Anna Baluch is a finance writer who enjoys writing about personal money management topics, including credit and lending, mortgages, retirement, insurance, and investing. Her work has been published on LendingTree, Business Insider, Experian, Credit Karma, Inc.com, ValuePenguin, MagnifyMoney, and other well-known online publications. Anna holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Northwood University.
Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.
Ashley has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. 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. Her credit card commentary is often featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others.
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Review Breakdown: Best Airline Miles Credit Cards
Can't decide which is the best airline credit card for miles and points? The following summary breaks down all the top air miles cards for frequent flyers, along with each card's mileage features and introductory rates. Click on a card name to visit the issuer's official site and online application.
Here are 2023's best credit cards for airline miles:
If you’re an avid traveler, you may be on the lookout for the best air miles credit cards, which can help you save a great deal of money on your trips. When used wisely, an airline miles credit card can help you earn free airfare and land deals on car rentals, hotels, and other travel essentials.
To start, most airlines now offer co-branded credit cards that allow you to earn frequent flyer miles on your everyday purchases. Additionally, credit card programs with transferable points let cardholders turn purchase rewards into frequent flyer miles with partner airlines.
To earn even more miles, you can take advantage of special deals through both types of cards, including through partner programs and lucrative signup bonuses. Always make sure your purchases fit your budget, however, as no extra miles are worth expensive interest fees.
The following questions and answers break down the top cards for frequent flyers and each card’s features and rates.
1. What is an Air Miles Credit Card?
An air miles credit card is a credit card that rewards you with miles you can use toward travel expenses, including flights. It’s a type of benefit you may earn for simply spending money on a credit card. Of course, the more money you spend on a card, the more miles you’ll earn.
One air miles card, for example, may reward you with one mile for every dollar you spend. As soon as you’ve accumulated enough miles, you can redeem them for a free flight — or rental car, hotel accommodations, etc., depending on the card.
It’s important to note that the airlines themselves, rather than the credit card company, determine how many miles you’ll need to earn to cash in on a flight.
In the event you don’t have enough miles to cover the cost of a flight entirely, no worries. You can purchase extra miles to make up the difference or pay for the difference using your card. If your miles are linked to the frequent flyer program of a specific airline, you may be able to put them toward perks such as priority boarding or seat upgrades.
2. How Do Air Miles Credit Cards Work?
While every air miles card has its own set of rules, most cards operate in a similar fashion. After you sign up for a card, it’s your job to use it on groceries, bills, entertainment, and other everyday or large purchases. You’ll earn miles for every purchase, and when you’ve built up enough miles, you can redeem them for flights.
To do so, you’ll likely need to log into your credit card or frequent flyers account so you can access a special portal. As soon as you’re logged in, you’ll be able to explore a variety of redemption options. Keep in mind that most programs will have certain dates during which you cannot redeem your points for flights as well as dates when flights cost significantly more points.
Some miles cards, like the popular Capital One Venture cards, let you apply your miles to travel-related purchases you’ve already made. This essentially refunds your account for past eligible purchases rather than using them to cover future travel expenses through the issuer’s portal.
You’ll find that some air miles credit cards come with miles that are worth a flat rate. Others offer flat redemption options that will be based on the distance of the flights you wish to take. It’s also possible for some cards to base redemption on the price of the flights that pique your interest.
Every air miles credit card is different so be sure to read the fine print and understand the ins and outs of a program before you participate in it. If you’re unclear about something, don’t hesitate to reach out to your issuer with questions.
3. How Do I Get an Air Miles Card?
Fortunately, plenty of air miles credit cards are on the market. If you’d like to use one to save money on airfare, you’re in luck. Most credit card issuers make the process fast and easy. Once you decide on a particular card, visit the card issuer’s website and click on the page with details about it.
Take the time to read as much as you can about the card. If you like what you’ve read and believe it’s a good option for you, click on the “Apply Now” button. You’ll be directed to an online application form that shouldn’t take long to complete.
You’ll need to provide personal information that will include your name, date of birth, and Social Security number. You may also have to state whether you’re a U.S. citizen and provide your contact information, including your phone, address, and email.
Lastly, you’ll be required to share financial information. This may include your employment status, total annual income, monthly rent or mortgage payments, and the types of bank accounts you currently have open. You’ll be asked to carefully read through and agree to disclosures before submitting your application.
