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Looking to earn $500 in free travel with the best miles credit cards? Some people like credit cards for their extra perks like travel credits, free airport lounge access, or spending perks. But you might primarily use credit cards for travel miles and prefer to earn air miles for flights. If you want to earn the most valuable points, here are the 7 best credit cards for travel miles. And you may be surprised to find out the best air miles credit cards might not even be co-branded with an airline.
What Are the Best Credit Cards for Travel Miles?
- Best Overall 60k Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best Spending Rewards: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Best Premium: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Best Flexible Travel Miles: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Best Business Credit Card: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
- Best Air Miles Credit Card: British Airways Visa Signature® Card
- Best Hotel Credit Card: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Best Miles Credit Card: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® (EXPIRED)
Chase Sapphire Preferred – Best Credit Card for Travel Miles
If you’ve been considering applying for a new credit card that gives you awesome benefits, fantastic travel rewards, and a great sign-up bonus, there’s no need to look further than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred personal card comes with a sweet bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points are equal to $750 in travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, or you can get even more value by transferring your points out to a travel partner. The $95 annual fee isn’t waived for the first year, but the bonus and benefits certainly justify the fee. In my opinion, this is the best credit card for travel miles.
Beyond the 60,000 point sign-up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best cards for accruing rewards points. And you’ll be earning Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed through Chase’s coveted Ultimate Rewards program. This card also has some of the best travel protection of any card on the market.
When you redeem your points through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll be getting 1.25 cents for each point on car rental, airfare, hotel, cruise or other activity booked in the portal, so 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points = $750 in travel. This is one of the best exchanges on the market place, and remember you can get even more value by transferring your points out to a travel transfer partner.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits
Did we mention travel benefits? The list of benefits you’ll gain when you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card goes on and on. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be used around the world and you won’t incur any foreign transaction fees.
Saving that 3% on each foreign purchase will save you a lot of money and keep you from running back to the ATM for more cash. When you use your Chase Sapphire Preferred card you’ll also receive 2x the points for all travel and dining purchases. Whether you’re booking flights, renting a car, booking a hotel room or taking a taxi, you’ll be earning double the points.
Along with all of your spending benefits on travel, you get travel protection. This includes trip cancellation and interruption insurance, rental car damage insurance, travel accident insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, and baggage delay reimbursement. That’s a lengthy list of travel protection goodness. Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers users purchase protection, warranty protection, price protection and return protection on other purchases.
To top all of these benefits off, Chase Sapphire Preferred is a premium card that gets you access to a customer service agent, 24/7. You get to talk to a live person without going through a phone tree. Imagine that.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular rewards card available today. The 60,000 point sign-up bonuses are industry-leading, and their perks are top-notch. Plus, Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most flexible points you can earn.
Learn more: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Capital One Venture – 50,000 Points, TSA Precheck
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus when you spend $3000 in the first 3 months. And it earns 2x miles on all purchases, $0 intro annual fee (then $95/year), redeem miles for travel statements, TSA Precheck or Global Entry, and you can now transfer your miles out to airline partners.
This might actually be Capital One’s most popular card, thanks to its easy-to-use rewards and valuable sign-up bonus. The Venture definitely doesn’t compete with the luxury-level travel rewards cards from AMEX, Chase, and Citi, but it holds its own as a midrange option.
At 2x miles on every purchase (with each mile worth 1 cent), you’re essentially earning 2% back in rewards. That’s on top of that 50,000-mile sign-up bonus, which is worth $500. When it comes time to redeem your miles, you’ll have two options:
- Purchase Eraser: Redeem your miles as a statement credit against travel purchases made in the last 90 days
- Book travel: Use your miles to book travel through Capital One
You can also make partial redemptions, with no redemption minimum. That means you’ll be able to take full advantage of all of your rewards, no matter how few you have. And, as a bonus, your miles won’t expire. For travel rewards cards, redemption options don’t get much more flexible or straightforward than this. For these reasons, the Venture Rewards made it to the best Capital One credit cards list. You can see this post on how the Chase Sapphire Preferreds and Capital One Venture compare.
