The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

5 Best Credit Cards With Air Miles & Cash Back (April 2024)

Best Credit Cards With Air Miles And Cash Back
Eric Bank

Written by: Eric Bank

Eric Bank
Eric Bank

Eric Bank is an M.B.A. who has covered financial and business topics since 1985, appearing regularly on Credible, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Zacks, Chron, BadCredit.org and dozens of other outlets. Eric specializes in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences, particularly in the world of personal finance. Eric holds a Master's in Business Administration from New York University and a Master's in Finance from DePaul University.

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Edited by: Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald
Jon McDonald

Jon leverages 15-plus years of journalism expertise to inform financial consumers about emerging trends and companies making an impact in the industry. He is most knowledgeable in the areas of budgeting, credit card rewards, and responsible credit use. Jon has a passion for writing and editing, and his articles have appeared in publications produced by The New York Times.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Advertiser Disclosure

You may be shocked to learn how few travel cards let you convert your air miles into cash. Once the airlines spoon out the miles, they are reluctant to allow you to use them for anything other than travel.

We found the five best airline credit cards that let you cash out your miles and use your rewards as you see fit. Not surprisingly, all five deliver general-purpose miles — really, they’re points disguised as miles. If you want miles and cash back, these cards are for you.

Best Air Miles Credit Cards With Cash Back

If it weren’t for Discover, Capital One would have a monopoly on air miles cards with cash back. The assorted flavors of Capital One Venture cards share the same redemption rules, so you’ll have to use other criteria to choose among them.

Capital One does not offer a specific rewards card with World Elite Mastercard benefits. You only find out if your card is a World Elite Mastercard once Capital One approves your application.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card’ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★

4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Unlimited Mile-for-Mile match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • Turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% – 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% – 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

The Discover it® Miles card lets you turn miles into cash. You can also redeem your credit card miles as a statement credit for your travel purchases, including airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants, and more, with no blackout dates. You earn $1 for each 100 miles, which Discover will deposit to your bank account electronically.  It is the best airline credit card in this group.

The card offers several security features, including warnings if your Social Security number appears on the dark web. It also provides $0 fraud liability and alerts when a credit bureau adds a new account to your credit report, or someone pulls your report. An overdue payment won’t increase your APR. The card charges no annual, over-limit, or foreign transaction fees and no late fee on your first missed payment.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★

4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
19.99% – 29.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card and its Venture counterparts let you turn miles into cash. You can redeem credit card miles in the form of a statement credit or a check. Expect the statement credit to apply to your account in as few as two to three business days. Capital One mails checks within three business days, and they should arrive two to three weeks later.

Alternatively, you can use your Capital One miles to pay for gift cards, travel, events, and Amazon.com purchases. You can also use miles on eligible purchases at millions of online stores with PayPal. This is Capital One’s best credit card if you want a flat mileage rate without annual and foreign transaction fees. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a close second in the best airline credit card sweepstakes.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★

4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% – 29.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

Consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card if you don’t mind paying a moderate annual fee to receive additional benefits. The signup bonus after account opening and the flat membership rewards rate are higher than Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card‘s, and you receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

All the Venture cards provide bonus miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. This card gives you access to exclusive reservations at award-winning restaurants and tickets to memorable culinary experiences through Capital One Dining. Other benefits include Hertz Five Star status and credits for stays at Lifestyle Collection hotels.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★

4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% – 29.99% (Variable)
$395
Excellent

Although the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card costs about four times more than Venture, the higher annual fee buys you a lot of extra value. It’s a Visa Infinite card with a minimum credit limit of $10,000 and many additional benefits that justify its price tag, including anniversary and travel purchase credits and reimbursement of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck fees — which are worth more than the annual fee.

You earn generous bonus miles on flights, car rentals, and hotels you book through Capital One Travel. In addition to cashing out your miles, you can transfer them to any of its more than 15 air miles partners. This travel rewards credit card also provides cellphone protection.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% (Variable)
$0
Good

The other Venture cards cater to consumers with excellent credit. If you’re shy of that mark, consider the Capital One VentureOne Rewards for Good Credit. It offers many of the same perks as the regular VentureOne card without the signup bonus or 0% introductory APR promotion following account opening.

As with all Capital One cash back and travel rewards, the miles don’t expire for the life of the account. You can use Capital One Shopping, an online tool that automatically applies available coupon codes to your order. Capital One Eno provides virtual card numbers and account alerts to card members.

What Are Air Miles?

Air miles are credit card rewards for travel expenses, including flights. The more purchases you make on the card, the more miles you’ll earn.

