Using credit cards to earn flight mileage, worth it?

Saturday, March 6, 2004 2:31 PM
We just got an offer in the mail to join United Mileage Plus Visa, and it offers us 15,000 miles to join. But, that doesn't equate to 15,000 miles, right? Does anybody know what it does equate to? Anybody here belong to a similar service? Worth it?

Thanks in advance.

Saturday, March 6, 2004 3:07 PM
Not sure I'm following you here. But...

If you accpet the Visa offer, you'll be signed up for United's Mileage Plus program and your account will be credited with 15,000 miles.

United's Mileage Plus requires 25,000 miles for a free economy ticket within the continental US.

You'd have to fly an additional 10,000 miles (or earn then with the Visa) to qualify for a free coach ticket for a flight within the continental US. Other destinations require more miles.

More info

Saturday, March 6, 2004 3:26 PM
However, that card probably has an annual fee, so you need to decide if it's worth paying the annual fee, or going to another card that doesn't have a fee but can still earn miles. Also, the miles you earn on that United card will go only to a United account, so if you have a different airline of preference it may not be worth it. (United is part of the Star Alliance, so you can actually redeem your United miles on quite a few airlines).

For example, my American Express Blue card has no fees, but earns AmEx points. One thing I can do with those points, is trade them for miles on most airlines, including USAirways, my airline of choice (and soon to join the Star Alliance, if the ink ever dries on that deal.)

I also frequently double (or triple) dip. Book a hotel room with the AmEx. That earns points on the AmEx, which will eventually accumulate enough to trade for USAirways miles. Some hotel programs then ALSO earn you miles on your airline, and at least one program (Hilton if I recall correctly) earns both miles AND hotel points at the same time. (Hotel points can be traded for free rooms and the like, but in general I like the miles better. Last-minute airfares can be ungodly expensive, so I like to keep at least enough miles around for an emergency unrestricted reward flight. I've also been known to trade miles for an upgrade on a long flight, like say transatlantic. On the long hauls, it makes a HUGE difference.)

Wow, that was long-winded (but this IS another interest of mine -- maxing out the value of my flying time). The short answer is, the cards CAN be worth it, but look around for more flexible options first.

Saturday, March 6, 2004 3:57 PM
It really depends on how much you plan on spending with that card. Like it was said by Greg, you are locked into United. I don't like being locked into one airline as I tend to book on whatever has the most convenient times for my needs (especially flying out of Milwaukee which doesnt give you a whole lotta options). The credit card I have is through a local bank but offers generic miles that can be used for any airline. The problem is that it is typically 1 buck spent = 1 mile. With a domestic seat costing about 25K miles, that means you end up having to spend $25,000 before you get that. It generally takes me a couple years to earn a ticket with that card.
Saturday, March 6, 2004 4:17 PM
I've been using a Continental Visa for a while and have accumulated a large number of points. However it does have a annual fee. There are many offers that double or triple your points per purchase (for example certain resteraunts, Shop Rite, etc.) Note these points don't count towards your elite status (or whatever they call it on other airlines). You have to actually fly to get those which earn you free uprades (when available), quicker check-in, etc.I might look into AmEx Blue, have to check if that can convert to Continental first. Not sure how this relates to amusement parks, but good topic anyway.
Saturday, March 6, 2004 4:20 PM
To answer your question, no 15,000 miles does not mean you can fly 15,000 miles, it's just a promotional word for points.

As others have stated, typically you need 25,000 points to get a free airline ticket anywhere within the continental United States.

Yes, every point card I know of does have an annual fee, but, if you do use your credit card frequently, and pay off your bill every month, the fee will pay for itself.

Saturday, March 6, 2004 4:50 PM
That's just it, though -- there ARE point cards out there without fees. Airline cards, especially, typically have very high fees, and I for one am not willing to pay them. The extra cash you spend on the annual fee is better served elsewhere.
Saturday, March 6, 2004 8:14 PM
i use a thing called idine with my credit and bank debit cards...

i get a certain number of miles from participating restaurants for each dollar spent...

i know america west offers it, not sure about any others

Sunday, March 7, 2004 1:58 AM
USAirways does as well. I'm signed up, but don't plan where I eat around it (I'm not THAT obsessed with collecting miles ;) ) If I happen to eat somewhere that's an iDine partner, AND happen to use the card that's registered with it, then the miles I get are a surprise bonus on my next Frequent Flyer statement.

As sim_man said, miles earned via methods other than actual time in the air typically don't count as tier miles (or status miles, depending on the verbage of the frequent flyer program). Sometimes they do, but only in very special promotions. I loved being a Silver Preferred on USAirways, but with the cutbacks in service on that airline, it was getting less and less worthwhile. But THAT'S a discussion for FlyerTalk.

As for how it relates to coasters, well, many of us fly to get to alternate parks, and when it's on your own time (as opposed to for work), it's well worth trying to get a good deal out of it. *** Edited 3/7/2004 7:01:57 AM UTC by GregLeg***

Sunday, March 7, 2004 2:06 AM
One other option that you might want to consider.... instead of getting a milage card with a fee, get a cash back card without one and use the cash back bonus toward airfare. It might not equal out to the same thing, but you never have to worry about blackout dates or being limited to a certain airline. - in fact, you don't even have to use the cash back toward airfare if you decide you don't want to.

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