I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
Reader FinnSailor asked,
What credit card is best for the option of using points to purchase a ticket (not exchange for airline points)? I am trying to expand my ability to use credit card points to buy the ticket, thus earning airline points for the flight.
If you use points for economy awards, especially domestic economy awards, you’ll often do better earning points that can be used to pay directly for travel instead of transferring to airline miles and claiming an award.
You won’t have to worry about award availability, just book any flight you wish. And you’re unlikely to do much better than a couple cents a point in value anyway.
If you want to earn elite status as well you want to travel on paid tickets, and when you use credit card points to buy a ticket they really are buying you a ticket — you’ll earn miles for the trip.
I do generally like the Citi Double Cash card, because it’s a no fee card that gives you 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay for the purchase. You’ve got real cash to use to buy airfare.
But when you factor in bonus category spending you can actually do much better with the Citi Prestige.
Spending on the card earns triple points for air and hotels, and double points for dining and entertainment.
Citi Prestige is one of the only cards that earns transferrable points currency (points transfer to airline miles) where it can make sense to spend the points as cash for airfare instead because its points are worth 1.6 cents apiece when used to buy American Airlines tickets.
When you buy airline tickets or pay for hotel stays, you’re earning a 4.8% rebate if you use the points to buy American Airlines (or US Airways) tickets.
It’s an Expensive Card, But Worth It
Citi Prestige is a $450 annual fee card, but gives you a $250 airline credit (which can be used on airfare) and a $100 global entry credit. The airline credit is based on calendar year meaning if you got the card now you could use an airline credit in 2015 and then again in early 2016 (so two $250 credits during your first cardmember year).
It also comes with American Airlines lounge access (when flying American) and a Priority Pass Select card (with unlimited visits and 2 free guests). So it’s great for lounge access, especially for folks who fly either American or Alaska Airlines. Other key benefits include 3 free rounds of golf per year and 4th night free on hotels which can generate big savings.