One air mile card, for example, may reward you with one or two miles for every dollar you spend. As soon as you accumulate enough miles, you can redeem them for free flights — or rental cars, hotel accommodations, and other items, depending on the card. A few miles cards (i.e., the ones reviewed above) let you convert your miles to cash.

You can choose between two types of miles. The first are from general-purpose cards that do not affiliate with any particular airline. These miles have the same versatility as points, allowing you to cash out your miles whenever you want.

Frequent-flyer miles are the second type, available from co-branded travel cards. Delta, American, United, Southwest, and other airlines work with the major card issuers to provide this type of travel card.

The airlines, rather than the credit card companies, determine how many miles you need for a free ticket. You don’t need to worry if you don’t have enough miles to cover the cost of a flight because you can purchase extra miles to make up the difference or pay cash to cover the shortfall. 

You can also use your miles for priority boarding and seat upgrades. The airlines won’t give you cash for frequent flyer miles, but you can usually redeem them for the carrier’s gift cards.

The following table describes the differences between the two types of air miles:

FEATURESGENERAL-PURPOSE MILES CARDSCO-BRANDED MILES CARDS
Flexibility in RedemptionYou can use the miles with any airline or hotel. There are no blackout dates or travel restrictions.The card typically restricts usage to the affiliated airline or hotel (and its partners). It may have blackout dates and travel restrictions.
Redemption OptionsUse miles for travel, cash back, merchandise, or gift cards.Mainly for travel with a specific brand.
Value for Travel RedemptionsMiles may have a fixed value and offer a lower value for travel redemptions.The card is potentially more valuable when redeemed for flights or stays with the affiliated airline or hotel.
Airline-Specific PerksFewer airline-specific benefits.The card may offer benefits such as free checked bags, priority boarding, complimentary elite status, and in-flight or on-property discounts.
Earning OpportunitiesMay offer consistent earnings on all purchases.Earn extra miles for purchases with the affiliated airline or hotel.
Dependence on a Single BrandThe issuer doesn’t require loyalty to any particular airline or hotel chain.The value ties to a specific airline or hotel chain.
Additional Travel BenefitsMay offer travel benefits such as travel insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and no foreign transaction fees.May offer brand-specific travel benefits and bonuses.
Potential for Status MilesGenerally, they do not offer status miles.May earn miles that count toward elite status with the airline or hotel.

As you can see, there are differences between general-purpose miles cards and co-branded miles cards.

How Can I Redeem Air Miles?

The process for redeeming miles is straightforward. You can redeem general-purpose miles just as you would points, by making an online request at the credit card’s website. You can redeem the miles for cash, statement credits, gift cards, travel, and other items. 

You can use a general-purpose air miles credit card to reimburse previous travel. Capital One cards also let you use your miles to book future flights via the issuer’s travel agency.

Typically, you redeem frequent-flyer miles through the airline’s website, logging in with your card membership number. You can book flights and upgrade seats using miles and/or dollars.

Steps to maximize credit card rewards

The miles required for a flight depend on many factors, including distance, number of stops, and overall availability. You may have to pay a small amount for taxes and fees.

You can redeem your miles for other travel benefits, such as hotels and rental cars, online through your air miles credit card account. Most cards have a portal allowing you to explore available options and see the miles you need to pay for them. 

What Are the Differences Between Miles and Cash Back Cards?

Miles cards are better suited for consumers who travel frequently and want to earn membership rewards they can use for future travel. On the other hand, cash rewards cards offer more straightforward and flexible perks that can benefit a broader range of cardmembers.

This chart gives you an overview of the differences between the two card types.

FEATUREMILES CARDSCASH BACK CARDS
Target AudienceFrequent travelersGeneral consumers
Main RewardAirline miles or travel pointsCash rewards as a percentage of purchases
Redemption OptionsFlights, hotel stays, car rentalsStatement credits, direct deposits, checks, or gift cards
Bonus CategoriesTravel, dining, airlinesGroceries, gas, dining, rotating categories
Earning MechanismEarn miles per dollar spentEarn a percentage of each purchase back as cash
FlexibilityGenerally less flexibleMore flexible
Expiry of RewardsMiles may expireCash back generally doesn’t expire
PartnershipsOften co-branded with airlinesRarely co-branded
Annual FeesVaries, often higherVaries, often lower
Foreign Transaction FeesOften waivedMay apply
Signup BonusesUsually high, aimed at travel redemptionModerate, but easier to redeem

You can convert general-purpose miles to cash as a direct deposit, check, statement credit, or gift card. Airlines do not allow you to cash out your frequent flyer miles, although you can usually redeem them for the carrier’s gift cards. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Selling My Miles?

Leave it to American ingenuity to respond to the refusal of airlines to cash out your miles. You can conduct an internet search to find several brokerage sites that buy and sell frequent flyer miles. 

