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jan 22

Bill Me Later option for buying airfare

AirTran, Continental, JetBlue, and US Airways have each introduced a Bill Me Later option so that passengers can buy tickets and make no payments for 90 days, no credit card required. If you don't pay within 90 days, you'll be hit with a high interest rate of roughly 20 percent a year.

Why are airlines doing this? To make a few extra bucks, of course. Airlines, like all merchants, pay a fee to credit card companies each time a customer buys a ticket through an airline's website. The fees generally are about 2.5 percent of the ticket price, depending on the card, the fare, and the airline's terms with the credit card company. On a $500 ticket, about $25 of your payment goes to the credit card company. By introducing a Bill Me Later option, the airlines can avoid that fee and use a system that costs them less.

JetBlue, in particular, is eager to encourage passengers to try Bill Me Later. It has a special introductory offer, allowing you to book flights through January 31, 2008, and not make any payments for the first 90 days, and receive a $20 refund to your credit card. (The $20 is a one time credit per itinerary regardless of the number of passengers or flight segments booked on the itinerary. See full details on JetBlue's BillMeLater page.)

You can receive this $20 credit in combination with JetBlue's current four-day sale on many flights throughout its system, lasting until midnight Pacific time on January 25, 2008, for travel completed by April 30, 2008. Details at JetBlue.com.

FYI: AirTran is also running a sale on tickets purchased through January 24, 2008, and good for travel through May 20, 2008. See AirTran.com.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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