The credit card issuer will let you know near-instantly whether you’ve been approved. If for some reason it needs to evaluate additional details that can hold up the approval process, the issuer will contact you via email or mail with its decision.
4. What is the Best Air Miles Card?
There is no hard and fast answer to this question. While one air miles credit card may make sense for your friend, another option may be a better fit for you.
Spending Habits: Some air miles credit cards offer miles for everyday spending. Others are more specific, however, and reward you with more miles if you spend in certain categories like restaurants, delivery services, and streaming services. Select the card that will give you the most bang for your buck for your spending habits.
Flying Habits: Do you prefer to stick to one airline or are you indifferent and like the freedom of being able to fly on a variety of airlines? Your answer can help you narrow down your options and select the best card for your flying habits.
Annual Fees: If a card has annual fees, it’s your job to figure out whether they’re worth it. Let’s say you find a card you like but it’ll cost you $100 per year. If you’ll use it and get perks, like free checked bags or airport lounge membership, paying the fee is likely a no-brainer.
Welcome Bonuses: Many air miles credit cards come with a sign up bonus or an annual bonus. You can collect them as long as you meet the minimum spending threshold within a few months. If the welcome bonus has caught your attention but you don’t feel confident you’ll be able to spend enough money in time, you may want to consider an alternative card.
5. Who Should Use an Airline Miles Credit Card?
Whether you only fly once a year or your work sends you around the world weekly, all types of travelers can benefit from an airline miles credit card. These cards allow you to earn rewards on everyday purchases, so no matter how you spend, you can be working toward free travel.
Many airline-branded credit cards also provide additional perks, including seat upgrades and early boarding when you fly with that specific airline, making the overall travel experience more enjoyable.
6. What is a Co-Branded Airline Credit Card?
Many times you will hear an airline credit card referred to as a co-branded credit card. A co-branded credit card is sponsored by an airline in partnership with a bank or credit card brand such as Visa or Mastercard.
The airline provides miles or travel points for purchases made using the card, as well as discounts or additional benefits when flying with that airline. Co-branded cards allow cardholders to redeem travel points for free flights and other rewards from affiliated brands for travel necessities such as hotel stays, car rentals, and more.
7. How Do You Earn Airline Miles?
With an airline credit card, you earn miles for each dollar you spend in your monthly billing cycle. In addition, many airlines offer a significant number of miles as a signup bonus when you spend a certain amount within the first few months of opening the card. In some cases, these bonuses are enough for a free flight right off the bat.
Because using an airline credit card allows you to accumulate miles on everyday purchases like groceries, gas, and clothes, you don’t have to be a frequent flyer to earn free flights. As is typically the case, each dollar you spend earns you one frequent flyer mile. However, you often earn more miles per dollar when buying airfare on the same airline as the one that sponsors your credit card.
Some cards also provide bonus miles for the money you spend at certain retailers, restaurants, hotels, or car rental companies. You can check out the earnings rates of popular premium travel rewards cards below:
Check your account online to learn more about additional reward options. Some may require you to opt-in before you can start earning the benefits, and since such bonus reward categories can change periodically or every quarter, it’s important to check back frequently to see which options are available.
Many times, you can even earn bonus miles and exclusive cardholder discounts by shopping through the credit card’s online portal.
8. How Do You Redeem Airline Miles?
The process for redeeming miles is pretty basic. Typically, you redeem miles through the airline’s website, logging in with a rewards number associated with your credit card account. From there you have the option to search flights and select the price of airfare in both dollars and miles.
The number of miles required for a flight depends on many factors, including distance, number of stops, and overall availability. You may have to pay a small amount for taxes and fees.
Redeeming your miles for other travel benefits like hotels and rental cars is commonly done through your online credit card account. Most cards have a portal that allows you to explore available options and see the number of miles you’ll need to pay for them. In some cases, a credit card may provide a statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase in exchange for miles as well.
9. Are All Travel Miles the Same as Frequent Flyer Miles?
There is an important distinction between travel miles earned with a credit card and frequent flyer miles accrued through a specific airline.
Frequent flyer miles are miles you earn based on the distance you have flown on that particular airline. Travel miles differ in that they can be earned on just about any purchase you make with your airline credit card. That allows everyday travelers to earn free flights faster. Travel miles also provide more redemption options to reduce your overall travel expenses.
