Rewards Credit Cards - Compare & ApplyBy Joe Taylor Jr.
Ryan Bingham, the main character in Jason Reitman's film "Up in the Air," spends most of the movie using airline credit cards to help achieve his goal of earning ten million frequent flier miles. While George Clooney's character might not exactly know what to do with all that free travel, you can use some of his mileage-maximizing tricks to earn yourself a free vacation or other travel rewards.
Traditional frequent flier miles and travel points programs
Free airline credit cards grew in popularity as carriers struggled to differentiate their brands. Here's how to get the most "mileage" out of your airline rewards card:
Fly consistently on the same airline. As you earn various stages of "elite" status on major airlines, you'll need fewer points to collect free travel vouchers.
Rely on your airline's preferred hotel and car rental partners. This strategy may require you to become less finicky about where you sleep, but it's an easy way to multiply your frequent flier miles.
Focus all your spending through a single airline credit card. Bingham maxed out his expense account nightly, just to accrue extra miles. Don't waste food, though. Instead, try using your airline credit card at the grocery store or the gas station to earn bonus miles.
A new crop of credit cards with miles promotions have offered signup bonuses that can earn you a few free flights after your first few months as a cardholder. Airline credit cards with no foreign transaction fee can save you even more money if you travel overseas.
New credit card points programs emphasize flexibility
Meanwhile, banks have recognized how online booking sites, smartphones and discount airlines have changed the way Americans travel. In highly competitive markets, a one-way plane ticket may cost only marginally more than the service fees airlines charge for redeeming miles. Some of the best credit card reward programs now use a "miles" metaphor for points you can redeem on any airline, and at any hotel or car rental chain.
Here's how this new breed of airline credit card works. Your credit card issuer sets an "exchange rate," making your miles or points like a form of currency. For instance, one popular credit card lets you exchange 100 miles for one dollar of statement credit. Book your trip using the least expensive website you can find, using any carrier you want. Submit your receipt to your awards program, usually with an online form, and you'll receive a rebate for the amount you spent on your trip.
What to watch out for with points and miles
Signup bonuses among points and miles credit cards have become so generous, many applicants overlook the total cost of owning these new accounts. Watch out for some of these potential pitfalls:
- Higher than average interest rates. Banks often offset the cost of travel rewards by offering airline cards with slightly higher APRs than their "no-frills" accounts.
- Expiring rewards. Some airlines and credit card reward programs set their point balances on self-destruct every few years. Look for cards with no expiration date, or with alerts that warn you about redemption deadlines.
- Reimbursement policies. Many government employers and some corporations have placed new restrictions on using personal rewards credit cards to pay for meals and transportation. Check with your employer to ensure that your expenses can count toward your miles balance.
- Annual fees. Many airline credit cards waive the first year of service charges for new accounts. Make sure you're going to earn far more in rewards than you'll pay in extra fees.
- Unexpected airline mergers and bankruptcies. You can't always predict when market conditions will destroy your favorite carrier. Look for rewards programs that let you redeem unused miles for merchandise, gift cards or travel credit on partner airlines.
If you're spending enough time on the road to mistake your roll-aboard luggage for your closet, compare the rewards credit card deals here to find one that may fit the way you travel.
- Bonus Miles: Earn 30,000 bonus miles toward Award Travel after you spend $500 on the Card within the first three months of Cardmembership.
- Earn As You Spend: Get 2X miles on Delta purchases and 1X miles for all other eligible dollars spent.
- Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
- Premium Travel Perks: Settle in sooner with Priority Boarding, and enjoy the skies with 20% in-flight savings to use toward meals, beverages, and movies awarded as a statement credit.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Terms and Restrictions Apply.
when you spend $500 on the Card in the first three months from account opening
- Welcome Bonus: earn 7,500 points after you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of Cardmembership - redeemable for a $100 statement credit.
- Flexible Ways to Earn: earn 1 point for virtually every dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
- Unlimited Travel Options: Travel with any airline, hotel, cruise, car rental and travel package - with no blackout dates.
- Flexible Bill Payments: pay your bill all at once or over time.
- No annual membership fee and 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months, after that, your APR will be a variable rate, currently 17.24%- 22.24%.
- Terms and Restrictions Apply.
when you spend $1,000 within 3 months - redeemable for a $100 statement credit
- Created for those with Excellent Credit and approval is based on your credit rating and application review.
- Travel Rewards - cardholders who enroll in the program receive one point per net dollar spent
- Choose any U.S. based airline or ticket class. No blackout dates or seating restrictions.
- No balance transfer fee for balances transferred in response to this online offer
- Earn 25K Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 during your first three months of Card membership
- Premium travel benefits: access over 600 lounges worldwide when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select, no foreign transaction fees
- Receive up to $200 annually in a statement credit with the airline of your choice to use towards baggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases and more
- 24/7 Platinum Card® Concierge service for assistance with reservations, travel, gifts, and more
- Entertainment benefits: get Advance Tickets before the public and access once in a lifetime events with By Invitation Only®
- Terms and restrictions apply
after $2,000 spend in 3 months
- Starpoints® bonus: earn up to 25,000 bonus points: 10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Cardmembership
- That's enough for a weekend getaway to a Category 4 Hotel like the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, or six free nights at a Category 2 Hotel
- Earn up to 5 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG hotels and resorts -- that's 2 Starpoints for using the Card in addition to the Starpoints you earn as an SPG member. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
- Free Hotel Nights: redeem Starpoints at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries worldwide -- with no blackout dates
- Free Flights: redeem Starpoints on over 350 airlines with SPG Flights -- with no blackout dates
- Get 5,000 bonus Starpoints after you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a frequent flyer program with more than 30 airlines
- No limits on the number of Starpoints you can earn
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
- Terms and Restrictions apply.
- Access to Exclusive Benefits: Baggage Insurance Plan* when you travel, and shop with confidence with Extended Warranty* and Return Protection
- Use points for gift cards for dining, entertainment, and to shop over 300 of some of your favorite merchants
- Get discounts and low rates at hotels and resorts, plus a $75 hotel credit when you book through Gold Hotel Collection
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $125
- Terms and Restrictions Apply
- Earn More: earn 25K Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2K during your first three months of Card membership; earn 15K points after you spend $30,000 within one calendar year
- Earn Fast: 3X points for flights booked with airlines, 2X points at US gas stations and US supermarkets, 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
- Use points for gift cards for dining, entertainment, and to shop over 300 of some of your favorite brands
- Access to Benefits: Baggage Insurance Plan* when you travel, and shop with confidence with Extended Warranty* and Return Protection.*Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company
- Book two consecutive hotel nights through American Express Travel and receive $75 back at checkout. Restrictions may apply
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
- Terms and Restrictions Apply
after $2,000 spend in 3 months - additional 15,000 bonus Membership Rewards(R) points for $30,000 annual spend