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Airline Affiliated Credit Card vs. Capital One Types

Lee B

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I'm trying to figure out the pros and cons between Airline CCs where everything you charge gets you points for travel on that airline and its friends, vs. ones issued by CC companies that let you book a flight on any airline at any time after getting points by charging stuff.

The first advantage I see for using an airline card is that you add points to an existing FF membership which may already have lots of earned miles on that airline. Second, you can use the CC points to push into a higher elite level of the airline. Those seem like good reasons, for many travelers. Are these the main reasons for using airline cards?

I have an offer from UAL to get 20,000 miles with their card after charging one thing, and the first years $60 fee is waived. I also have an offer from Capital One with no bonus, but no annual fee either.

I pay my cards off every month.
 

arlene22

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We have a Continental MC and a Continental debit card, but the miles earned do not count toward elite status.

Our preferred card is the Starwood AMEX, because the points can be transferred to almost any airline's ff program. In general, $1 charged = `1 Starpoint. 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 airline miles (for most airlines). And of course, you can also use them at Starwood hotels. Pretty good deal.

I think you have to be the kind of person who is willing to put some effort into getting FF awards to benefit from those types of programs. If you are willing to do the legwork and plan ahead, you can get good value from them. If convenience is more important to you than the Capital One type cards might be better for you. But if you decide to go that route, do a search. There were some threads a couple of months ago about Capital One changing the deal after people signed up for the cards.
 

Laurie

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I've had Capital One for many years, and used to love it, it was so easy to book flights, no black-out dates, almost no restrictions. But I've been accumulating miles ("saving up") for a few years for a trip to Europe, and the rules have changed so drastically that just yesterday, when I called to inquire about redeeming, I decided to quit Capital One and get a different card - 60,000 miles now only buys you a ticket between $300 and $600. Previously, 50,000 miles would buy a ticket to Europe, I don't think there was a cap on price. I know I redeemed that many miles for an $800 or $900 ticket in the past.

Emigrant Direct is offering 1.5% cash back... a better deal, unfortunately I tossed out the solicitation before my call to Capital One - that cash back would have paid for the ticket that Capital One now won't.
 

Carolinian

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The airline cards are better, because you can top up ff accounts that earn miles from other sources.

AmEx has some of the best. Their Delta card always gives double miles for grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, home improvement stores, and the post office. That can build up miles fast. Their Air France card's miles do count toward elite status, one of the few I know of that does.
 

lvhmbh

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We have both a Citibank AAdvantage and our Amex cards. American Airlines does not allow you to use AMEX miles on their airline so, since we go to Aruba every year on AA, we use that card most. We have a great number of miles on Amex but haven't had occasion to use them. I tried to use them for Delta to California but was informed by Delta that they would accept upgrades or FF miles on INdirect flights only. We wanted non-stop from Ft. Lauderdale so again, used AA. Linda
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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One of the big benefits of a non-affiliated travel card is that you don't need to worry about blackout periods or availability of seats allotted to frequent flyers on the flights you want. The non-affiliated card just gives you a credit against available air fare. If you pick a flight where the fare is less than or equal to the credit, you only pay the service charge. If the fares are more than the allowed credit, you just pay the difference.

I have two Alaska Airlines VISA cards, which I use for my work expenses. We also have a Wachovia World Points VISA, which we use for our personal expenses.


*******

Now let's look at the differences in these cards in real life example from last week as we planned our Hawai`i trip this summer.

Travel to Hawaii is 45,000 poiints on WorldPoints. That's a bit more than required with Alaska Airlines FF program - the mileage requirements there are 35,000 to 50,000 miles, depending on the flight partner. But for the 45,000 redemption, you can fly anytime, on any airline, no blackout periods, etc. There is a limit to how much they will pay for the ticket - the amount depends on the reward selected. For Hawaii the allotment is $450 - it's effectively a 1 cent rebate for every dollar spent. If you select an itinerary that costs more than $450 you simply pay the difference. A $30 handling fee is also added.

So let's get practical with this. Last week I'm starting to make plans for our Hawaii travel this summer. I've got one week booked, and I'm waiting for SFX on another week. I talk to Alaska Airlines partner desk about what I can get with my Alaska FF miles. We check around to all of their partners, and the best we can cobble together is an outbound that arrives the middle of the week before we are trying for an exchange and a return flight that leaves two days after we check out from the confirmed week. So we're looking at adding some hotel time on to the front and the back of our stay.

So then I check online with the Wachovia program. I can fly in an out of Honolulu on the days we want, the flights that we want, for only the cost of the $30 service charge plus $7.08 in fare above the $450 allowance. If I want to arrange flights in an out of Lihue intead (since we know will be spending the last week in Kauai), it would cost us $130 each. Obviously, the fare to Kauai is higher than the alllowed value, so we simply paying the difference. Again, we can fly on the days we want and the flights we want.

We decide that it makes the most sense to us to use the Wachovia miles to get to Honolulu, and use my Alaska Airlines miles for interisland flights.

So, now the pressure of trying to coordinate availability of FF fares with hoped for exchanges being completed is gone. All I have to worry about is being sure that a flght is not sold out.

A couple of days after checking with VISA we wind up getting the exchange that we want on Molokai, and I book the tickets with Wachovia World Points for the exact flights we want. In passing I note that World Points says this is a special fare.

Then I go to the NWA site, and I find that listed fares for the itinerary we booked are almost $200 more than the $450 allowance for flights to Hawaii. Other sites, such as Orbitz, also show the higher fare. So the fare we got really was a special fare; World Points was able to get a fare of $457.08 that was $644 elsewhere.

