Credit card rewards aren’t just points and miles. Most of the major card issuers can get you cash or travel rewards, but some pay in their own “proprietary” currency, as well. You’ve probably heard of them: American Express has Membership Rewards (MR) points; Citibank has ThankYou points (TYP); Chase has Ultimate Rewards (UR). The rationale behind it is simple. Instead of getting miles that can be used on just one airline, proprietary points can often be exchanged for rewards from any one of a number of travel providers.
Why Having Proprietary Points Helps
Certain providers are more generous than others when it comes to handing out points and bonuses. Chase is better than Citi, who is better than American Express. Membership rewards points may transfer to the most partners, but Amex is stingiest about handing out bonuses and the points are worth the least of the big three. Nevertheless, you may find yourself in need of them.
Alliances Don’t Always Get The Job Done
Most major global airlines are in one of the major alliances.* Partnerships allow them to get passengers to more locations at a lower cost by sharing space on different flights. For example, SkyTeam can get you from New York to Nice without a direct flight. Delta can get you to Paris and its Air France partner will complete the journey.
Alliances also work with miles. Typically you can earn and redeem for one member of an alliance with any of its partners. So for that flight to Nice, you could earn Delta miles for both legs, even though the second one is not on a Delta airplane.
But it’s not always that easy. Over time, airlines have become increasingly stingy about giving out award inventory, particularly first or business class, to their alliance partners. It won’t do you much good to have a United credit card, for instance, if your ultimate goal is to fly First Class on its partner Singapore, since the latter won’t let you fly up front with miles from the former.
That’s where credit card points come in. You may not have any Singapore miles lying around, but points from any of the three major credit card programs can be transferred to their program, allowing you to fly to Asia in style. Points from one of those card companies will get you into a first class seat on just about any major carrier, domestic or international. Not satisfied with just a seat? Why not use miles to get your own residence at 30,000 feet, then? You probably don’t have a lot of Etihad points, but you can pick them up by transferring in from American Express or Citibank.
Need more seat envy? Check out this guide from Yahoo on how to get into some of the most premium seats out there. If nothing else, it’s a few minutes of vicarious luxury.
*Beginner’s Hint: The three major airline alliances are Oneworld, Star and SkyTeam.
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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!