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Credit Cards

Hi,

I hope all is well.

Can anyone recommend a top notch credit card that earns miles?

I'm going to be making purchases, and figured I could at least get something.

Thanks.

Posted by
2525 posts

Accumulating miles has been displaced in my playbook. My experience using miles for air tickets is too often challenging to secure acceptable flights at acceptable number of miles and then being tossed between flights at will (airlines, not mine). Go for cash to buy whatever you desire, including flights. If wanting to use a credit card internationally, make sure there is zero foreign transaction fee. Search this site for suggestions.

Posted by
4833 posts

I would focus on first a card that has no Foreign Transaction Fee, that can cost you 3% when you travel, so avoid it.

Second, if you can avoid a yearly fee, that is a plus, if you do have to pay a fee, make sure the card has other benefits (Some Airline cards offer free checked bags, priority boarding, access to airport lounges for a fee or occasional free passes, companion tickets, etc) that help offset the cost.

Look at the airlines you travel most and their affiliated cards, then consider those that offer miles good on any airline and compare, costs on one side, perks on the other.

Posted by
407 posts

I love my Costco Citicard. 2-4% cash back. It has replaced my American AAdvantage Citicard. I was a loyal AA member but it became next to impossible to get frequent flyer tickets.

I also love my IHG (hotel) card. Gives me a annual free night at any IHG hotel. I have used it to stay at hotels charging $450 a night. Annual fee is $49. I have also become a sucker for stores that give you 5% off immediately if you use their store credit card. I only do this for stores that let you pay the balance of the card to the cashier immediately after purchase.

Posted by
16998 posts

George, I see you're from the LA area. That's a major gateway for international flights, so your experience may be like mine. In 2015 I flew into Rome (non-stop) in late May and back from Zagreb (one-stop) in mid-October on flights booked only 2 or 3 months in advance. Total taxes paid: well under $100. In 2016 I flew into Madrid (one stop) in mid-May and out of Barcelona (non-stop) in mid-September, not booking more than 3 months ahead of time, and again with modest taxes. All flights were at the "saver" mileage rate via my United MileagePlus card.

In addition to the suggestions made by other posters, I'd encourage you to try to hold out for one of the card offers that will give you a substantial bonus after you use the card to the tune of a modest amount of money within the first 3 or 6 months. Offers of 50,000 miles pop up pretty often on cards with annual fees of $95 dollars, and the first year's fee is typically waived. 50,000 miles is well on the way to a round-trip flight to Europe, even without the miles accrued from charges. I'm not prepared to cancel a card after a year like some folks do, but I don't feel an obligation to keep the card forever, either.

I think some airlines have fee-free cards that accrue miles but don't give you extra benefits (like free checked luggage and early check-in). Those may not have such big bonuses, but I believe they sometimes do offer smaller bonuses to encourage use of the card in the first few months. United used to have such a card.

Posted by
6419 posts

I have this United explorer card. No foreign transaction fees, two passes a year to the lounge. 2 miles for everydollar spent on united and 1 mile for general purchases. It worked in all the train travel and grocery store machines in Britain France Germany Italy Belgium Only drawback $95 member fee. I've had it a year and have already redeemed 60 k miles roundtrip to France.
https://www2.theexplorercard.com/50k3k?CELL=RRW&jp_cmp=cc/United_Explorer%20-%20Brand%20-%20Exact/sea/WpzrFVEc/Chase%20United&kwdID=WpzrFVEc_dc&adgrpID=176177884007

Posted by
1060 posts

Hi george. Check out the United card. They are currently offering 50K miles if you spend enough in the first months of getting the card. I've had one in the past and felt it was a good card. All airlines are limited on free flights they offer, but I've found United is much better than American and Delta as far as flight availability to Europe using miles.

Posted by
2975 posts

Chase sapphire reserve. 100,000 point bonus still available if you apply in a chase bank before March 11th. That translates to $1500 in travel or $1000 in cash back. Bonus only 50,000 points if you apply online. You must charge $4000 in the first 3 months he to get the bonus.

