I recently changed jobs. With my new job, I’ll be traveling a lot more, and that’s prompted me to spend some time researching everything from frequent flyer programs to hotel rewards to rental car promotional offers. It’s also going to result in a few changes to the credit cards I carry. So I spent some time researching the best frequent flyer credit cards.
Here are the results of my research:
- Standard Frequent Flyer Bonus: The standard bonus for getting a new frequent flyer card is enough miles for one free domestic round trip ticket.
- Some Cards Offer More: A few cards offer bonus miles for new cardholders sufficient for two free domestic round trip tickets. These offers are typically for a limited time, and often require you to use the card in certain ways (e.g., for a balance transfer).
- Annual Fees are Standard: Annual fees are common on miles credit cards, although most cards waive the fee the first year.
- You earn free flights faster: As compared to a generic travel card, you will earn free flights faster with a miles card. A standard award ticket is 25,000 miles, which you can earn after spending $25,000 on the card. With a generic travel card paying a 1% reward, this would result in a credit of $250. While some domestic round trip tickets can be purchased for $250 or less, many cannot.
- Free checked bags: Most frequent flyer cards offer a free checked bag. This can save you a bundle if you travel a lot and like to check your bags. I almost always check bags, so this is a big bonus for me.
- Every frequent flyer program has a card: Regardless of which airlines you fly, they all have frequent flyer programs and at least one airline branded credit card to help you earn miles. Some airlines have multiple cards.
When it comes to picking the top frequent flyer card, there are several things to consider:
- Where you fly: If you frequently fly to the same place, you’ll likely spend your time on the same airline. There’s really no point in getting a card associated with a frequent flyer program you rarely use (other than perhaps for the bonus rewards).
- Bonus rewards: This is an obvious consideration. Many folks I talk to apply for multiple cards just for the free travel.
- Your favorite airline: I’m a big fan of Southwest, perhaps because of its commercials that poke fun at the other airlines for charging you to check your bags. Because I fly on Southwest every chance I get, the RapidRewards card is one of my favorites.
- The extra perks: It’s worth looking at the extra perks these cards offer. The two biggest perks are free checked bags and access to airport lounges.
With all of that said, here are my picks for the best overall frequent flyer credit cards:
|Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®|
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