|by Jason Steele|
A reader recently asked about the best reward travel credit card for vacation flights from his home in Seattle to Veracruz, Mexico
What are the best credit cards (no annual fee or “small” annual fee) to get Flights reward?
I’m not a frequent flyer. The flights are for vacations. Currently I have Bank of America WorldPoints and I think it is a good program. I have had them since it used to be MBNA credit card.
Mr. Credit Card: Where do you live and fly to?
Reader: USA to Mexico
Mr. Credit Card: What airlines do you fly?
Reader: Continental,Delta, and United Airlines.
Mr. Credit Card: How much is your average cost per ticket?
Reader: Approximately $700.00
Mr. Credit Card: Do you pay any baggage fees?
Reader: I currently spend from 35,000 to 55,000 point to get an international flight from Seattle to Veracruz Mexico plus a $30.00 USD PER ticket as transaction fee.
The World Points web site is nice and you can pick from any airline. The option to pay tickets with money is also available and the price very similar to Expedia.
Maybe I’m looking for a credit card that requires less points to get international fligths and/or gives you more point. (World point $1.00 = 1 point).
What Should he Do?
First, it certainly appears that he has had his current credit card for some time as MBNA was acquired by Bank of America back in 1996. Since then, a lot has changed in the business of reward credit cards. Since he indicated that he is traveling from Seattle to Veracruz, I looked up which airlines service that route. It turns out that only Continental and American fly to Veracruz via their hubs in Houston and Dallas respectively.
Continental offers its OnePass Plus card from Chase. It has a 25,000 mile sign up bonus, and awards to Mexico start at 35,000 miles round trip. One of the advantages of the Continental card is that you and everyone on your itinerary will receive two free checked bags.
American Airlines offers their AAdvantage card through CitiBank. They currently offer a whopping 75,000 mile sign up bonus when you charge $4,000 on their card within six months, something that should be no problem. Just the sign up bonus alone should be enough for two round trip tickets to Veracruz at the standard level of 35,000 miles. If he is really lucky, he may even find “Saver” seats at only 25,000 miles. On flights to Mexico with American, passengers are currently allowed a single check bag each.
Between the American and Continental cards, I would choose American. I have found excellent award flight availability with American, while finding award seats on Continental can be very difficult.
What If He Wanted To Stay Away From Airline Cards?
Collecting airline miles and searching for award seats requires someone be both flexible and patient. If he is used to booking flights according to his schedule, he can still get a better value from his reward credit card. If he had a Capital One Venture Rewards card or the Discover Escape Card, he would get 2 “miles” per dollar spent. He could then book any ticket he wanted to, on any airline, and be reimbursed at the rate of 1 cent per mile. Since the price of flights to Veracruz are about $700 round trip, he could spend the same amount of dollars, $35,000 to get a reward ticket, but he would have infinitely more options than he would if searching for reward seats. The only problem would be that he would not receive nearly as generous of a sign up bonus with Capital One as he would with American. Currently, Capital One offers a mere 10,000 miles, worth only $100. This is far less than the 75,000 mile American bonus that could potentially earn him two tickets to Veracruz, worth $1,400.
The alternative would be to continue using his BOA card. Since he needs 35,000 to 55,000 points, and his ticket costs about $700, that is quite a good deal (more than 1%) assuming his card has no annual fee. The WordPoints reward program that BOA has still has the old style rewards where you can still exchange a certain amount of points for an airline ticket to certain destinations.
I would recommend that he keep his present BOA card, but to occasionally take advantage of airline credit card deals from sign up bonuses. If he is flexible and can take advantage of award space availability, he can switch to the American Airlines card and earn a huge sign up bonus. One deal to be taken advantage of right now is the British Airways Visa Signature® Card -Limited Time Offer. He can redeem his 100,000 on American Airline Flights, which fly to Mexico from where his lives. He will need 35,000 miles each trip, so the bonus miles itself is worth 3 trip to Mexico. If he values flexibility, the Capital One card or Discover Escape Card might be the better choice as it will provide twice the points/miles that his current card does. Either way, it is great to see that he is looking beyond his current card and trying to maximize his rewards.