In addition to airline credit cards, other types of co-branded credit cards from companies such as Hilton Hotels or Hertz rental cars allow you to earn points to meet your specific travel needs.
10. Are Points the Same as Miles?
When you’re shopping around for an air miles credit card, you’ll notice that you can earn points or miles. Essentially, credit card points and credit card miles are the same thing. They can be earned for spending money on a credit card and used toward airfare and other purchases.
The credit card you choose will provide you with detailed information on the value of one point or one mile. If you don’t want to use your points or miles on travel, you may be able to put them toward other options, including statement credits, gift cards, or merchandise.
Even though miles and points are similar, there is one major distinction between the two of them. In most cases, miles are seen on cards that are co-branded with a particular airline. You’ll only be able to redeem the miles for flight tickets with the airline and its partners.
Points are usually linked to a card issuer such as American Express or Chase. They almost always come with a set value and offer more flexible redemption options.
This is exciting as it can allow you to save points and miles for pricey trips on your bucket list. If you’d like to take your family of five to Disney World, for example, you can rack up a bunch of miles or points for a few years. Eventually, you’ll have enough to cover the cost of airfare to Orlando.
Since paying for flights for a family of five is anything but cheap, an air miles credit card can shave thousands off the overall price of your trip.
12. What Are the Benefits of Using Airline Miles Credit Cards?
The biggest benefit of using an airline miles credit card is that you can travel more at a lower cost. By using one of these cards for everyday expenses, you’re always working toward free travel, even if you’re staying put at home.
If you’re able to subtract the cost of airfare from your travel budget, that savings can be used to treat yourself on the trip or explore more destinations around the globe.
Another major benefit of airline miles credit cards is the added perks that can make flying on your favorite airline that much more comfortable. Whether you want to secure some extra legroom with a seat upgrade or ensure first crack at the overhead bins with early boarding, you have more options available as an airline cardholder.
Cardholders may receive special benefits that include priority boarding, free in-flight WiFi, and Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursements, among other perks.
Airport lounge access is also a benefit you may enjoy if you dislike waiting at the gate. You’ll get to relax in comfortable chairs with free WiFi, food, beverages, and more.
We can’t forget about travel insurance and discounts on in-flight food and drink purchases. Before you move forward with a card, ensure it offers the benefits that are most important to you.
13. What Are the Drawbacks of Using Airline Miles Credit Cards?
Though airline credit cards come with a number of nice benefits, there are some drawbacks. Because your card is tied to a specific airline, you’re limited by its flight times and destinations. If that airline doesn’t fly to where you want to go, you’ll have to look to other carriers.
However, some airlines are part of a worldwide airline alliance that lets you use miles to book with another airline within their network.
When trying to determine which airline credit card is right for you, pay attention to the financial details. Certain cards that offer more significant rewards can come with pricey annual fees and high interest rates.
If your travel isn’t enough to outweigh the yearly cost of being a cardholder, you should look at other card options.
14. How Do You Compare Travel Rewards Cards?
When determining which travel rewards card is right for you, first think about what type of travel you would benefit the most from. Find your favorite airline or hotel chain and evaluate the different options they offer.
As you compare, pay attention to details such as the annual fee, annual percentage rate (APR), and how many miles you earn per dollar spent. A number of travel rewards cards are available without an annual fee. This is the way to go if you’re an infrequent traveler.
Cards with annual fees may allow you to earn slightly more rewards, but the annual fee erases a lot of the savings if you’re only flying once or twice each year. If you do wind up with an annual fee credit card, you can often call the company and ask them to waive the charge. Though this isn’t a guarantee, they’d generally rather keep you as a cardholder than collect the cash.
15. What Are Foreign Transaction Fees & How Do You Avoid Them?
Another important consideration when choosing a travel rewards credit card is its foreign transaction fee policy. The bank and/or credit card company charges a small fee of each purchase you make outside of the U.S. as a transaction fee. If you’re a frequent international traveler, finding a card with no foreign transaction fees is critical.
While the small fees may seem insignificant at first, they can add up quickly. Thankfully, most of the best travel credit cards come without foreign transaction fees. Check your card’s terms and conditions to see if your credit card charges foreign transaction fees.
16. How Do You Maximize Your Airline Miles?
To maximize your airline miles, carefully consider your spending habits. If you know you’re responsible with debt and will pay off your entire balance each month, put every expense you can on the card. Carrying a balance and paying interest only cuts into the benefits of the rewards.
