Best credit card with frequent flyer miles

Not sure if this is the place to ask this question but here it goes. Looking for a new credit card (free) that has a good frequent flyer progam. Currently getting rid of United Visa (charging $95/year) and maybe will apply (again) for the Delta AMEX card for 1 year. Do have a local bank CC we keep all the time. Anyone have the Capital one card....no foreign trans fees. We live in northern MN and usually fly out of Duluth or Minneapolis. Been doing more travel to Europe than domestically. Thanks for any suggestions.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

I have no information. But in addition to any information you get here, be sure to go to www.flyertalk.com, where the real specialists in this arena hang out.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6732 posts

I was just looking at Flyertalk awhile ago and I scanned their very nice chart. I don't recall seeing any info on annual fees. As for charges, Capital One had a lot of zeros for bank charges and fees. We have a Charles Schwab Bank Visa/Debit card. ATM fees are rebated at the end of each month and I don't believe we have an annual fee. This card is linked to a brokerage account but we have it set up so that we don't have to have any money in it. Everything goes to our checking account. The one thing you need to know about this particular card is that the Visa feature is linked to your checking account and not any bank. You charge on it and it comes out of your checking account. Last year, we put $5,000 in the account for our trip to Spain and France and we were able to charge our hotels, meals and everything on the card. The only limit was the amount in our checking account. We actually like this feature.

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
916 posts

Before getting a Delta card, look into the ease of booking flights with those Delta miles. We found it impossible to find flights at the lower end of their mileage charts ... supposedly they had 30,000-mile one-way flights to Europe, but we were never able to find these from Denver, even being totally open on dates and travel destinations. We ended up spending 90,000 miles each on a round trip economy flight to Athens, just to use up our Delta miles and be rid of them. Perhaps Delta has changed since then; I would echo Harold's advice ... spend some time on http://www.Flyertalk.com and see what the current Delta situation is. In comparison, this year, on United, we're using 80,000 miles each for business class to Istanbul and then economy back from Athens. American has had some great deals (40,000 mile round trips to Europe during the off-season) but I'm not sure how the US Airways merger will affect that. If you like United, you can cancel your current United Visa and apply for a different Chase card (i.e. a Sapphire?), get the mileage bonus, transfer those miles to your United account, then cancel the card after 11 months (to avoid the fee) and get something else. It takes discipline and good record keeping but you can accumulate a lot of miles that way. Again, this is only good advice for those who have excellent credit, pay off credit cards every month, and have the discipline to manage them carefully. There will often be a "spend" requirement to get the mileage bonus (i.e. $3000 in the first 3 months). Check details on Chase.com and Flyertalk if you're interested. I reiterate, be careful with this. We did have a Capitol One card that we used one year for hotels overseas and then used its points to reimburse those costs. We cancelled that card before the annual fee was charged as well. We also have a fee-free USAA card that we keep all the time.

Posted by JerryG
winston salem, nc, usa
655 posts

I use the United Presidental Plus card even though it has a $395 fee for the club access, no foreign transaction fees and I can still find super ffmile deals on their website; this year, spouse and I are going GSO-MAN to the EU and ATH-GSO at the end of May returning 10 June for 60,000FF miles each. As an aside, while in Sicily last year, my card got tangled up in that massive server hack, however, they called me in Sicily, and we never had a problem with denials--that is worth the fee alone! Last year we did RDU-MAN to the EU and FCO-RDU going economy plus to and business of Lufthansa back for a total of 160,000 for both of us.
I did consider going back to DL, however, all the people I know talked about how frustrated they are with DL in that they can never get or find the discounted FF tickets

Posted by Joanne
Side Lake, MN, USA
88 posts

Thanks everyone for the good advice. Found out I have 60 days from the date of united $95 charge to decide if I want to keep the card. My husband is just short about $200 on his card to get to the 110,000 mile mark so we will keep this card a little bit longer and get those miles. I checked and can fly out of Duluth to Frankfurt for 85,000 united miles this October and if I miss booking that, it will go up to 110,000. Have been using delta miles the past two years and flying directly out of HIbbing (small town nw of Duluth) without a problem. It is easier as we live just 40 min from that airport. Guess there are sacrifices to living far away from civilization....but beautiful especially in summer. Will be checking out the websites...thanks....but now the beach is calling me. No, not in MN but in FL!!!

