The One Guaranteed Way You Can Still Earn Rewards Flights

Hint: Has nothing to do with flying

August 18, 2016 9:00 am

August 1st was a momentous day for frequent flyers: American Airlines became the last of the major carriers to switch to a revenue-based system for awarding points. That’s good news for business and first-class fliers: spend more money, get more points.

But it’s terrible for anyone in economy — or anyone who lucked into a good deal: spend less, get less. Luck into a cheap ticket to Japan, and what would have been a points bonanza — Japan is far! — might not net you much more than a pricy domestic ticket. American even rubbed some salt in the wound just last week by further cutting points accrual on some of its partner flights. Grousing has come from all corners of the frequent-flying Internet (sample headline: “10 Reasons I’m Considering Breaking Up With American“).

So what’s the solution? 

In an interview with industry journal Skift, Brian “The Points Guy” Kelly says the news is, indeed, bad. But not apocalyptic. That’s because passengers still have a compelling way to accumulate points — it’s just not in an airplane cabin. The new game: points-allocating credit cards. These days, more points accrue from cards than flights.  

For what it’s worth, Kelly told us last year that his card of choice is the Chase Sapphire Card. Still loyal to American? You want an AAdvantage/Citi card or their Aviator from Barclaycard. Chase offers a MileagePlus card for United, while Delta pairs with Amex for its SkyMiles credit card. Each one provides some mix of points, free bags and priority boarding. 

The game isn’t over, but the way to win has changed. Keep up, and you’ll do fine. As Kelly noted, he just flew Singapore Airline’s Suite Class for $23.

You just have to be a little bit smarter.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.