Best Credit Card For Airline Miles

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by gocy444, Jun 6, 2020.

  1. gocy444

    gocy444 Well-Known Member

    Dec 15, 2008
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    Anyone have a good experience with using a credit card for free air miles and if so, with who? I plan on taking a number of trips in the next year or so (if covid allows) and want to score some free flights.

    I’m in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area so my first thought was looking into the Delta card as they have a big hub here, but I’m open to suggestions.

    I’m also open to most airlines other than Spirit or Frontier.
     
  2. tzjung

    tzjung Well-Known Member

    Mar 2, 2007
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    I use the United credit card, but only because United hubs in Chicago and Denver make it much more valuable living in Des Moines Area. I have the old card program which gives double miles for each dollar on everything, and triple on United purchases. We have flown with miles with 5 people to Florida twice in the last 5 years for free.
     
  3. DevilDog

    DevilDog Active Member

    Apr 9, 2006
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    I've had the Delta card since 2013 & have flown free numerous times. My wife has a Marriott card so we double dip on trips alot!
     
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  4. Pat

    Pat Active Member

    Oct 20, 2011
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    I fly (well, flew) United a bunch for work, so the card was a good deal. However, United just wildly devalued their miles (Delta, I believe, did this fairly recently, too). All things being equal, I’d almost always say cash-back is a better deal (our currency is being devalued, too, but it’s a much more gradual process). I’ve got almost half a million miles waiting for me to book a trip during a pandemic - grocery money would be more useful.
     
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  5. ForbinsAscynt

    ForbinsAscynt Well-Known Member
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    The Delta/AMEX card gets you into the lounge which is the only thing that matters.
     
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  6. khardbored

    khardbored Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to be a little outside the box ... some people will like my idea and some people will hate it.

    Consider the US Bank Altitude Reserve. It's amazing if you use it right.

    - Have to have another account (bank account or credit card) with US Bank before applying
    - 3% back on travel
    - 3% back on mobile wallet purchases. (HUGE if you use Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc)
    - 5% back if you book travel through their portal
    1.5x modifier if using that on travel through real time rewards.

    It sounds complex but it's not. Effectively you get 4.5% back when spent on travel if the funds were earned on travel or mobile wallet, 7.5% back if their portal (sometimes worth it and sometimes not)

    $400 annual fee is reduced to $75 annual fee as long as you spend at least $325 per year on travel purchases. Perfect for the occasional to moderate traveler. Search for YouTube videos on it and mobile wallet rewards.
     
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  7. brianhos

    brianhos Moderator
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    Jun 1, 2006
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    Most airline cards suck now, I used to have the delta one, but I rarely used it, not worth the $100 a year for extra miles. I fly a lot of United now, but their CC does not really help you get status faster, so I really don't get the point of it.
     
  8. dmclone

    dmclone Well-Known Member

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    https://thepointsguy.com/guide/top-airline-cards-to-have/

    I signed up for an American Airlines card a few years back. Got 60k miles, rarely used it, and then canceled it a few years later. Since then, we use Chase Sapphire Reserve and like the ability to use the points for whatever we like. The $550/year is steep but you immediately get $300 of that back if you travel at all. Also got the global entry for free($100), Door Dash credits, etc.
     
  9. brianhos

    brianhos Moderator
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    Jun 1, 2006
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    Yeah but not the $95 one, it is the $495/yr one.
     
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  10. ianoconnor

    ianoconnor Well-Known Member
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    I'd probably lean towards one of the delta cards being in Minneapolis. Or a general travel card like one of the Sapphires.

    Another resource worth checking out: https://www.doctorofcredit.com
     
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  11. Pat

    Pat Active Member

    Oct 20, 2011
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    If you don’t have status, it gets you on the plane a little faster and gives a free checked bag. If you fly enough to have status, it makes sense to accrue the extra miles. Totally agree, though: unless you’re willing to pay $500/year for club access (and I can’t bring myself to do it), none of the airline cards are anything special.
     
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  12. benman82

    benman82 Active Member

    Nov 17, 2009
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    It really depends on what kind of flight you're taking and how much effort you want to spend learning about points programs.

    One great and underrated card is the US Bank Altitude Reserve. It's essentially a $75 annual fee ($400 fee - $325 back on normal travel spend), includes a few priority pass lounge uses per year, and it's a pretty easy $750 towards travel. You just book through their portal iirc and don't transfer to any airline rewards programs.

    For domestic flights that you'd take with a specific person you can't beat the Southwest Companion Pass, though you'd probably have to get two cards for that. I got the Companion Pass with my wife and the points from two credit cards ended up being worth ~$4,200. It's by far the biggest value in the points game. Note that two cards don't automatically get you a companion pass, and you'll have to look into that more. If you're interested I actually wrote up a pretty long guide to it at https://bit.ly/2YaQ1Mf

    If you don't like southwest then I'd advise against any airline branded cards. Instead look into the transferable points programs from Chase/Amex/Citi.

    The Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve have the best transfer partners and wouldn't lock you into one specific carrier. The reserve does have a priority pass lounge membership, but it's not all that useful domestically imo. They transfer to SW, United, and American (ok, really British Airways but BA booking on AA is the best value you can get for short hauls). But also can be used to book normal paid tickets at a standard value of 1.25 cents per point for Preferred or 1.5 for Reserve which is worth more than a lot of points you'd transfer to, and is less work to get a good value. Keep in mind that the Reserve annual fee is really only $150 after the $300 credits on any travel (flight, hotel, uber, etc) and $100 coronavirus waiver and not the $550 you see. Actually looks like they're refunding groceries with that $300 at the moment due to coronavirus so yeah that annual fee is not so bad.

