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TheRootDC
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Posted at 10:29 AM ET, 10/26/2011

Are frequent flyer credit cards worth it?

So, I had a great weekend. I went to my college’s homecoming celebration and partied with some of my best friends. I think I’m still in recovery. So, I’ve recently enrolled in “Airline X’s” frequent flyer program. I’ve taken this airline no fewer than five times this year, including a trip to Amsterdam. I am still VERY far from getting a free ticket. No bueno. On the returning flight from homecoming, the attendants offered a chance for the passengers to earn something like 30,000 miles if we signed up for a credit card from the airline.

I was tempted. Some of my friends have gotten great flights for free after using their airline credit cards to rack up mileage. My friends are saying that I need to get with the program, too!

Despite the seemingly generous offer, I didn’t take the airline up on it. Still, I wonder if I am less sophisticated about money because of it?

Here are my thoughts:

1) I slayed more than $20,000 worth of debt and remain debt free since that feat. I wrote about book about it . Still, I.DO.NOT.EVER. want to be in that position again. Ever.

True, I could pay the balance off at the end of the month. But I don’t want to put myself in that position. I use my credit cards now primarily for travel. I pay them off before I get the bill in the mail. I wouldn’t like being in the position of having to overly manage my credit card because I’m using it to buy groceries, soap, and hair gel, just to rack up frequent flyer miles.

2) Most of these frequent flyer cards come with an annual fee – even the best ones. I think fees are gross. True, the fee is less than the cost of a plane ticket, but it’s about the principle for me.

3) I hate the APRs on these cards. I’ve gotten my rates pretty low for credit cards: all under 12 percent for interest. I don’t want any card with a higher interest rate than that. Indeed, if you pay your balance off before it accrues interest, the rate doesn’t matter. I’m just a bit nervous about that risk.

Business Insider did a nice article about travel credit cards. It’s worth a look.

Do you have a frequent flyer credit card? What perks have you gotten? Is it worth it? What do you think about them? Should I give them a shot and stop being a scaredy cat?

Natalie P. McNeal is the creator of TheFrugalista.com and author of The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Got Out Of Debt Without Giving Up the Fabulous Life, detailing how she got rid of $20,000 worth of debt while living life on the frugal side of fabulous. She is also addicted to Twitter, so follow her @frugalista.

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