Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current credit card information.
Staying connected while traveling is important for many of us. For business travelers, it can be crucial. Without consistent and functional Wi-Fi on a six-hour transcontinental flight or a 12-hour international stretch in the air, information or even whole deals can slip away.
Even if we just want to post on Instagram while airborne, inflight access is valuable and becoming more common, but it may be years until more airlines offer it for free, although JetBlue does offer its Fly-Fi for free, while Southwest Airlines offers free access to Apple iMessage and WhatsApp, television and movies via its Wi-Fi.
Luckily, there are travel rewards cards that offer the opportunity to stay connected at 30,000 feet in the air, and the key to free Wi-Fi may already be in your wallet.
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Credit cards that offer inflight Wi-Fi passes
Free Gogo Wi-Fi
There are three credit cards that include Gogo inflight internet passes as a benefit:
- U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card: 12 per year ($400 annual fee).
- UBS Visa Infinite credit card: 12 per year ($495 annual fee).
- City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite: 12 per year ($400 annual fee).
The information for the US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite, UBS Visa Infinite and the City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Gogo offers inflight internet access on selected airlines, and passengers can buy passes in advance or on board. Ordinarily, a prepurchased, one-hour pass would set you back $7 for use on domestic flights on Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines or United Airlines or $19 for an all-day pass on the same carriers (again, domestic flights only).
For $28, you can buy a Delta Global Day Pass that provides 24 hours of coverage on any Delta Gogo-equipped flight. Most T-Mobile customers may also be able to get a free hour of Wi-Fi on select Gogo flights, while subscribers get unlimited Gogo Wi-Fi with certain plans.
Just note that some airlines, such as American and United, use multiple Wi-Fi services in addition to Gogo, such as Viasat or Panasonic, and it’s not always easy to know in advance which service your particular flight will offer.
Other free inflight Wi-Fi options
In addition to the cards listed above, there are several cobranded airline cards that provide statement credits and discounts toward Wi-Fi purchases on their respective airlines.
Southwest uses Global Eagle Wi-Fi on its aircraft, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, with a $199 annual fee, includes reimbursement for up to 365 $8 inflight Wi-Fi purchases on Southwest each year. Southwest charges $8 for an all-day Wi-Fi pass, so this card effectively gets you free Wi-Fi on Southwest every day of the year. Just pay for passes with the card and your account will automatically be credited for the cost.
Related: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card review
For American Airlines passengers, there’s the $99-a-year AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard that offers up to $25 in statement credits toward Wi-Fi purchases on AA flights and the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard (not currently open to new applications) that offers up to $50 in statement credits per year. If you exhaust these options, you can get 25% back in statement credits for Wi-Fi purchases made on the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®.
The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red, the AAdvantage Aviator Silver and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: American Airlines launching improved Wi-Fi subscription plan
United offers a similar 25% discount on Wi-Fi (and other onboard purchases) with the United Explorer Card, United Business Card and the no-annual-fee United TravelBank Card (this card is no longer accepting new applicants). The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card also offers 20% back on Alaska Airlines inflight purchases, including Wi-Fi.
It’s also worth noting that airline fee credits on certain American Express cards will generally not cover inflight Wi-Fi purchases on your selected airline.
Airlines offering free Wi-Fi
Like most things in the tech world, the state of inflight Wi-Fi is fluid. It’s becoming more commonplace for airlines to offer internet access, but finding a free connection can be challenging. Here are the exceptions (assuming the plane is equipped with Wi-Fi):
Aer Lingus: Free for business-class passengers.
Alitalia: Free for Magnifica and premium economy-class passengers.
China Eastern: 258 yuan (about $38) worth of free Wi-Fi; must apply in advance.
Finnair: Free for one hour for business-class passengers and for Finnair Plus Gold members; free for the whole flight for Finnair Plus Platinum and Finnair Plus Platinum Lumo members.
Icelandair: Saga Premium, Saga Premium Flex and Economy Flex passengers and Saga Gold members get free Wi-Fi for two devices.
Philippine Airlines: Free chat plan of 3MB; business-class passengers get an additional 100MB of data.
SAS: Free for SAS Business and SAS Plus passengers and for EuroBonus Gold and Diamond members.
Singapore Airlines: Free for first-class and Suites passengers. Business-class passengers and PPS Club members receive 100MB for themselves and supplementary cardholders.
Swiss: Free for first-class passengers, up to 50MB.
Turkish Airlines: Free for business-class passengers (up to 1GB), Miles&Smiles Elite/Elite Plus members (up to 400MB) and Miles&Smiles Classic/Classic Plus members (up to 10MB).
Virgin Australia: Free standard package on domestic flights.
Xiamen Air: Free, but registration required prior to flight.
In addition, the following airlines offer free inflight messaging through data-based services like iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger:
- Air France.
- Nok Air.
- TAP Portugal.
Related: The reason Delta doesn’t have free Wi-Fi yet? Tech limits, CEO says
You may not want to apply for a credit card for the Wi-Fi benefit alone, but it’s a nice perk to have if you’re a U.S.-based traveler. To summarize, complimentary Gogo passes cover Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta and United, but it’s also possible to get free or discounted Wi-Fi on Southwest, American and United with its cobranded cards.
Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
Featured photo by andresr/Getty Images.
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And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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