Here comes the long post...
I'll be leaving for Australia next week as part of a study abroad program (I've mentioned this briefly in some older posts.) I've been very busy preparing for the trip, but one of the things I've made sure to do is to read up on www.flyertalk.com, www.freefrequentflyermiles.com, and www.webflyer.com. These are great sites with some terrific discussions and ideas about making the most of travel in every way (but especially financially.)
I've never been into frequent flyer miles, but my interest has definitely peaked as the anticipation for my trip builds. (Reading the above sites may also have something to do with it.) I'm considering extending my ever-growing credit portfolio into some frequent-flyer based cards. Most intriguing is the Citi AAdvantage Mastercard and its 15,000-20,000 signup miles with the first year's fee waived. I wouldn't pay to have this card, but I would get the bonus miles, use it for a year, then cancel ;).
American Airlines is my preferred airline. I will be flying with them domestically and to Australia (and within Australia) I will be travelling with Qantas, a partner of AA. Because I booked my flights through the school, I may or may not receive mileage credit for my flights. And because I'm flying deep, deep discount economy class on Qantas, I will (at best) qualify for only 50% of the actual miles I fly. Still, I'll be flying about 25,000 miles total, so hopefully I'll get some miles credited.
Of course, the AMEX Starwood card also looks great. I signed up for the SPG program through Starwood and got an email offering 6,000 bonus Starpoints upon applying. This card offers an exciting 5,000 point bonus upon converting 20,000 points into airline miles (including AA at an excellent 1:1 ratio,) but it would take me a long time to reach 20,000 miles, even with the 6,000 mile bonus. "If" I do decide to go for this card, it will be a few months into the future. I recently accepted an invitation for an AMEX Gold Rewards Plus card with the first year free, and I don't want to jeopardize my relationship with American Express by going for too much credit too fast. They're picky.
All of this applying will have to wait until after I return from Australia, so as to let a couple credit inquiries pass the important 6 month mark.
If anyone has any suggestions or comments about frequent flyer programs, please post: I'm all ears. They are my new fascination.