Flexible Point Earning Credit Cards USA Edition And Best Uses For Eco-Travelers

This is the 3rd part in my reference guide series of USA based credit cards and the best uses for eco-travelers.  Please see my other two guides for more details.

Airline Mileage earning credit cards (and some basic info and a glossary)

Hotel Point earning credit cards


There are several options for Americans to earn flexible points that will transfer to a variety of airline and hotel programs, but the main two of interest to eco-travelers will be Chase’s Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.  Amex also has a similar program in Australia so if you live there, please visit this post.  Of the USA based programs, I feel that Ultimate Rewards have the best options for eco-travelers so I will start there.


These come in personal version (Sapphire and Freedom) and the business versions (Ink series).  Chase cards are usually not churnable for the same product but you can get one of each card as long as you can convince Chase to give you a sufficient credit limit to qualify for the card.   The screenshots below are from Chase’s website and may not represent the best offer on the market.  You should always check the Flyertalk MileBuzz forum as new deals get posted there pretty quickly when they come out.  The Ultimate Rewards points are only transferable to airlines and hotels with the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards.  The other cards earn you points that you can spend for travel in the Ultimate Rewards Mall.  Transfer partners are United Airlines, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Hyatt Hotels, Priority Club Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Ritz Carlton Hotels and Amtrak.

Of these, the best options are United Airlines for Star Alliance Awards and British Airways for short-haul Avios awards.  More details can be found on this page as to redemption ideas.





Like Chase’s cards, Amex cards also come in personal and business versions.  They have a wide range of products and it is best to see their website for the latest offers and features of each card.  Amex’s website is very detailed and too long to screenshot the whole thing so I will provide the main details on the personal cards and direct you to their website to see Amex Business Cards.   Flyertalk has extensive information about these cards in their own forum and new deals also tend to be posted in MileBuzz so always check there before applying for a card.  Also be on the lookout for transfer bonuses such as the recent 30% bonus to British Airways Avios.

See the Membership Rewards page for a complete overview of the program and these pages for a complete list of transfer partners.  Page 1, Page 2.

The best options for eco-travelers would be Delta for use on Skyteam awards or British Airways for use on short-haul Avios.  Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic can also be useful for redeeming on Virgin Australia.  Qantas is a partner but the award cost is higher than using Delta to Australia.  Be careful when transferring to any of the European and Asian airlines as they often have huge fuel surcharges even when redeeming on partner airlines.  Singapore Airlines is good for Air New Zealand redemptions between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands such as RarotongaAmex1 Amex2 Amex3 Amex4


There are some credit cards that earn points that you spend within the bank’s program on travel.  You can’t transfer them to airline miles or hotel points but you can use them to purchase travel from their affiliated travel agent.  These are not usually a great value unless there is a huge signup bonus.  If you have exhausted all the mileage earning cards and flexible point cards and are looking for somewhere to put your everyday spend, you may want to consider a 2% cash back card.  Many of these have no annual fee but there may be restrictions on how you get your cash back so be sure to read the T&Cs of the program.  Here are a few links to look at, but as always, check on FlyerTalk for any special deals that may be posted.

FlexPerks – US Bank

ThankYou Rewards – Citibank

Venture Rewards – Capital One

WorldPoints – Bank of America

Discover Card


This is just a VERY brief summary of what’s available.  Signup offers change very quickly so you always need to do your homework to make sure you get the best offer.  Take into account your ability to meet the minimum spend to get the bonus miles.  The odds are you will see some credit card offers in my advertising sidebar that will be directed to you based on your physical location.  I have no control over what ads you see.  Clicking on them helps me and the blog and a purchase or credit application is not required for me to get credit.  Please feel free to ask me any questions here in the comments of this post.



Mileage Earning Credit Cards USA Edition And Best Uses For Eco-Travelers


***Disclaimer:  This is going to be a reference post about the many opportunities available for Americans.  Due to the heavy competition between credit providers and airlines, Americans are blessed with unequaled chances to acquire huge amounts of frequent flyer miles and hotel points simply by applying for credit cards.  I know there is a lot of controversy about referral links from bloggers so I want to assure you that I do not have any referral agreement with any credit provider.  I do have Google ads down the right side and you may be presented with ads from credit providers at random which may be a good deal so I would suggest read the ad, compare it with all other offers for the same credit card, then if you are satisified the ad is the best deal, I would appreciate if you click through this site to apply for the card.  I have no way of knowing which ads are provided as they will vary based on your physical location.

