11-04-2007, 02:06 AM
I am planning on traveling at the end of the school year (buenos aires), so I got the AMEX gold card and Chase Continental Airlines Mastercard. But how do I know which card to spend on? Shouldn't one do the trick? The details on their websites aren't that clear, but it seems that one isn't necessarily better than the other. So my question is: would it be fine to just use one card, or do I want some combination of the two?
Any help is greatly appreciated.
11-04-2007, 03:03 PM
The key to picking between different cards is the expected cost to get what you want and whether you can really get it. In my case, I had a Citibank AAdvantage Mastercard that earned me American Airlines miles for every dollar I spent. The card's annual fee was $50. It took me two or three years to collect the 60,000 points necessary for a peak-season trip overseas, which was the only thing I really was saving my points/miles for. The cost, then for a typical $1200 summer airfare to Europe was $100 to $150. However, I could never make travel arrangements six months or more in advance, so finding free tickets on American was very difficult. My last trip using their miles cost me 100,000 miles each for two regular coach tickets, because the 60,000 mile-awards were all taken.
I explored other cards and finally settled on a Citibank Visa that gives me 2 miles for every dollar I spend with an annual fee of $40. They have a free card that offers only 1 mile per dollar. To get a ticket that costs over $600, you just trade in 100 times the cost of the ticket in miles. So, for a $1200 ticket, it takes me spending $60,000 on my card -- the same as I needed to get that ticket on American. The annual fee is less, so I'm saving there as well. As a bonus, if I can find a cheaper $1000 fare, it only needs $50,000 of spending (100,000 "miles"), whereas the American award would still eat up 60,000 miles.
The beauty of the Citibank "No Hassle" card is that I can use it on any airline, with no blackout dates. I just redeemed my first ticket - a $1200 last-minute fare to attend a funeral (there were cheaper flights, but none that met my schedule constraints). There were no problems at all. Another benefit is that since your ticket is fully paid for according to the airline, you still accrue miles from them.
If you want cash back or something other than expensive airline tickets, another approach might be better for you. If you always fly Continental or one of their partners and never have trouble with availability of travel awards, that might be a good option. Just do the math for your own situation.
Hope this helps! -TD
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