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Are you surprised the best miles credit cards aren’t even co-branded with an airline? Since the airlines are flying less because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to have flexible rewards earning credit cards. And earning points that can be transferred out to multiple airlines, hotels, or used for everyday purchases is more important than ever. Even during COVID-19, the banks have been raising bonuses which is very encouraging. 

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has its highest public bonus ever of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points worth at least $1000 in travel. This can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. And even though it’s not a co-branded airline credit card, it’s one of the best airline miles credit cards because you can transfer your Sapphire Preferred points out to several airlines like United and Southwest. Plus, you can book more travel including other airlines through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. And you can earn multiple points per $1 on everyday spending!

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

If you want to maximize your credit card sign up bonus, travel, and everyday spending to earn the most valuable rewards and bonuses, here are the best credit cards for travel miles in 2020.

What Are the Best Credit Cards for Travel Miles 2020?

Best Miles Credit Cards For Beginners: Chase Sapphire Preferred – $1000 Bonus, 2x on Dining & Travel, And More

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 personal Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with a sweet bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Those 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points are equal to $1000 in travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, or you can get even more value by transferring your points out to a travel partner. 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. Those 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points = $1000 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 Transfer Partners

There are 10 Chase airline transfer partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Air France KLM
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic

There are also 3 hotel transfer partners:

  • IHG Rewards
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

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.

Two new benefits launched during COVID include unlimited deliveries with no delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with a DashPass subscription from DoorDash. This is worth over a $100 value. But, you must activate with your card by December 31, 2021.

Cardholders can also earn 5x points on Lyft rides through March 2022. There are also Chase Sapphire Instacart bonus categories as well as categories for streaming and gas purchases that are available through the end of September.

Additionally, cardholders can use the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature that allows you to use your points to pay for eligible purchases. This can be extremely helpful in 2020. It also is a way to use your card to keep earning points until you are ready to travel again. 

Insurance Protections

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 80,000 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.

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.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – 100,000 Miles, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Credit, 2x Miles

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes with the ability to earn a bonus of 100,000 miles! Cardholders earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3000 on purchases 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. Plus, you can transfer your miles out to 10+ leading travel partners. Additionally, Uber Eats purchases earn 5x miles per $1 spent through January 31, 2021.

The Capital One Venture review exemplifies in detail why this might actually be Capital One’s most popular card, thanks to its easy-to-use rewards and valuable sign-up bonus. 

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 100,000-mile sign-up bonus, which is worth $1000. 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.

Capital One Transfer Partners

The Capital One travel transfer partners include:

  • Aeromexico
  • Aeroplan (Air Canada)
  • Alitalia
  • Avianca
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Air France KLM
  • JetBlue
  • Qantas
  • Singapore
  • Accor Live Limitless
  • Wyndham Rewards

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 make them attractive options. Plus, cardholders can transfer miles to over 10+ leading travel loyalty programs, including new Capital One hotel transfer partners.

Learn more: Rewards Credit Cards 

Best Credit Card for Airline Miles in the Star Alliance

The Avianca Lifemiles credit cards offer a simple signup bonus that is easy to earn. Below are the current welcome bonus offers for both airline miles credit cards:

Avianca Vida Visa® Card: 20,000 welcome bonus miles after first purchase.

Avianca Vuela Visa® Card: 40,000 welcome bonus miles after the first purchase.

This is the best credit card for airline miles from a Star Alliance airline.

Johnny and Natalie on an LAX to London American Airlines flight in 2015. Credit: Johnny Jet

Best Credit Cards for Flights Premium Chase Option: Chase Sapphire Reserve

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 3 months) worth $1000 in award travel due to 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. You’ll earn 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. The 3x points on dining at restaurants is automatic. Everything else earns 1x point per $1 spent. There are also zero foreign transaction fees.

The 50% bonus is great, but you might find more value with the 1:1 Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners (the same ones listed above). 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.

Additional benefits include one free year of Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value) and a free DashPass subscription from DoorDash (after activating by 12/31/21).

Platinum Card from American Express – Best 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 Platinum Card® from American Express 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 points per $1 spent on airfare you purchase directly from the airline or through Amex Travel. That’s double the standard rewards rate of 2 points or miles per $1 spent. You also earn 5x points on hotels booked on AmexTravel.com. 

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. However, you might qualify for an American Express Platinum 100,000 bonus offer after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months (the same spending requirement for more points!). You can learn more by using the CardMatch™ tool. 

American Express Transfer Partners

You have a wide variety of 1:1 airline transfer partners including:

  • Aer Lingus
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Avianca
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Delta
  • El Al
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Air France KLM
  • Iberia
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Hotel transfer partners include:

  • Choice Hotels
  • Hilton
  • Marriott Bonvoy

The Platinum Card from American Express also comes with a few other premium travel perks like a $200 air travel credit for incidental fees at one qualifying airline, $200 in Uber credits, and a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. The annual fee is $550 (See Rates & Fees)

Learn more: Johnny Jet Recommended Credit Cards

Chase Ink Business Preferred – Best Business Credit Card for Travel Miles

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card holds the honor for having the most valuable Ultimate Rewards signup bonus and being one of the best business credit cards for travel.

Its sign-up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points is worth $1,250 in award travel after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. 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.

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: Airline Credit Cards

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card – Best Credit Card for Miles with No Annual Fee

The information related to Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected by Johnny Jet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card 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 20,000 point signup bonus is worth $200 after spending $1,000 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.

American Express Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card is another American Express option to consider if the Platinum Card is not quite what you’re looking for. This card comes with an annual $100 airline fee credit (in the form of statement credits) for incidental fees at one qualifying airline. Cardholders also earn 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com.

