A friend of mine collects airline credit cards. Most of them come with big frequent-flier bonuses—or even a free flight for signing up—and have no annual fee for the first year. So my friend cancels them right before the 12-month mark. He uses them for everything: groceries, car repairs, the broken keyboards and organs that he buys on eBay late at night. He has flown all over the world on those accrued miles. He even took his fiancée to Argentina. It always seemed a little reckless, and surely he had terrible credit, right? Wrong. "My credit's excellent," he says. "You have to maintain one or two of them over the long term, so your average account length isn't too short. Just pay them off on time and in full." He wouldn't tell me which ones he uses, but we have a few favorites.
Barclay Arrival World MasterCard
While good credit cards offer one point for every dollar spent, Barclay gives you two for flights, hotels, and dining (and one for everything else). Plus, you get 20,000 bonus miles for the first $1,000 spent. No annual fee.
American Express Platinum
Complimentary access to airport lounges around the world, spouses and children included, could save you $500 a year. Nice perk: baggage insurance up to $3,000. $95 annual fee after the first year.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Most credit cards charge a 3 percent fee on overseas transactions. This one doesn't, plus it's chip enabled—critical when traveling abroad, where magnetic-strip cards aren't always accepted. $95 annual fee after the first year.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Visa
This card's sign-up bonus includes 50,000 points for two round-trip flights if you spend $2,000 within the first three months. And you get one point per dollar spent—no exclusions. $99 annual fee.