|by Sean O'Neill||Frequent Flier Miles||10|
Three credit card sign-up offers can earn you hundreds of thousands of frequent flier miles. But you have to act fast. These are the three most generous rewards we've ever seen. These cards are the speediest ways to earn free overseas trips.
Until now, the best offer we've ever seen was in November 2009, when the British Airways Visa Signature Card invited new card-members to sign up and earn up to 100,000 miles with just a small amount of spending. For comparison's sake, the best sign-up card bonus is typically 25,000 miles.
Well, that amazing deal is back. Earn 50,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and another 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 to your card within the first three months. British Airways allows "households" to pool their miles for an award. So two people each sign up for the card, and the combined totals can earn a reward. Another perk: The miles can be redeemed on flights on BA's One World partner, American Airlines.
Award availability on British Airways is "outstanding", especially for upgrading one class, reports Reuters. In another perk, the card has no foreign exchange fee for foreign purchases. But the card does charge a $75 annual fee.
The offer is obviously subject to credit approval. New cardholders only are accepted. If a customer does not qualify for a British Airways Signature Visa, they may qualify for a British Airways Platinum Visa. Both cards have the same enhanced earn rate and the same premium bonus offer (100,000 miles). There is not any other alternative card—customers either qualify for the British Airways Signature or Platinum cards (both of which have the same bonus and new earn rate) or they are declined and do not receive any card. Sign up at the British Airways Visa Signature Card site.
Another tempting offer is from Citibank's AAdvantage card. Score 75,000 American Airlines miles with a card that can be applied for only by telephone at 800-408-4954. Spend $4,000 in the first 6 months, and you'll receive 75,000 miles. The $85 annual fee is waived in the first year. If you don't think you can charge that much in six months, there are two alternate offers with lower bonus amounts that might be better for you (see here). You still have to pay foreign currency conversion charges of up to 3 percent when making purchases abroad.
UPDATE: The following deal has since expired. You gotta act fast!
Capital One has a 110,000-mile bonus credit card sign-up offer. It's worth $1,100 in travel after spending just $1,000 in three months, through a status match on miles earned in other air card programs. There's no annual fee the first year, $59 in the second. Earn double miles on on every purchase. Redeem miles on any airline via any travel site. Just add two zeros to the price of your travel to find out how many points you'll need to receive the equal credit reimbursement on your card. For instance, a $189 ticket on United would require 18,900 points. Like the BA card, there are no foreign currency transaction fees on purchases made overseas. Sign up at the Capital One Venture Rewards card site.
There's a catch to all of these programs, of course. Fuel surcharges may be included in a free ticket, as Christopher Elliott has reported. So, for example, on a San Francisco to London roundtrip flight on British Airways, a "free" ticket might actually cost around $400 (or higher) in fuel surcharges on the mileage-award ticket. But, still, you would be saving more than $400 off the actual price of the ticket. And, as always, the best way to max out frequent flier miles is in purchasing upgrades to business class seats.
Act now, because these programs will end soon. The British Airways program ends May 6, 2011, for example. But any of them may end sooner if they follow the unpredictable, standard life-cycle of such promotions.
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