How to Choose an Airline Miles Card

by James Andrew Scott on February 28, 2012

in Tips

The Best Miles Card for You

First, consider the airline(s) you’re most likely to travel on.   Your goal should be increase your odds of successfully and easily using the miles you’ve accumulated in the first place.  I live in Washington, DC and frequently travel out of DCA, the most convenient airport for me.  Two airlines—US Airways and Delta—offer the great majority of flights out of DCA.  US Airways offered the most flights to the most destinations that I was likely to travel to.  Therefore, I knew I’d have a great chance of easily using points accumulated in the US Airways Dividend Miles program.  In my case, it made sense for me to select the US Airways Dividend Miles Premier World MasterCard.

If you want the most options for using your points or miles, consider cards like the Capital One® Venture Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred (SM) Card.  These cards allow you to earn and use points on nearly any airline, as opposed to one airline (and those airlines affiliated with it).   I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for dining and all travel expenses including flights (other than US Airways) to get double points.  I use the Capital One Venture Card for everything else to get two miles per dollar.  While having both cards could be considered overkill, both cards have different assets that complement each other.  Whereas Capital One shines with double miles on everything, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card allow you to transfer your points with several other loyalty programs, greatly increasing your options for using your points (which is very important!).

Other Important Things to Consider:


  • Most major carriers are members of world-wide alliances that allow you to use and earn miles on affiliated carriers around the world.  This greatly increases your options for using your points.  Consider what alliances your points card is connected with and what your airport and destination options might be.
  • Nearly all the major cards offer bonus miles just for signing up as well as for making purchases (or transfers) of certain dollar amounts in the first few months of use.  Some, like the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card offer mileage bonuses if you reach a certain purchase level threshold each year.  Make sure you  maximize your potential bonus miles by selecting a card with bonuses you can achieve!
  • Consider whether the card offers perks such as priority boarding, free checked luggage, free airport lounge/club passes, companion tickets, and more. The added perks offered to card holders can make a big difference in the comfort of your travel.
  • Fees.  Consider whether the card charges a Foreign Transaction Fee (which can be nearly 3%).   If your travel overseas frequently, consider choosing a card that does not charge this fee.  Also, consider the annual fee.  For certain cards, these are upwards of $400.  Many cards waive the fee the first year.

Have additional insights or comments you’d like to share with our readers on choosing the best miles card? Please share with our readers below.

 Note: TripBadger does not receive any financial compensation from any of the cards listed or linked here.


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