Posted by Jeff
Bend, OR, United States
1145 posts

Good luck finding a card that will give you ff miles without charging a fee. The don't those miles free from the airline.

Posted by Alexandra
West Coast, California, USA
292 posts

I have the United Visa Mileage Plus card and it's good and bad. We've used our miles to travel to Germany (coach), Hawaii, Texas, Hawaii, then gave our son miles to use for his honeymoon travel, and now we're flying business class to Italy soon. Downside is the mileage plus customer service is horrible. The reps are overseas in India or Philippines (or somewhere), the connection is terrible, many times I can't understand because of their accents, I've waiting for over an hour to talk to someone, been disconnected numerous times, geez... the list goes on and on. I would also love to switch to a different card but don't know which to choose.

Posted by Alex
Longmont, CO, USA
342 posts

Lufthansa Miles and More Card for us. Customer service has been great and they give you double miles when you book with them or any Star Alliance partner.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

Not sure if this is the place to ask this question but here it goes. Well, you can ask it here but you'll get pretty poor quality answers here, from nice, well-meaning folks (love ya) but posts will consist of half-truths at best, with plenty of misleading and/or outright bad information. That's not because people here are stupid, lazy or have other shortcomings (they're none of these things, I like most folks here). But because there's no single, simple answer to your question. The question you ask is a tremendous oversimplification of an extremely complicated subject (whose rules, details and deals change every day). Some people invest huge amounts of their time to try and figure out what's "best" for them (which is not necessarily what's best for you). There are a million variables, and they change every day. If you want to get the maximum benefit from one or more frequent flyer programs, you simply have to invest some time (more time than you probably expect) learning about what works well and what doesn't. It's the airlines' job to obfuscate things and make it as tricky as possible, and its your job to do the necessary homework to get a good value from your frequent flyer benefits. I've flown all over the world for the past 20+ years pretty much exclusively using FF miles. It's great. But it requires some of your time. I see people posting completely wrong information here all the time - you should not rely on what you see here (no offense or disrespect intended towards those here trying to help). That's not a knock on this forum, it's just not a subject that can be covered here (like some other complex subjects). Get over to Flyertalk and plan to spend some time learning the basics.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

I do not get this adulation for Flyertalk. The people there are nice, but their talk is so full of jargon and acronyms that it is nearly incomprehensible to a newbie. And a lot of the people seem bent on making a game, or even a career, out of getting deals with their miles. Not my idea of fun. So I don't consult Flyertalk, yet somehow I have managed to get three business class trips to Europe in the last three years, one of them for 4 people, two for two of us, and all of them with the dates and routing I wanted. Before that we made two trips to Europe in economy, and a trip to Australia. And just in the past year I have taken six people to Alaska, and booked two trips to New York for two, all with miles. So I know what works for me, but I also realize that might not work for anyone else. So I don't answer questions like "What is the best credit card for miles?" because everyone's needs are different. One aspect of FlyerTalk that actually might be useful to Joanne is their rating of credit cards. It is in a weird place on the board, not in the discussion forums. I can go look for it if you can't find it.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Lola is spot on regarding flyertalk. Yes there is good information there, but absent an obsessive desire to spend every waking moment accumulating miles, most can find the one or more credit cards that suit our needs with a little research.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Here is an example of a FlyerTalk post from the "Miles Run Deals" forum: "C2- Asian Peninsula €22.06 BF e.w ST.
Yes Fare Rules prohibit EoE, but we have often seen those rules are not properly programmed in certain OTAs." Or this: "Found ORD - C2 (many options) on SAS for $150 e.w. BF. Most are $9xx RT AI, but have about $500 of fat. End to End permitted. Late may availability " How useful is that? It least the last sentence is clear.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

Accumulating miles should not be the focus. It doesn't matter how many miles you have itf you can't use them. Apparently some FF programs make it very difficult to find flights, at least I've seen a lot of complaints about that (Delta and American in particular).

