Are Airline or Travel Rewards Credit Cards the Better Deal?

By Jason Steele. Last updated 9 August 2016. 0 comments

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There is a battle underway for a place in the wallets of credit card users who value travel rewards. In one corner are the traditional airline credit cards, which offer frequent flyer miles, as well as perks and benefits when traveling with a particular airline.

Putting up a great fight against these traditional airline cards are the new crop of general travel rewards cards. These travel reward cards are not associated with a single airline. Rather, they offer points and miles that are worth a fixed amount toward travel reservations, or they can offer points that can be transferred to miles with several different airlines, and even hotels, allowing more flexibility when redeeming rewards for travel.

The best travel rewards card for you depends on your travel preferences.

The Current State of Airline Credit Cards

It wasn't that long ago that frequent flyer miles were like gold. Airlines published award charts, and travelers simply had to accumulate enough miles and then redeem them for the flights they wanted. And when miles were redeemed for expensive flights in business class, or reservations with little advance notice, it was possible to receive tremendous value from these miles.

But now, airlines have devalued their miles by raising the number of miles needed for award seats, and by reducing the number of award seats available. However, these airline credit cards attract frequent flyers by offering an array of perks and benefits that save money and time, and provide comfort and convenience. These benefits include a free checked bag, priority boarding, in-flight discounts, access to airport lounges, and more.

These cards make sense for travelers who are committed to flying a single airline, are flexible with travel times, and can use the additional benefits. Flying frequently with that airline will rack up miles faster than using another credit card because of the extra bonus points.

The Case for General Travel Reward Cards

For those who travel infrequently, or like to have flexibility in which airline they fly, the more general travel rewards cards will work better. Whether it's a card that can transfer points to various airline partners, or a card that simply offers a statement credit for any travel purchase, users won't get stuck with sold-out award seats or overpriced ones.

Finally, these general travel reward cards are more likely to offer bonus points or miles for non-travel categories, so infrequent travelers can still rack up points for everyday purchases.

Bottom Line

By examining your travel habits and the way you like to redeem your miles, the right kind of travel rewards credit card for your needs will become clear. (See also: Use this Guide to Choose the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card for You)

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