully to see which ones stood out for the rest of the pack. When trying to decide which cards were best, we decided to focus on each card's mile earning potential as well as other benefits that were not specific to one airline.

The Best Choice For Most: United℠ Explorer Card

Since United is the only US-based carrier in Star Alliance, you will have the best chance to find award seat availability for your area with this airline. Therefore, we recommend the United℠ Explorer Card for most people. The card lets you Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. It also offers other benefits, including waiving your first checked bag fee. All the benefits make this card's annual fee of $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 well worth it. Note, if you fly more than a couple of times per year with checked bags, you may want to consider the United Club℠ Card instead. You can use this guide to help you determine the best United credit card for you.

On the topic of award seat availability, we recommend calling up United to ask for award seats. The company's website, United.com, has been known to not list certain award seats that are otherwise available to consumers. This is especially true if you want to book a flight with Singapore Airlines — United.com does not list award seats for this Star Alliance partner on their website. We expand on this topic more in another section.

Highlights

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Check your first bag for free on United operated flights
  • Read Review

Best for European Travel: Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®

The Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard® is much more than simply a Star Alliance credit card, because of its fantastic rewards program. The Miles & More frequent flyer program has been adopted by 13 other European airlines, including SWISS, Brussels Airlines and Luxair. Therefore, when you earn miles through the Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®, not only can you use them with other Star Alliance partners, but any of the other 13 airlines as well. For deal hunters who relish searching through multiple airlines for the best redemption, this kind of flexibility is invaluable.

The card itself is good by any standards. You Earn 2 award miles per $1 spent on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners. Earn 1 award mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. We value a single Miles & More mile to be worth about $0.014, therefore the rewards rate on the card varies between 1.4% and 2.8% — well above average. The card currently comes with an $89 annual fee. For those who stay loyal with Lufthansa and want to fly with this airline, there are also plenty of other loyalty benefits included. Cardholders get one free companion ticket annually, two complimentary Lufthansa Business Lounge Couchers annually and a slew of other perks.

Highlights

  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 spent on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners. Earn 1 award mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 2 complimentary Lufthansa Business Lounge Vouchers annually
  • 1 free companion ticket annually

How to Book Travel With Airlines Within an Alliance

In theory, you can use any of the frequent flyer miles you accumulated through one airline to book award travel with one of their Star Alliance partners. We say "in theory", because while it is possible, the ability book these seats will be highly dependent upon award seat availability. Each airline has the chance to decide how many of their seats, and on which flights, they make available to those with frequent flyer miles. Some airlines may even release fewer award seats to partnered airlines than they do to their own customers.

What further complicates award travel is the fact that you may not learn about certain flights unless you really dig for them. For example, United does not list any flights with Singapore Airlines on their website, though that doesn't mean flights aren't available. While United's award search functionality is better than some other US-based airlines, they still pale in comparison to some other Star Alliance Partners.

If you're interested in finding award seats with Star Alliance, you should use ANA Airlines' website. The website for Nippon Airways, ANA for short, has been reported to list the most Star Alliance award seats. Once you find a flight you want on the ANA website, call up a travel agent of your frequent flyer program, and they should be able to book the flight for you.

The information related to the United Club℠ Card and the Avianca Vida Visa® Cardhas been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).