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Now that you're on your way to earning points or miles, you may think the easy part is ahead. But not so fast. Miles' values vary not only between airlines but also between types of redemptions. For example, with the Delta SkyMiles, flights are valued at 1. With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, you only get half the value with a gift card that you would get by redeeming for a travel purchase.
That's why it's important to read the fine print and make sure you know the values of the different redemptions. You can do your own check to see how many miles you need from the airline's website: Just look under the reservations page, and search for the section that mentions award flights.
Most will offer a chart showing the regions to which they travel — usually broken down by continents — as well as a schedule showing how many miles it takes to get from one region to another. For instance, the lowest one-way domestic fares on American Airlines will cost you 12, AAdvantage miles within the continental U. You may be required to have a minimum before you can redeem, as in the case of the Arrival Plus, which requires you to have at least 10, miles before you can redeem.
To maximize your redemption, you need a plan. And part of that plan is to redeem your miles as soon as you can while still reaching your goal. That's because points can lose their value over time.
For example, Qatar Airlines' Qmiles were worth 1. Also, the miles can even expire if you don't pay attention to the rules. Another note about paying attention to the rules: Played right, you can maximize the use of your miles.
For example, British Airways is notorious for charging an incredibly high number of points for redeeming seats in first and business class. A first-class seat on Cathay Pacific between Boston and Hong Kong, for example, will cost an astronomic , Avios. In comparison, partner carrier American Airlines requires just 67, AAdvantage miles for that exact same flight. While the SkyMiles program is forever moving the finish line with everchanging point values and rules, there are no blackout dates and there are a number of redemption options.
The average point value is 1. There are 31 airline partners. It's a good program for loyal Delta flyers and international travelers.
With the United program award tickets are one-way, which actually opens up your options. You can have a different class each direction; or you can travel out with a Saver ticket when your plans are flexible, and with an Everyday ticket on the return with firmed up plans. You can use miles to request upgrades to a premium cabin, which allows you to benefit from free alcoholic beverages, as well as priority check-in, security line access, boarding, and baggage handling.
With this loyalty program of Southwest Airlines , flight options are primarily limited to domestic destinations, but the rewards are strong. This program is particularly great for families with loads of luggage, which is inevitable when you're lugging kids and gifts to Grandma's. Booking is flexible and there aren't a ton of hidden fees. While there are no blackout dates and one-way trips are permitted, it's not the largest of airlines, with only 90 destinations, and only about 10 countries.
With more than 1, destinations to more than countries, American Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world, ideal for world travelers. The airline partners with OneWorld Alliance carriers as well as other partners. While there's the MileSAAver awards, which means you can book award flights at a low number of miles, there are downsides, such as some quirky rules and the need for flexibility when booking.
Another OneWorld partner, British Airways can eat up your miles, called Avios, but the experience is superior. There is a feature called Reward Flight Savers, advertised as the best value reward flights, which is available on return flights in Europe and southern Africa. Like other loyalty programs, you can use Avios to upgrade, for a hotel stay or getting a rental car.
With all those great choices, picking the right airline card can seem overwhelming. Well, we do the heavy lifting to help you make the right decision. Here, we compare 2 airline cards: Right now, the British Airways' card offers beaucoup points of , Avios: The United card offers rewards outside of the realm of airline loyalty, making it competitive with a general-purpose travel card.
In contrast, the British Airways card offers a lackluster 1X Avios for non-airline-related purchases. The British Airways card's benefits are robust, with travel and shopping features galore, as well as no foreign transaction fees.
In the same way, the United card's offerings are generous, including priority boarding, and there is also no foreign transaction fee here, a common feature for travel cards. Both also participate in the Visa Signature program, which has its own set of benefits, including lounge access. Annual fees are not a burden if you think through how you're going to use the airline card.
Some, such as the United Explorer, offer the first year waived. Others, such as the Blue Delta, have no annual fee at all. But compare the points or miles and the points valuations up next before making a decision. The best and easiest way to compare points valuations is with The Points Guy's ongoing research. As you'll see, United's miles trade at 1.
