Earning Miles for Flights

Traveling abroad doesn’t have to burst your budget. Airline and hotel credit cards can provide mega deals on your trip all for the price of using their card for a few months.

Banks and airlines are joining together more and more to reward your spending. After years of cash back offers, banks have realized that by combining their services with airlines, they can give flights for much less than forking over hard cash. Here, you’ll find summaries of the credit cards and their mileage deals that correspond with the largest U.S. airlines. Make sure to check each bank’s website for the full details; at times, they will run special deals with added miles.

– Capital One Venture Card –

  • Annual fee: $59; waived the first year
  • Bonus miles: 40,000
  • Spending requirement: $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • No International Fees

This is my all-time favorite credit card. It gives 2 miles per dollar spent, and you have flexibility to choose which airlines you use those miles on. You can either use your accumulated miles to purchase a flight through the Capital One site, or you can get reimbursed for any travel costs that you purchase with the Venture card (flights, hotels, taxis, etc.). The Venture card is always top of the rating lists for most rewarding. Nor does it hurt that there aren’t international transaction fees.

– Citibank AAdvantage Card –

  • Annual Fee: $50 – $95; waived the first year
  • Bonus Miles: 25,000 – 30,000
  • Spending requirement: $750 – $1,000 in the first 3 months

This credit card has a few options to choose between, and you will likely want the Gold World Elite or Platinum Select World Elite. Citibank partners with American Airlines to bring sign up bonuses of 25,000 miles and 30,000 miles for the Gold and Platinum cards, respectively. Gold World Elite, you need to spend $750 in the first 3 months, and you get 1 American Airlines mile per dollar spent. The Platinum Select World Elite gives you 2 miles per dollar spent, and you receive the 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.

– Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card –

  • Annual Fee: $95; waived the first year
  • Bonus Miles: 50,000
  • Spending requirement: $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • No International Fees

The Chase United card gives some added bonuses when flying with United including a free checked bag, priority boarding, and two United Club passes each year. With the card, you earn 1 mile per dollar spent, and 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases. The annual fee is steeper, but it’s well worth the whopping 50,000 United Airlines miles which can get you an international roundtrip for the cost of the taxes.

– Delta SkyMiles Credit Card –

  • Annual Fee: $95; waived the first year
  • Bonus Miles: 30,000
  • Spending requirement: $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • No International Fees

Delta Airlines has partnered with American Express to bring you two credit card options, Gold and Platinum. For the average user, the Gold card is recommended, with perks of a free checked bag, priority boarding, and access for two people to the Delta Sky Club. You can also earn a $50 credit to your account if you make a Delta purchase in the first three months. One helpful tip is that your Delta purchase can be in the form of a gift card. That way, you don’t have to book any flights if you’re not ready to travel just yet. Keep in mind that 30,000 miles tends to not get you as far as it would on American or United Airlines.

– Southwest Rapid Rewards Card –

  • Annual Fee: $69
  • Bonus Miles: 40,000
  • Spending requirement: $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • No International Fees

Southwest Airlines offers its rewards card through Chase Bank. As Southwest continues to grow its international destinations, the miles will be certain to pay off. I greatly respect Southwest as an airline, and its free checked bag and no change fees apply to everyone, not just cardholders. Your mileage points won’t have an expiration date as long as you still have an active credit card.

At the end of the day, choose the card that works best for you. If your goal is to gain an international trip out of your card, go with one of the first three options above. If you are looking at domestic or Caribbean travel, Southwest and Delta are good choices. Keep in mind, as well, the partners for each of these airlines. United is strong almost worldwide; Delta has good partnerships with Africa and Asia; and American partners with many airlines in Central and South America as well as Western Europe.

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