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Are travel credit cards really worth it now?

With the changes happening with some of the airlines (Delta and United to speak of) towards "free" trips I'm wondering if getting a credit card for miles is really worth it any longer. Delta won't let people booking with miles to reserve a seat until they check in at the gate about 30-45 minutes before the plane takes off, usually meaning a middle row seat. I heard starting in late January that they'll now change their boarding process and basic economy seats will be last, meaning there may not be room for a carry-on. United has already stopped carry-on bags for basic economy. These free tickets are not free, they're earned from purchases throughout the year. I'm starting to think that getting a credit card that gives cash back is a better deal than getting miles, can you please tell me why miles are better?

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