Airline vs. non-airline travel card

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28fe6
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Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by 28fe6 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:18 pm

I'm normally a low spender, who doesn't do personal travel much, and I stay away from annual-fee travel cards. However I may be making a cross-country relocation that should make it easy to meet the spending requirements and get the benefits of a travel card, at least for a year or two. Should I go for one of the "airline" cards or something else?

The going rate seems to be 50,000 miles for signup bonus... I have seen 60,000 offers but not recently. I can do Capital One Venture or United Explorer, for example (I have about 50,000 mi and silver status on United). The United Explorer seems better because it offers free checked bags and priority boarding.

I will still be a low spender so points accumulation doesn't matter to me as much as signing bonus, and other perks that make the card convenient. I have other cards I'm happy with for my routine spending.

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GoldStar
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by GoldStar » Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:21 pm

Are you talking one relocation trip or multiple trips before you relocate?
You will always be flying back and forth cross-country between two of the same exact cities? Multiple (many trips) between same two cities?
If yes - I believe the airline card (for the airline you will be taking) is the better choice - it will also help your status.
If many multiple cities and your home city is not one primary airline you might be better off with a more generic card.

28fe6
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by 28fe6 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:29 pm

Initially I will be taking a few trips between the same cities for house hunting, etc. This is why I think I should be able to meet the ~3000-5000/3mo spending requirement. If I just do that, and never use the card again that will be fine. But if it offers other perks like free checked bags I might actually continue to use it.

After that I will be making trips perhaps quarterly or something. It looks like United is as good of an airline as any.

On this topic, is there a website that tells you the best airline to "target" if you have to travel between two cities, regions, or airports? I know certain major cities are "hubs" but if you aren't flying between major cities...

PolarBearMarket
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by PolarBearMarket » Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:42 pm

In the business travel community, the go-to for comparing loyalty programs is https://thepointsguy.com/

If you will be staying at hotels, eating out, or frequently switching airlines, the most popular travel card with business travelers is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The effective annual fee is $150 (counting travel credit) with an effective cash back rate of 4.5% on travel spend (if you use the cash back for travel), so it beats out no-fee cards (e.g. Citi) once you spend ~$6K/yr on business travel. They also have a 50K points offer, and Chase's points should be worth more to you than United's.

I spend around $80K/yr on travel, so it's a no brainier to use the Sapphire Reserve. I just count on racking up normal miles for the airline perks rather than using their cards.

yohac
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by yohac » Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:04 pm

If you will be making multiple trips you may not want to limit yourself to just one new card. Two 50K bonuses are better than one, and with Venture or Chase Sapphire Preferred, you get the first year with no fee, and can always cancel before the second year fee hits.

Nate79
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by Nate79 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:41 pm

The Costco card, if you are a Costco member, is free and gives 3% cash back on travel.

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hoppy08520
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by hoppy08520 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:50 pm

I travel sorta regularly for business and pleasure, and I frequently use United or American. I have both of their credit cards and to me it's worth it for the earlier boarding group and waiving of baggage fees which normally is $25/bag (although I rarely need to check a bag), plus I get two lounge admission cards on United (can't remember if the American MasterCard also has this?).

If you get the United credit card, there is a mobile phone app called Mileage Plus X that lets you get more miles for purchases you would have made anyway, so you might as well. Points guy talks about it here: Tip: Triple Dip Your Mileage Earnings With MileagePlus X.

I'm not sure if there are better options for travelers but check the Points Guy for advice that suits your needs and travel patterns.

MikeG62
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by MikeG62 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:53 pm

28fe6 wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:29 pm
Initially I will be taking a few trips between the same cities for house hunting, etc. This is why I think I should be able to meet the ~3000-5000/3mo spending requirement. If I just do that, and never use the card again that will be fine. But if it offers other perks like free checked bags I might actually continue to use it.

After that I will be making trips perhaps quarterly or something. It looks like United is as good of an airline as any.

On this topic, is there a website that tells you the best airline to "target" if you have to travel between two cities, regions, or airports? I know certain major cities are "hubs" but if you aren't flying between major cities...
If in your shoes, I'd consider the Capital One Venture card (should get you statement credit of $560 once you meet the $3,000 spend threshold) combined with whatever airline branded CC is applicable to the airline you are most likely to use. United is fine, but I would go with whatever airline is likely to have the most non-stop flights between the locations you will be traveling. The airline card will probably have a $95 annual fee, but you can get bonus miles and you should get free checked bags and priority boarding when you travel.

