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How do FF miles work? Which credit cards award them?

How do FF miles work? Which credit cards award them?

Oct 26th, 2003, 07:24 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 43
How do FF miles work? Which credit cards award them?

My fiance and I would like to book our flight for our honeymoon on a credit card that awards FF miles (I am surprising him with the location and I am hoping to pull off Hawaii. We will be flying from Boston in August.)How do FF miles programs work? Are they awarded through the airline or do most people use a specific credit card that awards them with miles as they use it? Any advice, and websites for airlines/credit card applications, would be very helpful. Thanks!!
augustlily is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 07:37 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,189
There are numerous different programs and different ways of rewarding customer purchases.

There are programs like American Express which award points for every purchase, then allows you to convert these points to miles on several different airlines (Delta, Continental, Air France, etc).

There are specific airline cards, most every major airline has one, in which every dollar you spend is applied toward points for rewards on that specific airline (and its partners in many cases).

There are universal cards (Capital One is the best known) which allows you to apply points to most airlines.

Which is best for you?

You need to look at the fees (if any) because most cards charge for the right to apply your points for miles. A $50 annual fee is equivalent to paying cash for 5000 miles, so unless you accumulate more than 5000 points then the annual fee is a poor investment.

Also be aware of blackout date policies. There are often restrictions on when you can use your award miles. Also be aware that people wanting to use their miles often want to use them on trips to Hawaii, Australia, the Caribbean etc. So reserving those few seats available on each flight for reward passengers can be difficult. Often it's necessary to reserve seats over 300 days in advance.

Also, you'll want to target cards which allow you to use your pooints on the airline(s) which you use most often.

travleis is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 07:40 AM
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I'm a long time American Airlines FF user and approaching a million mile mark. But I'm not really a frequent flyer, usually only flying maybe twice or three times a year, and one of those is a freebie to Europe on American business class using miles. I use the Citibank AA card which gives a mile per dollar (plus an initial 5,000 or so miles for signing up). I also register that credit card with AA's IDine program and everytime I charge a meal at hundreds of restaurants I automatically get 10 miles for every dollar I spend (including the tax and tip, but not including the extra mile per dollar simply for charging). While in New York for a month, I got something like 20,000 miles just through this program!
I will soon switch to ATT and long distance service to get a 5000 miles bonus. I generally keep that for six months to get the full miles, then switch to another service (incidentally, I rarely use any long distance -- but I get the bonus for signing on with them). If I send flowers I do it through the AA site and get 500 to 1000 mile bonus. I book my airline tickets online to get 1000 mile bonus, and I even get 500 more miles if I download my boarding pass, checking in online. I am what might be called a "mileage whore". I do almost anything to get those miles.

I also like American because in cashing in awards, they let you upgrade from the cheapest economy flight you can book -- something most other airlines don't let you do.

For their program and sign ups, go to AA.com
Patrick is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 07:42 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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Try www.flyertalk.com for a great site on this subject. These folks take the FF programs to the next level!
panhandle is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 08:24 AM
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Thank you so much for your in-depth replies! Which credit card would you suggest we look at -- the Citibank one, the Capital Bank one, or another? Like I said, we are hoping to use our miles for the honeymoon and book on the card. Can you ONLY book AA or American Eagle on the Citibank one for the miles to be used, for example?
augustlily is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 08:45 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 339
If you accumulate miles using the Citibank card then you are limited to booking travel on AA only (or one of its travel partners.) Check the AA.com website for a list of the airline partners. The citibank card, however, can be used at any establishment accepting a visa card. So there are many ways of accumulating FF miles but you are limited to using those miles on American.
carbogilligan is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 09:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 136

Dear Augustlily,

The best place for a novice to start would be with Gary Steiger's website. Look at the left under "Free Frequent Flier Miles" and then go to "Credit Cards."

Here's the link:
dfotravels is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 09:35 AM
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Also, Marriott has a points system whereby you can trade their points for free hotel stays, airline flights, car rentals, etc. Go to Marriott.com to read about their rewards programs. (They also give you 5000 miles for signing up for their card)
dolciani is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 09:40 AM
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I'm really confused by your later posts. Do you mean you have FF miles already that you are using to cash in for the trip? Or are you talking about getting actual mileage credit when you take the trip? If it is the latter, that has nothing to do with the credit card. You just have to make sure you've registered with the airline you're flying for FF status, and they will give you mileage credit for the actual number of miles flown. The mileage credit you get on the credit card has nothing to do with the actual flight -- but if you spend $500 on the tickets, you'll get 500 miles credit, just like if you buy $500 worth of clothes, you'll get 500 miles credit for charging them on the card.
Patrick is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 09:55 AM
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I happen to prefer my United Mileage Plus card. I use it for most of my credit purchases. I get miles on United, dollar for dollar. I always buy my airline tickets with this card, as well as hotels. I make sure I give my UAL flier number to hotels, Avis for rental cars, etc because they almost always give me extra miles.
We have a lot of miles on the American Express card. I gave Delta over 100,000 of those AmEx miles, hoping to use them on United (because two people "in the know" at AmEx said I would be able to do that. I'm STILL working on it. Wish us luck! We never fly on Delta but will keep that account active by purchasing something that will keep the account "active".... otherwise those 133,000+ miles will be EXPIRED in Dec. Ugh! With my United card, I know I'll always have those miles as that is the airline I use, almost exclusively. I get miles on that card for flying on any of the Star Alliance airlines as well. The places I visit (Europe, Thailand, Australia) are all accessible thru Star Alliance, if not on United.

