Top Ten Credit Cards for Travel, October 2014

There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.

  • For free luxury hotel stays and first class flights
  • To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford
  • To take your family on vacation
  • To visit home for the holidays
  • To earn big rewards for everyday spending

Whatever your reason for being here, there is a rewards card or cards that suit your needs.

Want Bed Head at 35k Feet? There's a Card for That

Want Bed Head at 35k Feet? There’s a Card for That

Since the start of last year, I’ve been to 30 countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:

  • Hiking the Great Wall of China with my brother
  • Straddling the line between North and South Korea
  • Watching dragons dance at the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
  • Eating more steak than anyone should in Brazil and Argentina
  • Cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Leading an “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” cheer in Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia
  • Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Eating Thai-hot Thai curry in Thailand at Thai prices
  • Biking in the Lake District of Patagonia in Bariloche, Argentina
  • Spending three days at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
  • Seeing Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Getting some home cooking from my mom who lives 5,000 miles away
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2013 Flights

If you don’t have the money to take your dream trips, the good news is that you don’t need much money. By maximizing the sign up bonuses on rewards cards, anyone with good credit can take a dream trip anywhere in the world.

  • How can you earn rewards for the trips of your dreams?
  • What are the best credit card offers for September 2014?
  • Which of the cards on the list expire in the next few days?

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Lufthansa MasterCard Now Offering 50k Bonus Miles for Two Free Roundtrips

The 50,000 mile bonus offer has returned on the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® from Barclaycard.

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The Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® now comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. After meeting the spending requirement, you’ll have enough Lufthansa Miles & More miles for a roundtrip in business class to Europe.

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We’ve seen the same bonus run three times in the last two years, and it has been overwhelmingly popular. The normal bonus on the card is only 20,000 miles.

On the earning side, I think every aspiring traveler should get the Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® for its:

  • sign up bonus
  • frequent targeted category bonuses
  • potential secondary spending bonus

Beyond the 55,000 miles you’ll get for spending $5,000 on the card in the first three months, occasionally the Lufthansa Miles & More card offers targeted category bonuses. For the first three months of 2014, I earned 3 miles per dollar at grocery stores with my Lufthansa card. Others were targeted for 6 miles per dollar.

And many of us also were offered 15k Bonus Lufthansa Miles for Spending $500 or $750 Per Month for Three Straight Months on the card.

With these promos, I earned over 73,000 Lufthansa miles on the card in less than a year.

On the redemption side, Lufthansa Miles & More miles can be used on any of the 27 Star Alliance airlines including United, Lufthansa, and Air New Zealand. There are three types of awards where Lufthansa miles shine:

  1. Mileage Bargains awards (30k miles roundtrip to Europe in economy, 55k miles roundtrip to Europe in Business Class)
  2. Awards without fuel surcharges (Alaska, Hawaii, domestic, Caribbean, Central America, and South America)
  3. Awards you can’t book with United miles (Lufthansa First Class more than 15 days in advance, Condor flights)

But the card is not for everyone. It depends on how you want to redeem the miles because for some awards, Lufthansa miles are a terrible value.

In this post, I will go in detail on the three classes of high value awards with tons of specific examples to show the best uses of the 50,000 mile sign up bonus.

This post is also a full primer of the Miles & More program for people who don’t know much about it and explains how to book online and by phone, two ways to save miles on a Miles & More booking, and comparisons between Miles & More and United MileagePlus.

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Bonus US Miles on Gas Stations, Dining, and Department Stores

Barclaycard sent me a targeted email because I have The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®. My email offers me 2 bonus miles (3x total) at gas stations, restaurants, department stores, toy stores, and game stores until December 31, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 5.44.20 PMCheck your email now for the subject line “Three easy ways to earn bonus miles.” In past promotions, US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® cardholders have been offered 2x to 10x bonus miles, so you may have a higher earning rate than me.

  • How can you activate the bonus categories?
  • What’s the cap on bonus miles earned during the promotion?
  • Will the US Airways card crack the Three Cards in My Wallet?

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How to Get 1.52 LifeMiles Per Dollar on All Purchases

Update: Mileage sale extended until 10/3/14.

Today (September 30, 2014) is the last day that you can get 1.52 Avianca LifeMiles on all purchases by using your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®.

This is a big flipping deal!

The Arrival Plus is already the most valuable card for economy redemptions since its 2 miles per dollar on all purchases and 10% rebate on all travel redemptions means you effectively get 2.28% back toward flights on any airline with no blackouts. This technique–which dies today–makes the Arrival Plus also the best all-around card for business and first class redemptions.

The technique in this post is an incredible way to turn Arrival miles, which are worth a fixed 1.14 cents each, into traditional airline miles that can be used for valuable international business and first class itineraries.

Now Get into Beds, like United Global First, with Arrival Miles

To me, the technique in this post makes the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® much more valuable because no other card earns 1.52 traditional airline miles on all purchases, and the LifeMiles award chart offers tons of great values for premium cabin awards on Star Alliance partners like:

Maybe you’ve never heard of LifeMiles, but they are actually fantastic for international awards. The only reason they’re not better known is because they’re normally hard to obtain.

LifeMiles awards never contain fuel surcharges, just government taxes plus a $25 award booking fee. You can book all 27 Star Alliance airline with LifeMiles.

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Getting more than one-and-a-half miles per dollar on such a great award chart is quite a deal, and that deal ends today.

  • How can you get 1.52 LifeMiles per dollar on all Arrival Plus purchases?
  • How can you book LifeMiles awards?
  • What are the highest value LifeMiles awards?
  • Is earning 1.52 LifeMiles per dollar better than 2 Arrival miles per dollar?

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Since I Met Minimum Spends I Carry Three Cards

Don’t try to optimize your credit card strategy for every last mile. I only carry three cards right now.

About two weeks ago, I made a large deposit in my Kiva account to meet the minimum spending requirement on my Citi Executive American Airlines card.

That spending unlocked 100,000 bonus miles (offer now dead), so for three months I had been putting all my spending on the Executive card.

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Now that I am not clearing any sign up bonuses, though, I have taken the Executive card out of my wallet. Its 1 American Airlines mile per dollar on day-to-day spending doesn’t entice me when I have several cards that earn a higher return. I’ll put the card back in my wallet whenever I travel for the free American Airlines lounge access that came with the card’s $450 annual fee.

In the Executive Card’s place, I have put three cards in my wallet that come close to optimizing all my spending while keeping things very simple for me. This is the balance I advocate instead of “optimizing” your credit card strategy to earn every last mile at the expense of cluttering your wallet and brain.

  • What three cards are in my wallet?
  • What is the benefit of each card?
  • How many more miles could I earn by adding more cards to my wallet?

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