As we look forward to 2012, the possibilities for travel are endless. For those with a half-decent credit score, chances are you can do it for very cheap as well.
If you have not already done so, start thinking about your 2012 travel plans now. While award availability seems to follow some pattern (if space is available, award seats tend to open about a week before travel), there is no preferred time to book award flights if you don’t like nail-biting other than to book when space is available. Consequently, if you see the award space you are looking for, whether it be weeks or months prior to your travel date, you should grab it immediately.
Few things pain me more than to have a client come to me looking for help booking a first class holiday, finding the space, but then being unable to book because the clients did not have as many miles as they thought.
There’s one easy way to avoid this, though–credit card sign-up bonuses.
Relax, I am not going to start hawking credit cards everyday or turn this blog into a self-serving campaign to get you all to sign up for a credit card though me. But I strongly recommend, just as I have recently done myself, you sign up for a credit card or two to get your point balances up in the new year and position yourself to book a premium cabin award should the opportunity present itself.
Here’s what I recommend (and yes, this website does receive a referral bonus if you sign-up and are approved through the links below)–
1. Best Credit Card for United Flyers – United Visa Explorer Card
- Earn up to 40,000 bonus miles
- Earn 25,000 bonus miles after first use and 5,000 additional bonus miles after your first Card use and for adding an authorized user within two months of opening your account. Plus, earn 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 or more on your Card each calendar year.
- Your first year is free
- Pay no annual fee for the first year you are a Cardmember, a $95 value.
- Check your first bag for free
- As a Cardmember, you and your companion can each check your first bag for free when you fly United and Continental-operated flights, up to a $50 savings per person round trip.
- Enjoy priority boarding privileges
- You’ll be invited to board your flight ahead of general boarding with priority boarding.
- Visit the United Club with two passes every year
- Relax in style before your flight and enjoy complimentary snacks, beverages and Wi-Fi.
- Earn double miles on United purchses
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United or Continental and 1 mile per $1 for everything else.
- 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 Cardmembers and Elite travelers beginning in early 2012.
- Your miles don’t expire
- Your miles don’t expire as long as you are a Cardmember with no limit to the number of miles you can earn.
What specifically interests me is the last-seat availability on United flights–this is a very valuable benefit that by itself makes the card worth it for United flyers who do not have elite status.
2. Best Overall Credit Card – Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Limited Time Offer! Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months- that’s $625 toward travel!
- 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Use 20% fewer points when you redeem for travel. Just book your flight, cruise, or other travel through Ultimate Rewards(SM)
- No foreign transaction fees
- Earn a 7% annual points dividend – even on points already redeemed
- Transfer points you’ve earned to participating frequent traveler programs at a 1:1 value
- 24/7 direct access to expert service advisors (No voice recording)
- No Annual Fee for your first year – A $95 value
The great thing about this card is the transfer partners, particularly Hyatt (where rooms start at only 5,000 points per night) and United/Continental, which currently has America’s (and perhaps the world’s) best frequent flyer program in Mileage Plus. No foreign transaction fees are a plus as well.
I’ll post my reflections on 2011 and a look forward to my personal travel in 2012 later in the week. So much of my travel this year (and next) will be made possible by generous credit card sign-up offers. Don’t be the chump that pays full-fare–with a little planning and judicious use of mileage-earning credit cards, you can enjoy business and first class flying and five star hotels for a fraction of what those around you are paying.