My vote goes for United Mileage Plus!
simpsonc510 is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 09:56 AM
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I join with the others who suggest that you take a look at some of the discussions on www.flyertalk.com.

As for credit cards, you don't say if you have a preferred carrier. If you do, then that is the starting point for evaluating credit cards. (I have absolutely no problem justifying a $55 annual fee for a card that gives me tens of thousands of miles in my FF account each year -- not some DIFFERENT account where the points balance doesn't merge directly with miles earned by flying, etc. There is also the occasional discount coupon on my preferred carrier, special offers for lower FF mile awards, etc.

You may also want to look at a hotel affinity card instead, but the main thing is to keep from having a lot of different programs with orphan balances that are difficult to use. What you want is something that produces the most benefits for you in the shortest period of time. If it turns out to be a card with an annual fee and the benefits exceed that fee, then go for it.
Flyboy is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 03:14 PM
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Patrick: Sorry to confuse you! No, we do NOT have frequent flyer miles to cash in for the trip. Because we may be going to Hawaii, which is obviuosly very far from BOS, we wanted to get a credit card that awards miles IN ADDITION to signing up with a carrier for FF miles, and then put the plane tickets on the card to get credit for miles.
Which credit cards hold miles for which carriers? And once you have a bunch of miles, how do you do about cashing them in? How many do you "need" to fly "free"? Thanks again for all your helpful responses!
augustlily is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 03:49 PM
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Maybe someone knows different, but I'm not aware of a credit card that gives you actual miles for flying in addition to just the miles per dollar.
Each airline has its own number of miles required to fly free, or to upgrade, or to fly free business or first. I hold my miles for business class trips to Europe rather than "wasting" them on US flights that I can usually get really good rates on.
Which credit cards give miles for which carrier changes. You should really pick an airline that has a program you like and that flies from your origin city to destinations you are likely to want to travel to. Then see which credit cards give points for that airline.
Patrick is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 04:03 PM
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Patrick, I'm confused. I have citibank miles, but never used them because they would not give me a direct flight from Boston. It's important to go direct because we lose so much time, like 4 hours and more on other connections.
Oct 26th, 2003, 04:26 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 599
Most cards have partnered with airlines to offer miles. That is visa and united get together for every $1 spent on the card you get x miles for the airline (most of the time these miles dont count toward status with the airline but can be used to travel.)
It is very important to choose an airline that will work for your specific travel needs....that is if you live in Boston and say service with American Airlines is limited or doesnt fly where you want to go...choose the airline/card combo that works for you.
Dont spread your miles around....try to get as many as possible for one airline...not some on AA and some UA.
It is best to consolidate when you can. I use United most often because they are easiest to fly with for me locally.
Another good source for Airline miles is through your long distance carrier.
I get 1 United mile per dollar spent on long distance. You can also get miles by using a debt card through Bank of America. I believe it is the only bank offering one at this point. You only get .5 miles per $1 spent but its better than nothing!
I use Amex for all grocery purchases and everthing else I can. You will rack up miles fast doing this. This year I will get 4 free international tickets by using Amex !!!
Think miles whenever a purchase is made and enjoy the rewards!!
panhandle is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 04:57 PM
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beanbag! I'm in Boston and also use citibank but never use them except to travel in the states for the same reason.
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 05:06 PM
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Beanbag, I don't have "Citibank miles". I use an AA Citibank card to automatically give me American Airlines miles, and deal directly with American in cashing them in.
I only do things which give me AA miles, and don't worry about other airlines or cards or businesses which let you use their credit on "any airline". I have a number of hotel partner club accounts, but have them all set to give me miles directly with American, not into their own Hilton or Marriott Club or whatever. You usually end up losing miles if you later have to convert them over to one airline. As mentioned above -- the only way you'll really get a lot is to have everything funnel into one airline.
Patrick is offline  
Oct 26th, 2003, 05:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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My United Mileage Plus visa card gives me one mile for every dollar I spend. If I happen to buy a United ticket with the card, which I always do, then I get the dollar value in miles, PLUS the miles I FLY on the trip. It's like double miles. No, those miles do not apply to your status with the airline but they do apply towards flight awards.
I like getting my Mileage Plus statements which usually contain coupons for car rentals and hotels.
The UAL web site is very easy to use for upgrading a seat or getting a free flight using miles.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Oct 27th, 2003, 07:16 AM
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Augustlily, as others have pointed out, the best program is the one that works best for YOU. First, should you pay for a card (about $50 for a standard, 1 mile-per-$1 plan) or try a card that gives you fewer FF miles, but is free? I recently received a solicitation for a no-fee card that gives 1 FF mile per $2 spent. I think this might be a good deal for a young couple. On the other hand, if you are paying for your own wedding, the chance to rack up thousands of FF miles may make the paid card a plus. You could switch from a fee card to a free card if your usage goes beneath $800 a month (losing 4800 miles a year but saving the $50).

In terms of carriers, the most important distinction is the frequency of flights and breadth of service from your home airport to the world. If you often fly Boston-LA, the service on United and AA is probably comparable, but if you wish to visit family in, say, Missoula, MT, you will find your options restricted.
patg is offline  
Oct 27th, 2003, 07:36 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 150
I highly recommend American Express which partners with Delta. We charge all our office expenses as well as our household expenses and all the cards are linked together. I have never had a problem cashing in FF miles for airline tickets and have never been blacked out at any time I have cashed them in. Also, Platinum American Express gives you free membership to the Delta Crown Room yearly. Some buinesses will have specials and award 2 points for $1 spent.
MauiMaui is offline  
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