[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. For current terms and conditions, please see card agreements.]
My last commercial flight was a huge disappointment. Check in and security screening took forever, what little food that was served was terrible, and I could barely get out of my seat when the person in front of me reclined his. Yet I wasn’t stuck in economy class, I had actually redeemed my frequent flier miles for a domestic flight in first class.
As a pilot myself, I know that the only way to avoid these problems is to travel on a private aircraft. Jets that seat six to ten passengers utilize private terminals at secondary airports, and travelers are never subjected to check in lines or TSA screenings.
Sadly, chartering a jet will cost thousands of dollars per person and is out of consideration for most non-millionaires. Nevertheless, I was struck by one aspect of the new Dynamics ePlate rewards credit card offered by UMB Bank. Cardholders can earn a seat on a private jet flight by spending a mere $1,250 on their card. To be clear, the flight does not cost $1,250 (which would still be a good deal), it is an award received once cardholders spend that amount on any of their purchases.
Is This Too Good To Be True?
The saying goes, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Fortunately, the key word here is “probably” as there are still many ways to earn stunning rewards from credit card use. So I contacted Mike Azzarello, President of JetLimo, the company that the Dynamics ePlate card uses to award flights. Azzarello explained that JetLimo acts as a broker of unsold seats on existing flights offered by other charter companies. It also employs scientists to create sophisticated computer programs in order maximize the revenue of the available seats it sells on chartered flights. Furthermore, it offers free seats to cancer patients who need to travel for treatment as part of the Corporate Angel Network.
Of course, no amount of computer wizardry can reduce the cost of operating a multi-million dollar private jet to pennies on the dollar. Essentially, JetLimo is offering otherwise empty seats on existing flights in the hopes of growing its business by word of mouth. At this time, their business is just getting up and running, and most flights are originating on the west coast, with their most popular route being between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Customers put in a request for an open seat, and are then notified when a flight becomes available. At some point, JetLimo and ePlate will have to offer this service for a price that more closely resembles its value, but Azzarello stressed that this is not a limited time offer and users of the Dynamics ePlate card are free to accumulate as many award credits as they can.
ePlate’s Rewards Technology
Other than this innovative reward opportunity, UMB Bank offers the Dynamics ePlate reward cards with several unique technologies. Dynamics is a technology company that has created a credit card with the world’s first fully programmable magnetic stripe. Cardholders can then use buttons on the card to choose the reward they want before swiping it, and the card even lights up when used. The Dynamics ePlate card offers dozens of other reward options in addition to the JetLimo program. These include vouchers for airline tickets at 1.35 cents per dollar spent and cash back at 1.25 cents per dollar spent.
It is unclear how selecting rewards before making a purchase offers any advantage over earning points that can later be redeemed for many different awards. Technology aside, any credit card that can offer customers the chance to fly in a private jet after spending just $1,250 is a product that is worth watching.