Best CC to use for airline miles?

So in short, we are considering getting A CC with air miles to help defray the cost of tickets for a trip next summer. We’ll be needing 5 seats round - trip, with the closest airport being Mobile, AL.

I’ve seen requirements to spend 3 or 4k in the first 3 months, I’ve no doubt we can pull that off by paying everything with the card.

I suck at research and parsing the details. Anyone have a suggestion?

Not worth it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I can tell you my story and general experience. The primary reason being is that it is far too late to start gathering the relevant miles-- and if you don’t have enough to cover everyone, the tickets on miles vs. low price tickets are going to be most likely very different.

I generally bank ~200,000 (United-transferrable) miles annually on Chase Sapphire Preferred (my recommended card to you and miles go to United) primarily due to extensive travel for work and running $5,000+ worth of work related expenses per month through the card. I used miles to take a trip for 4 people to Africa this summer (8x one way trips at 40k). I found them 11 months ahead of time. When I priced out those tickets directly, it came to over $6k each. But I could find other tickets for $2200 in cash if my itinerary was more flexible (some of us leaving or return 2-3 days earlier/later). Similarly, trips to Hawaii are the same way. I have seen major hubs (SF, ORD, ATL) have one way Frequent flier tickets to Europe for 25k miles (and very occasionally for 12.5k which I buy without thinking twice), but that is still 250k miles needed now. Most places in the U.S. round trip similarly start at 40k.

It is great to start building miles and accumulate, but the true greatest ticket prices for trips is to keep searching 11 months out and 6 months out… And literally, if you see something for a good price, buy it that second. Do not refresh, do not search elsewhere. You have 24 hours to cancel, but those deals disappear the moment you go away. Cookie tracking is a thing. The 24 hour cancellation combined with creative searches (like flying from Mobile, AL into L.A. and out of Las Vegas or into London and out of Paris) and sometimes you see a fluke combination pop up. We just got a ticket into Madrid and out of London for $380 (x4) for June, and it is only a $40(x4) RyanAir between them.

Miles are great but if you aren’t actively traveling (when you get 3x points for tickets, meals, hotels), it takes a long time to build your number to something substantial enough to use. Two people is far more manageable with a 60k signing bonus- and even getting two CCs but not 5 people. Miles are also great for a last minute trip to see someone (for one person) or do something unusual, because it isn’t cash out of pocket.

That being said, I do recommend you and your partner each get a Chase Sapphire and you’ll get 100k miles without much effort.

Well, that was informative and appreciated! I did wonder if it was too late to bother. Might just keep an eye on tickets and pounce on a good price.

Unless you don’t mind using your miles for other things, such as Amazon.

Your flight is next summer? I don’t think it’s necessary too late. It might be nice to have a travel card for its travel perks too (exchange rates, lost baggage insurance, primary car insurance, shitty airport lounge access, etc.)

There are entire communities dedicated to this… I suggest starting with:


And then asking for further advice or for the latest credit card deals. Basically, many of the travel cards have different offers depending on how you find it, but they are easy to fake with special URLs or coupon codes or such. Some offers are much better than others. People list them on r/churning.

The minimum spend requirements are easy to meet if you just put your rent/mortgage on it for a small fee (2.5-3%), or Venmo a friend and have them Venmo you back.

There’s also a certain order to applying for several cards, such as Chase being more restrictive than some other banks, so you’d want to max out your cards with them before applying for other travel cards, etc. And be sure you’re OK with the temporary credit score hit from taking out new cards, especially if you do more than at once. But it’ll climb back up pretty soon, and having a bigger credit line is good for you longer term anyway.

Use Google Flights or Kayak to find flexible dates for the lowest costs. Doesn’t necessarily correspond 1:1 with award flight pricing, but it’s often close or similar.

If nothing else, put your tickets on your new card, get mileage bonuses for them, and use the other travel benefits. Why not? The sign-on bonus miles can be banked for later use or just redeemed at cash (not really recommended) if nothing else.

I also recommend the Chase Sapphire cards. I have the Reserve card, and while it is $500 a year, it comes with $300 travel credit, Global Entry credit, entrance to various first class/business lounges and many other things.

Unfortunately, the main reason I got is was for the direct 1:1 miles transfer to Korean Airlines, who have good Business Class reward ticket rates - but they stopped transferring to KAL :frowning:

It’s perhaps too late to accumulate regular points but not to get a signup bonus. Chase Sapphire Preferred gets you 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4000 in 3 months, which isn’t too hard if you use it all the time and pay it off. There is an annual fee but the first year is waived.

Not to be too mercenary, but I get points if you sign up using my link, I can send it if requested.

I’m not trying to hijack the thread, but does anyone know which of these cards are contactless? I’ve been using my Capital One cash back card because it’s contactless. I wouldn’t mind a airline rewards card myself, but contactless is a must.

