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The Best Credit Cards in America: How We Do It

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The Best Credit Cards in America series’ latest installment revolved around consumers’ best options for airline rewards.

We sat down with Jason Steele, the man behind the rankings who is also a bit of a travel rewards expert in his own life, to talk about how we developed the rankings, what the best credit cards look like and what strategies he implements to maximize his rewards points. Here are some of the best quotes from Jason Steele in our Hangout.

The ‘Best Credit Cards’ Methodology

“It has a lot of different factors. Everything from costs in terms, introductory rates, ongoing APR, flexibility, other things that really a lot of people overlook like foreign transaction fees and so forth. So this year what I did with it is I started with [former Credit.com Expert Beverly Harzog’s] formula and I tried to tailor it a little more to the category that we’re looking at, which is airline miles. … If you’re earning rewards, you want to be the person that pays their balances in full and on time, otherwise the interest you’re paying on your balance really overwhelms your rewards. … We decided to downplay issues like interest rates and introductory financing, which would be less of a concern for someone who’s paying their balance in full, and give more weight to things like flexibility because that’s a big gripe.”

What Airline Rewards Cards Should Work on Adopting

“I’d love to see foreign transaction fees go the way of domestic long distance cell phone charges because they’re just inappropriate for a travel card. I would like to see more cards with the chip-and-PIN system that is so useful in Europe for travelers. There’s kind of a gold-colored chip and you can actually see it from the outside of the card and all the European cards have had them for several years now. On my last trip, I literally saw an American who had run out of gas and he was sitting at the gas pump and he doesn’t have a chip and PIN, and the pump has to have that in order to use it. … There’s a trickle of cards that are starting to use that in the United States.”

One of Jason’s Favorite Rewards Travel Experiences

“I basically decided to really max it out. Look at all the promotions and offers of various credit cards that maybe [my wife] could sign up for and I could sign up for and together we would earn enough miles not just to fly overseas, but to do it in business class. That was an eye-opener for me. I remember her and I just giggling as they rolled out a dessert cart in Lufthansa’s business class from Denver to Frankfurt. We don’t even go to restaurants where they roll our dessert carts. So when we did that on the airplane, we were just stunned.”

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