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

Can't argue with what you said about Flyertalk, Lola & Bruce. It's got its own weird "culture", is jargon-happy, and no shortage of completely obsessed, whack-o types. But with all its shortcomings, I still think it's the best place to learn about FF programs and how to realize the potential from your mile/point collecting. Like anything else, you need to decide how much of your spare time you feel like dedicating to following the details. Some people there are clearly obsessed (clinically). But even for someone who's pretty casual about it, I still think FT is a great resource. You just need to apply a filter (like you would on any online resource). My point was (and still is) that Rick's web forums are a great resource (often the best source) on European travel, but they are not a good place to get info about FF programs. I see bad information posted here about FF programs all the time which goes uncorrected (mixed in with the good and the merely incomplete). Several examples are posted in this very thread... 1. It's impossible to book Delta flights at low levels. A frequent complaint and often seems true, but not if you plan in advance and know the tricks. 2. It's impossible to get FF miles without paying credit card fees.
Sorry, this has no basis in reality - it's quite easy to get oodles of miles at zero cost. Not everything posted here is wrong, though - it's certainly true that many FF programs' "customer service" is abysmal. And just collecting miles is only part of the game (the easy part). Figuring out how to use them and get good value out of them is the real challenge. Most people don't. That's what the airlines want - it's not an accident they've set things up this way. I look at it like a challenging puzzle, and enjoy trying to solve it.

Posted by Joanne
Side Lake, MN, USA
88 posts

Everything that has been posted has been very helpful to me. I'm not dedicated to the best FF deal I can find but will do my research. In the past I have been able to fly to Europe 9 times, Hawaii and islands 2 times, several domestic flights, honeymoon for daughter/son in law to Hawaii, honeymoon for son/daughter in law to Grand Camyens, several tickets for grandchildren to FL to visit all on FF miles. I guess I have been doing OK so far. Will be looking into the capital one card. I know there are problems with delta but it has worked for us. The trick of course if booking early and being somewhat flexible. Again, thanks and keep the posts coming. This site has always been very helpful.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

I don't think there is any 'magic' formula for finding and using FF points, but however you manage to do it, it does take a bit of time. I live near a Delta hub as well and do use miles as often as possible. I have many times flown on the lowest point award tickets. Not always, but if you can be flexible and look far enough ahead (although not always). I also have American points and Amex and try to play the game to make my points work for me but it does take a bit of manuevering. I do put everything on my Amex as those points can be used on any airline.
As far as flyertalk I found it to be a total waste of time... if it can't be understood by the general public who speaks English then what help is it? ... I have no time for that riduclious game.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
612 posts

Select a frequent flyer credit card for the airline you would most likely use near your home town. Or which airline that is hubbed at the city you would likely connect through? Since my business and personal travel almost always go out of (SFO), to either Denver, Chicago, or JFK, United is hubbed at 3 of the 4 airports, making it easy to 1) book competitive United flights to earn miles 2) more options for using miles. We have a United Explorer card, which upon opening gave us 55K miles, 10K more for spending $25K, and priority boarding. For us, well worth the $95/year. As far as booking flights to Europe on United, there are many choices, but to get the the most options on saver fares, you have to book 10 1/2 months in advance. Also saver fares during high season dry up for the most direct, shortest flights. And as others have mentioned, you must be disciplined and pay in FULL EVERY MONTH, no exceptions, or it will cost a fortune in interest, negating the purpose for a card with miles.
We also have a Capital One card and earn 1.25 miles per $1 spent. But if you do the math, if you spend $25K, you then have 31,000 miles, equivalent to a $310 plane ticket. On the United mileage card, since we earn miles (for flying), miles for spending, (and bonus miles for status), double miles for United fight purchases, and hotel, and car rental miles. So if I spend the same $25K, combined with the other ways to earn miles, I've accumulated enough miles for a round trip saver fare to Europe, around a $1500 value. One other thing we learned, is just save miles for the Intl trips, don't use on domestic tickets.