Search & Compare Credit Card Offers at
   BBB Online

Making the Most of Your Miles Credit Cards

Miles credit card users may be frustrated with their current mileage card, but there may be no reason to be. With an awareness of the opportunities available for racking up bonus mileage points, including hotel stays, sign-up bonuses, and proper spending, learning how to make the most out your airline miles credit cards can be an asset to any frequent traveler.

If you've ever tried to fly during a blackout date, found it difficult to find free seats on a flight you want, or had to face the loss of all of your accumulated miles due to an airline's bankruptcy, you may be fed up with miles credit cards. However, don't get out the scissors just yet, and don't despair: mileage cards have their drawbacks, especially during the post 9/11 airline industry slump, but with the right program and an awareness of good ways to earn bonus miles, you can still save on your travel expenses and turn any miles card into a genuine asset.

The simplest way to earn a large number of bonus miles is just to apply for a new mileage card. Many of the most popular miles credit cards offer large sign-up bonuses, often around ten thousand bonus miles, which at current exchange rates of mileage points to dollar value gives you nearly two hundred dollars to apply toward travel expenses right off the bat. If you're using a mileage card that's tied to a particular airline, this may be a good first step toward long-term savings: good mileage cards should offer minimal restrictions on what airlines you can apply your mileage points to, giving you additional flexibility in your travel plans (and potentially allowing you to redeem your miles card points with a wider pool of frequent-flier program participants.)

Another excellent way to earn bonus miles, however, is to do some research on hotel offerings. Many nationwide hotel chains offer fairly large mileage bonuses to guests during certain targeted periods, including double mileage points or credits of a thousand points and up, in some cases even reaching up to 15,000 bonus mileage points. Based on an exchange rate of 7,500 points to $100 of credit on travel expenses (the rate offered by American Express's "Blue Sky" card, and comparable to many other popular miles credit cards), this means that three carefully-planned hotel visits earns you $100 to apply to any flight or travel expense you want. For infrequent vacationers, this may not mean much, but for travel junkies or businesspeople who spend a great deal of time in the field, properly-timed hotel stays or other travel expenses (especially those paid for by corporate accounts) can mean a great deal of additional value for your miles card.

And finally, there's always the tried-and-true tactic of making frequent use of your mileage card. At the typical rate of one point for every one dollar, miles credit cards don't offer a fantastic rate of return on the money you spend (just over 1%, with many plans), but what they offer - used along with an awareness of the various ways to earn bonus mileage points, of course - is certainly better than nothing. Assuming that you use one of the better miles cards available in the marketplace, have an awareness of the complexities of miles card use in the modern world (including travel blackouts, seating availability limitations and the eventual expiration of mileage points from your mileage card), you can make your purchases add up to something more than a balance at the end of the month.

So if you're frustrated with your current mileage credit card, don't despair. It's possible that you just haven't found the perfect card yet. Do a little bit of research into the fine print on various miles card applications, ask a travel agent familiar with your typical needs, and apply for the card that best fits your circumstances. Miles credit cards, properly used, can be an asset to any frequent traveler, as long as you're willing to do the work to make the most of your mileage.