ShopSmart magazine, a Consumer Reports publication, is featuring ways to help air travelers make the most of their miles in its April issue.
The magazine recommends some of the best airline and bank cards currently available to get free tickets. When customers pick between using bank cards or airline cards, they have to take into account their own travel patterns and how they spend their money.
ShopSmart suggests that people who travel frequently on an airline and are loyal to that carrier can earn travel more quickly when they use an airline card. Loyal customers can also negotiate their way to the best deals. Airlines list their best offers on company website and airline card users can reference those as starting bids when they call the airline to finagle better deals or ask for double points.
Travelers can also earn decent up-front bonuses when they sign up for an airline card, and they can combine the frequent flyer miles they earn from flying with those they earn through purchases and get perks like free baggage check and upgrades. Airline cards though have certain restrictions that bank cards don’t have, like blackout dates.
ShopSmart recommends that travelers who want to avoid the hassles of blackout dates and make their travel arrangements based on cost rather than miles, would do better using bank cards. Cardholders can spend the points they earn through their purchases on whichever airline they choose. Ticket prices determine how many points are needed, so travelers cash in fewer points when the prices are lower. Customers who are more concerned about when they fly and how much time they are given to use their points are better served by bank cards.
Here are some of the magazine’s top choices:
For those who want to stick to an airline card, Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold, rewards shoppers with two miles for each dollar they spend on Delta and one mile for every dollar spent elsewhere. Cardholders get a bag checked for free for up to nine people in a reservation. Users save 20% on food and drinks they buy on their flights. Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold waives the $95 annual the first year.
They also suggest the American Express Premier Rewards Gold, which offers three points for every dollar spent on airfare. For every dollar customers spend on gas and groceries they get two points and they get a point for every dollar spent elsewhere. Cardholders can earn 25,000 bonus points in their first three months if they spend $2,000. There is no annual fee the first year, but customers have to pay their balances in full every month.