Ask any frequent flyer to empty their wallet and a stack of airline credit cards will likely tumble to the floor. The rise of airline rewards programs has motivated business-goers and wanderlusters to take their travels as far as possible.
But are these airline credit cards worth the hype? Simply put, it depends on the card. Not all cards are created equal and the best way to maximize your rewards will be determined by your specific travel needs. Not to mention, some cards are not worth the hassle and should be dumped in the trash.
Let's put airline credit cards under the microscope and see how they can be used to travel further or provide nifty money-saving perks.
The Golden Rule
The first step to taking advantage of the rewards your card offers is to use it in the first place. This means not wasting any of your purchases by using a debit card to pay for them. Whether its your next flight on your card's airline or in-flight purchases on the aircraft, use your credit card for every single purchase.
However, don't go crazy with your spending on your credit card. You should never, under any circumstances, spend an amount of money on your credit card that you could not afford to pay otherwise. Doing this simply to chase airline rewards could lead to mind-numbing headaches down the road.
Following this rule will allow you to rake in the rewards while maintaining your credit security for years to come!
The airline rewards cards that offer extravagant sign-up bonuses are the cream of the crop that you should always look for. Often times, airlines offer dozens of credit cards for potential customers and the sign up bonuses for each card will vary.
It's not unusual to see something like 50,000 frequent flyer miles earned for spending $3,000 in the first three months. Obviously, the best sign up bonuses offer the most frequent flyer miles upon hitting the required spending amount.
Personally, I would search for bonuses that offer 60,000 miles or more. For some airlines, this could be enough to skip you to the other side of the world or pay for a round-trip ticket to a shorter destination.
Don't forget, airline specific credit cards are not the only cards offering these valuable bonuses. Companies like Chase and Capital One have incredible sign-up bonuses attached to their credit cards and the miles can be redeemed on multiple airlines.
Always read the fine print before acquiring any airline credit card! This could save you hundreds of dollars in fees but you may also discover handy perks to use during your next trip.
Trying to avoid luggage fees by carrying all your bags on the flight? Some credit cards allow you to check in bags free of charge and this could save you much hassle at the gate.
Need a relaxing place to catch up on sleep? Check your card to see if it provides lounge access at the airport for your airline. Take away the stress of trying to find a place to reboot your electronics or a comfy place to rest.
These benefits may not seem like much at first glance but you never know when they will be a life-saver during your travels.
Many airlines have global partnerships and you could earn rewards on your airline credit card by using it at partnered companies.
While you are circling the globe, check with your airline to see which airlines they are partnered with around the world. Whether you are venturing to the European Alps or lounging on the beaches of French Polynesia, booking your flight with the right airline could earn rewards points.
Also, it's becoming more common to see airlines team up with popular hotel brands and established eateries. Booking reservations at partnered hotels or paying for a meal at reward-earning restaurants is yet another way to rack up points.
Just make sure to always purchase these items using your airline credit card!
Always Book with Your Airline
Booking your upcoming adventures with a third-party site is a definite rewards killer. To earn the most value for your flight, make sure you book it with your credit card's airline or the appropriate rewards portal.
You will be missing out on the maximum amount of points earned for the booking and it will take longer to earn your next free flight. Normally, arranging travel through the airline itself will earn two, three or even more times the number of points earned when booking elsewhere.
Use Your Card Wisely
The most important thing to remember is always managing your spending to avoid high interest fees down the road. Balancing your budget is a vital financial tool with or without airline credit cards.
Before deciding on which card is right for you, it is recommended to review your spending habits to make sure you can responsibly earn all the rewards the card offers.
Smart spending is one of the most important steps to maximize your credit card and take your travels further!