I know its an ongoing debate which is better. Let me just say I am a big miles person and I am attempting my first premium awards booking on CX via AA and it has been nothing but a hassle so far. Sure it will be great if it works out, but at the moment I want to bang my head on the desk between award seats showing on other airline websites and then being told that AA can’t see that award availability, to award space not freeing up until I get closer to the departure date to having to pay a fee for booking within 21 days of the flight when the thing didn’t show up until within that 21 days to begin with, to the fact that once I got one ticket on request I find out two days later they mispelled my name on the ticket and I ended up having to cancel the award and lost the seat on that flight and had to rebook at a different time.
I’m ranting a bit here and this stuff will pay off massively if I can pull it together, however for someone who does not have flexibility and who does not want to spend hours going through flight listings and even more hours on the phone with customer service reps who may or may not know what they are talking about then cash back may be a better bet when it comes to airlines. You won’t be flying in first class with a cashback card, but if you have limited flexibility and/or need multple tickets and don’t want to have to try a year in advance before you know your schedule then you probably wouldn’t be able to pull it off anyway. Hopefully the payoff in my case will be worth the stress and time.