The general procedure is to submit the details of your miles on the broker’s website (i.e., airline, quantity, and expiration date). You have the option to accept or decline a quote after you receive it. Ascertain the rate at which you can sell your miles and any applicable fees.

If you accept the offer, you usually must provide additional information for verification purposes. This information typically includes your frequent flyer account number and sometimes a screenshot showing your mileage balance.

Some brokers may require you to transfer your miles to a designated account. Others book a ticket for a third party using your miles. You’ll receive payment once the broker successfully transfers the miles. Payment methods vary and can include PayPal, wire transfer, or check.

After the transaction is complete, you’ll receive confirmation and, in some cases, a receipt for your records. Keep an eye on your frequent flyer account to ensure that the transaction record is correct.

Before you take the leap, consider the following pros and cons.

Pros of Selling Miles

Here are some reasons to sell your unused frequent flyer miles to a third-party broker:

  • Immediate cash: Selling your miles offers instant financial gain, converting unused frequent flyer miles into money.
  • Benefit from unused miles: Selling your miles ensures they don’t go to waste if you don’t plan to use them.
  • Quick turnaround: The brokerage services offer speedy transactions, allowing you to cash in your miles fast.
  • Options for high-value miles: Certain types of miles can bring a higher price on the market, making it a more rewarding choice.
  • Avoid expiration: Selling your miles is an excellent way to claim their value if they are about to expire and you have no plans to use them. 

These benefits are alluring, but some serious drawbacks require consideration.

Cons of Selling Miles

Selling miles online can be risky. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Against airline policies: Most airlines plainly state that buying and selling miles is against their terms of service. You risk losing your miles and even your card membership in the frequent flyer program.
  • Tax implications: In some places, the income from selling miles may be taxable, which could offset the gains.
  • Security risks: Providing access to your frequent flyer account to unknown third parties could compromise your personal information.
  • Reduced value: Miles usually are worth less when you sell them instead of redeeming them for flights, upgrades, or other airline services.
  • Potential scams: Selling miles is a gray market activity, creating a risk of fraud or non-payment, especially if you’re dealing with unverified buyers.

To minimize risks, be cautious and ensure you deal with a reputable service.

Are Points Easier Than Miles To Cash Out?

Points are indeed easier to cash out than frequent flyer miles. General-purpose miles are equivalent to points, and cash-out is equally easy for both.

Here are several factors that highlight the ease of cashing out bonus point rewards.

Flexibility in Redemption

Points often come with a broader array of redemption choices, including statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise, making them more liquid assets. Some points programs have multiple retail affiliates or service providers, giving you more options for cash-outs.

Simplicity and Transparency

Bonus point rewards usually have a more straightforward conversion value than frequent flyer miles, which can have variable worth depending on the carrier, flight route, time, and cabin class. 

American Airlines miles redemption screenshot
Travelers can redeem frequent flyer miles online.

Many rewards card websites offer simple interfaces to cash out points, requiring just a few clicks. Redeeming frequent flyer miles effectively requires a more profound understanding of the program’s rules.

Lower Risk

Selling an airline’s miles breaches its terms of service. Conversely, you can gift, convert, or transfer points to an air miles partner without violating any rules. Unlike miles, which may expire if you don’t use them within a set period, points seldom expire as long as your account is active, making it easier to cash them out when you choose.

Better Cash Conversion Rates

Several travel rewards programs offer reasonable rates for converting points into cash or statement credits. In contrast, airlines optimize frequent flyer miles for travel-related redemptions. You can convert points directly through the issuer’s platform, eliminating the need for third-party brokers with their fees and less favorable rates.

User-Friendly Policies

Points programs often have fewer blackout dates or restrictions on when and how to redeem your points. Points can be quicker to accumulate through various spending categories, not just travel-related expenses.

Screenshot of Discover's miles details
Review your credit card options to determine if blackout dates apply.

Ultimately, the better choice between the two reward types largely depends on your spending habits and what you want to gain from your rewards.

Consider Your Travel Card Options

On its face, it seems clear that it’s better to have a travel credit card that lets you convert your rewards into cash. But you should consider some of the benefits unique to co-branded miles cards. They often allow you to build your trove of frequent flyer miles faster, and, depending on the airline, the miles may be more valuable than points or cash back. 

General-purpose miles are a different story. They are easy to cash out, and they let you accumulate miles twice in one trip — once by charging the tickets and again by earning the frequent flyer miles from the airline. General-purpose miles cards also don’t lock you into a particular airline. 

In summary, the five reviewed products are your best credit card bets if you travel often, prefer miles to points, and want the option to cash out your rewards without breaking the rules.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.