Airline miles credit cards are among the most popular types of rewards credit cards. However, only a handful of frequent flyer miles credit cards provide great rewards and value. The reason for this is quite simple: most airline specific credit cards charge astronomical annual fees and high interest rates. Now, if you travel often and spend more than $10,000 a year, just about any airline credit card will earn you miles. However, if you want to get free miles, airline flexibility, and save money on interest and annual fees, there are only four miles credit cards you should consider: The Miles Card from Discover, The Value Miles Platinum Visa Card, American Express Blue Sky and the Citi PremierPass. Here, we will examine all four cards. First, however, we will examine the average airline specific credit card.
The lure of the “average” airline specific frequent flyer credit card is the bonus mile offering. Who wouldn’t want 15,000 miles? In addition to the substantial free miles offered, the average airline credit card also waives the annual fee during the first year. The combination of free miles and a no fee first year draws in many consumers. However, the initial perks are generally offset by the money it will cost to maintain your credit card after the first year. First, the average annual fee charged by these credit cards is $75. Ouch. And the average interest rate? More than 17%. Sure, you get a lot of miles upfront, but is it really worth paying 5% more in interest and a substantial annual fee? Not when there are much better offers available.
The Miles Card from Discover is a no annual fee airline rewards card that offers a 0% interest rate for 1 year, a low long term interest rate, and the opportunity to earn 1 mile for every dollar spent. The miles you earn can be redeemed on any airline with no blackout dates. Plus, you get 5,000 bonus miles when you make your first purchase. The interest rate on this credit card is over 6% less than that of the “average” frequent flyer card. Plus, you pay no interest on purchases or balance transfers for up to 1 year. Although you get 10,000 less miles, you’ll probably end up with a lot more money to spend on traveling with this card than you would with the “average miles card.”
The Chase Value Miles credit card is a no annual fee airline rewards card that allows you to fly on any airline with no blackout dates. They do not give away free miles, but they also don’t charge an annual fee or a high interest rate. Like the Miles Card, the Value Miles card offers a 0% interest rate for up to 1 year and offers an interest rate that is 5.5% lower than than “average miles card.” And, although the Value Miles Card does not offer any free miles, you can get a ticket to fly anywhere in the continental U.S. for only 24,000 miles. This is 5,000 to 10,000 miles less than the “average miles card” charges to get a free ticket. You don’t get free miles, but your miles do have more value.
The Citi PremierPass offers two levels of airline rewards. The regular PremierPass MasterCard offers 5,000 free miles, charges no annual fee, and offers an interest rate that is 4.25% lower than the “average miles card.” Additionally, you can earn 1 flightpoint for every three miles you fly on any airline with a ticket purchased with your card.
The Citi PremierPass also offers an elite level. Now, there is an annual fee of $75. However, you receive 15,000 bonus miles, earn 1 flightpoint for every single mile flown, and double miles on everyday purchases. The interest rate is still 4.25% less than the “average miles card,” plus, this card offers a 0% interest rate for up 1 year.
The BlueSky credit card from American Express does not try to lure you in with free miles. Instead, they offer value. For every 7500 points earned, you receive $100 that can be used for any travel expense, including car rentals, hotels, online travel sites, and cruises. The value here is that every point you earn is worth 33% more than than the average point. Plus, you can use your rewards for all of your travel expenses, not just airline tickets. Additionally, this card offers a 0% interest rate for 6 months, charges no annual fee, and offers a low long term interest rate that is 5% lower than the “average miles card.”
As you can see, airline credit cards offer a variety of perks at a variety of prices. For some, an “average miles credit card” with an annual fee of $75 and an interest rate over 17% might provide the best overall value. However, most credit card users will end up paying more money in interest and fees on their credit card than they would if they simply paid for their ticket in cash. The real value in frequent flyer credit cards can be found with the general miles credit cards that charge no fees, offer low interest rates, and offer more travel flexibility.
2006, Credit Card Depot Inc.