How Do Airline Miles Work on Credit Cards: A Rewards Guide

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How Do Airline Miles Work on Credit Cards

“Rewards aren’t just perks; they’re a way of life.” It turns out that a lot of us feel this way about our credit cards. Six out of ten Americans believe credit card rewards are crucial to how we use our cards. With airline miles being one of the most sought-after rewards, it’s no wonder we’re all eager to understand how to make the most of them.

So, we are here to understand how airline miles work on credit cards, from earning them with every swipe to using them for your next getaway. Whether you’re a frequent flyer or just starting to explore credit card and rewards programs, we’re here to guide you through making your spending work harder for you.

What Are Airline Miles?

Airline miles, or as some like to call them, frequent flyer miles, are pretty much like having a secret currency in your pocket. You earn these miles by flying, shopping, or even dining, and then you can spend them on cool stuff like flights, hotel stays, and more. While some airlines might call them “points,” the idea remains the same: they’re your ticket to cheaper travel.

Whether you’re loyal to one specific airline or like to shop around, these miles can often be used for flights on the airline where you earned them and with their partner airlines.

So, next time you plan a trip, remember that these miles could open the door to destinations from Chicago, Mexico, Canada, New York City, and beyond without touching your cash.

How Do Airline Miles Work on Credit Cards?

It’s quite the deal: you spend, you earn airline miles. Every time you swipe, tap, or enter your credit card details online, you’re not just buying but also earning miles. It’s like your purchases paying you back with travel currency.

When you get a new credit card, your purchases earn rewards. These cards offer a welcome bonus, a sum of miles, simply for choosing to bank with them. And it doesn’t stop there. Referring friends and family will fetch you another chunk of miles.

Co Branded Credit Cards

With a co-branded airline credit card, each dollar spent is a step closer to your next destination. These cards are directly linked to your airline loyalty program account, making it seamless to accumulate frequent flyer miles. Whether groceries, gas, or your morning coffee, your everyday purchases could be your next ticket to anywhere.

These cards are direct to the frequent flyer programs and airline loyalty accounts, making it a breeze to see your miles stack up:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
  • United MileagePlus Miles
  • Delta SkyMiles

Statement Credit Cards

For those who prefer a simple way to use miles, statement credit cards offer simplicity. Make an eligible purchase, and then, like magic, use your miles to “erase” the cost from your statement after it posts. It’s a direct way to redeem miles for what you’ve bought, turning yesterday’s expenses into today’s savings.

Travel Reward Credit Cards

Regarding flexibility, travel rewards cards with transferable points take the cake. While they might seem more complex, the effort can pay off in spades. The real gem of these cards is transferring your points and miles back to partner airlines or hotels, where you can often squeeze out more value per point.

  • Capital One Venture Rewards: Known for its simplicity and value, it lets you use points as a statement credit for travel purchases or transfer them to partners for more excellent value.
  • The American Express Membership Rewards program offers the flexibility to transfer points to a broad selection of airlines and hotels, frequently boosting the worth of each point.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards: A favorite among travelers, Chase offers versatile points that can be transferred to numerous airlines and hotels, making it a powerful tool in your travel arsenal.

Types of Credit Cards That Offer Airline Miles

There are primarily two types of programs that can transform your daily purchases into your next holiday.

Co-branded Airline Credit Cards

For airline loyalists, co-branded airline credit cards are much more valuable. These cards are partnered with specific airlines, like the Amex Gold Delta SkyMiles Card, letting you earn miles directly with your airline of choice.

Ideal for those who consistently fly with the same carrier, these cards and loyalty programs often include airline-specific perks such as free checked bags or priority boarding, making your travel experience smoother and more enjoyable.

Travel Rewards Cards

Alternatively, travel rewards cards such as the American Express Gold Card or the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card provide a more adaptable strategy. With these cards, you earn points that can be redeemed across a broad spectrum of travel options, from flights with various airlines to hotel stays and even cruise bookings. They’re the go-to for those who love the freedom to explore deals across different airlines or enjoy diverse travel experiences beyond flying.

Criteria for Choosing the Best Credit Card for Miles

Picking the perfect credit card for storing miles isn’t just about the glamouring destinations you’ll visit. It’s about finding a card that fits like your favorite travel backpack—comfortable, reliable, and packed with exactly what you need. Here’s your quick guide to choosing the best one:

  • Type of Miles: Not all miles are created equal. Some cards offer miles tied to specific airlines, while others give you points that can flex across various carriers.
  • Welcome Bonus: Who doesn’t love a good bonus? This is your fast pass to earning a big chunk of miles immediately. Look for a card that offers a welcome bonus you can realistically hit with your regular spending—because what’s the use of a bonus if it’s out of reach?
  • Extra Perks: Sometimes, the little things make a big difference. Complimentary checked luggage, preferred boarding, and access to airport lounges can elevate an ordinary journey into a luxurious experience. Consider the value of these benefits based on your travel frequency; they might surpass the value of miles collected.
  • Annual Fee: Let’s talk numbers. Some cards waive the yearly fee for the first year, while others charge upfront. An annual fee isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker—it can be worth it if the rewards and perks align with your travel style. Just make sure the math adds up in your favor.

What Are the Different Ways to Use Airline Miles?

With great power comes the need to make wise choices on how to use it. Let’s explore the different ways you can deploy these miles for maximum benefit while also peeking into some of the pitfalls that might come with them.

Selling Your Miles

Perhaps the most straightforward and sometimes overlooked option is selling your miles. This way can be especially appealing if you’re looking for quick cash or if your miles are nearing expiration without a trip.

By selling, you transform your miles into cash, which you can use for anything you desire-not travel-related expenses. It’s a direct way to benefit from miles you might not otherwise use.

