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If you’ve set your sights on a general travel card, but high annual fees have you questioning whether it’s worth the cost, the Blue Sky from American Express® may be worth considering. This American Express offering is a bit a of rarity in the credit card world because it earns travel rewards you can use on any airline with — you guessed it — a $0 annual fee.
The Blue Sky from American Express®: Basics and benefits
As far as rewards cards go, the Blue Sky from American Express®’s earning structure couldn’t be simpler; it earns a flat 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases. The chart below outlines other basics about the card.
|At a glance|
|Foreign transaction fee||2.7%|
|Rewards program||Every 7,500 Blue Sky Travel Rewards points can be redeemed for a $100 statement credit good for travel on airlines, hotels, car rentals or cruises.|
|Sign-up bonus||Earn 7,500 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.|
|Verdict: As far as flat-rate travel cards go, there are better options than the Blue Sky from American Express®.|
Decent redemption rate for a no-fee card
With the Blue Sky from American Express®, 7,500 points gives you a $100 in statement credit (when redeemed for travel), equal to a 1.3% total rewards rate. That’s a little better than the rate on the popular Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card — which also has a $0 annual fee. The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card earns 1.25% when miles are redeemed for travel.
It is worth noting, however, that the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, unlike the Blue Sky from American Express®, does not have a redemption minimum. So if you’re more keen on flexibility, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is probably a better bet.
The Blue Sky from American Express®: Pitfalls and other possibilities
These characteristics about the Blue Sky from American Express® might have you looking elsewhere:
No added travel perks
The Blue Sky from American Express® doesn’t offer the perks — free checked bags, priority boarding, etc. — offered by co-branded travel cards such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®. Nor does it give you a discount when booking travel, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Of course, both of those cards have annual fees.
If you are willing to pay an annual fee — and for many people, it’s worth it — you’ll have access to a much larger selection of cards with loads of travel perks that won’t be found with the Blue Sky from American Express®.
High redemption minimum
To redeem any points with the Blue Sky from American Express®, you’ll need to have at least 7,500 points in your account. In other words, you’d need to spend at least $7,500 on the card before you could turn your points into cash. While $7,500 isn’t a staggering amount if you use the card for all your spending, required redemption thresholds are an annoyance. Few competing travel cards have substantial redemption minimums.
Low rewards earnings rate
Despite the decent redemption rate on the Blue Sky from American Express®, this card doesn’t do much in terms of earning rewards; its 1 point per dollar spent isn’t great.
A flat-rate travel card alternative, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles for every dollar spent. Miles — when redeemed for travel — are worth 1 cent a piece, making the effective earnings rate 2%. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with an annual fee, though: $0 for the first year, then $95. But if your spending exceeds $8,429 per year (a little over $700 a month), you’ll earn more rewards with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card than the Blue Sky from American Express®, even with the annual fee.
Poor for international travel
Beyond the Blue Sky from American Express®’s limited acceptability as an AmEx, this card’s usefulness for international travel is reduced further by its 2.7% foreign-transaction fee. As with its high redemption minimum, it’s not hard to find alternatives to the Blue Sky from American Express® that come without these limitations.
The Blue Sky from American Express®: Is it right for you?
If you choose the Blue Sky from American Express®, you’d sacrifice redemption flexibility, added perks and international acceptance. If you think these features are important in your travel card, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
Last updated February 22, 2016.