Also, examine whether your card allows you to earn bonus miles through other avenues like dining at certain restaurants, shopping at specific retailers, or using the credit card’s online shopping portal.
Though your airline miles certainly help you save money, treat the travel process as if you were still searching for the best deal. Monitor the price of flights online and book in advance to ensure you get the seats you want without having to eat up extra miles by paying a premium fare.
17. How Do You Earn a Signup Bonus with an Airlines Miles Credit Card?
The value of a signup bonus — sometimes called a welcome bonus — can make or break a great airline miles credit card.
In many cases, the initial offer of miles is enough to immediately earn you a free flight. However, be sure to examine the fine print.
While some cards give you the bonus miles just for opening an account, other cards require you first spend several thousand dollars within a few short months before you are eligible to earn the signup bonus.
Bonus points or miles can be a great way to maximize your earnings with an air miles card. While not all cards offer them, many do. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can lock in a ton of bonus points after you spend a couple thousand on purchases.
The only caveat here is that you must spend this money in the first three months from when you open your account, but that’s pretty typical with most signup bonuses.
If you have to live beyond your means just to meet the spending requirement, the card isn’t worth it. On the flip side, if you know you’ll be making a series of big purchases for, say, a home improvement project or a wedding, it’s a good time to look into a new rewards card with a significant signup bonus even if it comes with a spending requirement.
18. Can You Transfer Credit Card Miles to Frequent Flyer Programs?
If you have an airline credit card and are also a member of that airline’s frequent flyer program, your miles and points are likely intertwined. Each airline structures its redemption program differently, with some airlines requiring more miles than others for a free flight.
If your goal is to transfer your rewards points for frequent flyer points on multiple airlines, you will likely be better off with a more generic travel card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, that allows you to use your rewards toward all types of travel expenses.
For the most part, miles aren’t interchangeable between major airlines. You will not be able to use your Southwest miles to book a flight on United. However, some domestic airlines have partnerships with other airlines around the globe that may allow you to book flights with your points.
19. Can Travel Rewards Credit Cards Be Used for Free Hotel Stays?
Yes, you can redeem miles and points for hotel stays. If your goal is to save money on hotel accommodations instead of airfare, many of the major hotel chains, including Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott, offer their own co-branded rewards credit cards that will help you earn the most points.
If you’re still set on an airline credit card, not to worry — many airlines maintain partnerships that allow the exchange of points across their affiliates for significant discounts.
20. Are Air Miles Credit Cards Better Than Cash Back Credit Cards?
If you consider yourself an avid flyer, an air miles credit card is ideal. It’s a great option if you book flights for business or pleasure trips on a regular basis. While air miles credit cards can be useful money-saving tools, they’re not for everyone.
In the event you rarely fly, you may be better off with a cash back credit card. With a cash back credit card, you’ll receive cash back, rather than miles for your purchases. You can deposit this cash in your bank account or apply it toward your credit balance.
When used appropriately, cash back credit cards can be a great way to earn some extra cash at the end of every month. Depending on your spending habits and priorities, it may make sense to sign up for both an air mile credit card and a cash back credit card.
21. Do Air Miles Cards Affect Credit Scores?
You may be surprised to learn that your credit score won’t take too much of a hit if you apply for a new air miles credit card. This is particularly true if your credit is already at a good place.
While you may notice a temporary reduction in your credit score due to the hard inquiry, your credit score will likely go up eventually.
Just make sure you pay your credit card bill on time and in full every month. If you’re worried you’ll forget, enroll in automatic payments or set calendar reminders on your phone. Payment history is the single most important factor in your credit score, so be sure to avoid missed or late payments as much as possible.
22. Are Air Miles Credit Cards a Good Option for Business Travelers?
If you travel frequently for business, an air miles credit card may be the way to go. Chances are you have an airline or two that you’re loyal to. If this is the case, find an air mile credit card that can allow you to earn free flights from this airline. Not only will these airline-specific cards ensure you get great perks, but they may also increase the number of airline miles you earn.
These cards can make your business trips more affordable and comfortable. Depending on the card you select, you may enjoy perks like free baggage check, priority seating, and airport lounge memberships. All of these conveniences can make work travel far more appealing.
Some of our favorite air miles credit cards for business travelers include the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, Business Platinum Card® from American Express, and the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.
23. What are Flexible Air Miles Credit Cards?
When it comes to flexibility, not all air miles credit cards are created equal. You’ll discover that some options are certainly more flexible than others. Flexible air miles credit cards allow you to choose how you’d like to redeem your rewards.
You won’t have to book travel with just one particular airline. If you’re not loyal to one particular travel brand, flexible air miles cards are definitely worth looking into. They can help you save on flights from Southwest, United, American, and other airlines you may like.
Our top pick for a flexible air miles credit card is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You can use the miles you accumulate toward flights with any airline, any time. Unlike other air miles credit cards, there are no blackout dates, so you’re bound to find a flight when you need to.
24. Is There an Airline Card that Covers TSA Precheck?
If skipping security lines via TSA Precheck is one of your favorite travel perks, rest assured you may be able to receive this benefit for free with an airline credit card. You may be eligible to have some or the entire TSA Precheck application fee covered. Depending on the card you select, you may have the chance to pay for it with miles or points.
Consider these options if TSA precheck is important to you: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and The Platinum Card®. They are especially good choices if you’re constantly in a hurry and like the idea of speeding through security.
25. Which Eligible Purchases Count Toward Air Mile Rewards?
If you’d like to make the most out of an air miles credit card, consider the card’s list of eligible purchases. This way you’ll know what purchases count and will earn you the most miles.
With the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, for example, you’ll get the same number of miles on every purchase. This means no matter what you use your credit card for, you’ll receive rewards you can later use toward flights. Other cards aren’t as flexible as their eligible purchases are more specific.
26. What Are the Best Air Miles Credit Cards from American Express?
If you’d like to use an American Express card to earn miles, you have several options available to you. The Platinum Card® is a great choice because its long list of perks are hard to find elsewhere.
With this card, you’ll enjoy a hefty intro bonus and generous Membership Rewards® Points. You’ll also receive other perks like travel credits, airport lounge access, and complimentary Gold Status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors.
In addition, you can select an American Express credit card like the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card. If you prefer a Delta flight, it can save you a lot of money.
This card offers the most points for spending categories such as eating out and ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, flights, hotels, and homestays.
27. Can I Earn Elite Status with Air Miles Credit Cards?
Airline elite status comes with a variety of benefits you’re sure to appreciate. As an elite member, you’ll be one of the first customers to receive assistance in the event there’s an issue with your travel plans. You’ll also enjoy unique benefits like priority boarding, a free checked bag, and complimentary upgrades.
While you can earn elite status organically by simply flying often with a certain airline, you may find it easier and faster to get to this point with air miles credit cards. One example of a reward card you can consider is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®.
This card is a particularly good choice if you desire elite status with American Airlines and value optimal comfort.
28. Am I Able to Turn My Miles into Gift Cards?
If you’ve accumulated a lot of miles but don’t have plans to use them any time soon, you may wonder if you can turn them into gift cards. While some airlines and websites like Points.com may allow you to do so, this isn’t necessarily a good choice.
This is mainly because miles are known to drop in value significantly if you use them toward anything other than travel. Therefore, it’s probably a better idea to wait until you need to book a flight. You can see some examples of redemption values for three popular rewards programs below:
We’re willing to bet that you’d be pretty disappointed if you found out that the tens of thousands of miles you’ve earned will only get you a $25 Amazon gift card.
29. Can I Use an Airline Card to Perform a Balance Transfer?
A balance transfer may be a smart move if you’d like to pay down high-interest debt or pay off a large purchase and save on interest in the process. It involves transferring debt from a credit card with high interest to a new card with an introductory 0% interest rate offer.
Fortunately, many air miles credit cards come with these introductory 0% interest offers. Keep in mind that your interest rate will increase significantly once this period is over and there may be terms and fees involved.
30. Can I Get a Secured Card and Earn Air Miles?
A secured credit card is a bit different than a traditional unsecured credit card. If you have bad credit, it may be a better option. With a secured credit card, you’ll make a refundable security deposit. In exchange for your deposit in exchange for a line of credit.
You’ll find that if you don’t have the best credit, creditors will be more willing to extend you a secured credit card. This is because they’ll have your deposit to cover the balance if you don’t pay it.
If you’re interested in a secured credit card but would like to earn air miles, you do have options. Some of the best secured credit cards with air miles include the LATAM Visa Secured Card.
