What’s the Best Card If You Want to Use Points to Buy Tickets — Not Redeem Award Seats

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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.

Citi Double Cash

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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. US Bank Flexperks is a good choice for some. It gives 3x points for charitable contributions, 2x for groceries, and 1x for everything else. Redemptions are a bit quirky – they cost 20,000 points for a ticket in the range $1-$399.99; 30,000 points for tickets in the range $400-$599.99, etc. If you make significant cash charitable contributions or buy a lot of groceries, and are able to redeem near the top of the “points band”, you can get up to a 6% rebate on contributions and 4% on grocery purchases. (This is especially feasible with Southwest tickets, since you can buy a $390 or $590 ticket with points, then exchange it for what you really want with no change fees.)

  2. Hey Gary,

    Why don’t you do the public a favor and post about the 100,000 AMEX personal Platinum bonus with $3000 spend, that is currently available to anyone who calls in. Or are you scared to lose future affiliate income.

  3. @joe no need to be a troll. Gary doesn’t need to post about it now since you did here in comments. Plus, not available to anyone, you need to use a code as I found out when I finally got a hold of a human at Amex. Good thing was that i had one. This has been all over the place online. if you don’t like Gary’s posts, why not just unsubscribe?

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