Credit card miles, sometimes referred to as points, are rewards some issuers offer cardholders for their everyday spending. You can generally redeem miles for travel-related expenses, including flight costs. While redemption values typically vary between cards, the best programs offer miles worth at least 1 cent per mile.
What Are Credit Card Miles?
Some personal and business credit cards offer miles as a reward for using your card. You’ll earn a return rate that’s set by your issuer, which can help offset eligible travel expenses. Co-branded airline card offer miles affiliated with specific airlines, meaning you can typically only redeem your rewards through that airline while others—general travel credit cards—offer unaffiliated miles that you can redeem for travel through your provider’s reward dashboard with more than one airline.
Most personal and business travel credit cards offer miles for every dollar you spend and bonus miles for spending in certain categories. While the issuer typically sets the reward return rate, airlines determine the number of miles required for flights. The number of miles you need typically varies based on where you’re going and the flight cost in dollars.
How Credit Card Miles Work
When you’re shopping for a travel credit card, you’ll see that some issuers pair up with an airline and offer airline-specific miles while other cards don’t partner with an airline. Regardless of the card you choose, the value of your miles and your redemption options will vary for each card. You can generally use these rewards to pay for travel expenses like flights.
To start earning miles, you’ll need to get the right travel card, potentially considering ones that offer lucrative sign-up bonuses. Understanding the different ways you can earn miles can help you maximize your earnings.
Use these four methods to earn miles:
- Get the right travel credit card: Open a travel card that offers rewards that compliment your monthly spending and travel habits. If you frequently travel with a particular airline, it’s best to get a co-branded card with that airline. If you don’t use a specific airline, choose a card that provides more reward flexibility.
- Look for miles-based welcome offers: Some issuers offer lucrative sign-up bonuses, which can be a quick way to earn a substantial number of miles. You can earn these rewards by meeting a minimum spending requirement set by your provider.
- Refer your friends: Some cards have referral programs where you can receive bonus miles if your friends or colleagues apply through your unique referral link and are approved.
- Use multiple cards and transfer miles: If you spend big every month, it may benefit you to get multiple travel credit cards. For example, you can couple a co-branded airline credit card with a non-co-branded travel card that lets you transfer your miles to that airline. This can be beneficial because nonco-branded cards typically have broader rewards structures.
Checking Your Miles Balance
You can check your miles rewards balance on your most recent billing statement, through your online dashboard, or by calling your issuer. Your balance may not reflect all your miles as it typically takes a few days for your account to credit you with your rewards.
You can redeem your miles when you’ve racked up enough rewards for a free flight or other travel-related expenses. While redemption methods vary for each issuer, most require you to redeem your rewards through their online rewards portal. Understanding common redemption methods can help you access the best rewards.
Redeem your credit card miles for:
- Flight tickets: Airline flight tickets are the most common way to redeem your miles. You can either purchase your flights through your issuer or if you have a co-branded airline card, you can buy your tickets through the airline’s website.
- Travel-related transactions: Most co-branded cards allow you to redeem miles for airline services, including seat upgrades, merchandise, priority boarding, and other VIP experiences. General travel credit cards typically let you redeem miles as a statement credit—an automatic credit to your monthly bill—for travel-related transactions like flights, hotels, and rental cars.
- Vacation package: Some travel cards offer vacation packages, including cruises and tours. You can sometimes redeem miles as a statement credit when you book a vacation package through a third-party travel merchant.
- Transfer points to loyalty partners: Some programs allow you to combine miles or transfer them between airlines.
Who Credit Card Miles Are Right For
Miles are most suitable for people who travel frequently, whether that’s for a personal or business-related trip. Frequent travelers will benefit more from a card with a travel rewards program because it can help them save money on flights and other travel-related services.
Credit card miles are best for:
- People who take personal trips frequently: If you often travel for leisure or other personal reasons, you can earn free flights or discounted tickets for your next trip by using your card for your regular purchases.
- People who travel for business: Miles also fit people who travel for business often. A small business credit card that offers travel rewards can help your company save money on flights and other travel services like seat upgrades or priority boarding.
If you find yourself traveling often, you should consider applying for a travel credit card. The rewards and perks you want to receive likely determine which card is best for you. Choosing a credit card that fits your spending habits and travel needs can help you get the most value from the card you apply for.
How Much Credit Card Miles Are Worth
Each credit card issuer determines the value of their miles, which may also vary depending on if you’re using a general or co-branded travel card. While issuers typically define the redemption value, airlines set the number of miles required to redeem for a flight.
The value of miles vary depending on the type of miles your card earns:
- General travel credit card miles: The typical value for general travel miles, miles not affiliated with a specific airline, is 1 cent per mile. For example, 80,000 miles is typically worth $800 in travel. However, some miles are worth more, like 1.5 cents per mile while others may be worth less.
- Airline-specific miles: The value of airline-specific miles varies for each airline and can change depending on how you redeem them. For instance, you can get more value if you redeem your miles for flights compared to merchandise. When you use miles to book a flight, the cost of the flight varies based on the date and destination of your flight.
The number of miles you need to redeem your reward for travel expenses typically depends on your issuer and airline if you have a co-branded travel credit card. Being flexible with your travel plans is essential if you want to get the best deals for your miles.
Credit Card Miles vs Points
Whether your card offers miles or points, both are essentially the same type of reward—redeemable for travel expenses. However, depending on your card, you can sometimes redeem points as cash back, which miles-based programs don’t offer. What matters most between the two, however, is the rewards program they’re linked with, such as frequent flyer, hotel loyalty, or general travel programs.
Three common types of travel rewards program are:
- Frequent flyer programs: Airline frequent flyer programs let you earn miles or points on your flights. You can accumulate rewards and redeem them for free flights.
