Aug 18, 2008

Value of Airline miles and credit cards

While going through yahoo finance and looking at Mastercard's stock price, I came across this article on mileage credit cards. This article several points that have always been running through my head and a few more, so I decided to 'repost' a small portion of it here. I will not be posting the entire article as you can see it on Yahoo or in New York Times. (log in might be required on NYT site).
?? To Keep an Airline Credit Card or Not ?? Ask yourself these questions (Bullet points modified a little from RON LIEBER's article in New York Times.
DO YOU CARRY A BALANCE? If you don’t pay your bill in full each month, you’re excused from this discussion. No credit cards for you actually. Well maybe you can try to snag a 0% APR, but remember you do have to pay back at sometime.

DO YOU HAVE ELITE STATUS? Some airlines — like American, Northwest, United and Continental — carve out additional inventory of free seats at their lower mileage levels for some or all customers with elite status. That inventory, plus the bonus miles that most airlines still offer to elite members, make a mileage credit card more attractive.

ARE YOU A BIG SPENDER? If you’re wealthy, or can run business expenses through your card, you can earn six figures in miles from card spending alone each year. A huge mileage balance gives you the ability to exchange those miles for premium-class overseas tickets, which could cost $10,000 or more if you bought them with cash. Miles are worth a lot more if you redeem them for this sort of travel.

ARE YOUR CHILDREN IN SCHOOL? If they are, you’ll be fighting everyone else who wants to travel at the same time. The airlines, knowing your desperation to get out of town, may make fewer free seats available during school vacations, since the airline will probably sell all the seats on those flights anyway. EXCEPTION: Some cards like United MP Visa, American express with membership rewards and Delta American Express might have some benefit even in blackout date travel because they let you pay for your airline ticket by using the miles/points you earned on the credit card. United calls this " CHOICES", Amex just uses points and DELTA - they have some name, but the concept it similar. Typical cost sonversion is 1 cent per mile (point), not the usual 25000 mile/ticket shill Delta's program is complicated because conversion starts to become profitable only for tickets costing above $100 or better yet, over $250 [not hard nowadays huh?]. So if your ticket costs $350 and you want to apply 25000 miles/points, it will reduce your cost by $250 (in most cases). Amex charges an extra $7 service fee, take note.

The article covers cards that let you earn miles (like United Mileage Plus Visa card, Delta American Express Card, US Airways Dividend Mastercard etc), hotel cards like Starwood American Express ($45 fee but woth it, especially because of Amex's insurance products that come with the card), Hilton Honors Citicard (fee) or Hilton Honors American Express (no annual fee), and general points cards that come from other banks.
I have personally given up on the Citi AAdvantage card because of the high spend requirements and the absence of an AA flight from my area.
Anyway I just thought of this:

Starwood is still good
Amex Hilton is right on
Hilton Citi, please have some pity
With Capital one, I waste time on phone

Ok, the last one is just for a finish, I have never had a Cap one no hassles card so I should not put them down much.

Good luck flying, but keep making sure you pay your bills fully month to month on the credit cards you have!
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