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Old 02-21-2010, 07:25 PM   #1
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Advice please re:frequent flyer miles

My DW and I are wanting to start accumulating FF miles. We have an application from Capital One which says it can be used with any airline. Any advice? We are complete newbs regarding FF miles.

Honeymoon Port Orleans 1991, Port Orleans 1993, All Star Sports 1996, Coronado Springs 1998, Saratoga Springs 2007 DVC Member Since 1994 Old Key West - 1994 (2 trips), 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 (3 trips), 1999 (6 trips), 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, Fall Break 2008, 2009, 2010, Summer 2012 (plus 2 days at BLT), Christmas 2012 (drove 14 hrs for one day at the Magic Kingdom), Spring 2013; Disney's Hilton Head Island - Christmas 1998, Fall 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, Spring 2008, Thanksgiving 2008 (best Thanksgiving ever), June 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, Fall 2013
Can't wait to visit my DS in the Disney College Program, Attractions, Spring Advantage 2014 HOW COOL IS THAT?
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Old 02-21-2010, 08:17 PM   #2
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If you're using a credit card to accumulate frequent flyer points, it generally doesn't pay off. It depends how much you can accumulate annually on the credit card, what the annual fee is on that cerdit card, and how the conversion for a ticket works. Generally, you're looking at a minimum of 25,000 miles for a domestic ticket, and there are no guarantees of availabliity when you want to book your ticket.

You would then need to compare the value of what you'd earn annually with the value of what you can earn on non-frequent flyer mile cards without annual fees (e.g., the Discover cash back bonuses, etc.). This would tell you if it's a good idea.

What that said, I do have 2 credit cards which earn frequent flyer miles, plus a work credit card that I pay the added fee on to get bonus points, which I can convert to frequent flyer miles. I stick to earning miles on 2 airlines - American and Delta. (it was just 1 airline until I moved to Minneapolis last year, and now it is critical to have miles on Delta). However, I also travel quite a bit for work and earn miles on airlines through my work travel. I also spend about $50K/year on my personal credit cards, and another $50 - $75K/year on my work credit card. I pay a total in annual fees of about $300 and earn at least 100K in miles just on my credit cards per year (I then earn about another 75K in miles through my travel). We use our miles only for international travel (and generally to book business and first class). So, we burn thru our miles very quickly, but for me, it's worth in on our annual personal trips to Europe.

As a general rule, people will tell you that frequent flyer miles don't have much value for domestic/coach travel, as you can normally plan ahead and get good fares, and if you don't plan ahead, you normally can't get a frequent flyer seat.

Other people may have a different perspective, but if you do a google search, you can probably find some web sites where people talk about how to maxamize value from ff miles, and how to earn the most.
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Old 02-21-2010, 08:54 PM   #3

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We have a Capital One No Hassle Miles card. We have no annual fee on this card. I do not need the airfare miles as I get all of my company's corporate miles for my personal use and have never needed excess miles. However, I collect the "miles" on the Capital One to use for other things; I just redeemed to pay for my $1500 worth of park tickets for my upcoming trip.

I earn 1-2 miles for every dollar spent, depending on the type of purchase. I think the minimum miles needed on Capital One to redeem for airfare is 35,000 points which can be redeemed for an airline ticket with a value up to $350 (which means you would have to charge $17,500-$35,000 to get the cheapest plane ticket). Capital One has no blackout dates and no airline restrictions. You purchase the tickets on your card, from any source (directly from the airline, expedia, etc). and after the purchase shows up on your credit card, you can redeem the miles to credit the purchase. It's very easy.

It is the best card? I have no idea. We pay it off each month; otherwise it would not be worth it if you were paying interest on purchases. I've never used it for our international travel; I have on occasion purchased a few domestic flights over the years if I found a ticket that fit into the point break ranges.
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Old 02-21-2010, 08:57 PM   #4
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Cards that don't tie miles to a specific airline usually have a giant disadvantage in that you need more miles to claim rewards than you would with a specific airline only card. I would stick to an airline that has a hub at your local airport. You should also get a bonus for signing up of a reward at least equal to one free domestic flight. If they aren't spotting you 25k miles for signing up, look elsewhere.

We have an AA card through citibank. Actually we have 3. My wife and I have individual cards and a joint card that we use for Costco. 75k miles right there. AA's website is quite nice in that you can search on miles availability through the website. We've had a few times where we had to move the departure date +/- a day based on availability but have never not gotten a seat. You also may not get the ideal time you were looking for either.

