Airline Miles Credit Card: How to Fly for Free or Cheap
With several credit cards / royalty cards offering airline miles, how do you choose one?
Credit cards.com has a nice list of the latest travel credit card offers, including bonus offers. Whether it’s flights, nights or points, they’ve made it easy to compare.
Personally, I like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® . Currently, they are offering 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. This may sound like a lot to spend, but trust me, it is easy to spend $1,000 per month. I use my credit card for everything including rent, cell phone, car insurance, groceries, and pay all my bills with the airline miles card. The airline miles you earn do not have to be earned by buying flights. Everything you spend on the card, counts towards earning airline miles. There is nothing that I don’t put on the card. I also pay off my credit card balance every pay check. I never pay any interest on the credit card. And I have close to $0.00 on my account when the bill comes.
For every $1 that you spend, you earn 1 airline mile. So if you spend $1,000 in a month, you’ll earn 1,000 miles. If you spend $2,000 (which is normal if all of your bills are included), then you’ll have 2,000 miles earned for that month. You can use your miles on American Airlines and any airlines that American partners with. This means that you can fly anywhere in the world. American and Citi also offer additional options for earning additional miles. They have a rewards network called AA Rewards Network that you can sign up through American’s website, that allows you to earn up to 5 airline miles for every $1 spent at participating restaurants. This means that you could possibly earn 150 miles ($5 + $1) on a $25 meal at a participating restaurant. If you eat out once per week, spend $25 and go to a restaurant on the list, you earn an additional 7,800 miles for the year.
American’s website also allows you to earn additional airline miles on various shopping websites, such as many mall stores, flower shopping and other purchases. If you are smart about it, you can earn quite a few more miles on your everyday purchases. Unfortunately, Amazon.com is not part of the network, so I find it cumbersome to go thru all the different sites to find what I’m looking for. So, I know, that I am losing possible additional earning opportunities. However, time is greater than money, for me. Walmart though, is on their shopping network and since Walmart also offers grocery shopping with pickup, this might be worth checking into. The extra airline miles earned vary by store, similar to dining, with 1-5 miles extra. So if it is used to purchase groceries, that could be an extra 5,000 or more miles per year, not counting the miles you are already getting for using the card.
So how far can you travel with your miles and what’s involved in using them? With American, it’s pretty simple, easy and cheap. From what I hear, it requires less miles than some other airlines. Here is the latest chart, which you won’t find elsewhere unless you already have the card.
What does this mean? Miles are listed one way, so double the number of miles. Try to plan your travel during the off-peak time, for cheaper miles. So for example, off-peak you could fly to Hawaii for 40,000 miles, Central America for 25,000, South America for 35,000, Europe for 45,000, and Asia for 65,000. This means with the 60,000 bonus miles upon spending $3,000 within three months, you already have a flight to almost anywhere in the world that you want to fly.
So what are you waiting for? It’s so easy, to earn at least one international trip per year. Plus, you are allowed to buy a flight for a friend with your miles, if you choose to do so.
Some downsides, or items to consider: You can’t always get an award flight for when you want to fly. You may need to consider alternate dates. Also, sometimes, you may need to have more stopovers / layovers or the layovers are longer than you would care to spend, if you were paying for the flight. I consider this the price of admission, and for an almost free flight, I will deal with a few extra hassles. I say almost free, as you will have to pay a processing/booking fee/ taxes. So for my flight from Phoenix to Japan, I paid $50. Not bad!
Other fees associated with the card, is the annual fee. Sometimes, they will offer the card for free the first year, and then charge after. Current price is $95 per year. Again, this is not bad, considering I have used the card for more than 10 international almost free flights.
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