Q&A: Frequent flier cards

Dear Liz: I have an airline credit card but I find it really hard to use the frequent flier miles I get. The “free” flights have gotten more expensive (they take more miles) and harder to find. I’m getting sick of paying an annual fee for nothing. Would I be better off with a cash-back card?

Answer: Good cash-back rewards cards typically offer rebates of 1% to 2% on most purchases, and some have rotating categories that offer rebates of 5% to 6%. If you’re not an elite frequent flier or trying to amass miles for a special trip, then putting most of your spending on a cash-back card can make sense.

Think twice about closing that airline card, though. It likely offers some perks worth keeping, such as free checked bags and priority boarding. If you take one or two flights a year, the card may pay for itself.

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  1. Liz……Another major benefit of our Citi AAdvantage Platinum Level card is the trip cancellation benefit of up to $5,000 per person……We had to cancel a short cruise last October at the last minute because of an illness……We had not taken out travel cancellation insurance, but Citi reimbursed us for all of our expenses……Good to know…

    • Liz Weston says

      I love that feature. I have something similar with two of our Chase cards. When our daughter got sick the day before a trip, Chase promptly reimbursed us for our nonrefundable tickets. Now I book all travel with them.

  2. I agree about keeping the airline card for its possible perks, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I like the cash-back cards rather than jump through hoops trying to use air miles. Last year, I got many hundreds of dollars back, often by putting regular expenses on the card(s), but always paying the bill off in full every month. I also like Discover, a card that allows you to take either cash back or to shop through their portal, getting an extra cash-back percentage or getting a gift card at a discount, such as getting a $50 card for only $40.