Learn more: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve – Best Premium Miles Card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® isn’t one of the best travel credit cards for beginners, but it’s one of the best credit cards for flexible travel miles. Its 50% travel redemption bonus makes the ongoing 50,000-point signup bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first 90 days) worth $750 because each point is worth 1.5 cents each. This is one of the highest redemption values for credit card rewards points.
Plus you earn unlimited 3x points on travel and dining making it one of the best travel credit cards.
The 50% bonus is great, but you might find more value with the 1:1 Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners like United, Southwest Airlines, and Aer Lingus. These airlines offer low-priced award flights and they don’t charge crazy fuel surcharge fees that other carriers tack onto “free” award tickets.
When your points are worth more than 1.5 cents each by transferring them to the carrier, pursue this option.
Besides getting more mileage from each reward point, you can also save money with the annual $300 travel credit, free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and Priority Pass Select membership. These are just some of the many perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve which make it one of the best miles credit cards.
Learn more: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Platinum Card from American Express – 60,000 Points
Like hotel credit cards, you would think that co-brand airline credit cards pay the most travel miles for airfare purchases. That’s not the case.
The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5 miles per $1 spent on airfare you purchase directly from the airline or through Amex Travel. That’s double the standard rewards rate of 2 miles per $1 spent.
You also earn 5x points on hotels booked on AmexTravel.com. You have a wide variety of 1:1 airline transfer partners including Delta, Aer Lingus, Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore Airlines.
Don’t forget that you can also earn a 60,000-point welcome offer worth $600 in award travel with this premium credit card. Spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of account opening will earn you this bonus. Plus, you get a few other premium travel perks like a $200 air travel credit, $200 in Uber credits, and a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
Learn more: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Chase Ink Business Preferred – Best Business Credit Card
Its sign-up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points is worth $1,000 in award travel after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. The second most valuable bonus offer (Sapphire Reserve) is only worth $750 in award travel.
Additionally, you also have full access to the Chase 1:1 airline and hotel transfer partners. This helps make it the best miles credit cards for businesses since you can transfer out points.
You earn 3x points on the first $150,000 in combined spending for travel purchases and select business purchases like online advertising, telecommunications, and office supply stores.
Learn more: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
British Airways Visa Signature Card – Best Air Miles Credit Card
The British Airways Visa Signature Card is known for its massive limited-time bonus offers. Their latest offer lets you earn up to 120,000 Avios by earning 4 bonus Avios on the first $30,000 spent during your first year.
Usually, their enhanced bonus is for 100,000 Avios. The extra 20,000 bonus Avios can help you book another long-distance flight like the U.S. west coast to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios each way on Alaska or American Airlines. Or, you can book short-haul flights within the U.S., Europe, or Asia starting at 4,500 each way.
Spending $30,000 in a year also lets you get the Travel Together ticket. With this perk, your travel companion gets a free seat in the same cabin when you pay with points. You will still have to pay fees and taxes on this complimentary seat. This is easily one of the best air miles credit cards.
Learn more: British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Barclaycard Arrival Plus – Best Miles Credit Card (Expired)
It’s easy to overlook flat rate rewards cards in favor of tiered rewards cards that maximize your largest purchase categories. But you might benefit more from flat rate rewards cards like Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®.
You earn 2x miles on every dollar spent regardless of the purchase type. New cardmembers also have the opportunity to earn 70,000 bonus miles worth $700 in award travel by spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. A $700 bonus makes this one of the best miles credit cards.
Your most valuable redemption option is travel statement credits. You get 5% of your redeemed points back with this option. If you redeem the 70,000 bonus miles for a travel statement credit, you get 3,500 miles back for your next redemption. It’s also one of the best credit cards for international travel.
