Best credit cards?

Old Jul 31st, 2009, 07:06 AM
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Best credit cards?


I'm looking for some recommendations on US credit cards that are better for getting airline miles.

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance for any advice,

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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 07:34 AM
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I have Citibank AA card and like the fact that I get one AA mile for every dollar I spend. Some credit cards give you "points", which may not be exactly the same as an airline's miles, so be sure you understand how points or miles are redeemed before committing anything.

Another very important consideration is being able to use the miles. Two of my local airports are AA hubs, which means I never have problems using AA/miles when I need to. It wouldn't help me much at all to accumulate UAL miles since they don't fly the routes I routinely use or would want for FF tickets.

The Citibank AA M/C has an annual fee, which for me amounts to about $0.0005 per $ I charge or mile I accrue. Negligible.
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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 09:01 AM
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As J62 pointed out there are basically two types of "rewards" cards. The first is an "Airline Affinity Card" in which you earn a specific amount of frequent flyer miles for each dollar spent (for US based customers the normal rate is 1 mile for every $1 charged on the card). Just about every major airline has an afinity card and the miles your earn are only good with that particular airline (and/or it's partners, subject to the normal FF rules for that airline). The second type of card is a "Travel Rewards Card" (like the Capital One Card) in which you earn "points" (again usually 1 point for each dollar spent) that can be used to purchase a ticket on any airline.

Most airline "Airline Affinity Cards" charge you an annual fee for the card while many "Travel Rewards Cards" do not have fees.

So, as J62 pointed out you have to determine which type of card works best for your situation. If you do a lot of travel on one or two airlines, having an "Affinity" card might be the best way to maximize your "miles accumulation". On the other hand, if you don't fly very often you might find the "Travel Rewards Card" is your best option.

In order to determine which card works best for your situation you should review the Frequent Flyer programs for your airline(s) of choice and compare that with the terms offered by the "Travel Rewards Card" you are considering. You should than factor in your spending habits to help you figure out how long it will take you to accumulate enough miles or points to obtain a "free ticket".

Regardless of which type of card you choose IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you pay the credit card balance off in full every month otherwise the interest/finance charge that accrues each month will exceed the valuse of any "free" ticket you may earn as a result of your credit card purchases.

Like J62 I too have a CitiBank AMerican AAdvantage Credit Card. For me this works out best as I live near a major American Airline Hub and I fly that airline almost exclusively.
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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 11:06 AM
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There is a third type of card which is one that earns points that are transferable to a number of different frequent flyer programs. Examples of these types of cards would be any American Express card that participates in Membership Rewards (not Membership Rewards Express which is a lower version where points aren't tranferable) or the Starwood Amex card where points are automatically deposited into your Starwood frequent guest account and can then be transferred to a number of airlines with a 5000 mile bonus for every 20000 transferred. Membership Rewards often has transfer bonuses too (I just did a 30% bonus transfer to Delta). These types of cards work best for those who value flexibility while still earning "real" miles. The downside is that not all airlines participate and some Starwood participants have a 2:1 transfer ratio so you have to investigate carefully to see if it's right for you. Other issues are annual fees and the fact that Amex is not as widely accepted as Visa/Mastercard.

I currently carry 2 affinity cards, AA and Delta, as those are the airlines/alliances I most commonly fly. I also carry a Membership Rewards Amex which I can even use to top off other people's accounts.

If you could answer a few questions such as where you fly out of, what airline(s) you fly, how much you think you'll be charging annually, if you plan to redeem coach or business/first awards and where you might want to go, we can give more specific advice. There is no best card.
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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 12:21 PM
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I use my UA mileage card when ever I want to charge something. It is an affinity card. It's the only affinity card I carry, but I pretty much fly UA/Star Alliance exclusively.

I also have the Amex rewards card. It has come in very handy several times, for purchases of flights on just about "any" airline.

It's up to you which one you select. But as others have said, you need to decide how much you are going to travel, and whether or not the affinity card is worth the annual fee you will pay. For me, it most certainly is worth it. I fly over 50k miles per year (I'll be soooo close to 100k this year I'm hoping I can find a quickie flight to top it off!! lol)
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Old Jul 31st, 2009, 10:23 PM
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Go crazy -
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Old Aug 1st, 2009, 08:56 AM
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We use Southwest Chase Visa card exclusively since we live near a city served by SW and most of where we fly have routes covered by SW. We get free tickets quickly by charging all possible purchase and paying in full each month.

They have a special now, you can earn up to 16 credits [that is enough for a free ticket - $1200 in charges = 1 credit]and a $49 credit on your first statement. Annual fee is $59.

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Old Aug 1st, 2009, 09:10 AM
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To my mind, it comes down to a few key questions:

1) Are you already loyal to an airline, or live in a hub?
2) Are you willing to spend extra for lounge access and other perks?
3) Do you charge a lot?

If you are already loyal to an airline or live in one of their hubs, then it can be useful to just get a card with that airline, as it will usually maximize your mileage earnings on that carrier to carry their card.

If you are willing to spend $400 or so per year, then you might look at some of the premium card offerings, either from the airline you chose above, which will often get you lounge access, bag fee waivers, etc. Both Delta and Continental have such cards and I would assume the others do as well. Alternatively, the Amex Plat will get you lounge access, but doesn't come with a lot of airline specific benefits (e.g. bag fee waivers).

The final question is just how much you are going to spend on this card. If you charge $10k per year, then it will take you 2.5 years to earn a single domestic round-trip. That doesn't sound like great value to me and would lead me to either concentrate on low-fee, low interest rate cards, or to become a credit card "deadbeat" and cycle through cards to keep getting the introductory promos.

Personally, though, I have stuck with the Starwood Amex, which I think is great value. The annual fee is under $100 and you can use the points for Starwood hotels, which can often be a far better deal than redeeming with an airline. Should you want to use the points for a free ticket, you can also transfer the miles to various programs, often at 1:1, but sometimes 2:1. The lineup of partners is significantly better than the regular Amex. You get a 25% bonus anytime you transfer 20k points (i.e. 20k Starpoints = 25k Delta miles). Throw in something like the nights + flights awards, and their is a lot of value in this card. $25k in spending in a year gets you SPG Gold status, which gets you upgrades.

There are also the Capital One style cards, but I think they are worthless. With the Capital One card, you only get a penny per point and only earn 1 point per dollar spent, up to the first $1k each month. You are probably better off with a cash-back card. If you really want to avail yourself of such a low-value redemption option, then you can do so with the SPG card, at the same lousy penny per point rate anyway.
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