Well, now that I have caught up I am going to try to continue posting shortly after each flight or series of flights in order to keep everything together.

ORD-STL (516 Miles)

There was nothing terribly interesting about this trip, but I wanted to take a moment and discuss something on my mind. Credit Cards. I think credit cards are one of the most important tools a business traveler should consider. The credit card(s) you choose can make a huge difference to your airline status strategy. I maintain that anyone looking to get into the game of frequent flier miles / points should have clear goals when starting out and re-evaluate 2 times a year. My strategy has worked well for a frequent American Airlines traveler, but is terrible if you are not flying AA.

20 months ago when I knew that my business travel will pick up substantially, I picked an Airline. I picked an Airline that had a hub where I was located and whose benefits fit my needs. When I picked AA I had no status and on my first flight with AA I was one of the last to board, had to check my bag, and was seated in a middle seat. It was on that flight that I leaned of the Citi Executive World Elite Mastercard (Good Job Citi/AA for putting the ad in the seat back pocket). The card carried a $450 annual fee, but came with many benefits that I desired. The first of which was the 75,000 AA Mile sign-up bonus when you make $7,500 in purchases in 3-months. I remember specifically waiting until I knew I had to pay a few large recurring charges to open the card. Once I met the spending requirement I was granted the 75,000 Miles! Secondly, the card gave me Priority AAccess. This allowed me to board the plane after people with status, but before group one. I never had to check a bag again while traveling.

The thing that I valued the most out of the card was Admirals Club membership. This is a FULL membership. Access to every Admirals Club lounge and many others within the OneWorld network even while not traveling on AA. It worked well, because until that point I was splitting my time with United and American.

Once, I hit Gold Status with American the strategy changed to what it is today and one that works well for my needs. Once I hit gold I no longer needed Priority AAcess. I was already allowed to board at the front-ish of the line. I also was beginning to hit 500-mile minimums and 25% bonus miles on flights. AA miles were building up faster than I could use them between flying and spending on the card. So, once I hit Gold I converted my Citi Executive card to the Citi Prestige card. This card again comes with the $450 annual fee, but the spending points are not booked to AA miles. There is a lot more flexibility. Also, the card offers a $250 rebate on airfare, which reduces the blow of the annual fee. Most importantly, this card comes with Admirals Club Access when traveling on AA (which I always am).

The thing that I LOVE most about this card is that Thank You points can be redeemed for AA flights at 1.66 Points / $ AND the flight counts as a paid revenue ticket so you earn miles by flying it. The trouble I ran into while banking so many AA miles was in order to use them on a long flight abroad I would not earn any Elite Qualifying miles for that flight. Now I am still earning AA miles by flying, but also earning ThankYou points by booking Airfare with the credit card.

To Compliment the Citi Prestige card I have also opened the Citi ThankYou premier credit card. The reason I have done this is two-fold. 1) I will earn 50,000 ThankYou points after making $3,000 in purchase in the first month. 2) This card offers a much broader range of 3x points on travel. Cabs, Airfare, Hotel, Tolls, Public Transit. So I will earn ThankYou points even faster by opening/spending on this new card, but will keep the Prestige, which allows me to redeem at the 1.66 points/$ and gives me Admirals Club access.

If you are a frequent American Airlines flyer, I think this is the best strategy out there. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you are dedicated to only one airline and fly them A LOT, you’ll end up sitting on more miles than you will want to use. This method allows you to diversify.

I decided to write about this particular topic because it was on this flight from STL-ORD (in first class) that I decided to open the ThankYou premier card to compliment the Citi Prestige card.  I will try to touch on other card that I personally use as I go, but do not want this blog turning into just another of the several credit card / points blogs already out there.

So far as an Advantage Platinum I’ve cleared 100% of my upgrades. Lets hope the streak continues on my quest for Executive Platinum!