AA has a pretty decent program to expand your miles through other ways, such as signing up for email billing, dining at certain restaurants, and using certain merchants. For example, around valentines day if you use FTD or whichever one they recommend you could get up to 25 miles per dollar spent. If I eat at a local restaurant (and use the card) I get 10 miles per dollar spent. That stuff adds up quickly.

My wife and I have used miles to go to Hawaii twice (first class), Orlando (first class) and Europe three times (coach). The cost of the tickets at the time would have been over $8000 for coach, and when you factor in our first class tickets it was closer to $15,000 worth of tickets. If I had a cash back credit card instead I'd be several thousand dollars short of the cash value of the tickets. However we travel frequently and would have gone to those destinations regardless. So the miles card makes sense for us. If you aren't planning on some of the higher end flights, or only fly once in a blue moon it may not be worth it.
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Old 02-21-2010, 09:38 PM   #5
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you guys have been so helpful. I really appreciate the time you took to type all that out.

I would appreciate other advice if anyone has any.

Honeymoon Port Orleans 1991, Port Orleans 1993, All Star Sports 1996, Coronado Springs 1998, Saratoga Springs 2007 DVC Member Since 1994 Old Key West - 1994 (2 trips), 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 (3 trips), 1999 (6 trips), 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, Fall Break 2008, 2009, 2010, Summer 2012 (plus 2 days at BLT), Christmas 2012 (drove 14 hrs for one day at the Magic Kingdom), Spring 2013; Disney's Hilton Head Island - Christmas 1998, Fall 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, Spring 2008, Thanksgiving 2008 (best Thanksgiving ever), June 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, Fall 2013
Can't wait to visit my DS in the Disney College Program, Attractions, Spring Advantage 2014 HOW COOL IS THAT?
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Old 02-21-2010, 10:28 PM   #6
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Several points to consider:
  • "Mileage" Cards not tied to a particular airlines are really points cards, like the Disney Chase card. You can accrue points, and then redeem for various awards, but they are basically airline tickets good up to a certain $$ level (e.g, 25,000 points for a ticket up to $250 or similar, where 25,000 points represents $25k in spending)
  • Other cards are tied to a specific airline, and the miles earned are governed by the terms of that airlines FF program. To earn 1 mile per $1, there's typically an annual fee of $60 or so per year. Thus, if you don't earn at least 6,000-10,000 miles/year, it's probably not worth the annual fee to accumulate miles
  • The upside to earning 'real' airline miles is that they can be used for awards worth far more than 1 mile per dollar, like upgrades to first class or free international business class or first class tickets
  • In general, you want to accumulate miles on an airline that has good service from your likely home airport--e.g., if you live at a hub airport, then that airline is a good choice.
Read far, far more about it at flyertalk.com
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Old 02-21-2010, 10:52 PM   #7
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I have a BlueSky card from American Express. I earn 1 point per $1 I spend on the card. For every 7500 points, I can redeem for a $100 "travel" credit. This means that if I want to "redeem" it, I first charge the purchase to my AMEX card and then request the credit when the statement comes. I have 2 billing cycles from when the charge appears to request the credit.

So, for example, right now, I have 23,000 points which equals $300 in credits. If I buy a $250 airline ticket, I can either redeem 7500 points ($100), 15,000 points ($200) or 22,500 points ($250...the amount of the purchase). This is different from the Capital One card, which would require to redeem enough to cover the entire amount. The AMEX card lets me choose how much I want to redeem. The points never expire and they are good towards anything categorized (by the merchant) as "travel".

When we joined, they gave us 30,000 bonus points for signing up....a $400 credit right from the start. I accumulated another 15,000 and I was able to get a credit of $600 for our Disney tickets from UnderCoverTourist!

Oh, the other nice thing is that you can combine expenses for reimbursement. We have a hotel bill that is $93. We have a $75 gift card and the other $18 will go on the AMEX. We have another hotel night that will be $80 and that too will go on the AMEX. I can then redeem 7500 points to cover BOTH of those charges.

We don't travel that frequently so our points will sit and accumulate for quite a while. It is nice to know that I can spend them on just about anything travel related. I'm hoping to charge a few things to the room, just to see if it gets categorized as "travel". If it does, that would be awesome because we could use points on future trips to cover food, souvenirs and valet parking!

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Old 02-22-2010, 03:04 AM   #8
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I have a card that ties to airtran, I get 1 point for $1000 purchase, and 8 points give me a one-way ticket. I used to use those tickets to travel to the west cost. The anual fee is $39. I think when I signed up, I was given 8 to 10 points.

