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. However, it may be years until more airlines offer it for free. Having said that, JetBlue does offer its Fly-Fi for at zero cost, while carriers such as Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines offer free access to messaging apps via inflight Wi-Fi.
Luckily, there are travel rewards cards that offer the opportunity to stay connected at 30,000 feet in the air. The key to free Wi-Fi may already be in your wallet.
In This Post
Credit cards that offer inflight Wi-Fi passes
There are several cobranded airline cards that provide statement credits and discounts toward Wi-Fi purchases on their respective airlines:
Alaska Airlines cobranded credit cards
For Alaska Airlines flyers, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card both offer 20% back on Alaska Airlines inflight purchases, including Wi-Fi.
American Airlines cobranded credit cards
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 applicants) 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 POINTS GUY
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 trials free Wi-Fi
Southwest Airlines cobranded credit cards
For internet on Southwest Airlines flights, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, with a $199 annual fee, includes reimbursement for up to 365 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
However, if you don’t have that particular Southwest card, you can receive 25% back on inflight purchases (including Wi-Fi) with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card.
ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
United Airlines cobranded credit cards
United Airlines offers a similar 25% discount on Wi-Fi (and other onboard purchases) through its MileagePlus credit cards, issued by Chase.
Certain American Express and Bank of America cards
It’s also worth noting that airline fee credits on certain American Express cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and Bank of America cards like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card will generally not cover inflight Wi-Fi purchases on your selected airline. However, that is changing with some of the newer Wi-Fi systems on planes.
Note that you must enroll in advance and choose a preferred airline for American Express cards. With Bank of America, credits only apply to U.S.-based airlines on flights departing from the U.S.
Airlines with free inflight 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 of some type, but finding a free connection can be challenging.
Luckily, T-Mobile customers may be eligible for free Wi-Fi on domestic flights with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.
Here are some carriers that offer a free internet connection (assuming the plane is equipped with Wi-Fi):
Aer Lingus: Free for business-class passengers and AerClub Concierge members, but Wi-Fi is only available on A330 aircraft (Wi-Fi, texting and data) and A321neoLR aircraft (Wi-Fi only).
Air New Zealand: Free.
China Eastern: 258 yuan (about $37) worth of free Wi-Fi; must apply in advance.
El Al: Free for passengers in business class flying to/from North America.
Emirates: Free access to messaging apps for Skywards members in business class or Gold members traveling in any class; passengers in first class and Platinum members traveling in any class have access to web browsing without being restricted to messaging apps.
Etihad: Free for Platinum members and those in first class.
Finnair: On long-haul flights, Wi-Fi is 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. On short-haul flights, Wi-Fi is free for 30 minutes for business-class passengers, Gold members and Plus Platinum members.
Hainan: Free trial worth 298 yuan (about $43) on Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Iberia: Free access to messaging apps for business-class passengers and Iberia Plus members on long-haul flights.
Icelandair: Saga Premium and Saga Premium 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.
Qatar: Up to one hour for free on some flights; free messaging on most flights but length of access varies.
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 receive 100MB of allowance. Those in economy can get 100MB (PPS Club members) or two hours of access to messaging apps (KrisFlyer members).
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). Business-class passengers who are Miles & Smiles Elite or Elite Plus members get unlimited free internet usage.
Xiamen Air: Free, but registration required prior to flight.
ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
In addition, the following airlines offer free inflight messaging through data-based services like iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger:
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 internet — or at least free access to messaging apps — is becoming more common, but it’s also possible to get free or discounted Wi-Fi on Southwest, American and United with cobranded credit cards from these airlines.
Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access
Featured photo by andresr/Getty Images.