Navigating the world of credit card rewards can be a challenging adventure. Especially when it comes to travel rewards! With a sea of options available, one question often emerges: “Is it better to opt for an airline’s points or miles credit card?” Let’s take a deep dive and find out!
What’s the Difference? Points vs. Miles
At first glance, ‘points’ and ‘miles’ might seem interchangeable. Both are rewards that you earn by spending on your credit card. But there are subtle differences:
- Airline Miles: These are typically linked to frequent flyer programs. The more you fly with a particular airline, the more miles you earn. The more you spend on your credit card, the faster these miles pile up. Miles can usually be redeemed for flight tickets.
- Points: Points are a bit more versatile (some travel cards call their rewards “miles,” but the same idea follows). Many travel credit card programs offer points that can be redeemed for a variety of rewards. This can range from travel to shopping to dining out. Many of the top points cards heavily reward travel through their booking portals.
Consider Your Travel Habits
Before choosing a card, reflect on your travel habits. Are you loyal to a specific airline? If you always fly with Delta or American Airlines, for instance, getting their miles card might be beneficial. But if you’re the type who hunts for the cheapest flight regardless of the airline, a points card might offer more flexibility.
Here’s a key aspect to ponder: redemption value. Some cards offer a fantastic earning rate. But when it’s time to redeem, the value might not be as impressive.
For instance, one card might offer 2 miles per dollar spent. Another might give 1 point per dollar. At first glance, the miles card seems better. But what if 1 point is worth 2 cents, while 1 mile is worth 1 cent? In this scenario, the points card gives a better bang for your buck.
Tip: WiseMoneyLife.com offers a travel rewards calculator for some of the top cards.
Flexibility in Redemption
Points cards often come out ahead in terms of flexibility. While miles can usually be redeemed only for flights (sometimes with partner airlines), points can often be used for hotel stays, car rentals, merchandise, or even statement credits.
Many airline credit cards come with added perks. Think priority boarding, free checked bags, or airport lounge access. These perks can provide great value, especially if you travel frequently. So, even if a points card might offer slightly better redemption rates, the perks from an airline miles card might tip the scales in its favor.
Watch Out for Fees
Remember to consider annual fees. Some premium airline credit cards might have hefty fees. But they also come with rich rewards. Weigh the fee against the benefits you’ll likely use. If you’re not a frequent traveler, a high annual fee might not be worth it.
The Impact of Partnerships
Many airlines are part of larger alliances or have partner airlines. This means you might be able to redeem your miles with other airlines, not just the one you earned them with. For those who love flexibility, this can be a major plus point. Travel rewards credit cards will often let you link major airlines to your account so you get loyalty points with that airline as well.
Both miles and points credit cards have their merits. The best card for you will align with your travel habits, spending patterns, and redemption preferences. If you’re loyal to a specific airline and value the associated perks, an airline miles card might be the way to go. But if you value flexibility in both earning and redeeming rewards, a points card might be a better fit.