In addition to these airline perks, American Express Gold Card cardholders earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide, including for takeout and delivery, and 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x). There is a dining credit of up to $120 annually. Cardholders earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required).

New cardholders can earn 35,000 points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months. There are also no foreign transaction fees to worry about but the annual fee is $250 (See Rates & Fees), which can easily be offset by the perks of this card.

Learn more: Johnny Jet Recommended Credit Cards

Are Miles Credit Cards Worth it?

Yes, 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.

What Are The Best Miles Credit Cards?

What are the Best Airline Miles Credit Cards for Free Flights?

The average number of airline miles 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.

Best credit cards for miles

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.

American Airline’s credit card points for flights (Click to see full-size image)

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.

United miles award chart (Click to see full-size image)

Here’s a screengrab from United’s site, based on flights within the U.S. and Canada:

Saver Awards may require fewer 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 screengrab 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 cards for southwest airlines (Click to see full-size image)

Best Airline Miles Credit Card for JetBlue Flights

Redeeming points for a free flight on JetBlue requires a minimum of 3,500 points.

JetBlue award miles (Click to see full-size image)

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 airline miles award chart

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. They 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 Credit Card for Miles 2020

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 According 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.

Best Airline Co-Branded Miles Credit Cards 2020

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 2020 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 2020

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.

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is the most flexible of the four personal Delta credit cards for casual and regular flyers. You earn 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, and at U.S. supermarkets (1x SkyMiles for everything else that is eligible). There’s also a 20% in-flight purchase credit and the first checked bag is free for you and up to 8 companions.

The $99 annual fee is also waived for the first year and has no foreign transaction fees (See Rates & Fees).

You can apply for a bonus offer to earn 35,000 bonus SkyMiles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. Plus, spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year and receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit.

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 World Elite Mastercard

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® lets you and four travel companions on the same itinerary 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 and renew your card.

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. New cardholders 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 125,000-point Southwest Companion Pass requirement.

Best Airlines Credit Cards 2020

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.

When should you transfer credit card points to airline miles?

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 apiece. 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

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, Emirates, 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.

Transferring Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners can help keep points active. (Click to see full-size image)

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 flip side, others, like Aeromexico, offer quite a few more, which makes transferring even more attractive.

Amex has many different airline travel partners to choose from to transfer points. (Click to see full-size image)

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. 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 SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card – Premium Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express 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 $39 per visit when traveling on a Delta flight. You can also enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge when you book your Delta flight with your Reserve Card.

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.

The current signup bonus is the ability to earn up to 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. The annual fee is $550 (See Rates & Fees).

This is one of the best Delta Airlines credit cards.

FAQs

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 Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. The first checked bag is free for the primary cardholder and up to 8 companions. You can earn 2x miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets.

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 Airlines Rapid Rewards rewards 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 Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card (See Rates & Fees). It earns 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases and at restaurants. It also gives you a 20% in-flight savings on food, beverage, and audio headset purchases. But you don’t get a free checked bag like you would with the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.

For rates and fees of The American Express® Gold Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here.

Rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here

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." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What is the difference between an airline credit card and a travel credit card?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "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." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Which credit card earns the most air miles?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "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." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Do air miles expire?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "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.

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." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Do airline credit cards charge an annual fee?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Most 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."} }] }

Johnny Jet Editorial
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The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Contents

12 Comments On "Best Miles Credit Cards for Travel & Airlines in 2020"
  1. Chirag|

    I have one American Express card. I think the card is good enough for shopping and travel purpose.

  2. Johnny Jet Editorial|

    American Express Membership Rewards are definitely a good option for travel miles.

  3. stephen micheal|

    THANK YOU FOR SHARING THE INFORMATION AND GUIDE. its REALLY AWESOME ARTICLE.KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

  4. John Noel|

    I have some questions on the Chase Sapphire reserve card.
    On a joint account do you need to pay the extra $75 for your spouses card? Or is that just pertain to my son or daughter?
    Can you cancel the card after one year without a penalty?
    How do the benefits for upgrades, pre-boarding, parks pan out?
    Does Chase have a customer service telephone number I can call with questions before I apply for the card?
    Thank you.

  5. techhpsetup|

    It is very informative post. No doubt very efficiently explained so one can easily submit site to directly submission list. Thanks

  6. 123hpcomoj8600|

    The Hilton Group’s largest ever expansion suggests that we will keep travelling for both business and leisure in the foreseeable future.

  7. Yokasta|

    Thanks for that post it has plenty of information to consider. My American Express sure does not give me many benefits as I thought!

  8. Coba Grills|

    I get offered from american express credit card. After reading this article hope I can have one. Thanks for sharing.

  9. ztube|

    Who s this for? Delta frequent fliers who don t mind paying for perks should consider the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card. While its $195 annual fee is a tad steeper than most mid-tier airline cards, the card benefits make up the difference. You just have to be prepared to navigate the somewhat complicated world of Delta s frequent flier rewards program.

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Yup, I agree. I wish Delta would publish an award chart. I prefer to earn points that can be transferred out to multiple airlines, so you have flexibility. But the Delta cards make sense for Delta loyalists.

  10. Khamisa|

    Thanks for that post it has plenty of information to consider. My American Express sure does not give me many benefits as I thought

    Read more at: https://www.johnnyjet.com/best-credit-cards-for-travel-miles/

  11. meryan lucas|

    Thanks a lot for this amazing article. I have read the post and it’s very useful to me. Some awesome stuff and I highly recommend ALL of it…

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