Most airline mileage credit cards have fees. At least the ones that earn one mile per dollar. And some people are just against paying fees — imagine that!
I will say that it may be worth it. If the card is earning you a free ticket per year and the fee is $50, that seems like a pretty good tradeoff. It can even be a good tradeoff compared to free cards if you’re spending enough on the card.
And I definitely think it’s a better deal than the free cards offered by credit card companies where you earn their points which can be redeemed for travel — because those awards are usually only for coach and must be booked a couple of weeks in advance. That means you’re usually capped on the award at a value of $250-$500. And the way I use my miles (international first class travel, upgrades), I usually get thousands of dollars of value for the same credit card spending.
However, free cards do have a place. And they’re not all created equal. So let me suggest three:
- The Lufthansa Visa (which you can use to claim United awards and tickets on several other carriers) has no annual fee and a 9.9% APR, plus 6000 bonus points for signing up.
- Another free card is the Amtrak Mastercard, which you can use to claim Amtrak, United, or Continental awards (and several others).
- Finally, consider the free Hilton American Express which comes with a 7500 point signup bonus and earns 3 Hilton HHonors points per dollar spent.
And while not free, a uniquely good value is my favorite points earning card, the Starwood American Express.
You earn a point per dollar spent which can be redeemed for Westin, Sheraton, W hotels (and other Starwood properties) and which can be converted 1:1 into most airline frequent flyer programs – so you’re not tied to a single program like with most cards.
What’s more, there’s a 5000 point bonus for coverting 20,000 — so if you convert the points in chunks like that you’re really earning 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases.