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FREE REPORT SERIES, DAY 3: How to Fly Upfront for Less, Free Reports from our “How to Get a First Class Seat for Less” Guide

Mileage reward credit cards are a great way to earn free flights – so long as you don’t run a balance on the card. The interest rates are high, and if you run a balance, the perks are not really free anymore.

But use these cards wisely, and you could award yourself with nice perks.

Take for instance, United Airlines’ new credit card. It’s called the MileagePlus® Explorer Visa, and it gives you special privileges at the airport – even if you’re not a frequent, elite-status flyer.

With this card, you and your companion can check your first bag – for free — when you fly United- and Continental-operated flights (a $50 savings per person round-trip)…

… and you’re invited to board your flight ahead of general boarding – with priority boarding privileges.

You also get up to 40,000 bonus miles when you sign up. The first 25,000 bonus miles are awarded after the first use of the card. After that, you can earn another 5,000 bonus miles when you add another authorized user to your account and 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 or more on your card each calendar year.

(Yes, $25,000 is a lot to spend to get those remaining 10,000 bonus points. But if you travel a lot for business or pleasure, or start charging your groceries and other expenses to the card – the card will keep on working for you.)

Here’s what else I like about this card…

** You’ll earn two miles for every $1 you spend on tickets purchased from United or Continental. And, you’ll earn one mile for every $1 you spend on everything else.

** You can redeem MileagePlus miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight. There are no restrictions or blackout dates. If seats are available for sale, they can be redeemed at the Standard Award level – a benefit that will be reserved for card-holders and Elite travelers beginning in early 2012.

** Your miles don’t expire as long as you keep using your card.

** There’s no limit to the number of miles you can earn.

** You get the first year free (the annual fee of $95 is waived for the first 12 months).

** And, if you decide to keep the card, you’ll get to visit the United ClubSM – with two free passes, awarded every year on your credit card anniversary.

Don’t care so much about VIP boarding, free bags, and airport lounge access?

Here’s another card that’s worth considering (if you don’t run a balance on your cards)…

The new Chase Sapphire Preferred card awards 50,000 bonus points when you charge $3,000 in purchases within three months. VIP perks aside, that’s a lot of points.  And, you can redeem those points toward a first class flight on most major airlines. If the flight happens to cost more, depending on where you’re traveling, you can pay the balance with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card. There’s no minimum number of points that you need to redeem. This card is very flexible.

More details on credit cards that offer reward programs not tied to a specific airline are in our “How to Get a First Class Seat for Less” report.

You can also do some digging around online to find these by yourself. In fact, as I was digging for current offers, it turns out the “best travel card” – as voted by users of the forum – is featured in our guide!

This card also won the 2011 SmarterTravel® Award for “Best Travel Rewards Card.” And, you can discover what it is, along with a few other cards that are best for redeeming award travel in our guide.

You’ll also learn which reward cards to avoid because you can’t use your points for first- class travel.

You’ll find all this info and more about the types of credit cards that can give you great travel rewards in our new How to Get a First Class Seat for Lessreport. 

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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