**************************

So, I think an affinity travel card is good if you fly often enough to generate some miles, but not enough to be able to cash in those miles very often. Then the affinity card can help you get enough miles in the account to get decent usage from your FF account. But if you fly so little that the FF account isn't really worth much - or you travel so much that you don't have a problem cashing in the miles you accumulate there, then a points travel card may work a lot better.

Also, if you can't plan far enough ahead to be first in line to book available FF seats, a card such as World Points might work better for you.
 

camachinist

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So, how would that work for F class seats to Australia or Asia that cost 8-12,000 each? ;)

I think a combination of the universal cards and dedicated cards would work well for most folks who travel a decent amount.

I know a few (well, more than a few) folks who rack up 100K+ miles/points a year simply by signing up and cancelling multiple credit cards, usually right before the fee is due. We have one card, which earns UA miles, that also gave 5K EQM's for signing up, besides 25K RDM's. It's expensive (140.00/yr if not 1K elite), but buying one transcon and getting one transcons worth for EQM's for 140 bucks without flying is dirt cheap. One guy I know on FT got 5 of them last year :) I don't have that kind of moxy :D

Then there's my boring old (very old) credit union VISA that costs me nothing, earns me nothing and mostly just sits in my wallet. Kind of like a tribute to times gone by. :) I remember getting it 25 years ago and thinking at the time it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Boy, how times have changed :)

Pat
 

arlene22

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lvhmbh said:
American Airlines does not allow you to use AMEX miles on their airline so, since we go to Aruba every year on AA, we use that card most. We have a great number of miles on Amex but haven't had occasion to use them.
The SPG Amex does transfer to AA. 20,000 points = 25,000 miles.
 

jerseygirl

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Most of the large brokerage firms offer programs such as this one. I've been really happy with mine. They did, however, just increase the points needed for most travel awards ... and added an airline restriction I'm not thrilled about (I understand a lot of the "no single affinity" cards are moving in that direction).

Cruises -- All Major Lines
25000 points = $350 discount
35000 points = $500 discount
60000 points = $1000 discount
10000 points = $2000 discount

Airfare -- Round-Trip Any Class, Any Destination Airline Ticket
Ticket up to $ 500 = 30,000 points (recently raised from 25000)
Ticket up to $ 1,000 = 60,000 points (recently raised from 5000)
Ticket up to $ 2,500 = 150,000 points
Ticket up to $ 4,500 = 270,000 points

Added the following restriction recently: Payment over cap NOT allowed. :(

Hotels
All the majors are represented -- 10000 for $100 gift certificate, 30000 for $300 gift certificate
Marriott One Nights from 18000 to 35000 (where the 35000 is worldwide, has no restricitons, includes all taxes -- can be a bargain if you're looking at Paris, London, etc.)

Vacation Packages
My favorite -- only 950,000 points
Supersonic MiG Adventure One MiG-25 Flight. Includes 4 nights @the Rossiya or Swiss Diamond Hotel with Continental breakfast in hotel(single occupancy & Taxes), Ground Transportation @ a Walking Tour in Moscow. Airflight to Moscow not included. Maximum Value $18,000

Once in a Lifetime Packages (Not my lifetime!) -- Some of these are really funny!
Enjoy a day of golf with tour pro Mark O'Meara at his home courses, Isleworth Country Club or Lake Nona, followed by a full dinner for 2 foursomes at his home in Windermere. Hotel accommodations not included. Only 6,500,000 points!

Enjoy a Walk-On Role on a Favorite TV Show. Attend part of the rehearsals and meet some of your favorite actors from a favorite TV show. We will provide a list of current TV shows for you to choose from. Also included in the package are first-class hotel accommodations for 3 nights, dinner at a trendy restaurant and a rental car for the duration of your stay. Airfare is not included but may be arranged. Redemption: December 2005 - March 2006
A bargain at 1,250,000 points!

My personal favorite for those who can't figure out what to do for this year's birthday party:
Receive a 1-hour private lesson from Ekaterina Gordeeva in your hometown. She'll take pictures and sign autographs to make this the most memorable day ever. For up to 10 children. Only 2,000,000 points!

For those of you who think it might take a while to build up the points for that birthday party, you do get 1.5 points for every dollar spent on travel-related purchases!

In all seriousness -- I have a lot of fun with this program. I love the flexibility. It's not just restricted to travel, there's electronics, items for the home, etc. But, of course, I only pay attention to the travel awards!!!
 

Laurie

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jerseygirl said:
Most of the large brokerage firms offer programs such as this one. I've been really happy with mine. They did, however, just increase the points needed for most travel awards ... and added an airline restriction I'm not thrilled about

Airfare -- Round-Trip Any Class, Any Destination Airline Ticket
Ticket up to $ 500 = 30,000 points (recently raised from 25000)
Ticket up to $ 1,000 = 60,000 points (recently raised from 5000)
Ticket up to $ 2,500 = 150,000 points
Ticket up to $ 4,500 = 270,000 points

Added the following restriction recently: Payment over cap NOT allowed. :(
Would you mind saying which firm offers this program? That's more like what Capital One used to be, and I'm ready to switch.
 

jerseygirl

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Laurie said:
Would you mind saying which firm offers this program? That's more like what Capital One used to be, and I'm ready to switch.
Mine is with UBS, but I think all the brokerage firms offer similar programs with their investment accounts that include cash management services. The annual fees are usually higher than a normal credit card fee. But, these days, most of the big firms charge an annual fee. So, you may as well take advantage of the checking/credit card/billpay-type services that come with the account -- you're paying for them!).
 
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