I recently received a reader email asking which credit card was best for airline miles. Here’s the text.

Reader writes:

Hi MJ,
What is the best credit card to get airline miles?  We were looking at getting one with Alaska since we may need to fly to Vancouver from our home in Portland and back a few times.  We probably won’t be flying to Scotland for another year or two.

MJ Responds:

Well, that depends….but I would likely recommend Alaska, which you were already thinking, for a few reasons.

  • You live in Portland which is well served by Alaska Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines partners with a huge number of different airlines offering you the opportunity to earn (and burn) miles on other airlines, most notably, American and Delta for domestic flying where Alaska does not serve.
  • They partner with British Airways which might be a good option to get to Scotland.
  • The Alaska Air Visa comes with an annual $99 dollar companion ticket. In other words, you buy a ticket, and get the second one for $99 dollars (plus up to $22 in taxes).

There are other reasons this is a good card for you, but these are pretty solid ones for you to consider the Alaska Air Visa card. There are other, non-airline options like Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclay Arrival that you might at least want to check out. I happen to carry both. They have their own proprietary rewards that can be used to procure airline travel. Chase has Ultimate Rewards that you can use to purchase tickets or transfer them to several airline programs that you can then use to buy award tickets. With the Barclay Arrival Plus, you earn 2 miles for every dollar spent. If you redeem them for travel, you earn a 10 percent rebate on miles.

Basically, it works like this – if you buy a $200 airline ticket, you redeem 20,000 miles to pay for it, and you get a 2,000 mile rebate, making the final cost 18,000 miles. That’s a very high level look, and I’m happy to go into a deeper “math exercise” to assess what might be most beneficial, so feel free to write back if you have any questions. The amount of actual flying you plan on might impact my advice. Any of these cards can be good options, but I think the Alaska Air Visa could be a very good one given your circumstances.

What am I forgetting here? Anything you would add to the conversation? Other card options I’m not thinking about in this circumstance?

-MJ, July 31, 2014