Computer technology has made the use and management of credit cards easier than ever. It is easy to understand why most people have at least one they use frequently. There are a multitude of benefits and rewards available in the various types of credit cards available, but if travel is high on your list of priorities or you often travel for business, you could likely benefit from a good air miles credit card. However, these have their own variety of options and it is important to make a few considerations before you choose one for yourself.
In terms of finances, planning ahead is always crucial. When looking at air miles credit cards, it is important to know a few things about yourself. First, how often and where do you plan to travel by air in the next few years? Second, how much would you spend per year on your air miles card? Having the answer to these questions will help you figure out which card will do you the most good. Also, do you often keep a balance when using a credit card? If so, an air miles credit card might not be a good idea because they tend to have a fairly high interest rate.
Airline Sponsored or Bank Sponsored
When you start looking at the options, one of the first things you will notice is that some are airline sponsored and some are bank sponsored. If there is an airline that is most convenient for you in terms of departure and destination, you may want to consider going the airline sponsored route. At the very least, if an airline sponsored card ends up looking most attractive to you, make sure they have flights to all the places you intend to travel while using that card.
If the area you travel from is not dominated by a particular airline, the bank sponsored option may be more attractive as these cards generally offer more flexibility. Also, the points required to get a free flight are generally lower for bank sponsored cards.
Many air miles credit cards have a fairly sizable initial point bonus for spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening the card. Some even offer enough of a bonus that you could have a free flight almost right off the bat. If the card you are most interested in has such a bonus, it is a good idea to take advantage of it. If you have any large purchases planned, you may want to coordinate these with getting your air miles credit card.
Cards often also offer point bonuses for certain types of purchases, so it is a good idea to look at how those may factor in with your spending. If these bonuses are ones you realistically would not be taking advantage of on a regular basis, you may want to look at other options.
Fees and Restrictions
Unfortunately, many air miles cards come with an annual fee, which is important to weigh against the benefits of using the card. If the most attractive part of the card is what you can get out of it within a year or two due to the initial bonus, you may want to consider using it for a short term and cancelling it before you get stuck with the annual fee.
Air miles cards also often have restrictions on when you can use your points to travel (referred to as blackout dates) or expiration dates for miles earned. This brings to light the importance of knowing when you intend to travel. You certainly don’t want your points going to waste. Even if you avoid blackout dates, it will cost you fewer points to travel during off-peak times, so that is also something to think about when you are planning your travels.
Foreign transaction fees also may apply to some air miles cards, so if you are looking to use your card overseas, you will want to avoid any that charge these.
Whichever card ends up looking best to you based on these considerations, the most important thing is to make sure its benefits and costs are in line with your travel goals. Look at the point redemption charts for your prospective card to see how many points you will need to go where you want to go during the time you want to go there. Then project the amount of time it will take you to earn those points based on how you intend to use the card. If your goal is realistic and the costs of the card are significantly less than what you would pay to travel without the card, then you are right on track.
Alex Watson is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing about personal finance and does his best to take his own advice. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading the classics and keeping his box turtle, Sparky, company. He currently writes for the respected cash for gold buyer GoldMax USA.com