Brand new, looking for CC offers advice

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Credit Cards' started by thrashsoundly, Apr 8, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. thrashsoundly
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    thrashsoundly Silver Member

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    Hi everyone! Been reading MP discussions for a few days now and think this is great!
    I am soliciting advice on getting into the mileage offers through CCs, and after reading some threads, I'm trying to decide which ones are the best for me.

    First some background:
    I'm not by any means wealthy. I work full time in scientific research while trying to finish a Master's degree. My wife is in the journalism industry, which also contributes to our not being wealthy. With that said, CC offers that have bonuses after spending somthing like $10K in 6 months are out of the question for us. We just don't have or spend that kind of money.
    I have traveled quite a bit. When I was a kid. I was lucky enough to travel the world with my family because of my Dad's business. Over the last few years I've traveled a few times a year for personal and business (U.S. destinations) which has racked me up a bunch of "useless" SkyMiles (home airport is SLC).
    I'm not in a position to travel frequently in the forseeable future, so getting Elite status on airlines isn't a priority. However, in addition to a couple to few US trips a year - every 2-3 years or so, I'd like to be able to take a longer overseas trip with my wife via award travel. Desired destinations include Helsinki, Capetown, Singapore among others. Went back to Auckland last May and thoroughly loved it (not award travel - hence newbie).

    So the questions:
    If I sign up for CC offer and get 100K miles for example on the recent Chase BA offer, is there a mileage expiration? For example, if I get the card now, can I still use the miles 2-3 years from now? I imagine this varies by alliance or airline, but does anyone know?

    Are there usually any penalties for canceling a card immediately after getting the bonus miles?

    What is the best hotel loyalty program to use if most of my travel is infrequent US based trips with a "big" trip every couple of years? I rarely spend big bucks on top hotels, although I have been able to in the last few years through business travel. I am willing to go fancy if I can use awards for it. It seems like the Chase PC Visa is a good idea, but it seems like most everyone on here loves using the SPG Amex card. Maybe it is better for frequent business travelers in larger cities?

    Thanks in advance for advice. Ready, go!
     
  2. wombat18
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    wombat18 Silver Member

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    Welcome aboard, Mr. Soundly! Lots of questions, and others will offer their answers too.

    A couple of things immediately come to mind. Many credit cards are tied tighter to the specific airline than others. For instance, one of the reason why the AmEx SPG card is so popular is that you can transfer SPG points to a whole bunch of airlines. The Chase BA offer (which is a good'un, except for the huge fuel surcharge that BA adds to your 'free' ticket ...) is more or less tied to BA. Some airlines let you transfer miles - either directly, such as United and Continental, while others can be funneled through an intermediary (often with horrendous lose of currency).

    Some airlines have expiration on their miles (often as low as 18 month). In that time, you'll need to earn or burn some miles and there's often easy ways to do that (keeping the card being the easiest!) such as shopping online at particular merchants (see evreward.com for an easy way to see the airlines from which you can get miles at your favorite online shop).

    Over time, your miles will devalue. While airlines describe these changes to their program as 'enhancements', they almost always see the number of miles required to get a particular award go up and never down.

    p.s. I bet you'll love Helsinki!
     
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  3. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    Welcome to MilePoint!

    One general piece of advice I can give you is read a lot, learn a lot, maybe even try a few things. But always decide what's best for you - which may be very different than what's best for someone else.

    In particular, keep in mind that a lot of folks here are mostly concerned with gaining elite status and with collecting miles for first class/business trips overseas. If your goals are different, then don't be afraid to go against the "conventional wisdom".
    When I got into the miles game seriously a year ago, I believed all I heard that Delta miles are worthless. But then I found some use/value for my Delta miles AND I found that Delta miles were easy/cheap for me to acquire. I'm not recommending that you pursue Delta miles above all others. I'm encouraging to keep an open mind and see what's best for you, especially since you live in a Delta hub.

    Expiration varies from airline to airline. Someone may have a list. Do take the time to learn the basic policies of any airline before you apply for their credit card. And keep in mind that there are simple ways to keep miles from expiring with any airlines (buying something small from their shopping mall, etc.) But you do need to keep track of your miles and their expiration. fortunately there are lots of programs like awardwallet that can help with this. (see ConcourseZ at the bottom of the forum list)

    One thing very nice about the PC Visa is that 60,000 miles gives you platinum status. You can then get a matching status with some other hotel chains. I used my PC status to get status with Best Western, Carlson and Choice. As you can see, I don't spend time in the top hotels, either.

    I have the SPG card, but it is not my favorite as I am also not a big spender. Most of miles come form bonuses, not from spending. Again, don't be afraid to choose the cards that work best for you.

    Some credit cards have requirements to keep the card open for six months or so. Since you won't have to pay a fee for a year, there really is no reason to cancel too soon, in my opinion.

    Good luck!

    P.S. I also encourage you to be patient. Jump on a great deal when it's available for you. But remember that there will always be other great deals available in the future.
     
