Playing the game to earn airline miles, credit card rewards may pay off for savvy travelers


For the past year or so, travelers’ concerns about airline miles and credit card points were unresolved. The same goes for most international travel – just ditched.

But banks and airlines have stepped up their campaigns as parts of the world reopen to travelers. This means there are more bonus miles, more features, and even cash back credits for travelers who want to play the game.

Not all cards are created equal, nor is there a perfect card for all travelers. But banks and airlines want to seize the opportunity to capture new travelers as flights resume during the summer.

If you live in Alaska and travel on Alaska Airlines, Bank of America co-branded Visa card should be the first on your list. There is an annual fee of $ 75 for the card, but at this time there is a $ 100 credit on the statement when you bill at least $ 2,000 within three months. Travelers also receive 40,000 bonus miles as well as a companion fare of $ 121. The companion fare is convenient for high season travel or vacations to sunny places like Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica or Belize.

How far can you go with 40,000 bonus miles? Well, you can travel to Hawaii and back next month for 30,000 miles. Or you can fly from Anchorage to Puerto Vallarta for 40,000 miles – plus $ 110 – in October.

Delta emphasized his American Express Gold Business Card, which included 70,000 bonus SkyMiles points – if you bill $ 4,000 within three months. If you buy a Delta ticket within three months, you get a $ 200 credit on your statement. I saw that statement credit go up to $ 400, but that offer is gone. Delta will also waive the first year fee of $ 99.

If you charge a lot, Delta offers a Platinum American Express card, with a bonus of 90,000 SkyMiles. You should charge at least $ 3,000. The annual membership fee is $ 250.

If you charge even more, there is a “Reserve” card that offers 80,000 bonus SkyMiles. You must bill $ 5,000 within the first 90 days. If you get this card, there’s a free companion fare and free entry to Delta clubs – including the new one in Anchorage – as well as American Express’s Centurion lounges.

With the Gold card and 70,000 SkyMiles points, where to go? For 70,000 points, you could go to Paris in September. Tickets are available from Anchorage to Panama City, Panama, for 40,000 points in October. Between Anchorage and Reykjavik, Iceland, it costs 66,000 points in September.

United Airlines also offers a selection of Chase Mileage Plus Explorer Cards, offering between 30,000 and 100,000 bonus miles. Card features vary, including club membership, free bags, cash back, and Global Entry fee reimbursement.

Although United offers a bunch of flights in the summer, they only have one flight in the winter: Anchorage-Denver. As a result, the cards are not as useful as the Alaska Airlines cards.

American Airlines also offers a selection of cards via Citibank, including bonus miles and statement credits. But I think you had better use your Alaska Airlines card and get your US flights with Alaska Airlines miles.

In addition to airline cards, frequent travelers benefit from flexible spending cards. Several banks offer these cards, which allow travelers to transfer points from their main account to other partner packages. American Express, Chase, Capital One, and US Bank all have flexible spending cards.

American Express had the original flexible spending program. Under his Membership Rewards Program, you can transfer your points to airlines like Virgin Atlantic, Delta, KLM, ANA, JetBlue, British Airways and others. Transfer your points to Hilton and Marriott hotel plans.

Chase also offers a flexible spending program called Ultimate Rewards. Point snatchers – like me – often ask for more than one card to take advantage of big signup bonuses. For example, right now you can request the Chase Sapphire Favorite Card. Spend $ 4000 in the first three months and receive 100,000 points. There is an annual fee of $ 95. Points are worth approximately $ 1,250 when redeemed through Chase’s in-house travel desk.

You can combine Sapphire Preferred points with the Ink Business Preferred card. That’s a bigger minimum expense – $ 15,000 in three months. But you get 100,000 extra points for traveling.

Another Chase card that I have is the Sapphire Reserve card, with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points. It costs $ 550 a year, up from $ 495, but includes a $ 300 travel credit. Plus, you get 50% more redemption value on your points. So when I get the extra points from the other cards, I call Chase and give them more points on my reserve account.

Another great benefit is membership in the Priority Pass, which provides access to airport lounges around the world, including the Alaska Airlines lounge in Anchorage.

There are lots of tips and advice on how to best use the flexible spending rewards. I use Chase Points most often for Hyatt hotels. But you can transfer the points to Emirates, Singapore Air or United Airlines. You can also use your points for almost any travel expense: hotel or flight. Or you can get cash for the points. But the exchange rate is much lower than if you redeem your points for travel.

The Hyatt buyout ration is particularly nice. For example, the Hyatt Regency in Maui costs over $ 700 a night. But you can redeem 25,000 points per night. It’s a much better deal.

Travelers love frequent flyer miles and points, which is why banks continue to offer great deals in conjunction with airlines. The challenge is to charge points and miles. For that, you have to really love to travel. Count on me.


About Joan Ferguson

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