Frequent Flyer Programs

Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:13 AM
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Frequent Flyer Programs

I know this topic has come up quite often but I'm not sure if this question in general has. I've been thinking about signing up for a FF flyer program and one of those cc's that offer miles. Been spending alot of time over at flyertalk trying to get acquainted.

One thing I've noticed is that appears alot of the users there are frequent business travelers. That leads to my question. Do you guys think a program is worth it (particulary the credit card programs where there is often an annual fee) for the leisure traveler only who flies about 2-4 times a year?

I've been thinking about this awhile and it would even seem that it would take me years to accrue enough points to make it worthwhile. I don't think I could spend enough in a month, every month, for it to be worthwhile.

I'm wondering other leisure travelers opinions on this.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:21 AM
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Yes. It is very worth it.

I've flown routes that had double or triple miles and have earned as much as 15,000 miles on a single trip. That is over half the amount of FF miles for a free domestic trip.

One of my husbands employees went on a student trip to Australia. I had her sign up for USAirways FF miles program. With codeshares, she came back with almost 30,000 FF miles which is enough for a free roundtrip in the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Flying four times a year roundtrip is usually four segments each flight or 16 segments a year will help you rack up miles in no time.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:29 AM
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There's a thread pretty much directly on this point on the Airlines forum, but briefly:

No, the short answer is that cc is not worth it UNLESS you put many thousands of dollars per year on it -- charge EVERYTHING. If the annual fee is $50 and a RT ticket is either $350 or 25,000 miles, you pretty much have to charge $25,000 on the card to get a $300 benefit. If you never rack up finance charges on that $25K maybe so, but otherwise, you're better off just buying the ticket.

A few additional points: 1. if you get additional benefits on the card that get you double miles for certain things, well then maybe it is worth it.
2. If you can add to your miles other ways (DH eats an enormous amount of certain Kellogg cereals because the 100 AA miles coupons on the back really mount up), it might be worth it.
3. If upgrades are a big incentive, you need fewer miles and therefore fewer charges, so it might be worth it.
4. The miles you get via a credit card do not count toward premier or elite status.

We have 2 such credit cards but travel a bit more than you do -- and those cereal coupons help!
 
Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:36 AM
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First, joining is no big deal, and doesn't cost anything. Using the FF credit card (or debit card with some airlines) is okay if you don't mind the fees and if you keep your head - duh.

Second, the choice and use of FF vehicles depends to some degree on your travel habits or preferences. Obviously you'd want to look at what airlines serve your local airport, do they go where you want to travel or do you usually have to switch airlines en route, things like that. If you live near a hub airport where big carriers offer frequent discouted fares, then using your FF miles for round trips might not be that cost-effective. But some airlines have relatively liberal first-class upgrade options using miles, so your infrequent trips could be much more comfortable - use their cheap fares for a coach seat, use (relatively fewer) FF miles to upgrade to the front end. In our case, for instance, we can ride Alaska AL fairly cheaply to the east coast or California, however, their coach sections are quite cramped. So we use 10K miles (used to be 5K - the rats) to u/g to First, and bingo, a lousy trip becomes relatively luxurious (well, Alaska's FC is not exactly Cathay Pacific's, but it's a %$#& sight better than steerage.)

And who knows, having cheap access to more planes might make you more of a frequent flier. That's the airlines' idea, anyway.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:40 AM
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We have a visa card issued thru an airline. We charge everything to that card, gas, groceries, insurance, cable whatever is possible BUT we pay off the balance each month too. It adds up fast. We're taking four family members to Maui this August using ff miles!
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:41 AM
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I have the Orbitz CC. There is no annual fee. You earn 1 point per $1 charged on the card, 2 points per $1 charged on Orbitz.

You earn $100 off any ticket on Orbitz for 7,500 points, or a free ticket for 20,000 points (up to $400).

I haven't found a better deal out there. You can use the points on ANY ticket on Orbitz.com, and there are no blackout dates or any restrictions.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:42 AM
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And you can still accrue airline FF points while accruing or spending Orbitz points.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:49 AM
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I have an AA Visa card with no annual fee. I love buying tickets on AA.com w/ my AA card. I get bonus points for buying it on the net, I get a point per dollar for the same tickets by using the card and I get miles when I actually take the flight. Basically the same applies with hotels and cars I rent.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 08:49 AM
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With regard to getting a frequent flyer credit card, it really depends on how much you charge. (If you don't want to go thru the calculations and just want my recommendation, jump to the last paragraph.)

I value miles rather conservatively at about 1.3 cents each. Thus, I equate a 25,000 mile free domestic ticket with a value of about $325. If the credit card charges an annual fee of $50, your breakeven point occurs in 325/50 = 6.5 years. If you receive 1 mile per dollar charged (assuming no promos that offer double miles), you breakeven after charging $25,000/6.5 = $3846 per year.

So, I would recommend getting a FF credit card (assuming a $50 annual fee) if you know you will spend at least $4000 per year on the card. If less, it isn't worth it.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 09:15 AM
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If you're a casual traveller, and don't spend tens of thousands on credit card each year, then most airline cards that earn FF don't make sense to you, as most charge a fee.

