From Kim Ness: “You have written in the past (via a printed medium) about frequent flyer programs where you can earn extra miles by using a certain credit card or long distance carrier. But I cannot recall the logic you used to explain when, if ever, it makes sense to use a credit card that charges an annual fee, instead of using a non-fee card that provides no flyer miles. Could you write about that? I am constantly getting offers that entice me… but so far I haven’t succumbed.”
The miles are worth about 2 cents each to most people, though it varies greatly based on how you travel.
- If you sometimes have to buy full fare tickets for last-minute trips, or wish you could, they’re worth a nickel. Likewise if you fly business class to Europe — now you can buy a super-cheap economy ticket and use 40,000 miles (typically) to upgrade, saving $2,000 — a nickel a mile.
- If you cash them in foolishly, they’re worth just a penny.
- And if it takes you five years to accumulate enough points to cash them in, you need to remember that 2 cents five years from now isn’t worth as much as 2 cents today.
So . . . if you figure you charge $2,000 a year, for which you get 2,000 miles, that’s $40 worth of miles, versus a $50 fee (or whatever) — forget it. But if you charge $20,000 a year, say, then it’s a no-brainer. You want the miles.