Reader Mail Part Two

Andrew writes:

    Hi Gary,


    I wonder if you can give me some advice. I’m a Continental One Pass
    member but don’t fly very often. Perhaps 3-4 times a year, both
    domestic and abroad. (I also have United miles, but much fewer.) I
    don’t currently use a credit card to accumulate miles, but realize
    that I probably should, especially as I’m about to purchase a $2,000
    computer.


    It seems that the best credit card for me would be a Chase
    Continental card (not sure which one) or a Starwood Amex which
    frequent flyers seem to speak of very highly.


    Do you think one of these two cards are the right ones for me? Or
    would I be better off with something else?


    Thanks so much for your help!

Andrew,


I think you’re already on the right track with credit
card selection, because you’ve mentioned just the card
I would have suggested — the Starwood American
Express.


It lets you earn Continental miles just as fast as the
Continental Visa and at a lower cost (free the first
year, $30 thereafter). Actually, it lets you earn
Continental miles FASTER because if you save up your
Starwood points and transfer them to Continental in a
block of 20,000 they’ll give you 5,000 bonus miles.
That’s equivalent to earning 1.25 miles per dollar
instead of just one mile per dollar on the Continental
card.


Are there any redeeming qualities to the Continental
card? Not really. They’re pretty stingy with bonus
offers relative to other airline mileage earning
cards. And their promotions certainly aren’t better
than the Starwood promotions (I’m actually earning
double Starwood points this month and next on all
purchases once I’ve spent a certain amount on the
card).


But the biggest benefit to the Starwood American
Express is flexibility. I don’t have to earn
Continental miles — I earn Starwood points that can
be redeemed WITHOUT CAPACITY CONTROLS for hotel stays
or that can be transfered 1:1 into almost any airline
program (United transfers are, unfortunately, 2:1).


Flexibility is important because no airline offers the
reward you want all the time — whether because they
don’t serve the destination or because they don’t have
award seats available when you want to fly.
Continental is notoriously stingy with awards for all
except their Platinum members who fly more than
75,000 miles per year. If you fly only occasionally,
your award redemption experience with Continental may
not be as good as with some other airlines. The
Starwood card helps get you around this problem.


This link is offering up to 10,000 bonus points for signup through June 30th.


And if you’re not already a Starwood Preferred Guest
member, you can join at the Gold level.


Cheers,


Gary

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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