Recommendations for Best Credit Card Mileage Plan

Updated on July 13, 2011
S.R. asks from Morgan Hill, CA
11 answers

Hello Mamas!
My hubby and I have been discussing opening a line of credit that we would use to buy our groceries and pay all of our regular bills, and then pay off each and every month, for the purpose of taking advantage of a mileage points program so we can take some kind of vacation in this crazy economy!!!
We both have excellent (850) FICA scores, so acceptance of our application shouldn't be a problem. In fact, we both agree that credit is only for special uses, and currently we only have 1 Visa line of credit, with a 0 balance, that we only keep around for reserving rental cars or hotels, etc... We own our cars outright, etc., although we do have a mortgage. Anyway, point is, we don't use credit to "buy" things. Cash and carry all the way... but we are interested in a plan where we can buy things we buy anyway and pay them off immediately and maybe get some free miles out of it.
Any recommendations? What I'd like to avoid is a lot of fine print that I'd never have time to read, let alone understand. I'd also like it to be with a company that has good customer service, convenient access to live people that can help you if you have a problem, generous grace periods (just in case I'm late with a payment), good terms, etc.
Mamas, please reply with your recommendations!!! What have you used, and what did you like about them?
Which credit companies would you never touch again with a 10 foot pole, and why? Etc.
Maybe, with your help, I can go on vacation!!!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Statistics show that people spend 47% MORE when paying with a credit card vs. cash. That will be O. expensive vacation!

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answers from San Francisco on

We didn't like any of the mileage cards. The ones with the best miles per $ also had an annual fee. That is just interest up front, even if you pay in full all the time.

We have a rewards card through Schwab now and love it. We get money back on all purchases and there is no annual cap on how much you can get back. Citibank used to cap us at $300 cash back per year. The best part is they put the cash back directly into a Schwab account that earns better interest than our standard savings. We don't have to request it, or fill out any forms, it just goes in. That account could be your 'vacation' account. Just use the money to go where you want. You won't be tied to one airline, or have to jump through any hoops.

I agree that if you pay in full every month, it is silly not to get a reward. :) We have two of these cards. One for all things tax deductible, and the other for everything else. Both cards put the cash back into the same account. We use them for everything we can, then pay them in full each month. The other benefit is leaving our money in our interest-bearing accounts during the month instead of pulling it out to pay for stuff as we go along. Not that we earn much in interest these days, but it does add up! It also helps us to track our spending because everything is itemized on the statements.

Actually, I lie, we have three of these cards. We just opened a third card with a separate account for the cash back. This card we added our daughter on. Only she uses it, and only for gas and other pre-approved uses. (SAT registration and such). This gives her a savings account she doesn't actually have access to, as well as getting her established with credit. We pay the card in full each month after going over the statement with her, so she can see how much gas is costing her/us. She has been very responsible with it. We also have her figure out how much it would cost her in total if she stopped using it, but paid off the balance with only the minimum payment. That was enlightening for her! One month's gas would take her over a year to pay off and cost a near fortune. We hope these lessons will bring her into adulthood with good financial intellegence, so she can avoid the credit trap that so many young adults fall into.

I know you know this, but for the benefit of anyone else reading this post, NEVER carry a balance on a credit card. The interest rates are horrendous. That is why, as Denise P. says, statistics show things cost 47% more when paid for with a credit card. It is not paying that way that costs more, it is not paying the balance in full each month.

Happy vacationing!

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answers from Eugene on

I loved my Alaska Air Visa even tho I dropped it last year because of the annual fee. They had some great deals on mileage plan tickets. Now I have a different rewards card, no annual fee but the miles to dollar ratio hasn't been as good. Might go back to Alaska. And it IS possible to be frugal with a credit card. I've paid mine off every month since getting one at 19 and am debt free. I use the CC to pay utility, grocery and medical bills. Many monthly bills cost the same whether you use a card, check or cash. Might as well get rewards for them if your credit is good.



answers from Kansas City on

Dave ramsay advertises for a perk street debit card. I haven't looked into it, but plan too. Since we read his book and went thru his financial peace university class we no longer have credit cards, even though we paid them off every month. We are.debt free except for our home and pay with cash. People do spend considerably more with credit cards as opposed to paying with cash. Just something to consider.



answers from San Francisco on

I love the American Express cards that I have. They have a rewards program that you can use for a variety of things. The thing I like about it is that you can choose from different airlines. Another option would be one of the chase VISA sapphire cards - they're apparently modeled after the AMEX cards.



answers from San Francisco on

I like American Express even though the cards have an annual fee. But I charge all my groceries, gas, utility bills, and any other purchases I make during the month. I NEVERcarry over a balance and the points do not expire. Some of the benefits in addition to points that can be transferred to airlines of choice are:
1. Preferred tickets and seating at various concerts and athletic events
2. Purchase protection---something gets stolen that you bought on the AE card they will reimburse you.
We just remodeled our house and charged EVERTHING to AmEx. It was enough for 2 roundtrip tickets to the Carribean.