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  4. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    Welcome and enjoy!!

    One card that I find extremely effective is the AMEX premier rewards card. Usually you get a good sign up bonus, plus more points if you hit spending targets each year. Whats nice about the amex premier rewards card, is that you get multipliers when purchases airfare (3x) and groceries/gas gets a multiplier. If you book travel through amex.com/travel, you get an additional 2x points, so for airfare or vacations through amex.com you could get a 5x multiplier.

    In my mind the best benefit of the amex card is that you can use points to buy airfare, or transfer points to various freq. flyer programs and get 1 mile for each point you transfer. There is no alliance limitation and theres a nice variety of airlines to transfer points to. Like BA, virgin, El Al etc. Occasionally an airline will give bonus points for moving points to their ff program. Recently BA was offering a 40% miles bonus for points transferred to BA's FF program.

    To me its the most flexible and "point effective" card that is fairly gimmick free, unlike some of the more traditional credit cards.
     
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  5. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    Welcome to MP. You will find a lot of valuable information here.

    If I can add a few things that might be interesting.
    1. Even with miles expiring there are numerous ways that most miles can be extended. There is the IDine which will get you a few points so that the account stays active. Often there are bonus' that will extend the life of miles / points. So don't get fixated on miles expiration.
    2. As for meeting spend thresholds, there are ways to help that. If you look around, you will find plenty of information. Coins is one way that many people have used. There is also Amazon Payments and now Serve that can help. So again, don't dismiss a very good card due to the minimum purchase.
    3. You may want to look at www.frugaltravelguy.com . He has lots of ideas. Also check out www.freefrequentflyermiles.com .
    4. As for canceling a card, you should wait at least 6 months. There is no reason not to. Also, some banks have a "claw back" where they pull back miles if the account is not open that long.

    Hope these suggestions help.
     
  6. in respect of hotel loyalty programs, I think IHG ( Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood, Staybridge, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental) provides a good opportunity, they have over 4000 properties worldwide, the largest hotel group by the number of properties and they have about six brands in their range, and provide good bonus point earning opportunities. You can also earn gold and platinum status relativeley quickly which will get you upgrades etcThat is if you're budgeting you can stay at reasonable properties and earn good points, and if you're on business, and someone else is paying the tab, hopefully you can also accrue the points, and then you may want to splurge utilising those points on the Points Break 5000 points stays which represent very good value. Pretty attractive flexibility with Priority Club. All the best with your travelling quest.
     
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  7. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    A few random comments since you mentioned DL miles: If possible, concentrate your miles (including those from credit cards, etc. unless you travel/spent a lot) on one airline. DL has recently announced that their miles don't expire. If you travel DL and have a DL AmEx card of any color, you and every travelling companion (up to 9) on the same reservation can check a bag for free. However, if you decide to apply for a DL AmEx card, wait and look around for a good offer, some of which unfortunately seem to be targeted. Then be sure you document the offer you used when you apply--keep any email, print the web pages and application pages or take and save screenshots of everything--because people have had a lot of problems with promised miles not appearing (only miles from the worst standard offer) until they sent in their documentation. Of course, read the T&C carefully as some special offers require on-line application and spending when the card is received.

    Welcome to MP.
     
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  8. SgtPeppers
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    SgtPeppers Silver Member

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    Thank you for explaining this, I never really understood why people are so much into SPG even though many don't stay there. Now this makes a lot of sense.

    Online shopping? Is that ever a good deal? I have looked at some and it always seems like I will be paying more if I do online shopping with UA or AA or the likes.

    Enhancements? Like the one UA-CO merger has brought?
     
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  9. thrashsoundly
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    thrashsoundly Silver Member

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    Thanks so much for the replies with your hints and suggestions. All of this information is like drinking from a fire hose, but I'm really excited about it all. Like I mentioned, I was lucky to travel the world several times as a kid when we lived in SE Asia (my dad worked for a shipping business). Previous to learning more about award travel, I was consigned to the fact that I may never see the world again in my lifetime, but this is a definite game changer which makes me extremely happy.
     
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  10. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    There is no reason why you can't gather a few hundred thousand miles each year from credit cards and other deals. So, yes it is totally attainable to travel the world for cheap again. thumbs-up.gif
    And on this bulletin board you'll find lots of folks with similar goals. Enjoy!
     
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  11. SgtPeppers
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    SgtPeppers Silver Member

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    Count me as one. Trying to see the world for free/cheap. ;) [​IMG]
     
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  12. unroadwarrior
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    unroadwarrior Silver Member

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  13. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    :D

    As one makes one's choices and moves forward; the experience becomes less so.;)
     
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  14. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    It's all about what YOU want! Right now, Hilton is it for me because they have the hotels I've always wanted to stay in:). But 10 years from now, much of my travel will be back to the city where I grew up. Choice will become the number #1 program for me on down the road.;)
     
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