Airfare rewards cards

I am looking at having to spend about $12,000 this year on airline tickets in August (taking the family to Japan, whee!).

In order to defray the cost, is there a good strategy vis-a-vis rewards cards? I mean, should angle just to get the frequent flyer miles from the purchase itself, or should I try to rack up points beforehand to defray the cost of the airfare? Which card should I use, either way?

I just got an Am Exp that gives 2% cash back on travel purchases.

The Chase Sapphire might be a good choice for you. In addition to many other benefits, it gives double points for restaurant and travel purchases. The points are extremely flexible, as they can be redeemed for cash, traded 1:1 for frequent flier points of many major airlines, or used to shop at the Ultimate Rewards site.

Ultimate Rewards is a pretty nice program, which offers discounted travel and retail shopping with either cash or points. I haven’t had my card very long, but the flights I’ve bought through it so far have been very competitively-priced, even before figuring in the additional points earned. It’s very helpful not to be tied to one airline, as you are with a lot of rewards cards.

I don’t have any affiliation with Chase, other than having one of their cards, or with the site in that link; it just seemed like a good summary.