Airline mile credit cards, also called frequent flyer cards, are a type of credit card that rewards cardholders with miles or points that can be redeemed for free flights and hotel stays, as well as other travel rewards. These miles can quickly accumulate to cover the airfare of an entire trip.
Whether you are looking for a card tied to a specific airline, or one that lets you earn miles on a number of airlines with no blackout dates, you can compare airline miles credit cards below.
How do they work?
With airline mile credit cards, you accumulate free miles based on your spending. For example, some cards offer 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $1000 in the first 3 months, and 2 miles on every dollar you spend after that.
Some credit cards also offer bigger mile rewards when you spend your money on certain items, especially airline tickets.
Most airline credit cards are partnered with a specific airline. For that reason, it is very important that you make sure to pick a credit card that is partnered with the major airline in your area. It’s pretty common that a certain airline will control most of the flights in a certain area, so you should be sure that your credit card will give you rewards for the airline that is most relevant to you. An airline miles card partnered with Hawaiian Airlines probably isn’t the most useful if you live in Maine -- and never visit Hawaii.
It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out if a particular credit card serves your airline. Most frequent flyer credit cards have representatives advertise in local airports. If you have ever been offered a frequent flyer card in an airport before, chances are that frequent flyer card company was standing in front of the gate of their partner airline. You can also check your airline or credit card’s website.
Other Rewards and Benefits
With some airline mile credit cards, you may have access to some of the following benefits and options. Check with the credit card company before signing to make sure that they offer the features and rewards that are most important to you.
Redeem miles for cash, gifts, or other rewards
Pay for hotel reservations and vacation expenses with earned miles
Gain access to first class airport lounges
Seating upgrades (from coach to business class)
At least one free checked piece of luggage
Access to premium tickets for entertainment events
Automatic insurance for you and your family when you buy plane tickets through your credit card
Car rental insurance when you rent with your card
Reimbursement for lost luggage
Free extended warranty on items bought with your credit card
Things to Think About
Frequent flyer customers are also more likely to have to deal with blackout dates (dates when discounts and promotions are not redeemable) and limited seating availability.
Airlines also have the right to impose limits on what you can buy with your frequent flyer miles, so you should be aware of all limitations before you get a card. In addition, you should also be aware that you usually don’t get refunded your earned miles when you spend them on tickets for a flight that later gets canceled.
Generally, you can figure out the worth of your airline miles by cutting off the last 2 zeroes in the number. For example, if you have earned 40,000 miles, then you can buy $400 in tickets.
If you don’t fly often, you may want to think about finding a different reward card. If you find that you end up transferring a lot of your miles into cash or gift certificates, then you would probably be better served by a retail or cash back rewards card.
However, if you need to travel a lot, an airline mile credit card can be a great way for you to save money. For example, if you travel a lot for work, you can cover the cost of a personal airline ticket pretty quickly with the miles you’ve earned on business travel you spend on the other airline tickets that you need anyway. Just make sure you read your company’s policy on airline miles (most companies allow you to keep your miles.)