It seems like just about every rewards credit card out there these days has bonus points for some type of purchase (which is a good thing!). One of the common bonus categories is for airline ticket purchases, so it can sometimes be challenging to determine what card is the best to use when purchasing tickets. I have received many questions on this topic recently, especially since there are some limited time offers for airline ticket purchases currently available with some credit cards.
From 10/1 – 12/31, the Chase Freedom will offer 5x Ultimate Reward points for airline purchases. This makes the card a very good contender for airline purchases, but there are a few details to be aware of with this offer. The first detail is that it is limited to $1,500 for the quarter for all of the 4th quarter 5x categories, so it you have large expenses in those categories then keep that in mind. It may make sense to save the 5x for some of the other categories that are unique to the Freedom and use a different card for airfare purchases. The next detail is that according to the terms, the tickets must be purchased directly from the airlines to be eligible. Assuming that the terms are enforced as they are written, then that means that you will be forgoing two points per dollar by booking tickets through Travelocity on the Ultimate Rewards portal.
This card is worthy of it’s own topic since there is a promotion going on through 10/31 that offers 2x redeemable and elite qualifying miles on US Airways flights if you book a flight on the US Airways website and pay with the US Airways MasterCard. The same promotion offers 2x redeemable miles if you pay with any other MasterCard. This is 2x on the miles earned for the distance of the flight, plus the card always earns 2x on the purchase price of US Airways flights. So, if you purchase a $300 ticket that is for a total of 4,000 flown miles then the ticket would earn 600 miles for the purchase plus 8,000 miles for the distance flown. This would be in addition to any elite bonuses you may receive. If you don’t care about elite qualifying miles, you could pay with a Chase Freedom MasterCard and double-dip two awesome promos. Just make sure to register for the promo so you don’t miss out.
These cards are always in contention when discussing airline ticket purchases. Both of these cards provide 3x Membership Reward points for airline purchases. What is great about this option is that it can be paired with purchasing a ticket via Travelocity on the Ultimate Rewards portal for an additional 2 Ultimate Reward points. That means you are looking at a total of 5 points (3MR and 2UR) for the money spent on airline tickets.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card gives 2x on all travel purchases – this includes airfare. However, since it gives a 7% bonus on points earned each year, then that really means it is earning 2.14 points per dollar, which puts it ahead of the other cards that earn 2x on airfare.
Airline Specific Credit Cards:
Airline specific cards like the United Explorer Card, Citi AAdvantage Card, etc. typically offer 2x miles for airline tickets for their own specific airline. In some cases it is advertized that you must use the airline-specific cards in order to get the associated benefits like early boarding, free checked bags, etc. so it is also important to weigh those factors when deciding what card to use.
Meeting Minimum Spending Requirements:
Many of us also have other credit cards that we are working on hitting minimum spending limits on in order to trigger sign-up bonuses. For example, I am still working on the spending requirement for my Business SPG Amex, so it is tempting to put airline purchases on that to inch closer to the $5,000 threshold. However, that card does not provide any bonus for airfare, so it isn’t the ideal card to use in most situations. If I thought I needed to divert every single penny of purchases to that card in order to hit the minimum spending limit in time, then I would use that card for airline purchases (after going through the UR portal). Since my calculations show I will be able to hit the requirement without using it for airline tickets, I will instead put my airline tickets on other cards that will bring in more points for the purchase.
Those are some of the things to take into consideration when deciding which card to use, but I am sure there are other factors or offers in play for some. I’d love to hear what strategy you have for making your airline purchases for the next few months.
Disclosure: I do receive a commission for approved applications for some credit cards linked in this post. As always, your support is greatly appreciated.