Help! I’m starting to fly more, where do I start? #AskTPS
TPS reader Simone messaged me to find out where to begin with her airline strategy. Whether you’re starting to travel more for work or pleasure, there are several things to keep in mind before booking your flights.
I am starting to fly more across the country and do not have a frequent flyer account or a credit card with miles/points. What do you recommend for a beginner as far as airlines to use and credit cards with mileage points?
Simone brings up two very important questions – how to decide on an airline and an accompanying credit card as a beginner. Let’s start with the airline choice…
- Always be signed up for the airline’s frequent flyer program so that you can receive miles from the airline and the rewards from your credit card – it’s a double win!
- Try to be brand loyal whenever possible – it’s better to have 20,000 miles from one airline vs. 5,000 miles from four airlines.
- Decide which airline offers the most convenient routes and times based on where you live or where you like to go. For example, if you live in Atlanta or New York City, you’ll probably have the most options with Delta vs. if you live in San Francisco, Virgin America is a popular option.
- If your flight options for a particular trip across multiple airlines are close in fare, be willing to pay a few extra bucks to stick with the same airline vs. another as it will be worth it to continue receiving points from the same airline and the potential frequent flyer status you will receive after continued loyalty.
- Always start your booking with the new Google Flights tool – it’s the quickest and easiest tool to compare flights on the whim. You can also save a flight combination so that you can keep an eye on the price.
- If you’ve got multiple cities to touch in one trip, always check to see if a multi-city reservation is cheaper than booking multiple one-way tickets. For example, say you have to go from New York to Detroit to Atlanta, and then back home to New York. Typically, the fare of booking all flights together as a multi-city ticket will be significantly less than booking separate round-trip tickets.
For Simone’s second question on how to choose the perfect credit card, it’s a much more complex decision based on many factors.
- Decide what’s important to you. Every card has a unique reward method – cash back, points, miles…it can be difficult to decide. I personally value travel rewards more, so I’m partial to cards that pay offer points/miles, except for my Uber spend.
- Popular Travel Miles Cards: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Barclaycard Arrival Plus
- Popular Cash Back Cards: Citi Double Cash, Chase Freedom, Capital One Quicksilver
- Popular Airline Cards: Delta SkyMiles Card, United MileagePlus Explorer, AAdvantage Credit Card
- Evaluate each card signup bonus and what they are worth to you. Delta has a great deal throughout June for new members of their SkyMiles by American Express card.
- Know your credit score. If you have not already yet, sign up for Credit Karma to check the health of your score. Credit Karma is one of the few programs that actually offers a no strings attached credit score and it updates every week. It’s important to only apply for cards that are recommended for others in your score range. If you fall outside of the recommended range, you still may be approved but think twice if it’s worth the inquiry to your credit report. If you are denied, always call the bank to understand why and if there’s anything you can provide that will influence their decision. If you are denied even after calling, it’s totally ok…find a different card that will give you a higher chance of approval and then try again for the card you really wanted in 6 months.
- 750+: Excellent Credit
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (Travel/Points)
- Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express (Cash Back)
- Citi Double Cash Card (Cash Back…obviously)
- 700-750: Good
- Chase Freedom (Cash Back)
- Discover it (Cash Back)
- 640-700: Average
- Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard (Travel/Miles)
- Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card (Cash Back)
- 580-640: Fair
- Capital One Secured MasterCard
- <580: Poor
- 750+: Excellent Credit
Thanks for the question, Simone! As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider. Hopefully this helps with your upcoming flights – have a great trip!
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