- Hotel loyalty programs: Hotel loyalty programs let you earn points on eligible purchases and bonus points on certain categories. You can redeem your points for hotel stays, dining, and other services the hotel offers.
- General travel programs: Some issuers offer their own travel rewards program, which lets you earn miles or points for every dollar spent. You can redeem your rewards for your travel-related expenses, such as airfare, hotel stays, rental cars, and tours.
Miles and points work the same way by offering rewards for your purchases. You can redeem both types of rewards for free travel and other travel-related services. However, some programs offer more flexibility, better value, and wider redemption options compared to others.
Best Personal Credit Cards for Miles
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Receiving exceptional travel rewards and benefits
- 50,000 Bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
- Automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3x Points on Travel and Dining
Note: The information related to Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected by Fit Small Business and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
- Annual travel credit
- Rewards are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel
- Complimentary airport lounge access
- High annual fee that’s never waived
- Lower reward redemption value for merchandise
- Requires excellent personal credit
- Airport lounge access: Enjoy access to more than 1,000 priority pass lounges worldwide for free prior to airline travel.
- Annual travel credit: You’ll receive a $300 annual travel credit that can be applied liberally toward your travel purchases.
- Auto rental collision damage waiver: Coverage is primary—meaning it replaces any coverage your personal insurance might offer—when renting for business purposes. It provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad.
- Trip delay insurance: If your travel is delayed more than 12 hours or you require an overnight stay as a result of a delay, you’re covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500.
- Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fee credit: Receive a statement credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card.
- Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance: Covers up to $10,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses if your trip is cut short or interrupted by sickness or bad weather.
While Chase Sapphire Reserve® charges a high annual fee, it gives you your money’s worth. You can earn 3x points on travel and 7x points on Lyft rides. You’re still able to redeem these points-based rewards for travel through Chase’s online rewards portal. Plus, points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel.
Venture® Rewards from Capital One®
Unlimited travel rewards and top-tier travel benefits
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Flexible rewards redemption
- Large miles-based sign-up bonus
- Receive up to $100 credit on Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Charges an annual fee
- Redemption value for cash is less than travel
- Requires excellent credit
- Travel accident insurance: Receive travel accident insurance for a covered loss at no charge when you use your card to pay for your travel fare.
- Extended warranty protection: Receive additional warranty protection at no charge on eligible purchases.
- Car rental insurance: When you rent a car using your card, you’ll be covered for damage due to collision or theft.
Capital One® Venture® can save you the time you’d typically spend on tracking your rewards. With this card, you’ll earn fixed-rate miles on any purchase, no matter where you swipe your card. Use this card to access consistent travel rewards and an annual fee that’s waived the first year.
Best Business Credit Cards for Miles
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Gaining access to unrivaled travel rewards and luxury travel perks like airport lounge access
- Welcome Offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's an extra half point per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
- 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when you book on amextravel.com.
- Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
- Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
- PAY OVER TIME OPTION: A flexible payment option to help manage cash flow on purchases of $100 or more.
- Terms Apply.
- Free access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide
- Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® membership fee reimbursements
- Balance is due in full monthly
- Steep $595 annual fee
- American Express lounges: Free access to American Express’ network of Centurion lounges located in slightly less than one dozen U.S. airports.
- Other airport lounges: Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you free access to more than 1,000 lounges worldwide for you and two guests.
- Airport screening: Either a $100 statement credit for Global Entry every four years or $85 statement credit for TSA Pre✓® once every 4½ years.
- Travel credit: A $200 annual statement credit toward air travel expenses like baggage fees and inflight food and drink.
- Rental status: Elite status at a number of car rental agencies.
- Free Wi-Fi: 10 annual free Gogo inflight Wi-Fi passes.
- Rebate for redeemed points: 35% points rebate if you book a business or first-class flight, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
- Dell statement credit: Up to $200 in statement credits annually for Dell purchases.
While the American Express Business Platinum Card® pays its rewards as points, you can still redeem your rewards for travel expenses through American Express. In addition to these top-tier rewards, you’ll have access to some of the best luxury travel perks on the market, including free and unlimited access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
Unlimited 2x miles with every swipe
- Introductory reward worth $500 in travel after you spend $4,500 within the first three months
- 2x miles per $1 spent
- 5x miles on hotel and rental car bookings through the issuer
- Issue employee cards for free
- No foreign transaction fees
- TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry application fee credit
- You’ll pay an annual fee after the first year
- Doesn’t offer interest-free financing
- Airport security screening reimbursement: Either a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or an $85 statement credit for TSA Pre✓® once every four years.
- Purchase assurance: Most purchases made entirely with your card are covered if damaged or stolen within 90 days from the date of purchase. Coverage is limited to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per cardholder account per 12 month period.
- Extended warranty coverage: Doubles the original warranty time period and duplicates the coverage of the original manufacturer’s warranty up to a maximum of 12 months on most items you purchase.
- Travel medical emergency assitance: Provide referrals to medical services if you have a medical emergency while traveling. You’re covered if you’re 100 or more miles away from home and from the day you leave until midnight of the 60th day of your trip, or the day you return to your city of residence, whichever is sooner.
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business is an ideal fit for business travelers who don’t want to take the time to track category bonuses. You’ll earn fixed-rate miles every time you swipe your card, with no limit or restrictions. You can redeem your rewards for travel-related expenses through Capital One.
Miles let you earn rewards when you use your card, which helps save money on travel expenses. Redemption values typically vary, but most general travel rewards programs offer 1 cent per mile. If you travel often, choose a card that offers miles to start saving on travel costs today.