Every day expenses are inevitable. We spend money, it’s what we do. But spending money doesn’t have to be a losing venture. Air miles credit cards allow your money to work for you. For every dollar you spend, you should be building up air miles, so you can take that dream vacation you’ve been planning. The best air miles cards provide at least a couple points for every dollar spent, and you can redeem those points on airfare, hotels, rental cars and other various travel perks. Most of the air miles cards on the market offer generous signing bonuses, which means you can start racking up miles as soon as you’re approved! Since most air miles cards have higher interest rates, it’s recommended that you pay off your balance each month to avoid unnecessary costs.
In the world of air miles, there are generally two types of cards; the universal travel rewards card or the airline specific card. The universal cards can be redeemed through multiple airlines, whereas the specific cards are exactly like they sound, only for one airline. The universal cards might seem more enticing, but they often have higher fees and more restrictions (e.g. blackout dates). Both types of cards can be beneficial, but it is important to know what your needs are before clicking apply. It is also important to note, that you shouldn’t cash in your miles for things like cash back or retail items – even though some airline credit cards offer it, because you’re likely to lose a lot of point value in the process. It would be more beneficial to open a rewards or cash back credit card if you’re interested in reward options other than air miles.
Finding the perfect air miles card is a very individualized process. There is not a one size fits all model for air miles credit cards. You must consider how often you travel, how often you’re going to use the card, and what expenses you’re going to charge. To help you out, we’ve assembled some questions to consider before choosing an air miles card. The way you answer the following questions will help you decide which card and which features are best for you.
- Are you loyal to a specific airline?
- Do you purchase airfare more than 5 times per year?
- Do you have a problem paying more for airfare due to airline and date restrictions?
- Will you need companion airfare?
- Do plan on owning an all-around rewards credit card in addition to an air miles card?
- Do you pay off your credit cards at the end of every month?
1. Best Card for Travel Flexibility: Capital One Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the most versatile travel cards on the market. The CapitalOne® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers No Hassle Miles on all purchases, and they’re easy to redeem. All rewards earned from Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card can be used on travel expenses like airfare and hotels. The No Hassle Rewards can also be redeemed through any booking site, like Kayak, and you can fly any airline of your choice rather than limiting you to just one carrier. If you fly on a number of different airlines or prefer bargain-hunting, this is one of the best air miles cards. This is an all around good card for first time air miles card holders.
2. Best Signup Bonus Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you will definitely get your money’s worth. It doesn’t just offer points for airlines; the rewards are much farther reaching than that. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers one of the best sign up bonuses of any rewards card on the market. If you buy airfare once a month, you will easily meet that limit. The ongoing reward rate is 2 points per every dollar spent on travel and dining, along with 1 point per every dollar spent elsewhere.
The fact that you get points on non-travel related purchases just adds to the allure of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. If you plan on adding someone else to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you will earn extra bonus points for the first authorized user (make sure they make a purchase though). The points you earn are unlimited and do not expire. You can redeem them for airline tickets which are good for any airline, hotel stays, cash, merchandise and other rewards. There are no travel restrictions or blackout dates when redeeming for travel.
3. Best Budget Travel Card: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit card is a pretty substantial card if you’re pursuing air miles rewards. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit card offers a reasonable signup bonus.The card also earns points for purchases with Southwest, as well as purchases made on other goods/services. Points never expire, and can be redeemed as travel credit against travel booking on airlines as well as hotels, vacation packages, cruises or car rentals, and can also be redeemed for gift cards. With the high rewards rate and a great signup bonus, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit card is one of the biggest contenders on the market.
4. Best Europe Travel Card: British Airways Visa Signature® Card
The British Airways Visa Signature® Card is a very respectable airline credit card that offers new cardholders bonus Avios points. The British Airways Visa Signature® Card has one of the biggest sign up bonuses in the industry, and it is worth considering even though British Airways is not a major U.S. carrier. This Visa card has no foreign transaction fee, which makes it very favorable if you travel internationally or exchange money in other currencies.
5. Best Domestic Travel Credit Card: United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card is one of our best rated airline miles credit cards in the U.S. Issued by JPMorgan Chase, this card gives bonus miles after you spending a nominal amount within the first 3 months of opening your account. The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card also allows you to earn miles when you make everyday purchases.There is no limit to the miles you can earn, they do not expire and can be redeemed for air tickets, hotel stays and car rentals. To pamper you further, you'll get 2 complimentary one-time passes to the United Club, United’s airport lounge, every year. You also get your first bag checked in for free! If you fly domestically or frequently, the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card could be the right fit for you.
To view all of our air miles credit cards, click here.