All links on this page go to the airline’s credit card information page.  These may or may not be the best offer available.  So learn how to fish!  Fishing CC


You’ve all heard the saying “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime”?  Learning how to use credit card sign-up bonuses to get free or almost free airline tickets and hotel rooms is basically like learning to fish.  You will need to know how to choose an airline based on your destination and be familiar with the credit cards they offer, then know where to look to get the best deal.  You also need to know your credit score to see if you will qualify for these lucrative sign up bonuses.   Before signing up for a credit card, you need to be a person who can manage credit and pay your bills on time and preferably the full amount so you don’t incur interest.  Most people have enough daily expenses such as food, gas, utilities, travel expenses, clothing, etc that if they route everything through a mileage earning card, they can make the minimum spend requirements and continue to accrue miles every month.  Always check the ever-changing master credit card thread on FlyerTalk for more recent information.  Also see the Glossary at the bottom of this page for terms that you will encounter while applying for mileage earning credit cards.

***These offers are available only to US citizens or permanent residents with a Social Security Number (SSN) and excellent credit scores***



Use one or more of these options to get your credit score.  Everyone has three credit scores, one from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.

Annual Credit Report – Free once every 12 months.

Credit Karma – Free, no credit card required, based on TransUnion.

Credit Sesame – Free, no credit card required, based on Experian.

Equifax Score card – $15.95 but you can get a free one with Annual Credit Report




American Airlines – AAdvantage

Issued by Citibank

Sign-up bonuses from 30k-50k depending on product, historical high offer 75k

Annual fee $95 waived first year

Churnable after 18-26 months (varies)

Minimum spend $2500-3000 in 3 or 4 months depending on offer, varies so check carefully

Can get 2 Citibank cards at once using 2 Browser Method.  Open Firefox and IE, click on 2 different cards-a Visa, Mastercard or Amex, fill out both applications but don’t send right away.  Wait until you have both apps filled out completely, then VERY QUICKLY go to each browser and click the “Apply” button.  If you are not instantly approved, you can call their reconsideration number and try to push it through.  1-866-606-2961

Dedicated FlyerTalk thread


Best uses for Eco-travelers: (Round-trip awards but bookable as one-ways for half the amount) 80k USA to Australia or South Pacific; 35k USA to Central America, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador; 40k USA to Rest of South America, 90k USA to Indian subcontinent, 70k USA to Southeast Asia (such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia.  Also good for long distance domestic Australian awards 10k for a one-way trip such as Perth to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.  Some good deals on LAN awards intra-South America too.  Full award chart


British Airways Avios Visa

Issued by Chase

Signup bonuses from 50-100k, depending on levels of minimum spend, historical high 100k

Annual fee $95 not waived

Probably not churnable

Minimum Spend $1000 in 3 months for 1st 50k, additional 25k when you spend $10,000 in first year, an additional 25k after an additional spend of $10,000.  I tend to look at this card as a 50k card because only the $1000 spend is easily reached for most people.

Possible retention bonus if you call them and say you want to cancel it before first year is up (done to avoid additional annual fee if you don’t want to keep the card)

Dedicated FlyerTalk thread


Best uses for Eco-travelers: Short-haul one way trips within Australia and South America.  Examples:  Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo on LAN for 7500 Avios or Brisbane to Cairns on Qantas for 7500 Avios.  Also bargains from West Coast USA to Hawaii on American or Alaskan for 12,500 Avios each way.


LAN-LanPass Visa

Issued by US Bank

Signup bonus – Up to 20,000 Bonus Miles with first use, Up to 4,000 Bonus Miles with annual renewal (Visa Signature)

Annual fee $25-75 depending on product, waived first year.

No minimum spend

No data on churnability

Dedicated FlyerTalk thread


Best uses for Eco-travelers:  Domestic one way flights within South American countries.  Not amazing value but possibly worth it since there is no minimum spend on this card.  See chart here.  Brazil’s TAM is expected to merge with this program in the near future so possible intra-Brazil redemptions.




United Mileage Plus Visa

Issued by Chase

Signup bonus 30k-65k  (some offers targeted), historical high 65k

Annual fee $95 waived first year

Probably not churnable

Minimum Spend $1000 in 3 months for most offers.

Possible retention bonus if you call them and say you want to cancel it before first year is up (done to avoid additional annual fee if you don’t want to keep the card)

Dedicated FlyerTalk thread

Best uses for Eco-travelers:   (Round-trip awards but bookable as one-ways for half the amount) 80k USA to Australia, South Pacific, Indian subcontinent; 65k USA to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, etc); 60k Brazil, 40k Peru, 35k Central America.  Also good deals on Copa and Taca awards within Central America such as Flores (near Tikal, Guatemala) to San Jose, Costa Rica for 7500 miles one way.


US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard


Issued by Barclays

Signup bonus 30-50k, offers vary widely.  Some have 10k annual bonus on anniversary.  Some only give the last 10k with balance tranfer so read the offer page carefully.  Historical high 50k.

Annual fee $89 usually not waived.

Some people have churned it once or twice, bank may possibly be cracking down on this.

Usually no minimum spend to get signup bonus of 30-40k depending on offer,  additional 10k which will be advertised in offer usually requires balance transfer from other credit card.

