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You may be surprised to find out the best credit cards for airline miles won’t even be co-branded with an airline. If you want to maximize your travel and spending to earn the most valuable miles credit card bonuses, here are the best credit cards for travel miles for 2019.
One example, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with the ability to earn a bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of opening (can be transferred to multiple airlines instantly), 2x miles on every purchase, up to $100 TSA Precheck or Global Entry credit, and $95 annual fee waived for the first year.
What Are the Best Credit Cards for Travel Miles?
- Best Miles Credit Card: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Best Bonus $750: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best Airlines Miles Credit Card Premium: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Best Airline Credit Card Incidental: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Best Business Credit Card: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
- Best Air Miles Credit Card: Avianca Lifemiles credit cards
Best Miles Credit Card December 2019 – Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – 50,000 Miles, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Credit
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, up to $100 fee credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry, and you can now transfer your miles out to airline partners.
The Capital One Venture review might actually be Capital One’s most popular card, thanks to its easy-to-use rewards and valuable sign-up bonus. It’s definitely the best miles credit card from Capital One.
At 2x airline 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 miles 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. You can see this post on how the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture compare.
Learn more: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred – Best Credit Card for Travel Miles 2019
If you’ve been considering applying for the best miles 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 credit cards for flights. 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. This is how you can turn your Chase Ultimate Rewards points into airline miles.
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® Card 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 cards 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
Earn Up to 60,000 Bonus Avianca LifeMiles – Best Credit Card for Airline Miles in the Star Alliance
Both of the Avianca Lifemiles credit cards are offering 20,000 additional LifeMiles on top of the standard welcome bonus. For either airline credit card, enter promo code SB4060 when applying. You will need to spend at least $1,000 in the first 90 days to earn the bonus.
Below are the current welcome bonus offers for both airline miles credit cards:
Avianca Vida Visa® Card: Standard 20,000 welcome bonus miles after first purchase plus second 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. This comes out to 40,000 LifeMiles. The SB4060 promo code must be entered when completing the application to be able to earn the additional 20,000 miles.
Avianca Vuela Visa® Card: Standard 40,000 welcome bonus miles after first purchase and second 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. This comes out to 60,000 LifeMiles. However, like the Vida air miles card, applicants must enter the promo code SB4060 to be able to earn the additional 20,000 miles.
Not entering the code for either miles credit card means you only get the standard bonus miles after your first card purchase. This is the best credit card for airline miles from a Star Alliance airline.
Best Credit Cards for Flights
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 miles and premium perks. 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. The Sapphire Reserve is the best credit card for flights since it earns 3x valuable Ultimate Rewards.
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 an airline, 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®
What Are the Best Credit Cards for Miles?
- Best Overall Credit Card Miles 60k Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best Earning Miles: 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
Platinum Card from American Express – Best Airline Credit Card for Airline Purchases
You would think that co-branded airline credit cards pay the most travel miles for airfare purchases. That’s not the case. The Amex Platinum is one of the best credit cards for airline miles, and the best credit card for flight tickets.
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 hard to get Amex Platinum 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.
Chase Ink Business Preferred – Best Business Credit Card for Travel Miles
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
Are Airline Miles Credit Cards Worth it?
Yes, airline miles credit cards are worth it when the bonus, perks, and benefits offset the annual fee. In many cases, the best credit cards for airline miles have bonuses over $500 and come with a free checked bag, travel credits, category spending bonuses, and TSA Precheck credit.
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 100,000 Avios. Earn 50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn an additional 50,000 Avios after spending $20,000 on your purchases within your first year of account opening.
Use your points to book a 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 about the British Airways Visa Signature® Card: Airline Credit Cards
Wells Fargo Propel – Best Credit Card for Miles with No Annual Fee
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: Travel Cards
Recap of The Best Miles Credit Cards?
- 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 Airline Miles Credit Cards for Air Miles & 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. The best airline miles credit cards help you book free flights faster.
Here’s what you need in regards to points for free flights, based on some of the biggest U.S.-based airlines.
Best Airline Credit Cards for 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.
Best Air Miles Credit Card 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.
Best Credit Cards for 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.
Best Airline Miles Credit Card for JetBlue Flights
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 Award 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 Reward 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 Best Airline Miles for Award 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 travel miles credit cards for premium travelers include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Platinum Card from American Express, and more.
See our complete list of the best travel credit cards and use the one that is right for you.
Best Airline Credit Card From Consumer Reports
Maybe you check Consumer Reports ratings before you make a large purchase. Consumer Reports is best-known for reviewing appliances, vehicles, and just about anything else you can purchase. However, they periodically recommend products like the best airline credit card.
So are you curious to see what the best airline credit card is according to Consumer Reports? It may not be what you expect.
