There is a new kid on the block: First BankCard Sun Country Airlines credit card.
OK, so the “new” is relative. The First BankCard Sun Country credit card 40,000-mile bonus has been around since this summer, but if it has made a splash, it’s been very quiet so far. For obvious reasons, our crowd prefers flying with legacies. Smaller airlines are not nearly as appealing to the hobbyists, deservedly or not.
Sun Country is a low-cost airline based in Minneapolis, loved by many and despised by some.
There are a few reasons why the new credit card might be a great travel solution for you.
- A 40,000-mile bonus can get you as many as 8 one-way trips.
- No annual fee for the first year ($69 thereafter)
- The spending requirement is only $500.
- It’s issued by by First Bankcard, a division of First National Bank of Omaha, which is, needless to say, not Chase, Citi, Amex, or Barclays. New players are always welcome.
- Despite being a no-frills airline, it has first class, and the first-class reviews I’ve read are surprisingly positive.
- Upgrades to a first class seat are considerably cheaper than legacies; in points, as well as cash.
- You can pool your points with other members!
- No charge for carry-ons.
- Sun Country on-time record is quite good.
- They fly internationally to Mexico and the Caribbean.
- No blackouts or capacity control. If the seat is available for money, you can book it on points.
And here are a few reasons why it might not be a great travel solution.
- A 40,000-mile bonus can get you as little as 1 one-way trip.
- Sun Country is a revenue-based program and it’s a bit confusing.
- Not a user-friendly award-search engine.
- Only one hub.
- Limited number of international destinations.
- No airline partners.
- Most destinations are seasonal.
Should you take advantage of this offer?
That depends on where you live and more importantly where you don’t. 🙂 If you live in or near Minneapolis, this is a no-brainer, IMHO, because more often than not, you will be able to book at least one flight on your bonus points. If you, on the other hand, live in New York like yours truly, then, well, meh! Even Spirit affords me more choices, since it allows me to fly to at least a few places non-stop rather than only one–Minneapolis.
But if you do live in Minneapolis, this is an awesome deal. Sun Country claims that their flights begin at 6,500 points, but I have found an even cheaper option.
Granted, this is a short, 1.5-hour flight, but let’s see how much you would have to pay for it.
If you fly between Minneapolis and Chicago with any kind of regularity, then the cost of one flight you should consider would be around $158 ($178 -$20.20 in taxes). Multiply by 4 and this is how much your bonus is worth: $632.
If you want business class, the cost is just 40% more. You can get almost 3 business class flights out of your bonus (just charge a little more on the card). Let’s compare the mile redemption (14,000 for round trip) with cash outlay. You would redeem 10,000 points vs. $158, which is 1.6 points per dollar.
You would redeem 14,000 points vs. $238, which is a slightly better better return: 1.8 points per dollar.
In any case, if you live in Minneapolis or fly there often, you should seriously consider this card.
The case for getting the Sun Country credit card becomes much weaker if you don’t live in or don’t fly to Minneapolis often. The best redemption out of New York I could find was to Minneapolis for 12,000 points one way, and in the summer, that would go up to 20,000 and even more. Still, if I traveled between NYC and Minneapolis with any regularity, I would be able to get three segments out of this bonus, which would amount to $546. So, it depends. Flying anywhere beyond Minneapolis out of New York on points, for example to Vegas or the West Coast, is very expensive on points and the bonus won’t even get you one roundtrip flight. Not worth it, IMHO.
Still, the pooling feature is great!
The Sun Country Ufly program has an awesome pool feature that is very similar to JetBlue.
Pooling is as simple as 1-2-3:
1) Create a pool:
- The person who creates the pool will be the administrator of the pool.
- The pool administrator’s role is to “manage” the pooled points.
- The pool administrator will be the only member with privileges to redeem award points from the pool, however, pooled points can be used for any of the members of the pool. The pool administrator just has to be the person to redeem them.
2) Invite up to 9 other Ufly members to join your pool:
- The pool administrator logs in to his or her account and sends an email invitation to other Ufly members via the online “pool creation” process.
- To join the pool, invitees must be a Ufly Rewards member and accept the invitation sent by the pool administrator.
- If you are the pool administrator and someone you invite to the pool does not want to join, then you can always invite someone else!
3) Allocate all or a portion of your points to the pool:
- Each member of the pool may allocate as many or as few of his or her points to the pool.
- To allocate points to the pool, simply log in to your account and follow the prompts for point allocation.
- You can take back some or all of your points at any time from the pool. Points are earmarked for the pool, but not committed until the pool administrator actually redeems the pooled points for award travel.
- Any member(s) in the pool can use the pooled points. The pool administrator just has to be the person to redeem the pooled points on behalf of the member(s).
The pooling feature makes this 40,000-mile bonus maybe worth it even if you don’t live in or fly to Minneapolis. If you have close tight-knit circle of like-minded individuals, there are options (wink-wink). 🙂
Even though Sun Country Ufly is a revenue-based program, there is some weirdness going on, sometimes.
Take a look at this table for an award flight between Minneapolis and Cozumel.
Now compare this redemption level with the cash price.
What’s weird is that the return $797 flight cash price does not correspond with the points price of 26,500 at all! If you take a look at the next available return date, which is March 9th, and which only costs $307, you’ll find that for some reason, you’d pay even more in points for a cheaper flight: 29,500 instead of 26,500. I have no idea if this is a glitch or if there are other considerations that Sun Country puts into pricing the award, but I have found a few of such irregularities while browsing redemptions.
Earning Ifly points
Earning Ifly points is not half-bad. I think, it’s one of the most generous airline programs, earning-wise, I’ve ever seen.
We’ve made it simple. With Ufly Rewards you’ll earn points for every dollar spent on qualifying tickets and upgrades versus segments or miles flown.
Plus earn points faster with the new Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card! Learn More
Earn Air Ticket Purchases1 10 points per $1 spent Class Upgrades1
10 points per $1 spent Airfare portion of Sun Country
10 points per $1 spent
The Sun Country credit card gives you 2 points more for a ticket purchase, so that’s 12 points on a dollar!
- 4 points per $1 spent on qualifying on-board purchases1
- 2 points per $1 spent on qualifying Sun Country Airlines products and services, including tickets and upgrades
- 1 point per $1 spent on everything else1
All in all, even though I probably won’t be applying for this card (strictly because I’m NYC-based) , some folks should look into this program. And if anything, arrival of new players at the scene is always a welcome development!
So, what are your impressions of First Bankcard Sun Country credit card? Share your thoughts here.
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