Frequent Flyer Credit Cards are not a Good Value
There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal which confirms what I have been saying for quite some time; frequent flyer cards are not worth getting.
The reason is simply that cash rebate credit cards offer more value, even if you use that cash to buy plane tickets. The typical frequent flyer card offers one "point" for every dollar purchased and requires 25,000 points for a round trip domestic flight. Considering that you can fly almost anywhere in the continental US for under $250 including taxes and fees, this works out to less than a 1% rebate. Additionally many frequent flyer cards have a annual fee which diminishes your value even more.
The article specifically mentions my favorite two cards, the Citi Platinum Dividend Select MasterCard and the Chase Cash Plus Rewards Visa. Both offer 5% back on gas, groceries, and drug stores and 1% at other locations.
So you would be better off simply cashing in your rebates and buying plane tickets when you want.