I already have the SPG AMEX, which I think is the best travel credit card out there. You get 1 point/$1 for everyday purchases. You get an additional 2 points/$1 for stays at SPG properties (W, Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridian, Four Points and more). If you are Gold or Platinum SPG member, you get 3 points/$1 instead of 2 points for stays at SPG properties. You can earn Gold status at SPG by spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. A SPG night redemption runs around 10,000 points for a decent property. So that’s about a $200 return for $10,000 spent on the card. Not only that, the SPG AMEX allows you to transfer points to airlines miles at a 1:1 point to mile ratio, with a 5000 miles bonus for every 20,000 points transferred to miles. So if you transfer 20,000 points to an airline mileage account, you would get 25,000 miles, usually good for a free domestic flight. The card has an annual fee of $45 that is far less than the annual fees of airline cards, which run about $75-$100. Lastly, I think SPG is the best hotel program out there and hotel points are far better than airline miles.
However, there have been 2 recent airline card offers that have been tempting, but not sure if its worth the hassle.
Firstly, the British Airways Visa Signature Card. What’s so special about this card? Well not much but the current promotion is probably the best signup promotion I’ve seen yet. You get 50,000 miles for your first purchase on the card and then another 50,000 miles if you spend $2000 in first 3 months, which is easily doable. That’s a total of 100,000 miles, which gets you 2 free transatlantic flights from the US to Western Europe in economy. You also get a free companion voucher valid for 2 years for spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. The downside of the card? First, the annual fee is $75. Also, personally I don’t ever fly British Airways and I don’t fly any of the airlines in One World, which includes American Airlines. Star Alliance is probably the best airlines alliance out there especially now that Continental has defected over to them from Sky Team.
Speaking of Star Alliance, this brings me to the 2nd card on my mind: the Asiana AMEX from Bank of America. You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on the card, which literally unheard of for airline credit cards. Although the card has an annual fee of $99 this offset by the fact that the card offers an $100 annual rebate towards the purchase of Asiana Airlines ticket. You also get a 10,000 Bonus miles Certificate every year in the month of your anniversary date of the card. This is good towards a choice of an international or Korea domestic air ticket, a seat class upgrade or an excess bag allowance. But its use it or lose it annually. Also, there are a couple great things about Asiana Airlines. First, as I alluded to before, Asiana is a part of Star Alliance, which consists of 25 member airlines such as United, Continental, US Airways, Lufthansa, BMI, Air China, ANA, and Singapore Airlines. Below is the Asiana Star Alliance award ticket redemption chart:
This redemption policy also allows you to redeem a one-way ticket instead being forced to redeem a roundtrip. Additionally, another great thing about Asiana is their favorable status qualification. See my previous post about this. Basically you just need 40,000 miles in 2 years to get Star Alliance Gold (Asiana Diamond). This doesn’t have to be on Asiana but you can use any miles flown on Star Alliance partners for status qualification. In contrast, you need to fly 50,000 miles with United in one calendar year to get Star Alliance Gold (United Premier Executive). Recently, after hitting 1K with United, I’ve been banking all my United miles to my Asiana account.
So what’s the verdict? If you are willing to deal with getting the BA Visa and then canceling after 3 months, the $75 annual fee is definitely worth the 2 round trip tickets to Western Europe. If you fly Star Alliance frequently, especially to Asia, and don’t have any other credit cards with an annual fee, then I think making the Asiana AMEX your primary credit card is a great deal. If none of these sound appealing enough, do look at the SPG AMEX.