You may want to go to http://www.flyertalk.com as there are usually discussions on how to rack up more points
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Old 02-22-2010, 09:27 AM   #9
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The card generally regarded as the single most flexible in the FF community is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express. Starwood operate the hotel chains including Westin, W, Sheraton, Le Meridien, 4 Points and Aloft. You earn 1 point per $$ spent and can use the points to stay at Starwood hotels. We once redeemed 4000 points for a room at a Sheraton near Disneyland. We have also redemmed the equivalent of 30,000 points for 4 nights at the Swan.

But the best thing about the SPG Amex is that you can also convert the points to many airline miles. When you convert 20,000 points, it translates to 25,000 miles on most airlines. The airlines that this doesn't work for are United and Continental, as well as most LCCs.

The card has a $60/year fee which is waived in the first year. They also have a signup bonus promo from time to time. I think the current signup bonus is 10,000 points, which is stingy compard to most other cards. Other airline branded cards often offer at least 25,000 miles and British Airways recently offered 100,000 miles after a $2,000 spend.

Hotel and airline points are usually a better deal than generic travel credits, but you need to determine how you will spend your free travel and what works best for you. Then put everyting you can that you pay every month on your card and watch the number of miles/points climb! -- Suzanne
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Old 02-22-2010, 10:21 AM   #10
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I think a lot of it depends on how you use your credit cards also. I have a BoA card that I get miles with USAir from. I chose that one because when I got it almost 10 years ago I flew to Philadelphia quite often and that is one of USAir's hubs. The way my card works I get 1 mile for every $1 spent, 2 miles for every $1 spent on USAir or one of their partners. Now, I tend to put a lot on my credit card and then just pay if each month, so I was able to earn miles at a decent pace. I can tell you that after having the card about 5 years I had enough miles for 2 round trip tickets to France and that my DF and I will be taking a delayed honeymoon and will be going to Europe in a year or so on miles also.
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Old 02-22-2010, 01:30 PM   #11
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You can also check out the flyertalk website.
My dh does alot of business travel lately. I sign him up for every promotion, tie it to every hotel, rent a car etc. Our credit card is associated with one airline. Hilton lets you double dip with points and miles. We usually redeem our airline miles for vacations since I dont prefer traveling on the airline our cc is hooked up with.
You have to know your charging/credit limits etc. I sure wouldnt get a credit card just for miles unless I paid off the full balance each month for sure.
If you have one airline in mind you might want to check out their offers for signing up for a new cc linked to them. We are always getting offers from southwest, delta etc. Best of luck.
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Old 02-22-2010, 02:42 PM   #12
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We're members of every ff program, but our next personal vacation flights are going to be on Delta.

We had enough points for two tickets. But the times were LOUSY.

We applied for the Delta Amex just to get the extra miles to give us enough for the better times.

THEN I found out that having this card lets you use your miles to pay for all or "part" of a ticket.

So, tickets being right at $200, I bought two tickets free and clear with only points. The 3rd ticket was $100 off because we still had 10,000 miles available...and the 4th tickets was bought full-price.

So it ended up being $300-ish total for the 4 tickets.

With the 20,000-25,000 bonus points you get from the beginning for signing up for it, you could immediately (well, as soon as they post) get at least $200 off the price of your ticket(s).
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Old 02-22-2010, 02:53 PM   #13
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If you fly SW, their card has an Annual Fee but you can get some free flights pretty fast if you charge a goodly amount.
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Old 02-22-2010, 10:12 PM   #14
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I have a Southwest Visa card - it has an annual fee of $59 (or $69, i can't remember). For a long time, i didn't sign up for one because i resented the fee. Then a friend pointed out to me that even if it only gets me one free flight each year, a $59 flight is much cheaper than a $200 flight.

I have actually gotten about 3 free flights a year by paying for every little thing with that card, even many utilities like cable & cell phone. If I could only pay the mortgage with it, i'd be flying around all the time!!

Southwest's program uses credits in place of miles. I think they do it this way to treat all flights equally (you don't get anything more for a flight to the opposite side of the country as you do for a flight within your own region). Each roundtrip flight earns you two credits. The Visa card gives you about 8 bonus credits when you enroll. (It takes 16 credits to get a free flight, so just by getting the card, you are half way there). Then as you spend, you earn more credits...$1200 in purchases equals one credit.

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Old 02-23-2010, 07:08 AM   #15
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we also have the Captial one card.

It is very easy to redeem points. You book your own flights (just about any airline) contact Capital One and they will remove points from your account.

Its not like using frequent flyer miles where you have to check for availability on flights, or Visa's miles clubs where you have to book flights through their travel office with specific flights.

With our Capital One card we can also get cash back if we prefer instead.
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