Learn more: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Wells Fargo Propel
The Wells Fargo Propel is value-packed for not charging an annual fee or foreign transaction fee. However, you don’t get as many add-on benefits like airline point transfers or airport lounge access that credit cards with an annual fee charge.
But the Propel does a good job of earning bonus points on your lifestyle purchases and squeezing more value when redeeming them for award travel.
The 30,000 point signup bonus is worth $300 after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. And you earn unlimited 3x points on these purchases:
- Flights, hotels, homestays, and car rentals
- Gas, rideshares, and transit
- Eating out and ordering in
- Popular streaming services
All remaining purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent.
Although you can’t transfer points to airline and hotel loyalty programs, your points can be worth 1.5 cents each when redeeming your points for travel on the Wells Fargo travel portal. This is similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve 50% travel redemption bonus without the annual fee.
Learn more: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
On average, airline miles are usually worth more than hotel points when it comes to redeeming travel miles. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card can be an exception because of its hotel and air travel perks.
The welcome bonus is the ability to earn 75,000 Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. You can also redeem the points for award flights.
At its core, the Bonvoy Brilliant is a hotel rewards card. But you can also redeem your points for award flights and transfer your points to 40 airline loyalty programs.
Free Marriott Bonvoy hotel nights start at 5,000 points. Try to redeem your rewards points for at least one cent each to get an equal redemption value as most flexible travel credit cards.
Most airline transfer partners have a 3 Bonvoy points to 1 airline mile transfer ratio. This isn’t the best transfer ration, but when you transfer at least 60,000 Bonvoy points at once you get a 5,000 point bonus which means you get 25,000 airline miles. That’s enough miles to book a roundtrip domestic flight on United in the main cabin.
This is a premium travel rewards card that is part of Marriott’s lineup. Each year, you get, these travel benefits:
- $300 Marriot Bonvoy statement credit
- One free anniversary night award at properties that cost 50,000 points or less
- Earn 6x points on Marriott Bonvoy purchases
- Earn 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines and U.S. restaurants
- Priority Pass Select membership
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
How Many Air Miles & Points for Free Flights?
The average number of points you need for a free flight depends on the airline you choose to fly with, your destination, and when you decide to travel. Keep in mind there are no completely free flights, even if you use your points. You’ll still have to shell out the cost of taxes and any applicable fees imposed by the carrier.
Here’s what you need in regards to points for free flights, based on some of the biggest U.S.-based airlines.
Airline Miles for Free Flights with American Airlines
American has AAnytime awards for seats on an American Airlines or American Eagle flight. Flights can cost around 20,000 miles each way, plus any applicable taxes and carrier-imposed fees.
They also have MileSAAver awards that are available for 7,500 miles each way (plus taxes and fees). There aren’t any blackout dates, so the availability of these types of fares may be more difficult to book.
Air Miles for Free Flights with United Airlines
Similar to American Airlines, United has its Saver Award, which can be used for flying anywhere on United, United Express, and MileagePlus airline partners. One-way domestic flights cost anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 points.
Here’s a screen grab from United’s site, based on flights within the U.S. and Canada:
Saver Awards may require less points than their Everyday Awards. But again, it might be harder to find flights due to high demand. There are typically more seats available using Everyday Awards. You can see the best United Airlines credit cards here.
Points for Free Flights with Southwest Airlines
Reward pricing on Southwest Airlines depends on destination, time, date of travel, and other factors. One of the easiest ways to earn rewards with Southwest is to take advantage of their bonus offers that come with their credit cards.
The easiest way to see how much fares cost is to go to their site and put in your flight information. At the top of the page, you can choose the “points” view.
The following screen grab will give you an idea of how much it costs for a coast to coast flight (LAX to NYC). It looks like points vary anywhere from 16,000 to 49,000 and higher.
Airline Miles for Free Flights with JetBlue
Redeeming points for a free flight on JetBlue requires a minimum of 3,500 points.