If you aren't going to use the card a lot after the initial spurt of travel, then cancel the Venture card before the annual fee kicks in (which should be in month 12 or 13). You can replace with a no annual fee card like the Costco VISA or a nice 2% cash back card (Fidelity VISA or Citi Double Cash).
Real Knowledge Comes Only From Experience

banhbao
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by banhbao » Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:05 pm

Personally I think you should think about what airline is the best for your situation. I.e., the least number of stops to get from point A to point B, if you're going to be taking that route frequently.

If you have United miles already that's a plus, but only if Chicago/Houston/IAD/etc. is a good hub for your upcoming cross-country trips. It would be a pain to take 3 flights when you could do 2 with another airline.

One advantage of the United Explorer card is that it's a Visa which is pretty much taken everywhere. Delta partners with Amex which is not always accepted everywhere.

Once you pick you airline just do a quick calculation to see what the bonus is worth to you. Go to their website and search for a hypothetical rewards trip. If you can get 50k miles as a sign-up bonus, and a roundtrip can be as low as 25k, then that's a pretty good deal in my mind.

Another way to look at it is to google, for example, "how much is a skymile worth". The average value is 1.7 cents/mile, and since Delta offers 30k miles to sign up, then you see it is worth about $510.

And like yohac said, you can always cancel before the end of the first year. Most of these cards cover the first year's fee. So it would just be a marginal hit on your credit score to sign up and cancel after 11 months.

Keep in mind the airline cards usually offer some other perk, like exit row seating, or earlier boarding -- that could be worth it to you if you have a lot of upcoming trips planned.

jbmitt
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by jbmitt » Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:09 pm

Premier Silver status with United still requires 25,000 PQM or 30 PQS and $3,000. That would indicate to me that you travel or travelled enough at one time.

I have two airline cards: Delta AMEX Gold and Chase United Explorer MileagePlus. I prefer the Delta card because I don't have to purchase my airfare with it in order to obtain the baggage fee waiver. I have the United card because the annual fee is offset by the priority boarding, free baggage (if the ticket is paid for with the card) and 2 free club passes and they offer direct flights to family in Denver from where we live.

I also have the Chase Sapphire and Costco Citicards that others have mentioned. I typically make my non-United travel purchases and restaurant purchases on the Chase Sapphire and transfer my Chase Freedom points to the Chase Sapphire Rewards program. That card is my preference.

My strategy for next year is to use my Premier Silver status with United to match status to Delta Silver Medallion status.
More information about that is available here: https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US ... lenge.html I'll plan to use my points or other travel credit cards to purchase Delta tickets and enjoy the benefits of their AMEX while maintaining status with them.

I'd also suggest that you look for increased points sign-ups. One trick we use in our household is that we each have our own accounts and we can refer each other. For example, we each earned 100,000 Chase Sapphire points, and we received referral bonuses for referring each other for accounts that we both didn't already have.

megabad
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Re: Airline vs. non-airline travel card

Post by megabad » Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:20 pm

28fe6 wrote:
Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:18 pm
I'm normally a low spender, who doesn't do personal travel much, and I stay away from annual-fee travel cards. However I may be making a cross-country relocation that should make it easy to meet the spending requirements and get the benefits of a travel card, at least for a year or two. Should I go for one of the "airline" cards or something else?

The going rate seems to be 50,000 miles for signup bonus... I have seen 60,000 offers but not recently. I can do Capital One Venture or United Explorer, for example (I have about 50,000 mi and silver status on United). The United Explorer seems better because it offers free checked bags and priority boarding.

I will still be a low spender so points accumulation doesn't matter to me as much as signing bonus, and other perks that make the card convenient. I have other cards I'm happy with for my routine spending.
If you are budget traveler (who doesn't value "free" checked bags or "priority" boarding), those folks will almost certainly come out better just using a cashback card. If you are a frequent flyer and an airline loyalist or a full fare flyer (ie. self employed traveling consultant) you will come out way ahead via an airline specific card. For example, when I last decided whether to use points for a trip that was a long way out in the off season, I calculated that my airline points were worth about half a cent each. I would rather have my cash back. However, when I last traveled last minute for a funeral, I calculated my points at about 2.5 cents each, so points were worth more then. Additionally, in this case, if I had acquired double points via airline spending, the point value would have approached 5 cents, which is way more than most cash back cards! I still lean toward saying a travel points card with a fee is not a good deal for the average person (whose expenses are mostly not airline flights).

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