Comparing Frequent Flyer Rewards Cards

By: Timothy Parker

So you just graduated from college and landed your first full time job. Congratulations! It requires that you travel so being the financially savvy consumer that you are, you compare the frequent flyer rewards cards on the market.

Maybe you aren't this person but your story has you in the market for a credit card that works for you rather than you working for it. As you compare cards, you're going to have to go a little deeper than the big type that lists the terms.

The largest drawback to these cards is that often they charge an annual fee. Before any profit is made from this card, you have to pay back the annual fee so let's take a look at it.

If you do some math and figure out that you are earning about 1.6 cents in rewards points for every dollar you spend and the annual fee is $50, you will need 3125 miles or $3,125 in purchases before the annual fee is paid back. If you don't charge more than that amount in a year, a card with a $50 annual fee is worthless to you unless you are earning miles in other ways.

Also, check the restrictions. Are there any blackout dates? Do the miles expire? If you are not a business traveler, you may not earn enough miles to be eligible for rewards before they expire.

See if your airline offers you the option to use your miles for merchandise rather than flights. This would be a good option in case you don't accumulate enough miles for a flight or decide not to fly with that airline. Many of these cards have options to purchase other merchandise so make sure to ask if their website isn't clear.

The last piece of advice for our weary business traveler, watch for cards that offer you bonus miles to sign up. What if the card above has a $50 annual fee but gives you 10,000 bonus miles to sign up. A little match tells you that at 1.6 cents a mile, that's $160. You just earned $110 just for signing up for the card. Now that's a great deal!

Have you ever qualified for a reward or prize and had to go to great lengths to collect it? We've all been there and know how annoying it can be when collecting the reward or prize takes a lot of time that we don't have. For this reason, make sure that any frequent flyer miles earned don't involve calls to customer service reps, paperwork and other claims activities that will take more time than you have or want to invest.

Finally, don't forget that a frequent flyer rewards card may not be right for you. If you are the type that pays your balance in full at the end of each month and the very idea of paying interest makes you feel ill, a rewards card is perfect for you. If you take advantage of cash advances and hold a monthly balance, you would be better served to find the lowest interest rate and fees and forego the rewards benefits.

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