The Best Airline Miles Credit Card Offers For Frequent Flyers
Published 5/6/08 (Modified 3/25/13)
Updated List Of The Top Airline Credit Card Rewards and Offers Below
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 for future free flights. By focusing their ordinary credit card purchases to earn airline miles, they've been able to fly for free 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 for free 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 free or heavily 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 into free or discounted 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 a free 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 free flight reward potential of airline credit cards.
Redeeming airline miles for free 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 free 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 free 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 get free 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 free 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.
While the following are credit card offers that earn airline miles for ordinary purchases, those who wish to earn instant airline miles for free flights should take a look at this list (free airline miles credit card sign up offers).
The Best Non-Airline Specific Travel Reward Credit Card Offers - Miles Can Be Redeemed For Free Flights Towards Any Airline Carrier - (Annual fees are listed).
- Chase Sapphire Card- Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $500 on the card in the first 3 months from account opening. The 10,000 bonus points can be redeemed for $100 toward travel rewards. You can earn 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants and 1 point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. There are no limits on how many points that you can earn and points do not expire. This offer has no annual fee. You can also purchase flights with both point and dollar values so you can choose how many points you want to use and pay for the rest in cash.
The Best Airline Specific Reward Credit Card Offers For Those Who Are Frequent Flyers Of Particular Airline Carriers - Remember that these airline miles are usually only good towards their own carrier:
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express - Earn 20,000 bonus SkyMiles (5,000 of which count as Medallion Qualification Miles) after your first purchase and earn another 2,500 bonus miles for each approved additional Cardmember submitted with your application up to maximum of 5,000 bonus miles. Earn at least 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent. Miles never expire and there is no cap on the miles you can earn. Check your first bag free on every Delta flight, receive Zone 2 priority boarding and 20% savings on eligible in flight purchases such as food and entertainment. Pay for all or part of your flight with miles - and put the rest on your Card. Annual fee is $150 a year.