JetBlue has a deals section — and one-way flights start at 7,600 points, plus taxes and fees. For domestic award flights, taxes/fees are $5.60 for one-way and $11.20 for round-trip flights. For international award flights, taxes/fees range from $5.60-$161.50 for one-way and $27.60-$171.60 for round-trip flights.
To find out exactly how many points you need for a particular flight, you need to visit JetBlue’s website and filter with the “points view.”
Air Miles for Free Flights with Alaska Airlines
Flights that can be redeemed with points range from 5,000 miles to 70,000, depending on long far you fly and what class ticket you book.
Alaska Airlines offers Money & Miles awards, in which you can get up to 50 percent off on most coach and first class tickets. The maximum discount is $100 off of a base fare ticket for 10,000 miles or $200 of the base fare for 20,000 miles. The can still earn all of the miles flown when you choose this award.
Airline Miles for Free Flights with Air Canada
Air Canada uses its Aeroplan program, and flights redeemed with points start at 15,000 points and go all the way to 260,000.
Air Canada takes advantage of its robust airline partnerships, which means you can easily fly to 1,300 destinations worldwide using the Star Alliance member airlines.
See their helpful chart of how many points you need to redeem a free flight.
Bottom Line When Looking at Airline Miles for Free Flights
The best way to earn points is to sign up for a travel credit card or airline-branded credit card. They offer simple ways to earn extra points.
The best of the best include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Platinum Card from American Express, and more.
See our complete list of the best travel cards and use the one that is right for you.
When to Transfer Credit Card Points to Your Favorite Air Miles Program
Travel rewards credit cards offer some great ways to earn points or air miles that can be redeemed for your next big trip. However, cashing in those points through statement credits or direct travel bookings doesn’t always get you the most bang for your buck. Usually transferring credit card points to your favorite frequent flyer airline miles program makes miles go even further. Here are a few ways the top travel rewards credit cards make it possible. Plus, we’ll talk about when (and when not) to transfer credit card points.
Why Transfer Credit Card Points?
With credit cards like the Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s easy to redeem accumulated miles for travel. Each card has a system for essentially erasing travel-related purchases from your monthly statement. So why would you want to transfer credit card points to your airline miles account?
The short answer is that doing so can often make your points go further. This is because it requires fewer points to book a flight. Obviously, if you would rather erase tour packages or Airbnb bookings, points and miles aren’t going to be very helpful on a frequent flyer account. Whether to transfer or not depends on what you want to do with the points you have.
When Should I Transfer?
You should opt to transfer credit card points to a participating air miles partner when the flight you want to book costs fewer miles when paid for with frequent flyer points than credit card points. Or when the credit card company offers additional miles when you transfer, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Often, credit card points or miles are worth 1 cent a piece. However, when transferred they sometimes get a boost if airlines value miles at something closer to 1.5 or 2 cents per mile. The deciding factor should be how many miles the flight costs with each method. If a domestic round-trip flight requires 25,000 Delta SkyMiles but would only cost $150 (or 15,000 credit card points), you would be wasting miles if you transferred them first. On the flip side, if that same flight costs a whopping $395 (or 39,500 credit card points), you’d be silly not to transfer and book through the airline.
It is important to keep in mind, however, each credit card’s offers and bonuses to make sure you’re not cheating yourself out of earning additional points or miles.
Some Credit Card Programs Examples
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card cards are a popular choice for many travelers. Their ease of use, uncomplicated earnings potential and simple redemption method, not to mention the 10x points on bookings at Hotels.com/venture, make them attractive options.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Program
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is often touted as the best premium travel card on the market. One reason is that Chase allows you to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to participating frequent flyer programs. Those programs include Aer Lingus AerClub, British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Iberia Plus, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. You can also transfer to hotel partners, including IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt.