    If you want to get into lounges then get the Amex Platinum. The Escape lounge in MSP is probably the best domestic lounge in the whole country, and one Amex Platinum can get three people in there ($45 walk up fee). The Plat also gets you into Delta lounges, and you can transfer points to Delta or several other carries. The card also gets you some decent hotel status with marriott / spg / hilton. If you want to go to vegas there's a way to match Marriott to Wyndham which then matches to Caesar's Diamond status. And that can easily be worth $250+ on one trip (a single $100 meal/year, two show tickets/month, free parking, cheaper/upgraded rooms, skip lines, etc). Plus Vegas has an Amex lounge that's pretty nice. There's also ways to get the $200 airline incidentals credit converted to something useful, but Amex has been cracking down on that recently and their $550 annual fee is hard to justify unless you'd really use the lounge pass often (or take two other people in a few times) and take an uber every month.

    Citi just revamped their program and took away most of their card benefits. I don't recommend a card from them other than the double cash. I will say that for regular spending the double cash is pretty much as good as it gets (2% cash back on everything), and out of my 10+ cards it's what I use for most day to day purchases.

    iirc IHG and Hyatt are a couple hotel cards worth having for their yearly free night, but not worth ever using to buy anything. IHG could also get you that Vegas Caesar's status I think. Marriott can transfer points to airlines, but their transfer values are pretty bad, and just google "bonvoyed" and you'll see a ton of reasons not to trust Marriott too much.


    If I were living in MSP and planning to take several trips this year I'd probably order which card I want like this:
    1. Chase Southwest cards for companion pass
    2. Amex Platinum Charles Schwab edition (can cash out points with CS)
    3. Chase Sapphire Reserve
    4. US Bank Altitude Reserve
    5. Chase Sapphire Preferred
     
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  13. benman82

    benman82 Active Member

    Nov 17, 2009
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    Yeah US Bank does a terrible job marketing their products, but it might be the best card for people who take ~2-3 trips per year.

    Fun fact: Samsung Pay is actually different (google magnetic stripe payment) and can be used anywhere you swipe a card, while apple pay and other ones need the terminals set up to specifically accept their payment methods. When I had the Altitude Reserve I also had a Samsung phone so I got 3% back on pretty much everything I bought!
     
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  14. BoxsterCy

    BoxsterCy Well-Known Member
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    Sep 14, 2009
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    Being a Twin Cities peep I like the Delta card. Pretty much mostly fly Delta since they seem to have the best direct flights, not the best prices but way best convenience out of MSP. The free checked bag(s) has become a pretty decent perk with airlines charging for freaking everything. I use miles more to buy down ticket prices versus looking for "free" flights.
     
  15. khardbored

    khardbored Well-Known Member

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    Yep, I was aware of that. I looked into it, I found out that not all Samsung phones have the option, and to me it wasn't worth getting a whole new phone and environment for just that. I have an iPhone, and like the "Apple Environment." There's enough places that take Apple Pay that it was worth it to me. The few places that don't usually I can use something else with a bonus category at least 3%. (Notable exception -- I'm looking at you Menards! Get with the time and take Apple Pay!!!)
     
  16. ISUCyclones2015

    ISUCyclones2015 Well-Known Member

    Dec 19, 2010
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    You should wait until the fall when all the airlines will have a few months of bad travel and will start enticing people with huge sign up bonuses.
     
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  17. cyIclSoneU

    cyIclSoneU Well-Known Member

    Apr 7, 2016
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    I have a Sapphire Reserve and I like the flexibility to use its perks on any airline, but that would be less valuable in a one-carrier hub like MSP is with Delta.

    The Priority Pass membership that comes with it is of sporadic value. Airports that have included lounges are usually in international terminals. But some airports have a meal credit, which comes in very handy. You can get a $25 or so meal for free at certain airport restaurants every time you travel. If you’re with someone, they can get the free meal too even with a single membership.
     
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  18. Gunnerclone

    Gunnerclone Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2010
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    I have the Southwest card just because that is what works for us on our main air travel routes which is CBus to DSM, CBus to Denver, and CBus to Tampa. It’s not a great rewards card but you get double on SW ticket purchases.
     
  19. Yaz

    Yaz Member

    Jun 29, 2018
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    We use CapitalOne and charge 95% of our expenses through it and pay it off on time every month. This is not a points for flight, but we earn 2 points for every dollar we spend. So when we travel, we look for best flight pricing and convenience. However, we are able to get all hotels and rental car costs reimbursed. So these expenses typically far exceed the cost of flights. We went to the last bowl in Florida and only paid for flights and food. We were down there 10 days with rental car then spent several days on gulf side. Flights, food and entertainment were our only expenses.
     
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  20. intrepid27

    intrepid27 Well-Known Member

    Oct 9, 2006
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    This is what I do. That way you are not locked into a specific airline. There are no limits or restrictions. If you don;t fly you can use it for hotels or rental cars.
    Plus, Capital One has great customer service and fraud protection.
     
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