When it comes to airline miles, it’s best to narrow it down to just a few programs. Before you start signing up for credit card bonuses, it’s critical to ask what your goals are.
Do you only travel with your family of 4 ( or more) and are looking to fly during holidays or peak periods?
If so, look into Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card ( bonus is currently increased to 50,000 points) or cards that earn Ultimate Rewards, like Chase Sapphire Preferred, a transfer partner.
You may also consider getting Amex Premier Rewards Gold card if you can get a targeted offer of 50,000 points. They transfer to Jet Blue and Virgin America programs, schemes similar to Southwest, where you are guaranteed to be able to use your points.
Other options are Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard (bonus redeemable for travel) and Citi Thank You Premier Visa. With the last one your points go farther when used for airfare. Full disclosure: All of the above mentioned cards pay me commission and you can read more about them in my “Best credit card deals for family” page.
My reader Jason has brought up a valid point that getting the sign-up bonuses is the easy part. Redeeming them for family, that’s where the challenge lies. I agree, and if you fall in the above mentioned group and get easily frustrated by traditional mileage programs, you will be better off sticking with those type of sign-up bonuses.
What if you do have a fair amount of flexibility?
Are you looking to get enough miles to visit Europe in the off-season between October 15th- May 15th (at a cost of 40,000 miles in economy) or Caribbean in the fall for 25,000 miles ? Do you live in Midwest or on the West coast? In that case your choice should be Citi AAdvantage cards.
If your plan is to get enough miles to fly short non-stop routes on American Airlines, and you have some flexibility, you should probably go with Chase British Airways Visa (pays commission) or bonuses that involve Ultimate Rewards, SPG or Membership Rewards (all are transfer partners).
I have covered some of the best uses of that program in my post HERE I love Avios, the most misunderstood and underrated currency among miles and points haters.
Many people will prefer to focus on just one program, and that is perfectly fine. Personally, I like to focus on several to accomplish different goals. Let me show you an example.
In a few months I plan to burn a ton of miles for a visit to Europe next summer. I hope to get several tickets using AAdvantage miles and the rest using British Airways Avios.
We may have 9 people going to Europe and there is no way we can get that many seats on the same flight. That’s why we will have to split up in 2 or possibly 3 groups.
With BA Avios we will need to fly on Air Berlin from Fort Myers to Munich (via Dusseldorf) for 29,500 miles per one-way ticket. It’s one of only few partners, where BA program does not tack on ridiculous fuel surcharge fees.
The second group will fly on whatever we’ll find available via AAdvantage for 30,000 miles per one-way ticket (minus 3,000 rebate through Citi AAdvantage Visa). AAdvantage does not impose fuel surcharges on their own flights.
We will also need some flights within Europe from Munich to Naples. For that I hope to use BA Avios, because it costs only 4500 miles one-way and the tax is relatively low. Currently there are direct flights on Air Berlin, a partner. We most likely won’t find 9 award seats, and will just pay for some with cash.
I will also buy some tickets on one of European discount carriers to Vilnius, Lithuania (a short drive to my hometown in Belarus), since no major airlines fly there. Only my husband, myself and our kids will be flying, with the rest of the group going their separate way.
Always check the prices on other airlines before redeeming your miles, especially within Europe, where there are many discount carriers like Easyjet and Ryanair.
After visiting my parents, we will book flights to Dublin on one of discount carriers and spend two nights there. For our flights back to USA, Avios will be utilized once again. I hope to redeem miles for a flight from Dublin to Orlando on Aer Lingus at a cost of 25000 miles per one way ticket, with no fuel surcharges.
If the flight from Dublin to Orlando is not available, we will probably redeem for Dublin-Boston route (12,500 miles per person) and spend one night there.
Then, when Southwest schedule opens up, I will book one-way tickets from Boston to Tampa the next day.
So, you can see how one trip to Europe will possibly utilize all three airline programs. Each will serve its own purpose. Of course, finding availability for all 9 people is a whole another story! Stay tuned for that one.
If you liked my post, please subscribe to receive free blog updates through email and recommend me to your family and friends. You can also follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook and download my e-book on Amazon
Maps provided courtesy of gcmap.com website.
Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.