Points transferred are on a 1:1 ratio. This means that however many credit card points you have, that’s how many frequent flyer miles you’ll get. Keep in mind that when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll earn 25% more points than booking elsewhere with the Sapphire Preferred. That means in order to make a transfer of miles to an airline program worth it, the flight would have to cost at least 25% more through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Keep in mind that once you transfer the points you can’t reverse the action to get them back into your Chase account. So make sure of your decision before you click!
To redeem points or transfer them, start on your Ultimate Rewards Dashboard. Book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards by selecting “Redeem for travel” and you will be taken to a booking portal. But to transfer to Chase’s travel partners, select “Transfer your points” and choose from their list of airline and hotel partners. You’ll type in your frequent traveler account info and select how many points you want to transfer. It’s that easy.
American Express Membership Rewards Program
American Express credit cards have a larger pool of airline partnerships to choose from. There are more like 20 airline partners and three hotels to choose from. However, check carefully before transferring. While most programs offer a 1:1 rate, one or two, like JetBlue, offer fewer miles per credit card point. On the flipside, others, like Aeromexico, offer quite a few more, which makes transferring even more attractive.
It’s often worth it to transfer points because Membership Rewards purchases only offer a value of 1 center per point maximum. Even less if you’re redeeming for any travel-related purchases other than airlines (like hotels or cruises).
To transfer American Express points, log in to your American Express account and go to the Transfer Points page. You’ll have to connect your existing frequent customer program account to your American Express account, just like with Chase. Choose the preferred frequent customer program to which you’d like to transfer points. Then, follow the step-by-step instructions to finish your transfer.
Transfers are usually immediate, though a few airlines can take up to a week to update your points total. The cost to transfer is negligible, but American Express does charge .06 cents per point for transfers (or 60 cents per 1,000 points).
AmEx also doesn’t offer an even redemption value across the board. Nor do they offer one simple way to redeem points for travel purchases. Depending on the airline and whether you’re spending on hotels, taxis or other travel-related purchases, points can be worth as little as 5 cents per dollar. Make sure to do your homework before redeeming those miles. But, thankfully it’s almost always worth it to transfer to airline partners if redeeming with AmEx.
Summary on When You Should Transfer Credit Card Points to Air Miles Credit Cards
The long and short of it: Before booking a flight through traditional channels and redeeming miles through statement credits, check to see how many airline miles would be required to purchase the flight in question through your frequent flyer account. You may be surprised at how many points you can save.
You should always try to redeem your travel miles when each point is worth at least one cent each. Getting a travel redemption bonus or having the ability to transfer travel miles directly to a loyalty program is a common trait of the best credit cards for travel miles.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
- 1 What Are the Best Credit Cards for Travel Miles?
- 2 Chase Sapphire Preferred – Best Credit Card for Travel Miles
- 3 Capital One Venture – 50,000 Points, TSA Precheck
- 4 Chase Sapphire Reserve – Best Premium Miles Card
- 5 Platinum Card from American Express – 60,000 Points
- 6 Chase Ink Business Preferred – Best Business Credit Card
- 7 British Airways Visa Signature Card – Best Air Miles Credit Card
- 8 Barclaycard Arrival Plus – Best Miles Credit Card (Expired)
- 9 Wells Fargo Propel
- 10 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
- 11 How Many Air Miles & Points for Free Flights?
- 12 Airline Miles for Free Flights with American Airlines
- 13 Air Miles for Free Flights with United Airlines
- 14 Points for Free Flights with Southwest Airlines
- 15 Airline Miles for Free Flights with JetBlue
- 16 Air Miles for Free Flights with Alaska Airlines
- 17 Airline Miles for Free Flights with Air Canada
- 18 Bottom Line When Looking at Airline Miles for Free Flights
- 19 When to Transfer Credit Card Points to Your Favorite Air Miles Program
- 20 Why Transfer Credit Card Points?
- 21 When Should I Transfer?
- 22 Some Credit Card Programs Examples
- 23 Summary on When You Should Transfer Credit Card Points to Air Miles Credit Cards