How to Choose an Airline Miles Credit Card

by James Andrew Scott

The Best Airline Miles Credit Card for You

In choosing an airline miles or frequent flyer credit card, first consider the airline 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. Consider choosing the co-branded credit card of the airline with the most flights at the airport most convenient to you.

If you want the most options for using your miles (or points), consider cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred (SM) Card or the Capital One® Venture Card.  These cards allow you to earn and use miles/points on nearly any airline, as opposed to one airline (and those airlines affiliated with it).

Other Important Things to Consider:

  • Most miles and points 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 cards 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!  Click here for our listing of the best current offers.
  • Consider award seat availability.  The airlines are very different when it comes to availability of award seats.  Southwest is tops with 100% of all seats available for awards.  United is close at nearly 90%.   Some cards like the United MileagePlus Explorer and Club cards provide cardholders with increased (unlimited) access to standard award seats.  This is a great benefit which increases your ability to easily use your miles.
  • Consider whether the card offers perks such as priority boarding, free checked bags, 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 annual fee the first year.
  • 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 miles card is connected and how this alliance expands your destination options.
  • Your miles card strategy should always involve paying off your balance every month so that you can avoid interest charges.