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Best Airline Travel Credit Cards

Best Airline Travel Credit Cards

I do much traveling, like the others here, so I am always looking for ways to skim off the outrageous flight prices these days, after 911 with the 40 dollar 'security fees' to get molested at TSA, to the 2008 surcharges for the goldman sachs oil manipulation that never went away, to the merging of the airlines, decay in service (massive delays, lost connections, etc.), and now rampant inflation. I have also noticed no real benefit of travel agencies, e.g. Expedia, which seems to have higher prices than the airlines with the added inconvenience of having to deal with flight issues directly with them.

After several hours, a few cross-outs came to mind, the whole Chase ecosystem, though good with point accumulation through travel purchases, forces you to use the points through their portal system, which has inflated prices commensurate with the point awards, about 6 percent or so. Has this been others' experiences? The flight insurance does not cover missed connections or having to rebook flights to get to your destination faster after a flight fail. Also, annual fees vary widely.

American Airlines is one of the last airlines with a wide selection of foreign destinations, but their air mile scheme is dynamic and opaque. At 2 miles/dollar spent, what you can get with the points/miles varies widely, to the point where the bank of american rotating categories card (includes 3 percent off booked travel) may be better. 

Basically, the main points in such a card that is valuable is:

1. priority check in (whether a dedicated line or using the first class line), to avoid the 30-2 hr. waits, depending on the airport. These are real killers to get on the airplane and are worse than the security wait, particularly for airports with large immigrant ports of entry, like Miami. 

2. Reasonable miles/points bulidup--this is quit difficult to calculate due to dynamic pricing. I have been on the phone and read online, and I don't really have a grasp on it. The 2 mile/1 dollar AA cards come out to approximately 3.5 percent cash back, given enough time and averages...

3. Change fees and rebooking fees--if these could be done away with, that would be great. About 30 pecent of the time, some airline or airport snafu happens that jeopordizes getting to work or to the destination. 

4. Benefits/perks--credits to flights, uber, hotels, lounges have value--but to a point. What cards have a good balance with this vs. a vs. fees?

Best Airline Travel Credit Cards

Don't have much to add about travel credit cards but if you're looking for good deals on plane tickets you should check out skiplagged. I've booked through them several times and you can find some real cheap tickets on there. Expedia and its cohorts are garbage.

If it doesn't fit, force it... If it breaks, it needed replacing anyway.

Best Airline Travel Credit Cards

It sounds to me that what you want is really 2 different and separate things.

Points accumulation via credit card spend / travel spend and perks that come with status. Credit cards don't give the same perks that come with airline (and therefore alliance) status. Priority Pass lounges are nearly non-existent in the US, no priority security lines, usually no priority check-in queue, some of them give you a higher boarding number but still below the boarding number of airline status holders.

AA is actually quite good for points accumulation via Citi or Barclays credit cards and by flying partner airlines but not so much for flying AA itself. I flew NRT-DFW-LAX and v.v. last week in premium economy on AA, I'm AA EXP so had to credit to them, my companion credited it to QR (Qatar Airways) and got a lot more miles than I did as well as nearly enough Q Points to get Silver status (in itself not much but 4 of those tickets would get Qatar Platinum meaning OneWorld Emerald and lots of perks). AA status is really hard to get if you're starting fresh however, unless a high spender on the credit card due to the new system this year, you don't get nearly as many miles for actually flying as a base member or even Gold elite level.

Having said that, miles are far from equal on terms of earn and burn. Some are easier to earn but have ridiculous redemption rates, some are very difficult to earn (like ANA for example) but have amazing redemption rates, most fall somewhere in between. Qatar miles are now Avios, the same as Iberia and British Airways and interchangeable between the programs. Avios are wonderful for short haul flights but really terrible for long flights these days, AA miles on the other hand are wonderful for long haul premium cabin flights but you'll earn fewer of them for flying AA than crediting to QR (or BA for that matter).

The same goes for Star Alliance and SkyTeam. For the most part in Star Alliance I wouldn't recommend United Mileage Plus anymore, it's gone through the roof for most things, few sweet spots left. Aegean, LifeMiles, SAS miles are generally better these days in Star Alliance, even Turkish on some routes.

So as you can see, this is a gigantic rabbit hole you could spend ages trying to get to the bottom of.

As for credit cards, to accumulate miles, aside from the obvious cards for AA, DL, UA directly, you've already mentioned Chase, the Sapphire cards have points that transfer to quite a few airlines at good rates, the new Capital One Venture X is by far the best in the US market currently for earning and transfers, Citi still has a card that earns Thank You points but their transfer partners are lackluster, and of course Amex Membership Rewards, the Gold card is their sweet spot, but if you can use enough of the credits effectively actually the Platinum is well worth the high annual fee, also comes with Marriott and Hilton Gold status (Hilton Gold gives you far more than Marriott Gold but both useful to have). Don't dismiss the Marriott cards from Chase and Amex either. Their earning rates took a hit after the SPG merger but you can transfer Marriott points to around 50 different airlines, so you have access to some real sweet spots that are inaccessible to Amex and Chase holders. Marriott points get a 20% bonus when transferred at 60,000 for 20,000 (actually 25,000) point intervals, nearly evening out the disparity from when they went from 1:1 earn (now would be 1:3 in the new program) to 1:2 in the new program. Marriott give you access to ANA miles for example, something you could only do otherwise with the absolutely atrocious card from FNBO. South African Airways Victoria miles also has some real sweet spots in it's award chart that can only be accessed from Marriott points, no other card in North America can transfer points to them.

Hope that's helpful in some way... it's a big question and a series of answers since nothing is exact when it comes to miles earning, status, etc.

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