Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard Review - Earn Points to Fly Free?
The Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard is an airline rewards card that combines a modest sign-up bonus and substantial spending bonuses to provide you with more frequent flier miles per year than most airline credit cards.
Bank of America issues the card and it’s the only one available for KLM and Air France, two international carriers in the SkyTeam network who offer limited flights in the United States. However, because Delta is part of the SkyTeam network, you’re able to redeem your miles for Delta flights, which is a key factor we’ll discuss later.
Now, as you may already know, there are literally dozens of airline rewards credit cards out there. Should you choose this card over, say, a Delta-branded card? How will this card help you get free flights and is it worth the $89 annual fee?
We’re going to answer these questions by breaking down the Air France KLM World Elite card into its rewards, its benefits and its rates and fees. Then, we’re going to compare all those features to what you get with other airline rewards cards.
The Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard’s Rewards
When we refer to “rewards”, we’re talking about the various ways that a credit card gives you frequent flyer miles for SkyTeam airlines. You can use these miles to book awards seats, which have a points value. For example, a round-trip flight could cost you 25,000 miles (more on that later).
The Air France/KLM card gives you three different ways to earn rewards: sign-up bonus, purchases and anniversary miles.
25,000 Sign-up Miles
If you can spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of owning your card, then you’ll get 25,000 frequent flier miles. These miles will take between 4-6 weeks to show up in your Flying Blue account.
“Flying Blue” refers to the name of the Air France/KLM frequent flier program. If you don’t have an account with them, they’ll set one up for you when you fill out your application for your card, provided your application is accepted.
If you already have an account with them, you can link it to your card when you fill out the application.
The bonus is straightforward, but remember that certain types of purchases won’t count toward the $1,000. Any balance transfers you make or fees you pay for using the card won’t count. So, for example, your annual fee, which is charged the first month you have the card, doesn’t count toward the $1,000.
Miles Bonuses for Purchases
When you use your card to make everyday payments, you are going to earn FlyingBlue frequent flier miles.
All purchases you make through any of the SkyTeam airlines will earn you three miles for every dollar you spend. Here’s a list of all the airlines included in the SkyTeam network … you’ll notice all of them except Delta are based in other countries:
- Aeroflot (Russia)
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Air France
- Alitalia (Italy)
- China Airlines, China Southern and China Eastern
- Czech Airlines
- Garuda Indonesia
- Kenya Airways
- KLM (The Netherlands)
- Korean Air
- MEA (Lebanon)
- TAROM (Romania)
- Vietnam Airlines
- Xiamen Airlines (China)
As you can see, you’ve got a lot of choices for international travel. Most of the airlines you see here are based either in Europe or Asia with two exceptions: Delta and Kenya Airways.
Assuming that you fly twice a year either with Delta or the partners on this list, you’ll most likely spend at least $700, which will earn you 2,100 miles.
All other purchases – about $24,300 per year for the average family – will earn you 1.5 miles. So, when you combine the 3x and 1.5x bonus, you’re looking at 38,550 miles per year.
The final way you can earn is by spending at least $50 a year. If you do, then you’ll get 5,000 miles on your cardmember anniversary (the day Bank of America approved your application).
With these miles, the average family, based on our research, can earn about 43,550 miles a year on this card.
Using Your Miles to Get Awards Seats on SkyTeam Flights
As we mentioned earlier, even though this is an Air France/KLM card, you can use the miles you earn to book seats on any airline in the SkyTeam network.
In this section, we’ll show you how many miles it costs to book a flight on Delta and Air France.
Delta Flight from NYC to LA
Our search for round-trip flights from New York to Los Angeles focused on a Friday-to-Sunday flight. The results we received were included in a matrix of various departure and arrival dates whose totals ranged from 22,000 to 27,000. The specific flight we searched (Friday to Sunday) cost 26,000.
Based on this research, we think your yearly rewards totals are enough to earn you at least one round-trip domestic flight with Delta. If you can fly during the week instead of on the weekend, you could book flights for 22,000, which means your yearly rewards could get you two round-trip flights.
Miami to Paris
We did a quick search of Flying Blue’s (KLM and Air France’s frequent flier program) miles calculator and found that economy seats from Miami to Paris were, at the time of publishing, 21,500 for a one-way flight. If a round-trip flight costs 43,000 miles, then your yearly rewards total would be enough to cover that cost.
Based on our research of rewards flights, we believe that the number of miles you earn is quite valuable when you redeem them for seats on Delta, KLM and Air France flights.
The Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard’s Benefits
The Flying Blue frequent flyer program has four different levels of membership: Explorer, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
You get Explorer when you sign up for your Flying Blue account and, if you want to upgrade to Silver, you have to earn 100 “XP” points, which are points (not miles) you earn on flights you take. For example, a seat in economy domestic flight (departure and arrival within one country) will earn you two XP. The longer the flight and the better the seat, the more XP points you earn.
When you sign up for the Air France/KLM card, you’ll get 60 XP points as soon as you’re approved. Plus, you get 20 XP points on your cardmember anniversary and another 40 XP points if you can spend $15,000 in a year.
Basically, if you spend like a normal household, you’ll easily earn 60 XP a year. The drawback is that the XP points don’t roll over, so if you earn, say, 70 XP points the first year you have the card and you don’t hit 100 XP by your cardmember anniversary, your XP total starts at 20 or 60, depending on whether or not you spent $15,000.
Rates and Fees
We’ll give you a list of the card’s interest rates and fees, then provide a quick explanation afterward:
- Purchase and balance transfer APR: 16.99% - 24.99%
- Cash advance APR: 19.99% or 26.99%
- Penalty APR: 29.99%
- Late fee: Up to $38
- Returned payment fee: Up to $27
- Cash advance/balance transfer fee: 3%
- Annual fee: $89
The main thing you need to watch out for is the penalty APR, which Bank of America will apply to your account when you make a late payment and, according to the fine print, it may stay on your account permanently.
This means that, just like the purchase and balance transfer APR, anytime you don’t pay off your balance, what’s leftover will get hit with a 29.99% interest rate, which is very high.
As far as the other rates and fees on the card, they’re all within the normal range of what you’d find with airline rewards cards and travel rewards cards, in general.
How the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard Compares to Other Airline Rewards Cards
The chart you see below lists the important features of the Air France/KLM card as well as cards from American Airlines, Delta and United.
|B of A KLM Air France||Citi AAdvantage Platinum||Gold Delta SkyMiles||United MileagePlus Explorer|
|Sign-up bonus||25,000||50,000 miles||30,000 miles||40,000 miles|
|Yearly rewards||43,550||31,000 miles||25,700 miles||29,515 miles|
|Annual fee||$89||$99, $0 first year||$95, $0 first year||$95, $0 first year|
|Free bags?||No||Yes, 1.||Yes, 1.||Yes, 1.|
|APR||16.99% - 24.99%||17.99%-25.99||17.74% - 26.74%||17.74%-24.74%|
The Air France KLM card’s sign-up bonus is weak compared to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card and the United MileagePlus Explorer. However, it performs pretty well against the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from American Express.
When it comes to yearly rewards, the card is the clear winner because its 1.5x rewards rates on non-SkyTeam purchases is better than the other three cards.
At this point, it’s good to understand that the value of the Air France KLM card is best leveraged by keeping the card for at least two years. Over the course of two years, the card will earn you 112,100 miles when you consider the sign-up bonus and the spending rewards.
The other three cards will earn you the following number of over the course of two years:
- Citi AAdvantage: 112,000 miles
- Gold Delta SkyMIles: 81,400 miles
- United MileagePlus Explorer: 99,030 miles
As you can see, the Air France/KLM card earns you the most over two years, whereas the Citi AAdvantage card earns you the most miles the first year (81,000).
The other factor to take into consideration is that the other three cards waive the annual fee the first year and each card provides priority boarding and a free checked bag when you buy your ticket with your card.
While the Air France/KLM card’s rewards are great, we think that the other cards in the chart provide better value because they offer free priority boarding, a free checked bag and no annual fee the first year.
The Final Word: How to Use the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard to Your Advantage
In our comparison chart we concluded, based on the data we presented, that the Citi AAdvantage, Gold Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus are better cards when it comes to perks and value.
However, what those cards lack is a comprehensive list of partner airlines you can use to book international flights and that, in our opinion, is this card’s greatest strength. You have 20 international carriers from which to choose, including well-known airlines like KLM, Air France and Delta.
So, if you travel often to and from those regions – for business, as an example -- this card has great value because there’s a really good chance you’ll earn enough XP to get Silver status, which, according to the Flying Blue website, provides you with priority check-in, baggage drop-off and boarding, as well as free seat selection when you book a ticket.
As a final recommendation, read through our rankings of the best airline rewards credit cards. Our research and analysis will provide you with further context for understanding how valuable the Air France KLM card may or may not be for your particular travel habits.