Which credit card should I get? Probably the simplest question I don’t really see explained super simply. You have top 10 lists, or lists of credit cards… but the best credit card is some what subjective.
This is my solution to answering the question of what credit card to get simply. I’ll have links so you can dig in more, or the post itself explains most of what you need to know.
THE best credit card formula
I have a simple formula for the best card:
“Card bonus ÷ Cost in miles = x”
The first part is based on the credit card options, and the second is the amount of miles you need. This is actually pretty simple, so I’ll require you to click two links and quick figure out what it is you need to do.
Let me make these two steps as easy as possible.
- Use this miles calculator to figure out the price of where you want to go
- Use FM’s best credit card page
Then, again… “Card bonus ÷ Cost in miles = x”, and you want the highest number for “x”.
So the first link is a calculator that spits out the cheapest miles option. The second is FrequentMiler’s credit card bonus page, which is by far the best kept credit card page on the internet. It’s phenomenal… and while it’s not very self-serving, I end up sending people there to keep track of best offers.
Take the best mileage price and use it to divide best credit card bonuses.
For example: I looked at USA to Rome and found that AA off-peak has the cheapest miles at 20,000 AA miles. Then take the 50,000 AA mile credit card bonus and divide by 20,000… and you get 2.5. “x”, or “2.5” in this case, is the number of flights you can get.
The higher the number the better.
Additional links, considerations, and rules
Cheapest Miles Resources
Another way to determine the cheapest miles is to check out my “Cheapest Miles to…” series. I make a chart of all the miles options, and then break down discounts, stopovers, fuel surcharges and other details.
Here’s the series.
- Cheapest Miles to Hawaii
- Cheapest Miles to Europe
- Cheapest Miles to Caribbean
- Cheapest Miles to South America
- Cheapest Miles to East Asia
- Cheapest Miles to Australia & Oceania
- Cheapest Miles to India & Middle East
- Cheapest Miles to Africa
Fuel Surcharges are always bad
My short advice is to collect the following “safe” miles/points:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (which can transfer to United)
- United Miles
- AA Miles
- SPG points (which can transfer to AA @20,000:25,000)
The longer answer is to check out the Master Chart of Avoiding Fuel Surcharges.
This means you need to look at whose miles you are using and which partner airline you are redeeming your miles to fly on. If you’re flying to Asia using miles of a Star Alliance airline, you could fly on Singapore, ANA, Asiana and more.
If the airline isn’t listed, it probably does pass on fuel surcharges, and you should likely refer to the ITA column.
Details about the card
A few other things to consider regarding the card itself.
Does it have an annual fee the first year? All things being equal, why pay it?
What kind of credit score do you need to get a credit card? See this post if you’re new to this.
Can you get the card as a previous customer?
Understand that in some cases if you’ve had the card before you may not be eligible for the bonus. Just making sure your aware of that, here’s a post about it.
I want to keep it short so people don’t get inundated when thinking about the best card, and yet give links to give the full picture.
I really think this is the basic heart of it all.
“Card bonus ÷ Cost in miles” to figure out the most number of trips you can get. Use a calculator (or my Cheapest Miles To… series) to figure out the cost of miles, and FM’s credit card page to figure out the best credit card. And that’s basically going to tell you the best card in terms of number of free flights.
Then you need to make sure not to have fuel surcharges.
Those are the essentials of getting the best travel rewards card for your trip.