3. They often offer deals for transferring points to the airlines (transfer 10,000 points and get a 25% point bonus)
4. No cost to transfer points



answers from Seattle on

My absolute favorite is British Airways. VERY high APR (something like 17), but as long as you pay it off every month (and are *religious* about it) no worries.

It's my fav because

- Buy 1 ticket at full price ON the card, you get a free 2nd ticket (companion flies free)

- Miles and double miles

((Sometimes I fly miles, sometimes buy 1 get 1, it depends on where I save the most))

- I prefer flying to places BA goes, LOVE the airline, and particularly love "Economy Plus". Which is like our business class, but for only a LITTLE more than coach $50-$200 on average depending on your lead time. Reclining wide chairs with foot rests just to tip off. Their business class is like our first class but better (fully reclining 6 foot beds for international flights, heaven), and their first class ... well... if you can afford 16k a ticket (for the same flight that coach is 200, and E+ 250) each way tell me about it sometime, will ya?

- Special offers the airline puts on (head to London for a 4 day weekend, hotel included for $250 per person? Done.)



answers from San Francisco on

We use our Citibank card the same way you do. I love the miles I get for AmericanAirlines and AmericanAirlines has an online "mall" so if I order things like ink for our printer we get 3 miles per dollars, rather than the normal 1 mile per $1. The thing is, I HATE Citibank with a passion. I have had nothing but problems with them. I paid part of a balance due one day and the rest before the due date (so paid off in full by due date) and they still charged me interested. It took me yelling (which I don’t normally do) and having to talk to a manager before they waved the interest rate and they still said they were in the right (they had some phrase they kept using that once I looked it up it basically meant "estimated interest”). With all that being said, in the past year we were able to rack up enough miles for my husband, me and our daughter to fly round trip from California to Oklahoma with a few miles left over we can transfer (for a small fee) over to Hilton for our hotel stay.
Amazon has a great millage program too I've heard. They are the same about (25,000 miles for round trip anywhere in the continental US) and you get more than one mile per dollar when you buy on but I'm not sure how quickly you can get miles racked up. You can also choose whatever airline you want.
My favorite credit card company is Discover card. I'm not sure if they have a miles program, but they do offer cash back which could quickly add up as well. I once paid my bill late and when I called Discovered I said "I know this isn't your responsibility or anything, but I know it doesn't hurt to ask. Would you wave my late fee and interest?" and they DID! Great company!
Best of luck!



answers from San Francisco on

My vote is Capital One credit card. We use the card for our business and usually pay the balance in full each month. Points accumulate at 1 per $1 spent and don't expire. They're easy to redeem on-line or by phone AND there's no annual fee. Never pay a fee for a mileage or points card. We've had our card for years and used the points to cover airfare all over the US, though you can use the points for a lot of other things too.



answers from Anchorage on

We have an Alaskan Airlines card that we love, but we live in Alaska so we get a lot of extra perks, like getting miles for our utility bills even thought we do not use the card to pay them. We have only had the card for 3 months and have enough miles for 2 free trips, and we get a companion fare ticket every year.


answers from Dallas on

We run our own business and we do a favorite credit card with benefits for all our business expenses, etc.

First and foremost, our card is paid in full before any statements cut. I process expense reports and send the $$ directly to the card. We NEVER EVER carry a balance and NEVER would. Depending on the expenses of the month it can go as high as $10,000 and you better believe it is paid in full before any statement is cut. We do get cash back more often due to the amount of money we run through for expenses.

We used to love Citibank American airlines because we loved getting the extra miles. The miles we accumulated plus the mile we accumulated with travel added up quickly and we had several nice flights that were free. HOWEVER..... it is changing. We no longer use it because the airlines nickel and dime and make it so darn hard to get a free flight, it is simply not worth it. In the older days... great card.. now NOPE

Citibank Drivers Edge. On this card, you could get up to $500 worth of rebate on a car purchase after you made your deal with your dealer. You send your statement in showing what you paid for your car and they send you a check. We last used this benefit in Dec when I got my car. We got a check in the mail for $1500 cash. Now, the limit per year was $500 SO we'd use the card until we hit the $500 limit then we'd switch to another card to get benefits there. Now that we are not longer in the market for a car... that one is GONE

BOA cash back card is good. I believe we averaged a check for $250+ every quarter. We have just stopped using this card because....

We moved some business with Chase we we get more cash back with them on a business card.

All that said, you have to be diligent with credit cards. Our credit rating per our banker is the best he has ever seen as is our company. We intend to keep it that way and the way we do that is pay everything. We micro-manage the finances personal and business daily and you must do this or you will spin out of control. It sounds easy to say you will pay it off every month but if you are not extremely disciplined.... it is too easy to make excuses and WHAM. you are in trouble.

We don't deal with anyone who charges us to use their card. Our business account status and personal accounts allow us to have no charges for cards. We don't pay anyone in order to do business with them. We are running multiple accounts with business and personal and the business exceeds mid 6 figures at all times. We don't deal with grace periods because that is not an option here... everything is paid in advance of a statement coming in.

I would definitely STAY AWAY from any and all mileage plans at this time. Save your money, buy straight from the airlines (we like American ans Southwest), buy 21+ days out, check out the deals they have going on and you will come out ahead.

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