Should I Choose Credit Card Points or Miles?

Travel rewards credit cards offering generous sign-up bonuses and ongoing point or mile earnings have become hugely popular.

Should I Choose Credit Card Points or Miles?

As you consider getting a new travel credit card, one key decision is choosing a card that earns flexible points or fixed airline miles. Both options have advantages and disadvantages to weigh.

How Credit Card Points and Miles Work

There are some key differences between points and miles programs that shape the value you can get from each.

Flexible Points

Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture earn points that can be transferred to various airline and hotel loyalty programs. These transferable points are extremely valuable because of their flexibility. You can hold onto them until you’re ready to book an award flight or hotel stay, then decide which loyalty program offers the best value.

For example, the Capital One Venture card earns 2x miles on all purchases. Those ‘miles’ are essentially flexible points that can be transferred to airline programs like Air Canada Aeroplan.

Airline Miles

Cards like the United MileagePlus Explorer and Delta SkyMiles Gold earn miles directly into the associated airline program. You can redeem those miles for flights with that airline or their partners. Delta miles can only be used for Delta flights, while United miles can be used for United and Star Alliance partner flights.

These airline miles are less flexible. You won’t be able to transfer them to hotels or other airlines. But they may offer an easier booking experience since they live right in the airline loyalty program.

Comparing Flexible Points vs Airline Miles

As you choose between credit card points and miles, here are some key factors to consider:

Earning Rates

  • Flexible points cards often earn 2-3 points or miles per dollar spent in popular categories like dining, groceries, travel, etc.
  • Airline cards tend to offer 2-4 miles per dollar on airfare purchased directly with the airline and 1-2 miles on other purchases.

Over time, you may be able to earn points faster with a flexible card that offers accelerated earning rates on more types of purchases.

Redemption Value

  • Airline miles generally provide a fixed value for award flights based on the ticket price. You may get around 1-1.5 cents per mile in value.
  • Flexible points can offer increased value when transferred to airline programs for high-value awards. Many programs allow over 2 cents per point in redemptions.

With flexible programs, the redemption values can vary widely depending on how wisely you transfer and use your points. It takes more research but leads to an average return much higher than most airline program redemptions.

Award Availability

  • Airline miles programs tend to tightly control award flight availability. On some routes, you may struggle to find any award seats. But if seats open up, you can book easily with your airline’s miles.
  • Flexible points require the extra step of transferring points after checking award availability. So it takes a bit more planning. However increased award access across various airline partners can make the effort worthwhile.

If your main goal is to travel on a specific airline, their co-branded credit card makes it simpler to earn miles and redeem awards. However flexible points open up more possibilities across airline alliances.

Which Option Is Better For You?

As you decide whether to focus on credit card points or miles, weigh a few individual factors:

Loyalty Status or Companion Tickets

Some airline credit cards offer valuable elite status perks or companion ticket vouchers for hitting certain spending requirements. If you check bags or fly one airline frequently, these benefits can make it worthwhile to earn miles rather than flexible points.

Types of Travel Spending

Your normal purchase activity can help you decide which type of card matches your spending patterns and needs best. For example, someone who dines out often may favor a flexible card with bonus points for dining. Or a frequent Delta flyer would gravitate towards a Delta credit card.

Award Travel Goals

Consider whether you want to redeem points mainly for flights or also for hotels and other modes of travel. Flexible cards fit best for using rewards across various types of travel. But if your focus is flights on one airline, their miles could make for smoother bookings.

As you can see, choosing between credit card airline miles vs points involves exploring your travel preferences, award goals, and spending patterns. Weigh the pros and cons to pick your best strategy.

Examples of Top Cards in Each Category

To give you a sense of your top options, here are some of the most popular cards in each category:

Flexible Points Cards

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® – 60,000 point signup bonus, 2x points on travel/dining, solid travel protections
  • Capital One Venture Rewards – 60,000-mile signup bonus worth $600 in travel, 2x miles on all purchases
  • Citi Premier® Card – 60,000 point signup bonus, 3x points on travel, gas stations, restaurants, supermarkets

Airline Mile Cards

  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card – 40,000 mile bonus, first checked bag free, priority boarding
  • UNITEDSM Explorer Card – 60,000 mile bonus, free first checked bag, 2 United Club one-time passes
  • JetBlue Plus Card – 40,000 point bonus, free checked bag, 5,000 point anniversary bonus

Check recent offers for these and other cards to see current signup bonuses and benefits.

Credit Card Points vs Miles?

As you choose your next travel credit card, think through these key questions:

  • How often do you fly one main airline versus spreading out your travel?
  • How much value do you place on elite perks like free checked bags?
  • Do you want to redeem for flights only or also for hotels and rental cars?
  • Does a large signup bonus or strong every day earn rate appeal more?

Compare mileage cards vs flexible points programs by weighing where you fall on factors like these. Pick the one that best matches your habits and needs.

Whichever option you start with, you can always supplement it down the road with a card in the other category. Many travelers find owning both types maximizes the value of their rewards. Just focus first on the area that makes the most sense today.


Choosing between credit card points and airline miles requires exploring your travel patterns and award goals. Weigh factors like redemption value, elite perks, earning potential, and ease of use as you compare options. Focus first on the area that best fits your spending profile and the intended use of rewards.

With a thoughtful approach, you can pick rewarding travel credit cards that unlock incredible experiences for your future vacations. As you earn and redeem, pay attention to which loyalty programs deliver the most value. Adjust your strategy over time to maximize those flexible points and airline miles.

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