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The Best Airline Miles Credit Card Offers For Frequent Flyers

Published 5/6/08 (Modified 8/11/14)
By MoneyBlueBook

Airline Credit Card Rewards and Offers

I have a friend who is absolutely nutty about frequent flyer miles. Because he has family and relatives who live all over the place - in New York, Chicago, India, and England to name a few, he travels by airplane quite frequently. It's not just him either. His new wife and immediate family members always seem to be on the go, and over time they've become quite the experts at taking advantage of discount airline tickets and cheap airfare deals. One of their smartest moves was to make sure that they always purchase their airline tickets using an airline miles credit card - to leverage the cumulative cost-saving power of frequent flyer miles. Not only does this have the added benefit of protection against airline bankruptcy risk (a real possibility these days), it also affords them the opportunity to earn substantial amounts of frequent flier miles redeemable toward future flights. By focusing their ordinary credit card purchases to earn airline miles, they've been able to fly for many times - both domestically and internationally. These international airline reservations to fly across the oceanic pond definitely don't come cheap either - each coach class international flight can cost in excess of $1,000 - so getting some of the airline tickets by redeeming earned reward points or miles has definitely been a nice bonus.

Despite The Common Annual Fee and High Interest Rates Involved, Frequent Flyers Who Pay Off Their Credit Card Balance Every Month Will Benefit Greatly From Airline Travel Reward Cards

The attractive appeal of airline mile credit cards stem from their ability to earn and save up a substantial amount of frequent flyer miles over time, redeemable for discounted airline tickets in the future. However, the use of airline travel reward cards does require a bit of patience since flight miles rewards can't be redeemed or converted for flights until the required redemption amount has been attained. Less patient people like myself usually stick with cash back credit cards or plain old reward credit cards that automatically accrue rebate rewards as you go along. But those who consider themselves frequent flyers, business travelers, or simply individuals who like the idea of saving up for a huge reward prize rather than redeeming for smaller incremental rewards throughout the year - may benefit greatly from frequent flier credit card offers. However, potential card applicants should keep in mind that because of the pricey nature of airline tickets, to earn enough mileage rewards with your travel reward credit card to qualify for an airline ticket will necessitate quite a bit of spending. If you only use your credit card for a few dollars of purchases here and there every few months, it will likely take you forever to save up the necessary amount to redeem for even a cheap domestic ticket. However, if you are a big credit card spender and use credit cards to do all of your regular purchasing, and don't mind channeling your credit card reward earning efforts towards accruing frequent flyer miles, you will benefit greatly from the flight reward potential of airline credit cards.

Redeeming airline miles for flights is usually a straight forward process with most travel reward and airline specific credit cards. Actual program terms vary, but miles are usually offered at a rate of 1 or 2 point(s) per $1 spent using the card. Most of the time, once you hit a certain total point or miles level (15,000 miles for example), you are permitted to call in a request for a flight. International flights will obviously demand more mileage than U.S. domestic flights.

A few other important things concerning airline reward credit cards to be aware about is that they tend to charge annual fees of $75-$100 or more, as well as impose slightly higher APR interest rates compared to other types of credit card reward programs. But if you are a responsible credit card user and always pay off your balance on time every month, the interest rate effect will be minimal. The credit card annual fee amount may seem like a lot to the common consumer, but if you are someone who flies frequently several times or more throughout the year, any residual financial pain felt by having to pay an annual fee will be easily offset by the chance to earn rewards to be redeemed towards airline flights.

Airline Brand Specific Credit Cards Vs. Non-Airline Specific Travel Rewards Cards

While most airlines carriers impose frequent flyer miles expiration dates, many if not most airline travel credit card programs have no mileage expiration. This is important and useful because it affords cardholders the proper extended time needed to save up for the frequent flyer trip of their choice. No one wants to feel pressured about having to redeem their flight miles for lesser travel rewards at the risk of forfeiture, especially in light of the given fact that sufficient airline miles take longer to accrue. While some card programs impose seat restrictions and flight reservation blackout dates during which cardholders are not permitted to redeem rewards for flights for certain times of the calendar year, the vast majority of the flight reward programs out there do not impose such restrictions or limitations. All consumers who are interested in applying for an airline travel rewards card offer should most definitely stay away from cards that impose mileage expiration or blackout dates. There's no point in being restricted like that as there are plenty of more flexible options available.

In my opinion, I think most frequent flyers and travelers should stick to bank sponsored or generic travel reward credit cards. The most significant benefit of choosing a general travel rewards card is that all of the mileage rewards earned can be redeemed and easily converted to be used towards any airline of your choice. Unlike reward programs offered by more restrictive airline credit cards, general travel reward cards impose no such airline carrier restrictions. They simply offer cardholders a lot more choice and seating options than having to stick with just one carrier.

