What to Look for in a Travel Rewards Credit CardOctober 16, 2010 - 8:15 am
The best perk of a credit card with a frequent flier program is the free trips you can take. But, before you go apply for a credit card that gives you reward miles, know what differentiates good airline miles credit cards from the bad ones.
Miles With Your Preferred Airline
Most travel rewards credit cards are affiliated with one airline or another. Make sure you the credit card you choose lets you accumulate miles for the airline you like best. Some travel rewards credit cards will let you convert your miles to another frequent flier program, but it may not be a 1:1 conversion. Instead, you could end up losing miles when you convert.
More Miles for Your Dollars
When you’re comparing airline credit cards, look for the one that lets you earn the most miles for each dollar you spend. Some programs give you more miles for purchases made in specific places. If you frequently shop in the places that let you rack up more miles, take advantage of the deal.
No Expiration, No Maximums
The best reward programs don’t expire your rewards and they don’t cap the number of miles you can accumulate.
Free Baggage Check
Many airlines have imposed a fee for checking your bags. While some airlines let you check one bag for free if you purchase your ticket, those same airlines remove this option when you book your flight using miles. Look for a travel rewards credit card that gives you the benefit of free baggage check. Note that there may still be a limit on the number of bags you can check for free.
If you look closely at some rewards programs, it seems like they don’t really want you to use your miles. You’ll have to watch out for fees imposed on you use your mails.
For example, you might have to pay a fee to use your miles or even to book your flight using a live customer service representative. If you cancel your flight and need to re-deposit your miles, you might be charged another fee. There may be fees for converting your miles and using them with another airline.
With many airlines, there are fewer flights available for rewards redemption. As you plan a trip, you’ll notice you don’t have as many flight options when you specify that you’ll be using your rewards. Some airlines are worse than others.
Watch out for point redemption inflation. Your airline rewards credit card may make it harder for you to purchase flights with your rewards, not by decreasing the number of rewards you earn, but by increasing the rewards it takes to book a flight. Some programs leave the point values the same to redeem rewards and instead impose limits on reward redemption and charge extra miles to get around the rewards.
Travel rewards credit cards may tend to be cumbersome, but you can use the miles to offset the cost of a plane ticket or hotel stay. Or, you can get a cash back credit card, whose programs tend to be more straightforward, and use the cash you earn for the same purpose.