Best Airline Credit Card to Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports most recently recommended (in May 2019) the best credit card for balance transfers, earning cash rewards, and credit cards for travel rewards. As travel airline miles are usually most valuable when booking award flights, the best travel credit card also doubles as the best airline credit card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred – Best Credit Card for Travel Rewards
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is your best credit card for travel rewards according to Consumer Reports. This is a solid pick for several reasons.
25% Travel Redemption Bonus
You can redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for cash or travel rewards. Each point is worth 1 cent each for cash rewards. They are worth 1.25 cents each when booking any travel on the Expedia-powered Chase travel portal.
1:1 Point Transfers
A potentially more valuable option is transferring your points on a 1:1 basis to the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. The current airline transfer partners are:
- Aer Lingus
- British Airways
- Flying Blue (Air France KLM)
- Singapore Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
For hotel rewards, you can also transfer your points to your IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt loyalty account.
Transferring points is a more valuable option when they are worth more than 1.25 cents each. Each airline has its own best redemption options. Below are some of the best redemption options you might consider.
Southwest Airlines is one of the best domestic airlines for a reason. Your first two checked bags fly free and their award flight prices can cost less than a legacy carrier like American or Delta.
For example, you can book one-way flights for less than 10,000 points. You can also fly from California to Hawaii for less than 20,000 miles each way.
Airline miles are usually most valuable when flying first class or business class. Some of the best first class experiences belong to Singapore Airlines. The best example is their Singapore Suites class which includes a private suite and a separate bed. Your most affordable option is a one-way ticket from New York to Frankfurt from 86,000 KrisFlyer miles.
You can also use KrisFlyer miles to book flights on partner airlines. One example is Alaska Airlines. Flying one-way from the U.S. to Hawaii starts at 12,000 miles in economy and 44,500 in first class. These flights cost more if you book the same award routes directly through Alaska Airlines.
United Airlines doesn’t charge a fuel surcharge on international flights. Flying business class from the U.S. to Europe costs 60,000 miles each way. First-class flights and partner airlines can start at 70,000 miles each way. If possible, try to fly the swanky United Polaris class. One route is from San Francisco to London.
Domestic award flights are a good option too if you don’t live near a discount airline hub. But your points can usually be worth more when flying abroad because you have more wiggle room with the cash ticket price.
Earn 2x Points on Travel and Dining
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on all travel and dining purchases. That means you earn double points each time you buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room, rent a car, or eat at a restaurant.
All non-bonus purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent.
Travel Protection Benefits
Don’t habitually buy the add-on travel insurance policy the airline tries selling you. Instead, take a look at the Sapphire Preferred’s built-in travel insurance.
These are some of the free travel coverage benefits:
- Trip cancellation and interruption coverage up to $10,000 per person ($20,000 per trip)
- Baggage delay insurance up to $100 per day for 5 days
- Trip delay reimbursement up to $500 per ticket
- Primary auto rental collision damage waiver up to the actual cash value of the vehicle
All of these benefits can save you thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses if your travel plans get ruined.
Let’s not forget about the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus. You earn 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. These points are worth $750 in award travel when redeemed directly through Chase.
Although you pay a $95 annual fee starting the first year, you won’t pay a foreign transaction fee. This also makes the Sapphire Preferred one of the best credit cards for international travel.
You will have the best approval odds for the Sapphire Preferred if you have a minimum 740 credit score. This is the start of excellent credit although you can qualify with a score as low as 700.
Also, make sure sure you haven’t opened or listed as an authorized user on 5 or more credit cards in the past 24 months. Too many new accounts can also jeopardize your approval odds.
Best Airline Branded Miles Credit Cards 2019
The best airline credit cards are an easy way to take your loyalty to airline miles to the next level. You earn frequent flyer miles on every purchase and can enjoy other perks with every flight. The best airline credit cards 2019 let you enjoy these benefits and while helping you book award flights more often.
Most airlines offer multiple airline credit card versions with different degrees of benefits. If you’re having a difficult time choosing which card to get, consider these recommendations first.
Consumer Best Airline Credit Cards 2019
If the premium cards are not worth it for you, consider these airline cards instead which have more reasonable annual fees. These are some of the best airline credit cards for the largest airlines.
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (Expired)
The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is the most flexible of the four personal Delta credit cards for casual and regular flyers. You earn 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases (1x SkyMiles for everything else), 20% in-flight purchase credit, and the first checked bag is free for you and up to 8 companions.
The $95 annual fee is also waived for the first year and has no foreign transaction fees.
You can often apply for a limited time bonus offer to earn 50% back on Delta purchases for your first 3 months (up to $300) back. You also get 30,000 bonus SkyMiles by spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
United Explorer Card
The United Explorer Card gives you priority boarding for everyone in your party and waives the first checked bag fee for you and one companion. You also get 25% back on United inflight purchases and two one-time United Club passes each year.
