Editorial Policy

Sun Country Airlines launches Visa card

Tina Orem

August 28, 2014

The average full-time employee in America who has been with his or her employer for a year gets about 10 days of vacation and eight paid holidays each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That's almost four work weeks' worth of fun.

But, many of those fun times require a plane ticket — sometimes a very expensive one. So finding a way to rack up frequent flier miles can be the difference between sitting on the beach and sitting at home.

And that means you might take a second look at Sun Country Airlines' new Visa card, which it announced on June 25.

If you live in a major metro area (that isn't in the Rocky Mountain region or the South), you've probably heard of the airline. It was formed by pilots of the defunct Braniff Airlines in 1982, according to the Centre for Aviation, and until 1999, it only chartered private flights.Click to email me

Headquartered in Minneapolis, it moved 1.4 million people in the year ending in May 2014, a 6.87 percent increase over the same period the previous year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It serves 113 markets, 10 of which it picked up in the last year.

Sun Country flies to “normal” places like Lansing, Michigan, Dallas, Phoenix and Chicago. But the airline is really about vacations — “fun” destinations such as Orlando, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Antilles.

That's why vacationers might love the 40,000 miles this card doles out if you spend at least $500 in the first three months of having the card. According to our calculations, which we verified with Sun Country Airlines, new cardholders can quickly (and relatively cheaply) achieve Elite status if they buy just $850 in airline tickets in the first three months of having that card.

It works like this: Cardholders earn 2 points per dollar spent on Sun Country Airlines products. Because they're also automatically enrolled in the company's frequent flier program — Ufly — they also get 10 points per dollar spent on base airfare. In turn, that $850 in tickets racks up 50,200 points after adding in that 40,000-mile bonus.

That doesn't just get you to your vacation destination — it gets you Elite status with the airline because you earned more than 50,000 miles. That means that for the next 14 months, you get priority check-in, priority boarding, two free checked bags, free seat selection, no change fees, and a private customer service line.

Want a cocktail during your flight to Jamaica? You'll also earn four points per dollar spent on onboard purchases. Just want to use the card for groceries? You'll earn a point per dollar for everyday purchases. And if you spend more than $10,000 on the card in a year, you'll earn 5,000 bonus points.

Possibly even cooler is that all those points you rack up with this card can be pooled with up to nine other people. Pooled points can be redeemed for travel for any of the members of the pool.

The card is actually issued by First Bankcard, which is a division of First National Bank of Omaha. That bank runs more than 500 cobranded credit card programs in the United States.

The card doesn't charge interest for six months, but after that it's 14.99-18.99 percent, depending on your creditworthiness. But miss a payment or otherwise become unreliable, and the rate skyrockets to 29.99 percent — “indefinitely,” according to the terms and conditions.

The annual fee is $69 after the first year.

Another interesting note: The card has no pre-set spending limit. First Bankcard is very careful to say in the terms and conditions that this means you can't just go crazy with the card. Rather, you'll get a credit limit, but if a charge comes through that runs you over that limit, it will evaluate the transactions on a case-by-case basis. “In certain circumstances, we may ask for additional financial records,” the bank says in the disclosures.

So if you live in a major city from where Sun Country flies, and you're dying to bask in the Bahamas, swim in St. Thomas or mess around in Montego Bay, this card might be something to look at. Of course, the points expire if you don't use them at least once every three years. That may sound like a bad thing, but look at it this way: Now you have another reason to use those vacation days.