Which Credit Card Should I Get?

The answer to this question depends a lot on where you want to travel and in what class. If you don’t have any specific destinations in mind, American Airways AAdvantage and United MileagePlus can take you just about anywhere you might want to go, and for most people, I recommend collecting miles in both programs. This means getting the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards (Sapphire, Ink), Chase United Explorer cards, and Citi AAdvantage cards.

For someone just starting out, I recommend getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred card first. Recently, Chase has not been approving people who like to apply for lots of credit cards (which will be you eventually, if you follow the advice on this website), so it’s a good idea to get that card before you have such a track record. Here’s a suggested list for starting out with American and United, but honestly, the order doesn’t really matter:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  2. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
  3. Chase Ink Plus Business Card
  4. Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card
  5. CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard
  6. Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

You’ll notice that a few of these are business cards. See the FAQ should you have any questions about this. It is useful to add business cards to your stable if you can.

If you plan on travelling exclusively in economy class within the continental U.S., Caribbean, and parts of Central America, you might consider focusing on Southwest Airlines. This is especially true if you have a significant other or travel buddy with whom you can use the Companion Pass.

Otherwise, if you have a specific destination and class of service in mind, see below.

Which Miles Should I Use?

This is roughly the same question as “Which credit card should I get?” but the answer can help direct you to collecting the most useful miles for an upcoming trip. To that end, below I have a list of various regions throughout the world and the best miles to use to travel to them in economy, business, or first class. I only select from the mileage programs that I cover on this website, so if you’re a little more advanced and would like to consider awards with other programs, you can always search with FlyerMiler or AwardAce. Neither tool is perfectly accurate though, and they do miss a few things, such as Singapore’s cheap flights from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii.

Also, keep in mind that having the “best” miles is no use if there is no availability on the dates you want, so in the long run, it’s best to have miles in many different programs.

A few more notes before we get started:

  • All of the mileage prices below assume your travel originates in the United States.
  • Not every airline agrees what region a particular country belongs in. For example, United considers the Canary Islands part of Northern Africa, but American considers them part of Europe, making them much cheaper to fly to using AAdvantage miles. I have a list of countries where you can use this kind of knowledge to your advantage at How To Save Miles By Knowing Your Geography.
  • American Airlines routes involving British Airways are not a good value due to fuel surcharges. You’ll want to avoid awards that include them as part of your itinerary. This mostly comes into play on flights to Europe that connect in London.
  • British Airways Avios is not listed in the table below (except in one place) because their rewards program is distance based, and the prices of their flights can vary depending on where you are flying to/from. Be sure to check any prices you find below with their Award Chart if you are flying economy class within North or South America.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards is not listed in the table below because their rewards program is revenue based, and the prices of their flights can vary due to a variety of factors. Be sure to check the price with Southwest if you are flying economy class anywhere on their route network.

Any mileage programs marked with a * show pricing that is only available if your award does not include any alliance partners (i.e. you only fly American Airlines flights if using American AAdvantage or United Airlines flights if using United MileagePlus).

Economy Class

Destination Mileage Program Cost (One Way)
Africa American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus
40,000
Asia (North) American AAdvantage* (off-peak) 32,500
 American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus
 35,000
Asia (South) American AAdvantage* (off-peak) 32,500
American AAdvantage*
United MileagePlus
35,000
40,000
Australia & New Zealand American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus
40,000
Canada & Alaska American AAdvantage
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
United MileagePlus*
12,500
Caribbean & Central America American AAdvantage* (off-peak) 12,500
American AAdvantage* 15,000
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
United MileagePlus
17,500
Europe American AAdvantage* (off-peak) 22,500
American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus
30,000
Hawaii (from the West Coast) British Airways Avios 12,500
Hawaii (from anywhere in the U.S.) Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 17,500
Middle East & India American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus
40,000
42,500
Oceania (South Pacific) United MileagePlus
American AAdvantage
35,000
40,000
 South America (Northern) American AAdvantage* (off-peak) 17,500
 American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus
20,000
South America (Southern)  American AAdvantage
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
United MileagePlus
30,000

Business Class

Destination Mileage Program Cost (One Way)
Africa United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
70,000
75,000
Asia (North) American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus*
60,000
70,000
Asia (South) American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus*
70,000
Australia & New Zealand United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
70,000
80,000
Canada & Alaska Singapore Airlines
American Airlines
20,000
25,000
Caribbean & Central America American AAdvantage* 25,000
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
United MileagePlus
30,000
Europe American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus*
57,500
Hawaii Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 30,000
Middle East & India American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus*
70,000
 Oceania (South Pacific) United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
65,000
80,000
 South America (Northern) American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus
30,000
35,000
 South America (Southern) Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 50,000

First Class

Destination Mileage Program Cost (One Way)
Africa United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
85,000
120,000
Asia (North) American AAdvantage
United MileagePlus*
80,000
Asia (South) United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
80,000
110,000
 Australia & New Zealand United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
80,000
110,000
Canada & Alaska Singapore Airlines
American Airlines
30,000
32,500
Caribbean & Central America Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
United MileagePlus
40,000
Europe United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
80,000
85,000
Hawaii Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 40,000
Middle East & India United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
90,000
115,000
 Oceania (South Pacific) United MileagePlus*
American AAdvantage
80,000
110,000
 South America (Northern) United MileagePlus 45,000
 South America (Southern) Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
United MileagePlus
70,000

Suites Class

If you want to fly in a Singapore Suite, the miles you’ll need are Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. You can fly suites class to a variety of destinations throughout the world, but, unsurprisingly, many of these flights involve Singapore in some way. For more information, see Searching With Singapore Airlines (Suites Class).