Yep, I started on the card back when United and Alaska had miles sharing… but alas no longer. I think the benefits of the card have really gone down significantly (My sign up bonus was 90k miles) as you point out, but I also think that is largely due to miles not being as valuable as they once were.

The Chase cards do not. Amex has some OK travel cards that do.

But it’s easy to add the Chase cards to Google/Apple Pay and just use your phone as contactless. Even easier than taking out your wallet.

But really, most travel cards don’t give you great benefits unless you’re buying travel or dining, both of which rarely take contactless (in the US anyway). For things like groceries, the Amex cashback (6%) is much better.

Unfortunately, you’re about a decade late for the airline credit card game. I used to milk loyalty credit cards for all they were worth, but, sadly, the great sign-on bonuses (e.g. 100,000 miles) have largely dried up. Complicating the issue is that when they started offering those great sign-on bonuses, they also greatly increased the number of miles needed to get a free flight increased. It still may be worth it for you, depending on where you’re flying to, but it may not be the best bang for your buck.

7 years ago, when I was able to pay my kids’ college tuition via credit card (and spending $50,000 per YEAR just on that), I was able to earn enough miles in 2 years to get my family of 4 to Hawaii in First Class on miles. I couldn’t do that again today, not just because I’m not spending that amount of money (shwew!) but because RT flights used to cost 1/2 the miles that they do now.

So unless you can snag a really good sign-on bonus, I echo the advice to find the best sign-on bonus that is out there on a general travel card such as Chase Sapphire. If your credit can handle it, wait 6 months and then sign up for a different card with a great sign-on bonus.

If your spouse has good credit, have him/her do the same, but time them so that your spending will trigger all the bonuses, because most of them are tied to minimum spend.

I recommend Chase Sapphire for travel no matter what (for many reasons), but to me there are 3 great advantages:

  1. It has great consumer protection and great travel protection, such as primary on car rentals.

  2. Chase allows you to transfer their points between spouses living in the same household. So if you can snag two 60,000 mile bonuses, you’ll have 120,000 points to spend next year.

  3. If you use their online travel site to book your flights, you can pick any itinerary and any combination of airlines that you like. Sometimes Delta has a great flight out and American has a great flight returning home.
    Other advice:

  4. Don’t shy away from annual fees. Most of the better cards charge $95 or more, but often they’ll give you perks in exchange.

  5. If you can still snag a great sign-on bonus for an airline, here’s a trick for booking with points; Airlines often change flights after you’ve booked them, especially if you book 6 or 9 months in advance. Sometimes, it’s just minutes difference, but just as often it’s so significant a change that the airline will allow you to re-book on another flight (through the same airports) for no additional cost.

If I have flexibility in my schedule, I’ll book the cheapest flight available, but I make sure it’s through one of their major hubs. Then I’ll wait for the inevitable email notifying me that my flight has changed. At that time, if it’s more than an hour or two, I’ll call them, armed with my preferred itinerary, and ask to switch to that flight. They usually allow it, as long as it through the same airports. And when you pay with miles, they never ask you for the difference between what you paid and what the new flight is worth.

  1. Book everyone together if you can! Why? Because if the airline does change your flights around, you’ll all be moved together. If you don’t book under the same itinerary, it’s a much harder process because they might not move you all to the same flight, let alone together.

  2. Don’t forget hotel rewards to defray the cost of your trip. My spouse and I both hold a Marriott Bonvoy AND an AMEX Bonvoy credit card because they give you one free night in category 1-5 after year 1, for an annual fee of $95 each. 4 nights in a Marriott hotel for $400 isn’t the best deal, but it’s not the worst either, and if you stay in major cities, you can come out well ahead of the game My husband just booked Marriott Philadelphia for the Army/Navy game using two of the certificates, and he saved himself $500 AFTER the annual fees.

  3. Even if the airline perks aren’t what they used to be, it often pays to hold one if you travel more than once on any given airline, or if more than one of you will be flying. We just flew Delta to California, and my husband will be traveling to Philadelphia in a few weeks. Paying the $95 for the SkyMiles gold card made good sense because we always check a bag, which now costs $30 each way, but is free for card holders. 6 x $30 = $180. No brainer.

Wow, lots of good advice. Reading this and thinking about it, the person who suggested it to me spent hundreds of thousands in personal and business expenses… so yeah, I’m SURE it was a good deal for her.

Now that I’ve reflected, I’m not sure I’m good enough at keeping up with things like this to take advantage of it properly… no doubt plenty of people are, but that is FAR from being one of my strengths. Or, for that matter, even something I’m competent at on a daily basis.

So thanks again for the input, even if it just convinced me not to go ahead. :slight_smile: Maybe it will be useful for someone else, though.

Chase Sapphire + Scott’s Cheap Flights.