This week, Bloomberg released the hot news that Star Alliance, the globe’s largest airline alliance, would be launching a co-branded credit card.
The perks of this product? A unique personal lending solution that will permit you to earn and redeem points on all 26 of Star Alliance’s airlines, plus at least one non-airline partner.
Let’s dissect the news and look at what the upcoming Star Alliance credit card might entail.
What Is the Star Alliance Credit Card?
The announcement of the Star Alliance credit card has been confirmed by Star Alliance’s CEO, Jeffrey Goh. While the basics of the product and its general capabilities have been released to the public, it’s been a little difficult to ascertain exactly what its capabilities are supposed to be.
First, the good news. Star Alliance has confirmed that its credit card will permit users to earn and redeem points on any of their partnered airlines.
Better yet, it appears that all of the airlines will be transfer partners, which is to state that points earned on the credit card can then be transferred to one of the airlines in question.
This is pretty big news, and one which will launch any over-enthusiastic aviation enthusiast such as myself into speculation overdrive. This decision indicates that there could potentially be the creation of a pan-Star Alliance points currency.
Such a decision has significant implications, because it would mean that suddenly every points program may now have some kind of “base” exchange rate with the Star Alliance program.
More importantly, it would allow international customers to start earning on some of the Star Alliance’s more esoteric carriers. For example, I haven’t had a chance to consider exploring Japan much as a result of the pandemic (despite having a first name that is identical to one of their largest brands of beer), and thus have had no reason to earn within All Nippon Airways’s Mileage Club, despite ANA offering one of the best business class products on the market.
With this credit card, I could suddenly become able to redeem points within ANA Mileage Club, which would help make booking one of their elusive First Class flights or an ANA Round-the-World award much easier.
On top of these perks, Mr. Goh has confirmed that at least one “non-airline partner” has been added to the credit card’s benefit network, and thus far the speculation is that this will refer to one of Europe’s railway lines.
As Europe shifts toward green energy, and indeed many carriers (such as Lufthansa and Swiss) offer train rides as part of their transportation services, this would appear to be likely to me.
That being said, I also think that it’s also possible that other partners could be named, such as Uber, which has had a co-branded credit card in the United States.
If I was being adventurous, this could also refer to a cruise line partner, though even I at my most contrarian think that to be quite unlikely.
When and Where Will the Star Alliance Credit Card Launch?
For those of you biting your nails in anticipation, Star Alliance has confirmed that their first co-branded credit card will be launched within 2022.
I wish there were more specific dates to this announcement, but with such a vague benchmark being mentioned it’s hard to think that this card will be available before Q3 or even Q4.
While the wait will be unfortunate, it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into this credit card’s design and value proposition to potential customers. It also appears that the maiden voyage of the product will be within an unspecified “regional market,” leading me to believe that this excludes the United States.
As much as it would be nice to hope that this card launches in the Canadian market, with our small population of under 40 million and distinct lack of robust “non-airline partners,” I think this is unlikely.
My personal theory is that the initial offering for this product will be somewhere within either Europe or East Asia, which possess strong testing grounds with heavy payment card and Star Alliance presence such as Germany and Singapore.
A huge part of me would be delighted, though, if the company threw us a huge curveball and decided to launch its initial test product somewhere with huge potential but which is very under-served by both credit card issuers or airline loyalty programs, such as Ethiopia.
Ultimately, only time will tell but you can bet we’ll be following every update with bated breath here at Prince of Travel. Personally, I can’t help but hope that this card is rolled out within the United States and then gradually made available around the world, given our access to US credit cards here in Canada.
Star Alliance Points: A Convertible Currency?
While I’ve spoken at length about how the introduction of a Star Alliance currency could allow for earning in points programs previously difficult for Canadians to access, I’d also like to highlight the possibility that it could offer another benefit: exchanging from one program to the next.
If member programs’ points, such as Aeroplan points, could be transferred to and from the Star Alliance currency, this would de facto allow them to then be transferred onto another program, such as Swiss Air’s notoriously inaccessible Miles & More.
I’d then be able to actually book Swiss’s world-famous First Class product without worrying about it being unilaterally cancelled!
I’m hopeful that the launch of the Star Alliance credit card, wherever that may be, will make it the most sought-after aviation experiences more accessible for those dedicated enough to pursue the new product.
The creation of a pan-alliance co-branded credit card should be exciting for every Miles & Points enthusiast out there. In fact, I think this is a positive development for anyone interested in aviation, because it indicates that airline alliances are taking their cooperation much more seriously post-pandemic.
Regardless of what happens with the Star Alliance credit card, I do hope that its bonuses and benefits will be accessible to all Canadians and will assist in making all aspirational, once-in-a-lifetime bookings that much easier.
Until next time, watch your newsfeeds.