However, if you frequently fly on one specific airline or collection of partner airlines, and foresee yourself doing the bulk of your future traveling with the same carrier, applying for a specific airline credit card may be beneficial. Airline specific cards tend to offer higher mileage reward rates for card purchases, and lower redemption requirements for flights on their own planes. Specific airline cards also frequently offer cardholders the chance to earn double miles for certain qualified purchases, thus helping speed up the rate at which you can earn travel rewards. Airline credit cards also tend to lavish their customers with more travel perks than that offered by general travel reward programs - such perks often include car rental discounts and other exclusive business lounge type accommodations. Just something to keep in mind. Note when redeeming air travel/flight certificate you will be responsible for ticketing fee, government taxes and other fees that apply.

While the following are credit card offers that earn airline miles for ordinary purchases, those who wish to earn instant airline miles toward flights should take a look at this list.

The Best Non-Airline Specific Travel Reward Credit Card Offers -  offer miles which can be redeemed for flights towards any airline carrier. Note when redeeming air travel/flight certificate you will be responsible for ticketing fee, government taxes and other fees that apply.

The Best Airline Specific Reward Credit Card Offers - are for those who are frequent flyers of particular airline carrier - Remember that these airline miles are usually only good towards their own carrier. Note when redeeming air travel/flight certificate you will be responsible for ticketing fee, government taxes and other fees that apply

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8 Responses to “The Best Airline Miles Credit Card Offers For Frequent Flyers” 

  1. Richard @ StudentScrooge says:

    I have to confess, I am a bit of a mileage nut myself, and while its not for everyone, it can be quite a lucrative game...

    With regards to airline specific vs. bank travel cards, you make a good point about mileage expiration as being a potential danger, but with most airlines (all domestic?) your mileage life extends every time you earn miles, so if you're using your credit card at least once a year, you don't have to worry about mileage expiration.

    I also personally don't think the Capital One cards are worth it at all -- hands down, my choice is the Starwood AmEx -- as long as you're spending enough to cover the annual fee. Starwood is a powerful hotel brand in itself (especially abroad), but the conversion of 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 Airline miles for many airlines makes it almost unquestionably better than any of the other airline-specific rewards cards.

  2. Raymond says:

    Hi Richard,

    Well the expiration problem with frequent flyer miles only comes in if you fly a wide array of airline carriers, which is a problem for some people. This results in points being added to a broad spectrum of airline miles programs rather than consolidating miles rewards into a single airline carrier. Fortunately, some of these airline travel reward cards allow miles to be transferred onto frequent flyer miles programs of participating airlines, thereby topping off the miles to enable them to reach the level needed to for free ticket redemption.

    I agree that the Starwood Preferred American Express card is definitely one of the best airline travel/hotel cards

  3. Jennifer says:

    We are a family of 3 looking to take vacation.
    I have gone nutty looking at all the online miles visas.We would like to try and take a vacation over the '08 Christmas from WA down to San Diego.We are looking into Southwest cheap flights?yest they are only booking through Oct.
    What we are really wanting is a good credit card that will get us the most for the little time we will travel.This trip will be it probably for a few years.So making the points fast is important.We have very good credit.Any help would be great.Also do any cards give points for balance transfers? I am sure not,but thought I would ask.Thanks much for any help.Jen

  4. Raymond says:

    Jennifer,

    Take a look at this list of instant airline miles rewards for new credit card applications. The bonus sign up frequent flyer miles can be instantly redeemed for free flights.

    I'll examine and review some credit card terms to see if airline miles can be earned for balance transfers as they can be earned for purchases.

  5. Rick Gould says:

    The Citi Premier Pass Elite Level Card is no longer a good deal. While you can really pile up a ton of points, starting March 1, 2009, all travel has to be done through Expedia who requires considerably more than double the points required by other cards. For example, while Citi Advantage requires 25,000 miles to travel to Alaska from the lower 48, Premier Pass requires anywhere from 68,000-83,000 points for the same trip. For this reason, I have stopped using my Premier Pass card.

  6. Charles Guerriero says:

    Another tip is to avoid flying on Saturdays, and during the holidays, because those are times when flight prices are usually higher. If you book through Disney.com, AAA, Orbitz, or Travelocity you can get whole packages which include your park tickets, airfare and hotel. You can sometimes get a good deal there. I almost always book with AAA for the discount.

  7. Jen B says:

    I'm getting married June of 2010 and I'd like to earn air miles towards our honeymoon destination (perhaps Italy) by using this card to make all of our wedding purchases - and other purchases for that matter. I have excellent credit and would absolutely be paying off the card each month. I have a connection within the Hilton hotel corporation to get us deals on hotels...I'm not familiar with Starwood...any guidance on the best card would be greatly appreciated. Of course I want the most "bang" for my consumer dollars, I'd also like to have some flexibility when choosing the airline.

  8. Dore says:

    Hi Ray

    The links appear out of date.

    Delta gold card link says after hitting apply: offer no longer

    Amer Airlines Citi Platinum link is dead

    Still looking for Citi or Chase 25k bonus with annual waived.

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