What are Airline Miles Cards and How Do They Work?
Airline miles, commonly referred to as travel points or frequent flyer miles, are part of a highly established loyalty program which is offered by credit cards and airlines. Generally, you accumulate a set number of miles; this amount is based on how often and the distance that you fly, as well as how much you spend on your credit card. Cardholders can then use these miles to buy tickets.
While the definition above might sound simple enough at first glance, the reality is that, but airline miles credit cards are not entirely as cut and dry as they might first appear. First off, the term “miles” does not exactly equate to the actual number of miles that you can fly. It actually, equates to the number of miles that you have flown. For example, if you get 2,734 miles for traveling from Miami to Seattle, that doesn’t mean that you will actually receive a free flight. The miles you accumulate are essentially points in a rewards program.
Although there are definite benefits to be gained, airline miles are very much like many other rewards programs. You get points for using your card, and eventually, those points accumulate and are rewarded with something that many people view as “free.”
The Difference Between Credit Card Rewards and Airline Rewards
When it comes to airline miles, there are two ways that you can get points. The first is by signing up for a service that the airline itself offers. The second is by signing up for a credit card that offers reward miles. It is important to note that some credit cards work on any airline. Whereas others are developed for specific airlines. Both of these options have advantages and disadvantages.
Each airline has its own program that frequent flyers can take advantage of. These are free programs, and allow members to accumulate miles by flying with that specific airline. At the time of writing, patrons have the opportunity to sign up for a frequent flyer account with three different airline alliances: United Airlines, Delta, and American Airlines.
Setting Up Your Account
Once you decide that you want to sign up for an account, you will get an account number that you can use when booking future flight purchases. These services are extremely easy to use and straightforward: In the majority of cases, you earn miles for each flight that you take. Once you accumulate enough points, you can redeem those miles for a free trip on that airline. Generally, these miles don’t expire as long as you’re using your account.
When you first sign up, you are also able to redeem miles for other flights that you have taken within about three months to a year prior – the exact grace period varies by program. Although it can be a pain to go through all your old tickets – especially if you travel quite a bit – having these miles in place when you start out is an excellent kick off point.
It is crucial to understand how credit cards that offer airline miles work a little different than others. The majority of rewards that credit cards provide have a certain amount of points per dollar spent. You can then redeem these points for frequent flyer miles, as discussed above. How much each point is worth varies with a credit card. As with any credit card, you will usually have to deal with annual fees, and you only take advantage of the airline points when you pay your card off. Since most people use their credit card a lot more than they purchase airlines tickets, it is usually easier to accrue points through a credit card then a straight airline rewards program.
How to Pick the Best Card for You
There are a lot of reasons why everyone should have a frequent flyer account that is set up with whatever airline you fly with the most. If you are someone who travels a lot, it might also be worth getting a credit card that rewards you with additional bonus miles. Unfortunately, choosing the right one is not as straightforward the reasons for doing so.
Perhaps the first thing that you should do is see what cards are best suited to match your spending habits.
Often, the best rewards card is with whichever airline has frequent flights to the cities that you tend to visit. For example, if your company has an office, that you travel to regularly in Colorado and you live in Seattle, it makes sense to get a rewards card with either Alaska or Frontier Airlines, because of those handle the flights that you are likely to spend a lot of time on. That said, other cards work with different airlines, and allow you to get points regardless of what airlines you fly on.
It’s also worth pointing out that you cannot accumulate bonus points on these credit cards if you book through popular travel sites like Kayak or Expedia. This is due to the fact that it is based on where the charge comes from. You have to book through the airline itself in order to get any bonus miles that the credit card might offer. Please note that this is only the case with credit card miles, not airline frequent flyer programs.
Benefits of Airline Mile Cards
- Ideal for those who fly regularly
- Great for people who use and pay off their credit card every month
- Free program to enter
Drawbacks of Airline Mile Cards
- The associated credit cards often have high annual fees
- If you don’t fly often, it might not be the best option for you in terms of possible rewards
- These are not readily available rewards. Until you earn enough air miles to purchase your ticket, there is minimal benefit
Other Ways to Gain Air Miles
Contrary to what many believe, there are different ways to gain airline miles than only using credit cards and flying. Actually, you can gain miles by shopping, eating out, and more.
Many people assume that in order to accumulate airline miles, you have actually to get on a plane and go somewhere. However, there are other ways that you can build up your airline points, without even going to the airport. Here are a few examples that might surprise you:
- You can often get paid in airline miles for filling out surveys on sites like eRewards and E-miles.
- The majority of airlines offer a shopping bonus option if you use their card at certain retail sites.
- Banks are another great resource when it comes to getting additional air miles. This is because many have gotten in the habit of offering air miles when customers open new accounts.
- Depending on where you dine, you may also be able to get points through airline specific dining programs
In many cases, accruing air miles outside of flying works in much the same way as just about any other program. Generally, all that you have to do is enter your account number, when you fulfill an agreement those miles will then be added directly to your account balance.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Air Miles
If you are in a position where you can spend the energy, brainpower and time you can make sure that you are earning points in the most efficient way possible. While this isn’t necessary for the majority of cardholders, it certainly appeals to some.In Conclusion
As with most reward programs, if you take enough time to research correctly, you can dig pretty deep into additional ways to get airline miles and take advantages of all kinds of bonuses. For most of us, these basics can help you to save a bit of money each year.
Choosing a credit card that offers airline miles is an excellent option for anyone who would like to earmark their rewards for travel. Although the immediate beneficiaries are people who travel a lot, those who want to take a big trip in the future may also find cards like these an excellent option for saving towards that trip, cutting out the future air travel expense.As with any credit card, there are definite drawbacks to airline mile cards. However, these benefits do not outweigh those of many other credit cards on the market today. It really comes down to what kind of reward you want your use of a credit card to lead to.
If you find yourself stuck debating between an airline miles card, or another credit card option, take some time to compare the many details of the cards side-by-side. Perhaps one has a significantly lower interest rate or annual fee. One kind may allow you to redeem points in a faster manner, or use your points towards other things should you decide to do so. Whatever you decide, please remember that it is essential that you use your credit card wisely. Good luck, happy spending, and safe travels!