You can sell your airline miles to Top Dollar Payouts by clicking here.

Booking Flights

The most traditional use of miles is, of course, redeeming them for award flights. While it seems simple, getting those sought-after award seats can be tough, like looking for a needle in a haystack, especially when it’s busy or on popular flights.


Dreaming of flying business or first class without the price tag? Using miles for upgrades can be your ticket to luxury. However, it’s worth noting that upgrade availability can be limited, and sometimes additional fees can apply, diluting the value of your credit card miles.

Car Rentals and Hotel Stays

Your miles can also take you on the road or secure you in rental cars and a cozy bed for the night. Redeeming miles for car rentals and hotel stays through hotel programs and car rental rewards adds flexibility to your travel plans. Yet, the conversion rates for these options might not always be in your favor, leading to less value per mile than other redemption methods.

Shopping Through Airline Portals

For those who love to shop, spending miles through airline shopping portals could seem like a treat. While it’s a way to turn miles into goods, knowing that the value you get per mile from airline loyalty programs might be lower than when used for travel-related redemptions is crucial.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Collecting miles feels excellent, but a few things can trip you up if you’re not careful.

Expiration Dates and Going MIA: Just like that gym membership you forgot, miles can disappear if you’re not using your account. Those miles you’ve been saving? Poof. Gone because you didn’t keep an eye on the calendar or stay active. A simple purchase here and there, or just checking in on your account’s rules, can keep your miles safe and sound.

Not Always the Best Deal: Grabbing a flight with miles feels like a win, but sometimes it’s not the bargain you thought it was. When airline tickets are cheap, using miles instead of cash might not be the most brilliant move. You could end up using a ton of miles for a flight you could’ve bought cheaply, which misses the point of having miles in the first place.

The Extra Costs: Thinking of cashing in miles for a “free” flight? Hold up. Taxes and fees can creep up on most airlines for you, making that free flight not so free. When you add it up, selling your miles for cash might be better.

How to Maximize the Benefits of Airline Miles?

Knowing these pitfalls can help you steer clear of losing out. So, how to avoid this? One word- Sell.

Your airline miles are cash, just waiting to be used. But instead of jumping through hoops to use them for flights or upgrades, why not turn them into something simple like cash? That’s where selling your miles to Top Dollar Payouts becomes a game-changer.

Why Cashing Out is the Way to Go

  1. Straight-up Cash: Selling your credit card miles cuts through all the challenges. You get cash, plain and simple—no need to figure out blackout dates or worry about when your miles will expire.
  2. Freedom: Cash gives you the power to do whatever you want. Whether it’s fixing up your bike, covering this month’s rent, or even buying a concert ticket, you decide how to spend it.
  3. No Surprises: Have you ever tried using credit card miles for a flight only to get charged extra fees? Yeah, it’s not fun. Selling your miles means you get what you expect: cash without the hidden costs.
  4. Keep It Simple: Keeping track of all the rules for using miles can feel like a full-time job. Selling them? That’s as easy as it gets. There is no need to stay up late reading the fine print.

Are Airline Credit Cards Worth It?

an airplane flying in the blue sky

Airline credit cards are absolutely worth it, especially if you love to travel. They help you quickly collect miles for flights and upgrades. A recent survey found that even after travel got complicated because of the pandemic, people still really value travel perks and protection on their cards. But, as with anything, there are a few things to watch out for.

Yes, you can squeeze a lot of value from airline credit cards, especially with bonuses, perks, and the miles you earn every purchase. Such cards have the potential to transform routine expenses into your upcoming journey. Sounds pretty good, right?

But there’s a catch. However, miles aren’t always as straightforward as they seem. Expiry dates, inactivity penalties, and the fine print on redeeming them can sometimes turn your miles into missed opportunities. Not to mention, when it’s time to redeem bonus miles, finding the perfect flight without extra fees can be the most difficult challenge.

That’s where Top Dollar Payouts come in. If your airline miles are collecting dust, you’re just looking for a surefire way to get value from them; selling your miles to us is the way to go. Don’t let the potential of your miles fly away. Complete our form now to know the actual value of your miles and sell them. It’s fast and straightforward, and we’ll assist you at each stage.


How does redeeming miles from a credit card work?

Redeeming miles is like cashing in on your travel piggy bank. You typically log into your credit card or airline account, head to the rewards section, and choose how to use your miles, whether for flights, upgrades, or other perks.

How do I use my credit card points for air miles?

To turn credit card points into air miles, you often have a couple of options. Certain cards enable you to book travel directly via their portal, whereas others offer the option to transfer points to particular airline loyalty programs, thereby converting them into miles.

How does earning air miles work?

You get miles for spending on your credit card, with bonus miles for specific categories like travel or dining. Some cards also offer hefty sign-up bonuses that give your miles balance a big initial boost.

How much is 10,000 miles worth?

The value of 10,000 miles can vary widely based on how you use them. They might cover an upgrade or a portion of a meal, but it fluctuates based on market forces, time, flights, etc. The key is to research and use your miles wisely to maximize their value.

How many miles do you need on a credit card for a free flight?

How many miles you’ll need for a complimentary flight varies widely, influenced by factors such as the airline, your destination, and when you plan to travel. It could range from 80,000 to 100,000 miles or more. Checking your airline’s award chart can give you a rough idea.

How to use a credit card for airline miles?

Using a credit card for airline miles involves choosing a card that fits your travel habits, spending within your means to earn miles, and then redeeming those miles through the airline’s loyalty program or your card’s travel portal.

How much is 20,000 airline miles worth?

The worth of 20,000 miles can vary greatly based on the method of redemption. They might cover an upgrade or a portion of a meal, but it fluctuates based on market forces, time, flights, etc. Again, it’s all about finding the best redemption options.