You pay $450 fee, but $300 of that is refunded as a travel credit. Then, you get reimbursed $100 if you apply for global entry. Priority pass membership is included which gives you lounge access at airports. Also included is travel insurance. No foreign transaction fees.

You earn 3 pts per $ on travel, 2pts per$ Dining, 1 pt per $ on everything else. Travel is not limited to a particular airline.

Posted by
4833 posts

In reviewing some of the other answers above and my own experience, I would agree that there are two different strategies you might consider.

One is to take advantage of generous sign-up bonuses (like the Chase Sapphire) where for relatively little spending and in a short time you can rack up enough points/miles for a trans-Atlantic flight.

The second is to evaluate a card for longer term spending and benefits, that you use on a daily basis. The card you choose for the first instance above may not be the best long term card due to annual cost and fewer benefits.

It could be that you take both options, cancel the high initial rewards card after the first year, then focus your spending on the second card.

Posted by
17682 posts

You didn't say to what country you are going.

I have extensive experience with booking accommodations in Germany; this might not hold true for all countries in Europe.

There are a whole lot of very nice accommodations in Germany that don't accept payment by credit card, and these tend to be the more economically priced properties. They probably don't have a star rating, but that in no way reflects on the comfort of the place. In Germany, in order to have more than one star, as specified by DEHOGA (the German hotel and restaurant association), a hotel has to accept credit cards. But a lot of places, that could have multiple stars, don't want to take credit cards, so they just don't bother with stars.

The bottom line is that if you stay at places that take credit cards, you'll spend enough more to more than offset the benefits (miles, cash back) of any credit card.

I am going to Germany in a few months and I just got a confirmation back for one of the places where I am staying. It said (in German):

Wenn nicht anders vereinbart erfolgt die Zahlung vor Ort beim
Einchecken in bar.

Translated, unless otherwise agreed, the payment will be made at check-in in cash.

On the other hand, if you purchase merchandise at a department store in Germany, they probably will take a credit card.

Posted by
968 posts

I have been looking at the same thing. So far Barclay's Arrival Plus card is looking pretty good.
https://home.barclaycardus.com/cards/barclaycard-arrival-plus-world-elite-mastercard.html
I pay my cards off each month so I'm not concerned about interest rates. I'm not crazy about fees, but it seems to get rewards it's something you live with. It does not seemed to be tied to any airline. Does any one have experience with this card? Or opinion?

Posted by
16998 posts

Horsewoofie, I haven't used that card, so these are just my musings:

  • It appears to provide no early-boarding, lounge-access, or free-checked-bags benefits while you're traveling. If you travel domestically, the checked-bags benefit has actual cash value unless you travel carry-on only.

  • The 2x rewards on everything are very good.

  • The absence of foreign-transaction fees is a key advantage (mandatory for me).

  • Although rewards are called "miles", they are actually points worth $.01 apiece, and can only be used for reimbursing travel expenses. (It appears that you can be reimbursed for just part of an expense if you don't have enough miles for the whole thing, and that is good.) Dig through the fine print to see whether the number of miles you must redeem for travel reimbursements is always one mile per penny. You may instead be tied to certain redemption levels (as I am with my particular Capital One card--I need to talk to them about changing that card). Only on purchases over $600 or falling exactly at the redemption-chart break-points do I get the full $.01 value. For example, to pay off any expense between $350 and $600 costs me 60,000 points.

  • This card would be relatively more valuable to people living in cities with comparatively low airfares to their desired destinations, since it is, in effect, a limited-purpose bank account. For folks in high-cost areas (Montana, the Dakotas, etc.), a card that earns miles might be better, since the airline award charts do not distinguish between Billings-Athens trips and NYC-London trips, but the dollar costs of those fares differ greatly. I don't know what the airfare situation is like for Phoenix residents. However, the 2x rate of earnings would help a lot to make up for not being able to get a round-trip to Europe for 60,000 miles as you could on a true mileage card. And you would be able to choose any flights you wanted since you'd be buying them with cash; no worries about whether frequent-flyer seats would be available.

