With few exceptions, premium class tickets are incredibly expensive and pretty much out of financial reach for most travelers. Sometimes even economy class seats are outrageously pricey when you consider popular destinations in Europe and holiday travel. Luckily, there is a loophole. Even if you don’t fly all that often, there is a way to earn bucketloads of frequent flyer miles: with your credit card.
Here’s how it works: You apply for a Delta branded credit card, for example, and you receive SkyMiles with every dollar you spend. With most airline branded credit cards, you earn a mile for every dollar spent, and generally there will be a bonus on flights bought on that airline with that credit card. For example, if you purchase a seat on a Delta flight with a Delta Gold SkyMiles Credit Card, you will receive two miles for every dollar spent, as opposed to the normal one mile per dollar.
Often, these cards will be offered with welcome bonuses. If you spend, for instance, $3,000 or $5,000 in the first three months on the card, you will receive bonus mileage, generally around 25,000 miles but sometimes up to 100,000 miles, which will post to your account a few weeks after hitting your spend total.
If you live in an airline hub city, such as Chicago, Atlanta or New York, you would be wise to use an airline branded credit card for an airline that uses the city as a hub. In this example, you would use United, Delta or American, respectively. However, if you don’t happen to live in a hub city (or you don’t like the airline in the hub city in which you live) there is an alternative. You can apply for a credit card directly from a financial institution, such as Chase or American Express. The points that you earn on these cards can be used in many ways, as cash back or for gift cards, for example. But you can also transfer the points to a number of different frequent flier programs. For example, although you are earning Membership Rewards points on the American Express Gold Card, you can transfer them to more than a dozen airline partners, including Delta, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines.
Of course, there are always strings attached. Almost every credit card comes with an annual fee, though sometimes they are waived for the first year. They can range from $49 to over $500 for some of the ultra-premium credit cards. Most of them, however, are in the $100 range.
One of the most important things to remember when racking up miles using credit cards is to pay your credit card bills on time. If you don’t pay off the entire balance, you will begin incurring interest costs on the balances. Although frequent flyer miles are incredibly valuable, you will begin to eat into your “earnings” if you have to pay interest on your credit card purchases every month. And though sometimes they may seem small, those interest charges will begin to add up!
Once you’ve racked up a hefty bunch of miles, you are better off spending them than saving them, as airlines are constantly devaluing their frequent flyer miles. There’s no limit to how the miles can be spent, from economy class tickets to visit grandma, to flying across the world in Singapore Airlines’ incredible first class suite on the double-decker Airbus A380. Miles can help you explore the world in a way you never thought possible. Enjoy your travels!