31. How Do I Redeem Venture Rewards?
If you go with either the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, you’ll earn Venture Rewards. You’ll be able to redeem your miles on all types of travel purchases, including vacation rentals and car rentals. Additionally, you’ll have the freedom to transfer your miles to over 10 travel loyalty programs.
Venture Rewards also offers a number of other noteworthy benefits, including the ability to earn as many miles as you wish, and you don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees.
32. Will I Receive Free Access to Airport Lounges?
Airport lounges are a great travel perk that may pique your interest. They serve as the perfect place to wait for your flight, especially if you have a long layover or need to recover from a red-eye. Most of them offer complimentary amenities such as food, alcohol, high-speed WiFi, showers, and more.
If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll find that airport lounges add a great deal of comfort to your trips. While you can pay to access them, you can also enjoy them for free or at a reduced rate with an air miles credit card.
The Platinum Card® and Business Platinum Card®, for instance, offer cardholders free access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection. This includes 1,200 airport lounges that span across 130 countries.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a similar perk where cardholders can enroll in Priority Pass™ Select to receive a Priority Pass card (for no extra fee) that will gain them entry to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide.
33. Do I Have to Settle for One Airline Rewards Credit Card?
In your research for the best airline rewards credit cards, you may find a few cards that cater to your needs. Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for one. You can apply for and open several airline rewards credit cards if you wish.
If you go this route, however, make sure you’re strategic about the way you use your cards. You don’t want to spread your spending thin across each card because doing so will prevent you from maximizing your earn rate.
You may want to use one card for business travel and another one for personal travel. If you’re a fan of two separate airlines, consider two cards that allow you to earn miles for both of them. Be creative in the way you use your air miles credit cards.
34. Can I Get Free Checked Bags?
These days, it can cost some serious cash to check your bags. While checked bag fees vary from airline to airline, they are rarely cheap. American Airlines, for example, charges $30 for one checked bag and $200 for four or more checked bags. These numbers go up for international flights.
The good news is that some air miles credit cards offer free checked bags as a perk. If this perk is important to you, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card should definitely be on your radar.
These cards can give you the chance to redeem your miles for airline purchases as well as accompanying fees and travel purchases like checked bags.
35. What is the Best Travel Credit Card If I’m a Luxury Traveler?
If you consider yourself a luxury traveler, you should be selective in the travel card you select. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one great option because it targets travelers who like to travel in style and comfort.
With this card, you can cash in on a generous signup bonus as long — as you meet the minimum spending threshold within the specified period — and earn annual travel statement credits, among plenty of other perks.
Additionally, if you redeem your travel points via Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll enjoy 50% more value for your rewards. Rest assured that there are no foreign transaction fees, and you’ll receive complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges across the world. While there is a hefty annual fee, it will likely be well worth it if you take advantage of all the perks this card offers.
Of course, the Reserve isn’t the only luxury travel credit card available — here’s a rewards comparison chart for the top premium travel cards on the market:
Any of these cards can make a great addition to your wallet if you can match your travel habits and spending to the card’s offerings.
36. If I’m New to Air Miles Credit Cards, Which Card Should I Look into?
If you’re a newbie to air miles credit cards, the Capital One Venture cards or the Discover it® Miles cards are all great options. Each offers the most straightforward redemption option by letting you apply points toward eligible purchases you’ve already made, rather than dealing with issuer portals to schedule your travel plans.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is also worth considering, though it’s technically a points card. The annual fee is affordable, and you’ll get a ton of benefits. You’ll be able to cash in on the bonus points if you meet the minimum spending threshold.
You’ll earn the most from your spending by redeeming your rewards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also offers other travel protections that include lost luggage, baggage delay, and rental car insurance.
The main caveat with these cards, however, is that you do need to have good credit to qualify. If your credit score is on the low side, you may want to look into other options.
37. Can I Get an Air Miles Credit Card with Bad Credit?
If you have bad credit, don’t assume you’re ineligible for an airline credit card. You may want to look for a secured option you can qualify for more easily. You’ll need to put down a security deposit but can still earn points or reward miles for your spending.
Another perk of secured air mile cards is that you can use them to build credit. Be sure to pay your balance on time and in full each month. Eventually, you’ll notice a boost in your credit score and be able to apply for unsecured cards.