However, there are some other alternatives. Besides the ones already mentioned, you can also consider American Express' BLUE card, with no annual fees. These "reward cards" also have the advantage of claiming tickets on more than one airline.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 10:15 AM
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Thanks all for you input so far. I reside in Charlotte which is a hub for US Airways but I don't see any benefit financially to it. Alot of people here drive to Greensboro because its actually much cheaper to fly from there then Charlotte. So thats another concern but not my top one. Plus US Airways is having so much financial difficulty.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 10:48 AM
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Hi Deb,
I agree with carbogilligan. I have an America West FF card. I haven't flown a single flight on that airline, but have earned over 45,000 mile points in 9 months. I was disappointed to find out I couldn't charge my mortgage, but charge everything else and pay it off each month. When you choose a card, be sure to compare redemption charts as well. Check out www.freddieawards.com (oscars for FF cards) and bankrate.com for comparisions.
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 10:57 AM
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sandi_travelnut-

I recently moved to DFW area, and have signed up with AA FF program. If you don't mind me asking, I'm curious how you got an AA Visa card without annual fee?
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 11:16 AM
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I have a Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card (works with other airline partners as well). So far it's been great for me. $50 companion ticket each year, 2 1st class upgrades each year, bonus miles each anniversary. Earns 1 mile per dollar and 2 miles per 1 travel dollar. Check/debit card also earns miles. If you are self-controlled enough to use the card regularly and pay the balance it's well worth it.
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Old Jul 9th, 2004, 04:58 AM
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It seems I'm clearly in the minority here, so I'm wondering if I'm missing something. I prefer to use credit cards that give an actual set percentage cash rebate, as opposed to FF miles.

The ones I have don't charge any annual fees and we always pay them off in full each month. Some of them, such as AT&T Universal and Chase Visa give 1% back on all purchases plus various bonus percentages (up to 5%) on selected items such as gasoline, drugstore or supermarket purchases. Then there's the Costco American Express that gives a 1 1/2% rebate on everything, also with no fee. I figure that if I charge $25,000 per year on the AE for example, that gets me a $375 cash rebate, which is mine to spend however I choose. (And if I charge less, I still get a rebate to use, and don't have to wait till I get to the $25,000 threshold.)

If instead I used a FF credit card, that same $25,000 worth of charging would get me one airline ticket, that would probably be worth anywhere from $250-$400 (assuming no annual fee and no bonus companion seats or free upgrades) and assuming I could find a flight I wanted at the date & time I wanted. I'd rather not get locked into having to deal with blackouts, limited seat availability, etc. and feel free to take advantage of sales of low price airfare. In other words, I get the cash in hand to do with as I please, and the flexibility to decide how to spend my travel dollars.

My question is this--since so many of you don't seem to agree with this thinking, I figure I'm probably overlooking something. So what am I forgetting?
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Old Jul 9th, 2004, 05:12 AM
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Judy....Let me sum it up.....It's not the kill, it's the chase.
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Old Jul 9th, 2004, 05:24 AM
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I have a Costco American Express rebate card too and appreciate receiving that check since I do charge a lot there and they don't take FF Visa card. But everything else goes on my Visa.

But, it's not only flying or charging on their card that gets me FF miles on Northwest. You can get extra miles for making purchases from participating merchants (who you might buy from anyway). They have a Fly Free Faster promotion going on now for 10,000 extra miles if you jump through all their little hoops. I've done it before and am currently working on getting those extra miles. For instance, you need one qualifying activity which can be either taking one flight or signing up for their Visa, if you don't have it, or getting a T-Mobile phone for one year. All the things I would buy or do anyway, so why not get the extra miles?

The reward for the time you spend doing this comes when you get to take your husband free in first class to Hawaii as we are doing in three weeks! As Beach Boi said, it's the chase!
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Old Jul 9th, 2004, 05:34 AM
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Beachboi, exactly.

My credit card and ATM card both get me FF points.
 
Old Jul 9th, 2004, 06:05 AM
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yk- it was an offer that came in the mail about 3 years ago.
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Old Jul 9th, 2004, 06:17 AM
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Judy24,

You are assuming that everybody is just looking for a free domestic ticket. If that's the case then your method is by far the preferable one,

BUT,

allow me to give you a different scenario.

Young couple, let's call them the Joe and Jane Average. Joe has a job with a company that sends him to different parts of the world to the tune of 50K miles per year. Joe has a FF account with the XYZ Airline and is putting all his miles into that account. The 50K per year gives him pretty good status with the airline, so he actually earns 2x the actual miles flown. So every year he banks 100K miles.
Joe and Jane get a CC that's affiliated with XYZ Airline. Let's assume that it does cost them $50 per year. They both use the CC for every little thing that they need to buy without going beyond the regular purchases, (which BTW would be stupid). So let's assume they charge around $2000 per month and pay it off regularly, not paying one cent of interest. That's 25K miles per year added to their FF account. So now they have 125K miles per year and so far it cost them $50. Do this for couple of years and they have enough for a pair of 1st class ticket to just about anywhere in the world on some of the best airlines. A ticket that would cost anywhere between $7500-$15000 each. One could argue that they would never buy the tickets and it's probably true, but if you could fly to Asia, South America, Africa or Europe in REAL first class, meaning: flat beds with real pillows and duvets, pajamas, world class champagne, wines, food cooked to order, access to wonderful lounges at the airports with free restaurants and drinks, etc... for about $100 out of your own pocket, wouldn't you? Besides, even a coach ticket to many of these places would cost them couple of thousand bucks. Your method would NOT be the best in situations like this, because the few hundred dollars you get back per year would not help you secure the extra miles.

Another situation. Same couple, but Joe only gets around 25K miles per year for flying for his company. The same situation with the CC company. So every year they bank 50K miles. They love to go to Europe every summer. They look for a great deal on coach tickets on airline XYX and then use the 50K miles to upgrade to business. Again, your few hundred $ would not help you in this situation, but the extra miles affords them to fly in comfort to their favorite vacation spot.

So you see, there are reasons why these cards do serve a purpose if used wisely and for a specific purpose. I do agree with you that if somebody does not fly and gets the CC just for the miles, your solution is THE BETTER ONE!

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