Wouldn't it be great to pay for vacation using points that you've earned by spending money? That's what some people do when they use an airline miles credit card. But there are a few things that you should know before you pack your bags.
Airline miles credit cards may be issued by banks or directly by airline companies. With a cards offered directly by air carriers, you usually get frequent flyer miles that can be used only on that airline and/or for partner hotels, car rental companies, etc.
The problem with getting frequent flyer miles (as those who travel often will tell you) is that it can be difficult to redeem those miles. There are usually blackout dates around holidays, and it may be hard to get flights at times that are most convenient for you.
With cards offered by banks, on the other hand, you may get reward points that can be used either for frequent flyer miles on certain airlines or be converted into cash so that you can book a flight on whatever airline you wish. You gain some flexibility in choosing when you travel.
If you've been accumulating airline miles through your credit card for a few years in anticipation of a big trip, it's disheartening to discover that some of those miles have expired. Before you sign up for any airline rewards card, check whether or not they have time limits on using the miles. It's not always easy to find this information, so if you can't discover it when you read the application documents, give the credit card company a call before you apply.
(It's always better to check a credit card's terms before you apply. If you wait until after your application is approved and then find out you don't like the card limitations, you may be tempted to apply for another card. But too many credit inquiries will hurt you credit rating. For more information, see this article on Improving Your Credit Score from the U.S. Federal Reserve.)
You'll also want to check with the card issuer to see if you have to accumulate a certain number of mileage points before you can redeem them. Some airline cards require you have a minimum of 25,000 points, for example.
Although some airline miles credit cards don't charge a fee, many do—and they're not inexpensive. Even though a card company may waive the annual fee the first year, you could pay $100 or more per year after that. Factor that fee in when you're trying to decide which airline miles credit cards you want to get.
Although most cards offer a one-dollar-spent-to-one-mile (or reward point) earned, there are a few listed on our site that provide greater benefits. The Capital One Ventures Reward Card, for example, offers two miles reward for every dollar spent. Capital One's Orbitz Visa Platinum gives you three reward points for every dollar you spend on Orbitz purchases. The extra points do add up, so you may be able to get a free flight sooner.
You may also get bonuses for signing up for certain cards and/or for spending a certain amount of money during a certain time period.
Some cards offer fringe benefits that you might enjoy while traveling. On our site, for example, card holders of Delta Airline's Gold Delta SkyMiles card get their first bag checked free, priority boarding and 20 percent savings on any in-flight purchase.
Citi Thank You Premier Rewards card gives its card holders an annual complimentary domestic companion ticket.
As with any credit card offer, before you apply for an airline miles credit card, check the interest rates, annual fees and read the application carefully for any limitations. Then, once you've decided, get out the map and start planning the trip you'll take when you've accumulated enough rewards on your airline miles credit card.