I generally don’t resort to what I would consider fringe programs that offer travel benefits. I travel enough that I can earn most of the benefits I want and generate enough miles and points to redeem for all the vacations I want to take. I’ve run across the Founders Card a few times in passing without giving it much thought.
Through some random circumstances, I ran across it a couple times within a week through both my business life and travel life and decided to do some research on it. Technically, you can’t just sign up for the card, you have to be invited. I’m not sure if it’s a sign their business is hurting, but over the past year or so it looks like they’ve started “inviting” a broader section of people, and a decent amount at a reduced rate. The going rate for the card is $495. There are a bunch of codes floating around that knock the price down to $295. For example, CLEAR13, a code I received because of my Clear membership, is valid (I would think for pretty much anyone).
What do you get for your annual fee of $295? While there are a variety of benefits, I’ll focus mostly on the travel ones with a couple of other valuable mainstream ones thrown in:
Virgin Atlantic Silver Elite Status plus 10-15% discounts on select fares.
Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Silver Tier Status plus 5-22% off flights.
Hertz #1 Club Gold FIVE STAR Membership
Lufthansa Frequent Traveller Status (Star Alliance Silver) with the purchase of a round-trip trans-Atlantic flight and 10% off select flights.
Hilton HHonors Gold Status
5% discount on all JetBlue tickets
6 free months of CLEAR membership
Up to 20% discount on Qantas flights
AT&T Wireless 15% discount on all voice and data plans (with a few small exceptions)
There are some other benefits, but these are the highlights as far as I see them.
Oddly, the one that seems to have the most value on it’s face is the AT&T discount. If you spend $200 a month or more on your cell phone bill this discount would pay for the Founders Card membership on it’s own.
After doing some searching on the website, it’s unclear how valuable some of the airline discounts are. I’m guessing you’re not going to get much value on cheap tickets from them.
The Cathay Pacific benefits are reasonable enough. They allow for the ability to get an advance seat assignment, extra legroom and slightly larger checked baggage allowance.
Lufthansa Frequent Traveller status exempts you from your miles expiring and also gives you a 25% bonus on miles when flying as well as extra checked baggage allowance and access to some business class lounges.
Virgin Atlantic Silver Elite status earns 50% more miles on flights and premium check-in.
Hilton HHonors Gold status is somewhat valuable but can also be had just for keeping the Hilton Reserve Visa in your wallet.
If you live in NY, then a 5% JetBlue discount has real value.
While I won’t be signing up for the Founders Card, I definitely see the value for the occasional traveler. If you had 3-5 trips a year and a couple of those were international trips then this could quickly pay for itself. And, there’s also that AT&T discount, though I’m a Verizon guy.
I don’t see people getting outsize value out of this unless you have a big phone bill, but I could definitely see this being a decent product for people just starting to travel and haven’t built up any status yet.