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Airline Mile and Travel Reward Credit Cards
Free Flight Addict

At first glance, bank-issued cards that earn miles with every purchase seem superior to cards that come with an airline emblem on them. The Capital One No Hassle Miles card from Visa gives customers up to two miles for every dollar spent, there's no annual fee, and miles can be redeemed on any airline -- even foreign airlines and carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest. The MBNA WorldPoints Platinum Plus MasterCard and Discover's Miles Card likewise allow you to build up points -- one per dollar charged -- with every purchase, and the rewards include flights as well as cruises, cash, and gift certificates from the likes of The Home Depot and Toys "R" Us. And when it comes to reward flights for all of these cards, there are never any blackout dates.

Unfortunately, points earned on these cards can't be combined with miles accrued from flights. To spell it out: If you've compiled 20,000 miles through credit card purchases and a separate 5,000 miles by flying one airline, that doesn't add up to the 25,000 miles most carriers require for a typical domestic rewards flight. So much for "no hassles."

Also, while there are no blackout dates for flights, there are restrictions on what flights qualify. For Discover and MBNA, flights are capped at values ranging from $350 to $500, and if the going rate is higher when you want to trade in your miles, you have to pay the difference.

There's no price cap at Capital One; instead customers trade 15,000 miles for flights worth up to $150, 35,000 miles for $150-$350 flights, or 60,000 miles for $350-$600 airfares, and it's a miles-only transaction -- no paying the difference in cash. For flights with a market value of more than $600, Capital One clients must fork over points equal to 100 times the flight price (75,000 points for a $750 flight, for example). Be particularly wary of the fine print for these cards: Capital One is a stickler with its $29 late fees, and customers who are past due twice in a 12-month period can see their APR jump to nearly 30 percent.

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