If you’re in the market for an airline credit card, you understand how difficult it can be to choose the right offer. With so many different programs and features to compare, it can be overwhelming and confusing. Don’t be enticed by “bonus miles” or other special incentives. Read the fine print and make sure you understand the basics first. Here’s how to decide which offer is best for you:
More Than Just Miles
There’s much more to choosing an airline mile credit card than getting the most reward miles. The best choice often depends on how you plan on using your miles, your brand loyalty, and ultimately which card has the fewest strings attached and allows you to earn the most reward benefits.
Although airline credit cards tend to have higher APRs than standard credit cards, if you’re able to use them frequently and pay off your balance each month, you can earn some excellent perks. Be sure you understand how many miles you need to earn for rewards and when your miles will expire. If you don’t use your card often, make sure there isn’t an expiration date for inactivity. Some companies have an annual cap limiting the amount of miles you can earn each year. Try to find a airline credit card with unlimited rewards where the miles never expire.
Types of airline credit cards:
Co-branded Cards (AKA: Frequent Flyer Credit Cards)
Virtually every major airline has a co-branded credit card (issued in partnership between the airline and a major bank or credit card issuer). The miles you earn, either through flying or by using the card to shop, can be redeemed for airline tickets, first class upgrades and other travel-related rewards on that airline.
Examples of co-branded airline cards include the United® Mileage Plus Visa®, the Chase Continental® Mastercard and the Citi® AAdvantage® MasterCard®.
Generic Airline Cards (Airline Mile Credit Cards)
If you don’t have a specific airline preference, a generic miles card is another great option. Most credit card issuers have developed generic airline credit cards which allow you to earn miles and then redeem them for tickets on any major airline. These cards might have less incentives than co-branded cards, but they’re much more flexible.
Some examples of generic airline cards include the Capital One® Venture Rewards Card and the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Card.
Be aware that the miles from “generic” airline cards are not the same as frequent flyer miles on co-branded cards. They CANNOT be combined with specific frequent flyer mile programs.
The Best Airline / Travel Mile Program
Choosing an airline credit card depends solely on your personal needs and interests. Once you’ve determined which type of card suits you best (co-branded or generic), choosing an airline credit card is relatively easy. Look at the specifics of each program to determine which one provides the most perks and the least limitations. Depending on your personal needs and preferences, you can determine which card will benefit you the most.
* Be sure to see our article on The Limitations of Airline / Travel Credit Cards
Or, see a complete list of travel / airline reward cards →