Unsecured cards like the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card do require good or excellent credit. However, the exceptional benefits often make their credit requirements well worth it.
38. Should I Sign Up for a Frequent Flyer Program?
If you travel often on one airline, you may want to join its frequent flyer program. Fortunately, most airlines allow you to join their programs free of charge. To sign up, simply visit the airline’s website and enter basic details about yourself like your name and address.
You’ll receive a membership number that you’ll be able to use the next time you book a flight with the airline. Some frequent flyer programs will give you credits for past flights you took.
You can transfer your rewards points for frequent flyer miles. If this is important to you, however, it’s wise to opt for a travel card that’s flexible and offers rewards for various travel expenses.
39. How Can I Calculate How Much a Rewards Point or Mile is Worth?
Most air miles credit cards will reward you with points or miles. However, the value of the points or reward miles you earn can change every time you book a trip.
Let’s say you decide to use 50,000 miles on an airline ticket that costs $1,000. In this case, your miles are each worth 2 cents.
40. Can I Change a Flight I Booked with Miles?
Airlines understand that travel plans can change at any moment. Therefore, most of them will allow you to modify a flight you booked with miles or points. Some may even do so without charging you.
This is a huge perk if you’re particularly prone to last-minute flight changes. You may be able to make changes to your flights without spending a lot of time or extra money.
While each airline has its own set of rules, you’ll find that the flights you book with miles often offer flexibility.
41. How Can I Keep Track of the Miles I Earn?
It may be overwhelming to keep track of all your miles or points if you open and use more than one air miles credit card. One of the best ways to stay organized and track your rewards is through a simple Excel or Google spreadsheet.
Make sure your spreadsheet includes the name of each program, your login info, and the last mileage or points count. Pull up the spreadsheet any time you want to book travel so you know which card to use. You don’t have to update your spreadsheet every day, but it’s a good idea to do so whenever you log in to one of your accounts.
Alternatively, several apps exist for this exact purpose. Two examples are AwardWallet and Points.com, both of which can help you manage your rewards and even transfer points between programs.
42. How Can I Earn Credit Card Miles Aside from Everyday Spending?
Signup bonuses, anniversary milestones, authorized users, and referral programs are additional ways to earn miles and points. To cash in on a sign up bonus, you’ll need to meet a certain spending threshold within the first few months your account is open.
An anniversary milestone occurs when a credit card rewards you annually for staying active with them. The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, for example, offers anniversary milestones for spending on select travel and business categories.
When you add an authorized user to your air miles credit card, they’ll be able to use it as well. If both of you use the same card, you’ll likely rack up more miles or points. Some credit card issuers may also reward you for referring your friends and family to their cards.
43. How Can I Use an Air Miles Credit Card Responsibly?
If you’re going to use an air miles credit card, don’t overlook the importance of responsible spending. Be sure to pay your credit card bills on time as even one missed or late payment can ding your credit card.
You should also avoid racking up your card to the point where you can’t afford your payments. If you tend to overspend, an airline credit card may do more harm than good.
It’s wise to keep track of your spending by logging onto your account on a weekly or biweekly basis. Doing so can help you avoid unwanted financial surprises and a cycle of debt.
44. What are Blackout Dates?
Blackout dates are dates when you can’t use travel rewards. In most cases, they fall on or around major holidays or other peak travel times. So if you want to book a Christmas vacation with your miles or points, you may not be able to.
This could be problematic if your work or personal schedule only allows you to travel during these time frames. The good news is some credit cards don’t have blackout dates. With the Capital One® Venture cards, for instance, you can book travel with your miles at any time.
Unless you’re very flexible with your travel dates, it’s worthwhile to find a card that is free of blackout dates. Otherwise, you may have a tough time using your miles toward trips.
45. Can I Book Through a Third Party and Still Earn Miles or Points?
If you’d like to make the most out of your air miles credit card, it is in your best interest to stay away from third-party travel sites. While sites like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity are convenient, they may not give you the most bang for your buck.
You may still earn miles but you’ll probably receive fewer rewards than you would if you booked directly with the provider or through the card issuer’s own portal. In addition, the miles you earn may not count toward elite status with your credit card.
If you like the easy cost comparison aspect of third-party sites, you can always use them to do your research. Once you find the best price, go to the airline website and book there.
