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Maximize Your Frequent-Flier Miles With a Good Credit Card

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Pretty much everyone has a credit card. Most people know that they can collect air miles using their credit card, but don’t really pay much attention to it except when they are checking to see if they can afford a free flight. A few people are air miles experts, constantly checking out new cards and special deals to make sure that they get the most possible miles for their money.

I’m not big on spending my days hunting for the super air miles deals. I have better things to do. However, there are a few things that I (and you can) do to significantly increase air miles earnings. Mostly they revolve around choosing a credit card that will give you the most awards and then using it well.

Different credit cards have different rewards systems. Some of them offer ‘points’ rather than ‘miles’. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to refer to them all as miles.

When first shopping for a credit card most of us will look for the cards with the lowest annual fees or the lowest interest rates.  These things may save you money if you’re only goal is to keep your credit card costs as low as possible but, if you’re goal is to collect as many miles as possible, you need to look at a different set of criteria when choosing a credit card.

There is no single best card for collecting miles because different offers suit different lifestyles and buying habits. Read on to learn how to choose and use the card that will get you the most miles for your money.

Check the Sign Up Bonus

Most credit cards will offer a large one-time sign up bonus. These bonuses are often around 25,000 to 30,000 miles. Some cards that are associated with specific airlines and hotels have even offered up to 100,000 miles just for signing up.

Credit cards will occasionally run special sign-up bonuses that are even bigger, so make sure that you look at all the options when you are choosing a card. Some cards might offer significantly larger bonuses than others.

Watch the Fees

Credit card fees vary. Annual fees usually range from around $50 – $100. I don’t concern myself too much with these fees because they are only paid once a year. Overseas transactions and currency exchange fees differ greatly from card to card. If your card charges a lot for these services and you are using it frequently overseas these charges can add up.

I think its worth it to pay a bit extra on the annual fee for a card that will accrue a lot of miles but, if you’re spending a lot of time overseas, you should watch your currency and transaction charges. Its important to make sure your card is suited to your travel style.

 Check Out The Affiliated Shops

A few credit cards will only give you miles at specific stores or shops. These tend to be brand-affiliated cards. I don’t like these cards because I’m not on-the-ball enough to remember to use the right cards at the right shops.

I prefer a card that will give me miles no matter where I use it. Most cards have online stores and affiliate partners who will give you extra rewards for shopping with them. Find out what stores are affiliated with the card that you are considering. Look for a card that is affiliated with brands and stores you already shop at. This makes you more likely to receive bonus miles without changing your shopping habits at all.

Special Cards for Small Business Owners

Some small business credit cards have their own airmails programs that will enable you to collect miles while buying business-related products. This is a fantastic way to rack up charges and miles and is definitely something small business owners should look into.

Get the Newsletter

Credit cards are constantly offering extra miles for buying certain products or shopping at certain affiliate stores. These deals are usually listed in the credit card’s email newsletter. Sign up for it and read it religiously. Last month my card was offering ten times the normal points for items purchased from Ebay and Apple. I picked up a coupled of camera lenses that I’d had my eye on from Ebay. If I’d been in the market for a new laptop I would have earned about half of a domestic flight with just one purchase!

Keep Track of Your Earnings

As with any project you undertake, it’s always smart to keep track of your progress so that you can see when you are doing things right and recognize when you re falling short of your goals.  Collecting air miles is no different. Fortunately, the Internet has seen fit to offer a tool for making this complicated task easer. It’s called Award Wallet. Award Wallet is a website that enables you to keep track of multiple rewards programs all in one place.

Keep Learning

If you are interested in learning how to really squeeze the most out of air miles reward systems, visit http://frequentflier.com/ and http://www.smartertravel.com/frequent-flyer/ to find the news about deals and bonuses.

Lead image by LotusHead

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4 Responses to Maximize Your Frequent-Flier Miles With a Good Credit Card

  1. Lief April 10, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    Helpful, Thanks!

  2. Raymond @ Man On The Lam April 13, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    I’ve got award points scattered all over the place — I’m gonna look into Award Wallet for sure! 🙂

    • Matt Gibson April 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      I really need to take my own advice and do the same. I’m pitifully lazy when it comes to keeping track of my miles (though this post may not show it) 🙂

  3. Arnette RTW March 6, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    There’s a company I met here in LA that manages people’s miles or does their booking. I think they are called Award Magic.

    Always check out the points blogs. Those guys are straight pros. I follow a few on Twitter and from there I got the Chase Sapphire credit card. It’s got a chip (most American cards don’t have chip technology yet) so great for international travelers. No fees on international travel either. The sign up bonus was something like 40,000 points that can be transferred to different rewards programs.

    I also do almost all of my shopping via AAdvantage e-mall from American. Bonus points baby!

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