  • The 50,000-mile bonus on this card is worth only $500 (obviously). The 50,000-mile bonus on a true mileage card is worth 5/6 of the cost of a round-trip to Europe (assuming the target airline charges 60,000 miles for such a trip) if you can snag a saver award with an acceptable itinerary. Again, the latter is probably much easier from some airports than others.

Posted by
123 posts

George,

As listed above, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best card out there with the 100k mile sign up bonus. I recently got this card and will now cancel my Chase Sothwest card and Chase United card. With the CSR, i can transfer to these airlines at anytime, and can make up the cost of bags with United with the travel expenses reimbursement or only taking carry on.

Really it just depends what your main airport is and what route you want to fly. I am currently in OKC so southwest was best for 10+years. With that card i got well over 10 roundtrip flights for free.

Now i am using the CSR for everything, to eventually book roundtrip to europe in lay-flat beds for two :)

Use www.thepointsguy.com for information, and go from there!

Posted by
2881 posts

One further advantage offered by some cards is rental car insurance. The particulars vary by card, so it's well to check individually. My United Mileage + offers the insurance with no deductibles. I have had opportunity to use it, and can testify that they handled my claim with no hassle.

Posted by
5352 posts

I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card which does NOT contain the contactless symbol -- but for me, that's an advantage, not a drawback.

All dining and travel expenses (even local bridges and BART fares) go on this card for 3x points. Card includes medical evacuation coverage and other travel insurance, plus primary rental car insurance.

Posted by
1410 posts

check out frugaltravelguy.com and thepointsguy.com for good info about the best deals. I have used my American Airlines card the most for overseas travel. They often have a fifty thousand mile signup bonus. I used fifty thousand for a one way first/business class flight last fall - worth over $3000

Posted by
5352 posts

For MrsEB -- some people love contactless cards, others (like me) feel that they have greater control when the card has to be physically pulled out and presented for each use. It's a matter of personal preference.

Posted by
334 posts

Getting a travel credit card depends upon a few factors, frequency of usage, your home airport, spending habits... In short, the greater the rewards offered, the higher the annual fees and APR will be.

I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) card, and it is very generous comparatively. When it was first made available, Chase offered a 100K, sign-up bonus, that offer is no longer available and the sign-up bonus has shrunken to 50K. My home airport is SFO, which is a United hub and is a partner with Chase, so points-transfer makes sense; Southwest is also a partner airline, and there's plenty of Southwest flights up/down the West Coast. I frequently use this card, so the $450 annual fee doesn't hurt as bad and the 3x earnings adds up fast.

The baby brother to the Reserve card is the Sapphire Preferred (CSP) card. 50K sign-up bonus, 2x earnings on food and travel, along with a very manageable $95 annual fee. You don't get the annual bonus nor do you get all the insurance protections that the Reserve card has but, this card is recognized by a lot of travel pundits to be a much better value for general travel users.

The Citi Thank You premier card competes with CSP: it also has a $95 annual BUT, it's 3x earnings on travel purchases, including gas, something the other cards don't offer; food & entertainment purchases are 2x earnings. Citi's travel partners seem to be better suited for more Asia travel, than European travel.

Capitol One Venture card is a very easy card to redeem points, whereas the other cards you need to utilize their own travel portal and use their points before your trip. Capitol One allows you to cancel out your charges on your statement, after your trip. It's earnings and valuations aren't as strong as other cards but, it's easy to use and many like it's simplicity.

Amex has a number of cards that are geared for travel, and are very generous (the gold standard for travel cards up until the CSR came out) but, some are simply charge cards not credit cards and traveling abroad, Amex may not be accepted.

This write-up was recently updated and worth a read.