HomeBlogAirlineAirline Miles Credit Cards: Sign-on Bonuses = Free Travel!

Using airline miles credit cards

Airline Miles Credit Cards: Sign-on Bonuses = Free Travel!

by / 1 Comment / Mar 06, 2015

With airline miles credit cards you can change the way that you fly. Most people dread flying but when you can lay down flat for 8 hours and wake up to a glass of champagne and a delectable entree attitudes start to change. This is the life of a business class passenger yet most of us will never get to experience this because of the outrageous cost.

International business flights can cost as much as 3-5x as much as a regular economy seat. So unless someone else is paying for that seat, your average passenger will never get to enjoy the amenities of business or first class. I think that’s a shame because there are some airlines out there who go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to taking care of their business class passengers. Then again, if you have airline miles credit cards, you could be one of these special flyers. If you wonder, “How do credit card flyer miles work?” then read on.

A Business Class Seat Costs How Much?

My most recent European vacation ended in Istanbul since I was able to book two business class seats on Turkish Airlines for me and my wife. Everything from the lounge before the flight to the in-flight entertainment and dining options made this one of the most enjoyable flights of my life. I was actually dreading when the 9 hour flight would come to an end since I didn’t want to get off the plane!

Other passengers had paid thousands of dollars for this flight but all it cost me was a hundred thousand points for two seats. That might seem like a ton of points but I didn’t have to spend $100,000. Instead all it took was two credit card sign-up bonuses.

Why Are They Giving Away Free Points?

Normally in life, when things sound too good to be true they probably are. That isn’t always the case with airline miles credit cards though. Most airlines use sign-up bonus offers as a way to entice customers to join their loyalty programs and fly their airlines. They figure that if you fly with them once or twice for free, you’ll be more inclined to fly with them in the future.

Credit card companies actually have to buy the miles from the airlines in order to offer these large sign-up bonuses. You might be wondering why they would do that but they are relying on the fact that many people will end up making interest payments for years to come. But as long as you pay your bill on time and spend responsibly, everyone can win.

How Do Airline Miles Credit CardsSign-up Bonus Offers Work?

Many people wonder how credit card airline miles work, especially those big sign-up bonuses. The average sign-up bonus offer is around 25,000-50,000 miles but there are usually some caveats. You’ll need to spend a certain amount within a specific time frame and there is almost always an annual fee on these cards. But the fee is usually waived for the first year and you can often get the fee reduced or eliminated completely in following years by calling in and inquiring about a reduced or even waived fee. I do this every year with my Citi AAdvantage cards (American Airlines).

Once you meet the required spend, you should see the bonus appear in your frequent flyer account after your next statement posts. It’s as simple as that.

Sign Up With a Good Airline (and/or transfer partner)

If you’re just starting on your miles journey, the first thing you’ll notice is that there are a lot of airline credit cards out there. For your first card, make sure that you sign up with an airline that you actually intend on flying with. It wouldn’t make much sense to sign up for a domestic carrier’s card like Southwest if you only fly internationally. In that case, you’d want to sign up with one of the big boys like American Airlines or United.

The best part about signing up with an airline like American or United is that they also have an extensive list of partner airlines. American Airlines is a member of the One World Alliance which includes almost 20 partner airlines while United is a member of the Star Alliance Network which holds almost 30 members.

How to Land a 100,000 Point Offer

My normal threshold for a bonus sign-up offer is right around 50,000 miles. In order to stay on top of all the latest and greatest offers you can subscribe to our e-mail list or follow our updates on Twitter.

Every couple months, you’ll see some great offers pop up. Here are my simple steps to landing a great sign-up bonus offer:

  • Make Sure Your Credit is in Order: Some of these cards require high credit scores so make sure that you don’t have too many inquiries on your credit report and your score is at least in the 700’s. You can get a completely free score from sites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame and you can also get three free credit reports every year from annualcreditreport.com
  • Figure Out Which Card You Want: Remember, not all airlines are created equal so pick a carrier that you fly frequently or has a wide variety of partner airlines.
  • Keep an Eye Out: Sometimes the best offers are only around for a few weeks and other times they might last for months. Try to follow a couple points and travel blogs every week and you’ll stay in the know.
  • Know What’s a Good Offer: A lot of cards like to run summer time promotions or temporary increases. So if you know that a card like the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest normally offers a bonus of 25,000 points, as soon as you see it go up to 30,000 points you should jump on that offer immediately. The SPG card is known for increasing it’s bonus for a limited time every summer.
  • Meet all the Terms: Once you’ve applied and been approved, make sure that you understand all the terms of the card. I usually try to meet the minimum spend one statement ahead of time so that I’m not waiting until the last day to see if the points post or not.
  • Stay Vigilant: Sometimes you’ll apply for a card and the very next week a better sign-up bonus will come out. There are no guarantees but you can often get your offer matched to the new and higher offer by e-mailing, calling or even tweeting. Chase is one of the best at matching offers.

About the Author

Harry Campbell is a professional finance blogger and credit card enthusiast. Over the years, he has racked up close to two million points and miles from credit card sign-up bonuses and has used those points to fly all over the world for next to nothing.

Ask the author a Question

Latest Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2014 Credit Cards . All rights reserved.

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on CreditCardIdeas.com are from credit card companies from which this site receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers.

Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on CreditCardIdeas.com is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.