United also reimburses your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee and can get complimentary Premier Upgrades (when available). The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year and you can earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months.
This is one of the few airline cards to award bonus miles on non-airline purchases. You get 2x miles on restaurants and hotels plus United Airlines purchases. All non-bonus spending earns 1 mile per $1.
The current signup bonus is 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months.
Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select
The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select lets you and four travel companions check the first bag free. You also get a priority boarding, 25% in-flight savings, and a $125 flight discount when making $20,000 in annual card purchases.
In addition to earning 2x miles on American Airlines purchases, you also earn double points at restaurants and gas stations.
The $99 annual fee is waived for the first year and you can earn 50,000 bonus miles by spending $2,500 in the first 3 months.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card – Best Airline Miles Credit Card
Two annual benefits the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card gives you are a $75 Southwest travel credit and four Upgraded Bookings. You also get 2x points on all Southwest purchases and 1x point for all other purchases.
Each card anniversary, you earn 7,500 bonus points. Every point this card earns counts toward the annual 110,000-point Southwest Companion Pass requirement.
The standard signup bonus for this card is 40,000 bonus points by spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. Several times a year, the bonus increases. You may wait to apply during this time to get more points and make it easier to earn the Companion Pass.
Chase Sapphire Preferred – Best Credit Card for Miles
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best flexible travel credit cards for earning and redeeming points. You get 2x points on any travel or dining purchase. Non-bonus purchases earn 1 point per $1.
Each point is worth 1.25 cents each when booking travel through Chase instead of the standard 1-cent rate many cards offer. Another great option is transferring your points directly to 1:1 airline partners like Southwest, United, Flying Blue, and British Airways.
The annual fee is $95 starting the first year.
Platinum Card from American Express
If you are not loyal to a particular airline but fly often, the Platinum Card from American Express can be your best option. You earn 5x miles on all flights booked directly through the airline or AmexTravel (versus 2x points on most credit cards).
Three other air travel benefits include a $200 airline fee credit that covers incidentals like baggage fees, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and complimentary airport lounge access in several networks including The Centurion, Priority Pass, and Delta Sky Club.
You can book award flights through American Express or transfer to 1:1 airline partners like Delta, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Flying Blue.
This card does have a $550 annual fee but has a lot of travel benefits that add luxury to each trip.
The standard signup bonus for the Platinum Card is 60,000 Membership Rewards points (worth $600 points) after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. Applying through the CardMatch tool may let you qualify for 100,000 bonus points (worth $1,000) with the same minimum spend requirement.
Summary of Best Airlines Credit Cards 2019
The best airline credit cards make it easy to earn points and avoid other common fees like checked bags. Branded airline cards are usually a better option if you are loyal to one airline or enjoy the additional loyalty benefits. Flexible cards better when you want an easy way to earn or redeem miles with any airline.
Best Credit Cards for Travel Rewards
The best credit cards for travel rewards 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 best credit cards for travel rewards make it possible. Plus, we’ll talk about when (and when not) to transfer credit card points.
Best Credit Cards for Travel Rewards Listed Out:
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Best Credit Card for Travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
When to Transfer Credit Card Points to Your Favorite Loyalty Program
Why Transfer Credit Card Points?
With airline miles 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 Travel Points to Airline Miles?
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 review.
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 transfer 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 of the best credit cards for travel miles offers and bonuses to make sure you’re not cheating yourself out of earning additional points or miles.
The Best Credit Card for Travel Rewards 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.
Best Credit Cards for Travel Rewards Program: Chase Ultimate Rewards
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is often touted as the best credit card for travel 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 Airline 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.
Premium Co-Branded Airline Credit Cards for Miles
If you fly often, the three legacy carriers (American, Delta, and United) all offer a premium credit card. Each one has a $450 annual fee. This card the best option if you want lounge access, companion certificates, and a fast track to achieving elite status.
United MileagePlus Club Card
One of the main reasons to get the United MileagePlus Club Card is for the complimentary United Club membership. Annual Club membership increases from $550 to $650 on August 13, 2019. That’s an instant $200 discount when you get it on the Club Card instead. This is one of the best United credit cards.
Visits to Star Alliance partner lounges when flying business class with that partner are free as well.
You and one companion also get two free checked bags. This card also comes with a host of Premier benefits from expedited security screening to complimentary seat upgrades (when available).
United purchases earn 2 points per $1 and every non-United purchase earns unlimited 1.5 points per $1.
New cardmembers can earn a 50,000-point signup bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. The United Explorer is a more affordable option though.
Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard – American Airlines
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® gives you automatic Admirals Club membership for a $650 annual savings. Priority check-in and one free checked bag for you and up to 8 companions are two other valuable perks.
Spending $40,000 annually gives you 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles that makes it easier to achieve AAdvantage elite status.
The current signup bonus is 50,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after $5,000 in purchases during the first 3 months of account opening.
Delta Reserve Credit Card – Premium Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (Expired)
The Delta Reserve Credit Card gives you main cabin 1 priority boarding and the first checked bag free for you and up to 8 travel companions. You also earn get free Delta Sky Club access and your first two guests cost $29 per visit.
One exciting reason to get this card is the annual Companion Certificate. You only pay fees and taxes (usually up to $75) for a domestic roundtrip first class, Comfort+, or main cabin fare. This benefit alone can be worth more than the $450 annual fee.
The current signup bonus is 40,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles by spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. This is one of the best Delta Airlines credit cards.
How do credit card miles work?
You earn a set amount of miles per purchase according to the credit card rewards program. Each credit card has different redemption options. The most common travel redemptions options are:
- Statement credits for recent travel purchases
- Booking future travel on the credit card travel portal
- Transferring points to linked airline and hotel loyalty programs
Credit card miles are usually worth 1 cent each when redeemed for statement credits or future travel bookings. Their value can vary when you transfer them because each loyalty program assigns a different value to the points. However, your points are usually worth at least one cent each when redeeming for flights directly from the airline.
How many Airline miles do you need to get a free flight?
The number of miles needed to book award flights depends on factors including the airline, seat location, travel distance, time of year, and current cash value ticket price. Most airlines use floating award prices meaning you the price fluctuates. A few airlines still use assign a fixed price so you pay the same amount.
Southwest Airlines is one of the lowest-cost carriers for domestic flights. A one-way flight can cost between 5,000 and 10,000 miles plus $5.60 fees and taxes. A major airline like United or American can charge 12,500 miles for a one-way flight in the main cabin across the United States. A one-way first class flight within the U.S. can cost 25,000 plus fees and taxes.
For international travel, you may as little as 30,000 miles each way to visit Europe in the main cabin or as much as 155,000 miles for a premium cabin seat plus fees and taxes.
What is the best credit card for airline miles?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best credit card for earning bonus miles with any airline. You earn 3 Ultimate Rewards Points per $1 on all travel and dining purchases. Your points are worth 50% more than cash reward when booking award travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center. You can also transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to airline partners including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, and Emirates.
If you regularly pay checked baggage fees and are loyal to a certain airline, getting a co-brand airline credit card is better. One of the best is the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. The first checked bag is free for the primary cardholder and up to 8 companions. All card purchases earn up to 2 SkyMiles per $1 spent.
Which credit card earns the most air miles?
The Platinum Card from American Express earns the most air miles for most plane ticket purchases. You earn 5 Membership Rewards per $1 on plane tickets purchased directly from the airline or on AmexTravel.com. Most credit cards only award up to 3 points per $1 on plane ticket purchases.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express is the best small business credit card. It earns 5 Membership Rewards per $1 on flights booked on AmexTravel.com. Like personal credit cards, most business credit cards award up to 3 points per $1 on travel purchases.
What is the difference between an airline credit card and a travel credit card?
An airline credit card partners with a specific airline loyalty program. Branded airline credit cards only offer bonus travel rewards like free checked bags or inflight purchase credits for that specific airline. These cards also earn frequent flyer miles on every purchase. For instance, a United Airlines credit card earns MileagePlus miles on every card purchase.
Travel credit cards earn bonus credit card miles on almost every travel purchase, regardless of which airline or hotel it is. These credit cards also let you redeem your points for travel purchases on multiple carriers. Premium travel credit cards offer additional travel benefits like statement credits or airport lounge access that are not connected to a specific airline.
Do air miles expire?
Most air miles expire after 24 months of frequent flyer account inactivity. You must usually earn more miles within this period to renew your miles.
Delta SkyMiles and Southwest Airline Rapid Rewards miles don’t expire if your frequent flyer account remains in good standing. Other smaller or international-based airlines may have a no expiration policy. Check your frequent flyer account terms to see their most current policy.
Do airline credit cards charge an annual fee?
A lot of branded airline credit cards charge an annual fee between $95 and $450 each year. Some of these cards waive the annual fee for the first 12 months. The more expensive cards usually offer more add-on benefits like lounge passes or an annual one-time companion ticket.
A couple of airlines offer a card with no annual fee but this card doesn’t include extra benefits like free checked bags or priority boarding. One example is the Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. It earns 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases and at U.S. restaurants. It also gives you a 20% in-flight savings on food and beverage purchases. But you don’t get a free checked bag like the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.
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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.
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- 28 FAQs