By Tina Boosahda
The ins and outs of frequent flyer programs can thrust you into some confusing, murky waters. It is easy to feel like you’re drowning in offers from different airlines and credit card reward programs. Which airline’s credit card offers you the most bang for your buck? Which cards will rack up the most miles for you in the fastest way possible? After doing research, making phone calls to different airlines, and polling colleagues, I offer my humble opinion on rewards programs that are worth your time.
1. Capitol One: Venture One Rewards
This card is a good introduction to frequent flyer miles awards cards. No annual fee, and 0% APR introductory rate until May 2016. Truly a great deal when first choosing a frequent flyer credit card; especially if you want to try one out to see what they are like or for those who fly a moderate amount. There is no cost and a low commitment.
- One time only bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.
- 1.25 miles/$1 spent on purchases anywhere.
- Fly ANY airline, stay at ANY hotel, and rent ANY car from ANY company.
- No blackout dates and no foreign transaction fees.
- Miles never expire and there is no cap to how many you can earn.
2. Southwest Airlines
Their basic frequent flyer awards program, Rapid Rewards (RR), is very easy to sign up for. Go to their site, click on join Rapid Rewards, provide an email address, and a phone number. Next, you will receive an email with your rapid rewards account number. The next time you buy a flight, log in with your RR account number and start earning points for purchased flights. I participate in this program and I have been able to acquire points quickly, in turn redeeming them for a handful of free flights!
This FFAP is a point-based system, and free:
- If you purchase a one-way ticket for $139, that equals 697 points.
- When you take the flight, your RR account will accumulate the 697 points.
- Cheap flights are usually around 400 to 600 points.
- More expensive or round-trip flights can vary from 1,000 to 3,000+ points. This depends on what the airline's points to dollars ratio is for that particular travel day and time of purchase.
- Points do not expire as long as you have an active account open.
Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Points Visa
This card offers you 2 points per $1 spent directly via Southwest Airlines. These 2 points/$1 purchases include flights, in-flight services, and Southwest gift cards. They also offer 2 points/$1 spent on their car rental and hotel partners. All other purchases, amount to 1 point/$1 spent, which is standard.
- 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- 6,000 bonus points on your card member anniversary.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- No bag fees for your 1st and 2nd checked bag(s).
- No change or cancellation fees.
- If you have to cancel, the airline will give you a voucher to use at a later date.
- Need to change your flight? No problem! You are only responsible for paying the difference in the two fares.
- Points don’t expire as long as you make purchases and keep the card active for 24 months.
- $99 annual fee associated with this card, which you typically make up in anniversary points.
- No blackout dates.
- The more you spend using their card, the faster you level up with Tier Qualifying Points. Refer to their website for specifics.
3. Spirit Airlines World MasterCard
You literally get what you pay for with Spirit. I recently flew Spirit round-trip and I had two pleasant, on time flights with them. If you did not know, they are an airline “without frills,” and pride themselves on that. They advertise that they can offer customers low fares because the customer pays for exactly what they want. If you want to choose your own seat there is an additional fee. They allow each passenger one personal item for free For example: a backpack or purse- something that can fit under the seat in front of you. Additional fees apply for checked or carry one baggage. While aboard nothing is free, but they do have drinks and snacks for purchase.
- Three round-trip off peak award tickets = 15,000 bonus miles after you make your first purchase. This purchase can be anything from a pack of gum, to a new Steinway.
- Round-trip airfares are usually only 5,000 points, thus racking up free trips faster then other airlines.
- No blackout dates and priority boarding.
- Cardholders get double miles on things purchased everyday; 2 miles/ $1 spent on anything, anywhere.
- $59 annual fee is waived for the first year .
- Want a free flight? Sign up for the card during a Spirit flight and they will give you 5,000 bonus miles.
4. United Mileage Plus Explorer Visa
And lastly, for a ritzier card with more the frills:
- 2 miles/$1 spent on tickets purchased through United. 1 mile/$1 spent on purchases elsewhere.
- Check your first bag for free.
- $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
- Priority boarding for all flights.
- Two club passes per year, allowing you and a guest access to their VIP lounges.
- Exclusive, time sensitive offer; 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- Miles do not expire as long as you are a card member.
- No cap on how many miles you can earn.
- No blackout dates.
Use the above information as a jumping off point into the world of Frequent Flyer Awards Programs. If the airline offers you a free, basic points program like Southwest; DO IT! When selecting a credit card pick one that suits your flying needs. Remember to ALWAYS read the fine print. Don’t let the miles from the flights you are taking for auditions, gigs, and concerts go to waste. Now, start racking up those free flights!
Happy, Safe, and Sexi travels!
Image used with permission from Microsoft.