If your plans for the DR are an extended staycation or you plan on moving here permanently something you should likely consider is getting a credit card that offers frequent flyer miles. Round trip tickets range from $650 to $850 from the Dominican Republic to California so the frequent flyer miles tend to add up quickly.

There are quite a few things to check out first to make sure that the card you are planning to use is really going to save you money.

Annual Fee: Most cards charge an annual fee of $65 to $85. Some will waive the annual fee for the first year if you make an eligible purchase within the allotted time.

Where and when the miles can be redeemed: This is a pretty big one if you are planning to stay in the DR. Choosing a card that the miles can’t be redeemed for flight to or from the DR wouldn’t be of much use.

Max number of miles: Some cards have caps on the number of miles that can be earned each year. While it is normally pretty high (100, 000 to 150,000 miles) that is something to consider if you plan on making many purchases or you are normally booking for larger groups (like you whole family).

Number of miles earned per dollar: This normally varies between 1-2 miles per dollar. Redeeming these miles is not really a straight mile tradeoff. As in your flight is for 5,000 miles therefore you use 5,000 of your miles. For example with American Airlines it takes 12,500 to 25,000 miles to fly between any two locations in the continental US or Canada. For the Caribbean to the US it is 12,500 for off-peak, 17,500 for peak and 35,000 miles for anytime.

American Airlines gives you 2 miles for every dollar (for the first year, 1 mile after that). My last flight was about $850 per person for a round trip flight, so using American Airlines I would have received 17,000 miles or enough to give me a 1 way ticket back to the states. No Too Bad. I didn’t bother counting the “Off Peak” price because that only applies between Sept 7 and Nov 14 for the Caribbean. A bit tight.

Timing on getting the card: If you are planning on getting a new card pay close attention to the dates of bonus miles you can receive if your timing is right. For instance if you make a $750 purchase with AA within the first 4 months you get 30,0000 bonus miles. Another 10,000 if you make it up to $5,000 within the first 6 month. In other words, don’t apply for the card until you are getting ready to purchase your tickets.

Each of the cards I’ve researched has a whole list of exclusions; make sure you read them well. Some of the obvious ones are the AAdvantage card offered by American Airlines only works for American Airlines, American Eagle and American Connection. Some cards work for any airline by likewise they pretty much all have their restrictions.

Miles have a tendency to expire, make sure you know how long yours would last. If you are only planning one trip back to the states a year, you might run into some difficulties.

Some cards are only for US residents. So if you are currently living in the DR but are a US citizen you will likely need to have a US address for the card information to be sent to.

Don’t forget to also check the interest rates. Some of these cards have a higher interest rate which could be a problem if you are planning on paying for your tickets over time. Some also charge quite a bit more if the card is use outside of the US. For instance with the AAdvantage card you will pay a fee for any purchase made outside of the states a hefty 3% of the US dollar amount making this not a very good card for actually using while you are in the DR.

Choosing a frequently flyer credit card is going to take you a bit of research, what would be the best card for one person will not necessarily be the best for another. Carefully consider how you plan on using the card before you apply. Choosing a “Airline” based card restricts you to a particular airline which could cost you more when you are shopping for ticket prices. Not all airlines got to all cities, make sure the card you are planning on applying for will work for airlines going to the city you plan on flying to. Take your time and read the fine print, a frequent flyer card can save you a lot of money, just make sure you get the right one.

Bankruptcy of American Airlines

Because of the bankruptcy plans released by American Airline parent company AMR today (11/29/11), thoughts of choosing the AAdvantage plan main need to be adjusted. There is no way to know at this time if mile built up under this program will continue to be honored. While it was stated in the press release that they “expect” to honor these services, that can change quickly.

For more information on the bankruptcy read our latest post American Airlines Files Bankruptcy