46. What is Pay with Miles and How Can It Benefit Me?
Pay with Miles is an exclusive benefit for Delta SkyMiles cardholders. It offers the flexibility to apply miles toward the cost of your airfare.
You can lower the cost of an airline ticket by $50 for 5,000 miles, $100 for 10,000 miles, and so on. Fortunately, it won’t cost you a penny to use Pay with Miles. You can use it as often as you like, as long as you have enough miles in your account.
You may even be able to cover the cost of a friend or family member’s airfare. Keep in mind that you’ll only see the Pay with Miles option if you have at least 5,000 miles per passenger in your account, or your flight is through Delta or a Delta Connection carrier.
47. What are Rotating Bonus Categories on Air Miles Cards?
Some cards feature bonus categories that rotate every month or quarter. Essentially, these categories allow you to earn more rewards on certain purchases that change throughout the year. The bonus categories in January will likely be different than the ones offered in July.
If you don’t mind keeping track of the changing bonus categories, enrolling in them, and making changes to your spending, these cards may be a good option. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers rotating categories that provide bonus cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.
48. What is Chase Ultimate Rewards?
Chase Ultimate Rewards is the points reward portal for Chase credit cards. This is where you can apply your points toward a variety of rewards. You can book your next vacation, pay for all or a portion of a new Apple product, or get a gift card to your favorite store, among other options.
Chase Ultimate Rewards® is the points reward portal from Chase Bank, offered on select Chase cards.
49. Can Air Miles Credit Cards Save You Money on In-Flight Purchases?
Some air miles credit cards can save you cash on a number of in-flight purchases. With these purchases, you’re more likely to enjoy your time on the plane. The Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card offers a statement credit you can use on eligible Delta in-flight purchases.
A few examples of these purchases include food, drinks, and headsets. The Platinum Card® can help you cover the cost of in-flight purchases as well. You may select one qualifying airline and earn statement credits to pay for in-flight refreshments and other fees like checked bags.
50. What Should I Do with My Miles or Points If Travel is Not an Option?
In a perfect world, you’d always be able to use your miles or points toward travel. However, things like a busy work schedule and a global pandemic may get in the way. While you may be tempted to use your rewards toward other perks unrelated to travel, doing so may not be a good idea.
Here’s why: In most cases, other options will give you less value for your hard-earned rewards. So if you can, just hold the miles or points you’ve accumulated. Fortunately, most of them don’t expire.
While you may get instant gratification from gift cards, cash back, and merchandise, the per point or per mile value will be very low. Try to wait it out so you can make the most out of your rewards sometime in the future.
51. Can I Apply Points or Miles Toward Travel Costs Other Than Airfare?
Yes! Points or miles can help you reduce travel costs by covering hotels, rental cars, and even meals. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, for instance, allows redemption on vacation rentals, car rentals, and more. You can also transfer your miles to over 10 travel loyalty programs.
While airfare is expensive, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Paying for lodging, dining, and entertainment while you’re away from home can add up quickly. Points or miles can definitely ease some of these expenses.
52. If I Travel to Alaska Often, Which Rewards Card Should I Get?
Alaska is one of those places that many travelers never visit or only travel to once in a while. If you’re a frequent Alaska traveler, however, you may wonder if there’s a rewards card that can help you save on an Alaska airline.
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is one of the best cards to use if you’d like to earn Alaska miles. It can be a solid pick if you live on the West Coast, have family in Alaska, or do business there regularly.
Not only can you use the miles you earn toward an Alaska airline flight, the card can help you save on flights with its airline partners, including American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and LATAM. Another great perk is its annual companion fare that can save you a lot of cash on airfare.
This exclusive club also offers personalized, one-on-one assistance with your flights. With the Platinum Card®, you’ll enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection®. This means you can relax in over 1,200 airport lounges across hundreds of countries.
Taking advantage of the Global Lounge Collection® is a must, especially if you have long layovers or travel very frequently. It can completely revolutionize the way you travel as it eliminates the discomfort of traditional waiting areas.
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About the Author
Personal Finance Writer
Anna Baluch is a finance writer who enjoys writing about personal money management topics, including credit and lending, mortgages, retirement, insurance, and investing. Her work has been published on LendingTree, Business Insider, Experian, Credit Karma, Inc.com, ValuePenguin, MagnifyMoney, and other well-known online publications. Anna holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Northwood University.
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