I’m taking a few days off over the Christmas holiday. I’ll be doing a little blogging here and there, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this Best of MJ on Travel post about airline rewards cards.
This article, on Smartmoney.com, entitled “Why Airline Cards Aren’t Worth It” prompts a few words from me on the topic. Many readers already know that I use a handful of rewards credit cards to top off my mileage and hotel accounts from time to time, and recommend others do the same on one condition…..that they pay their bills in full and on time every month without exception. Refresh your memory on my thoughts by reading my April 2009 post on the topic.
The article focuses on airline cards, and cites annual fees and difficulty in redeeming miles among several reasons not to bother with these types of credit cards. Granted, these cards typically carry an annual fee, but that is a small price to pay for sometimes sizable signup bonuses. And many, waive the annual fee during the first year. For example, the Citibank Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard offers 25,000 miles if you spend $750 dollars within 4 months of acquiring the card. There’s no annual fee during the first year, and an $85 dollar per year fee thereafter. Not a bad deal if you’re going to spend that $750 dollars anyway. While I don’t necessarily condone “flipping” these cards, a number of people have done it, with no damage to their credit standing. Flipping is the practice of opening an account just to get the miles, then canceling the account at some point in the future before applying for the same kind of account again and getting another set of bonus miles. If you want more information on the topic, pay a visit to flyertalk.com and search for information.
Maybe I’m the luckiest guy on the planet, but I have never had a big problem redeeming miles. I use them for upgrades on paid domestic flights and have “purchased” a few premium class tickets domestically with miles. I will soon embark on my first quest for premium class international travel. That’s not to say that I’ve never had to be flexible with my dates and times, but to make a blanket statement like you must almost always book 330 days out to have a prayer of snagging a seat as this article implies is simply not 100 percent accurate.
That said, I’ve found some programs to have better availability than others. Sometimes much better. And that’s why I continue to stick with American Airlines and the AAdvantage program. I’ve found AAdvantage to offer the best availablity of all the traditional mileage schemes so I continue to focus my mileage accumulation with that program. Your experience may be different, and that’s great for you. No matter which program you choose, don’t ignore the additional accumulation opportunities that mileage cards offer.