Credit card holders save 5000 miles on US Airways metal redemptions

Dedicated FlyerTalk thread

Best uses for Eco-travelers:   (Round-trip awards only) 80k USA to Australia, South Pacific, Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, etc); 60k South America (35k for off-peak), 35k Central America.


Avianca Taca LifeMiles Visa


Issued by US Bank

Signup bonus – Up to 20,000 Bonus Miles with first use, Up to 6,000 Bonus Miles with annual renewal (Visa Signature)

Annual fee $25-75 depending on product, waived first year.

No minimum spend

No data on churnability

Dedicated FlyerTalk thread

*** If you let me refer you, I can get a bonus of 5000 LifeMiles.  This has no effect on your application, but it does help me out with future eco-trips.  Once you have the card, you will also be able to refer people and earn your own bonuses.  Please use the contact form to request a referral. ***

Best uses for Eco-travelers: Redemptions on Taca Peru or Taca Central America short haul flights.  Example:  Lima to Puerto Maldonado, Peru 3500 miles one way or San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) to Panama City, Panama (PTY) 7k miles one way.  Good deals on Taca’s flights between USA and Central America such as LAX -SJO Round trip 24k.  You can also travel between USA and Central America on Star Alliance carriers for 30k round trip.




Delta Skymiles American Express


Issued by American Express

Signup bonus – 30k-45k (see Flyertalk thread) depending on product.  Historical high 75k.

Annual fee $95 and up, sometimes waived so you need to check each offer

Minimum spend is all over the place!   Sometimes 35k after $750 spend in 3 months, sometimes 30k after first use and an extra 20-25k after an extra specified spend.

Possibly churnable after 24 months

Dedicated FlyerTalk thread


Best uses for Eco-travelers:  (Based on round-trip, no one ways allowed) USA to Australia and Pacific 100k, USA to Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia or Africa 80k, Southern South America 60k, Northern South America 45k, Central America 35k.  Full chart ex USA here.  New possibilities when Garuda joins Skyteam for domestic Indonesia awards.


Korean Airlines Skypass Visa

Issued by US Bank

Signup Bonus 15k for Visa Signature, otherwise I wouldn’t bother.

Annual fee $80 not waived

No Minimum spend

Best uses for Eco-travelers:  Not a whole lot, but they do partner with Garuda so the 15k gets you close to a round-trip Garuda domestic award for 20k.



These will have very little use for eco-travelers, though they may have some use for mainstream tourism.  I will just provide the links to the airlines’ pages and you can see for yourselves if any of them would suit you.

Alaska Airlines Visa

Frontier Airlines Mastercard

Hawaiian Airlines Visa (B of A)

Hawaiian Airlines Visa (B of H)

Southwest Airlines Visa

Virgin America



App-O-Rama – A term used by credit card churners to describe a behaviour of applying for different credit cards on the same day with different banks.  This is usually done because enquiries (applications for credit) can lower your credit score making it more difficult to get the cards approved.  If you do all your application on the same day within as little time possible, the banks won’t see the new enquiries on your credit report.

Churning – Applying for the same credit card you have already had to get the signup bonus again

Credit Line Shifting – This happens when you apply for a second card with the same bank but they are not willing  to give you additional credit.  They may be willing to shift credit from your existing card to the new card.  Also, if you plan to close a card you no longer need, always shift the credit line to another card with the same bank if you have one.  If they don’t, try to shift to a card with no annual fee to preserve the credit line.

Reconsideration Line – The bank’s credit department with the power to approve your application.  You may need to call the reconsideration line if you don’t get an instant approval and are in a hurry or if you are denied credit and want a second chance.

  • American Express – 866-314-0237
  • Chase Personal – 888-245-0625
  • Chase Business – 800-453-9719
  • Citibank – 800-695-5171 or 800-763-9795
  • Barclays – 866-408-4064
  • US Bank – 800-947-1444

Retention bonus – Sometimes offered by banks to keep you as a customer after the first year has passed and your annual fee is due.  Sometimes it is a credit on your account to offset the annual fee, sometimes it is a bonus of miles to your frequent flyer account but you have to pay the annual fee.  There may be conditions of a minimum spend attached to the retention bonus.  Usually you call the number on the back of your card, hint to the CSR that you may not want to keep the account and get them to transfer you to retention.

2BM (Two Browser Method) – Only works with Citibank cards.  Open Firefox and IE, click on 2 different cards-a Visa, Mastercard or Amex, fill out both applications but don’t send right away.  Wait until you have both apps filled out completely, then VERY QUICKLY go to each browser and click the “Apply” button.  Do not try this with 2 tabs in the same browser as the cookies will over-ride each other and give you a duplicate application for the same card.

Hotel Point Earning Credit Cards

Flexible Points Credit Cards