As you can see, while the annual fee is waived and the ongoing rewards are strong with the United Explorer, the British Airways' sign-up offers are outstanding.
That said, the British Airways card encourages spending you may not be prepared to make, and the United Explorer is a respectable card for domestic and international travel alike.
Keep in mind that you'll want to pick a card partnering with an airline you'll actually use, or there's no point pun intended in earning all those amazing miles. Where you live and go should factor into your decision. A lot of people consider airline miles to be comparable to cash. However, airline miles are a little bit more like currency from different countries: Many places will not allow you to pay with money from another country.
Similarly, you can't transfer points between frequent flyer programs in most cases, even if the airlines are partners. Partnerships such as OneWorld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam typically allow you to earn miles when you fly on one airline, and redeem those miles you earn for flights on a carrier within the same network.
However, most of those airlines won't allow you to transfer miles directly from one carrier to another, because there is no financial benefit to them for doing so. But there are some exceptions to the rule. British Airways and Iberia share the Avios frequent flyer program. So while your points in each program remain separate and distinct, you can transfer them freely between the two so long as both accounts are at least 3 months old.
Just because you can't transfer points back and forth, however, doesn't mean that you are stuck with a single carrier for life. Most airlines within the major alliances will allow you to use your mileage stash with that brand to book award flights on partner airlines. For example, an American Airlines frequent flyer can use AAdvantage miles to book a flight on British Airways, and the cost of that ticket will be based on the American Airlines mileage award chart.
So even though that traveler will physically fly on a British Airways flight, the passenger is subject to all of American's ticketing rules; responsible for paying any change or redeposit fees to American; and must contact American — not British Airways — with any problems or issues that may arise before departure. If you're interested in learning more about airline credit cards, check out our reviews section where we go into detail about our top picks and several others.
Additionally, consider our top picks from the following categories to use on your air travel:. Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. You can reach her by e-mail at laura. We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful.
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Good to Excellent Credit Recommended ? Rewards Rate 2X 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide 1X 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
At A Glance Intro Bonus 50, points? Point values — Point valuations on rewards cards can vary widely, from under 1 cent to over 2 cents per point or mile. Also, you can get a bonus when redeeming for travel in some cases, such as the Ink Business Preferred.
Travel benefits — Many travel and other rewards cards offer travel and purchase benefits in addition to points, miles or cash back. These are helpful when you are on a trip and you need extra support, such as lost luggage reimbursement and travel accident insurance with the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card. Security — Issuers typically take their security seriously, including a number that offer a free credit score each month.
Discover offers free Social Security number alerts, for example. Transfer partners — Even if you hold a loyalty card, such as an airline or hotel card, there may be partners that you can transfer your points or miles to. We look at which and how many partners cards have and the value of the transfers, because some partners have a lower valuation than if you use the points with the original hotel or airline. Extra features — Rewards credit cards can have additional features, such as free first checked bag and no foreign transaction fees with the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express.
We study those little pluses that bring added value. Some issuers offer no late fee, which we study when we ascertain a rewards card's value.
Credit needed — No matter how much you love a card, the issuer will want to make sure you are a good risk and check your credit before you are granted the product. We note whether each rewards card requires credit from bad to excellent or no credit. Points, sometimes called miles, on a credit card are designed to reward you for using the card or for loyalty to a brand. You can earn points through different types of spending, including general spending, restaurants and world travel, or shopping with a hotel or airline brand.
Many rewards cards, particularly travel rewards cards, offer generous sign-up bonuses. Used correctly, cards' sign-up bonuses can reward in the thousands of dollars.
Often, you can get boosted points for specific types of spending, 3X points and more. They can be redeemed for travel, shopping and more. You probably have a points chaser in your life, whether it's your office mate or roommate. This person loves to build rewards to be redeemed on trips across the country or around the world. Actually, in a recent study, we found that when consumers switch to a new favorite card, it's invariably a rewards card.
So, we've established that rewards cards are pretty awesome. What do you need to know before you get started? First off, understand that rewards aren't just about redeeming for hotel stays or airfare. We actually found that cash back is by far the most popular of redemptions. Here's how the varying rewards rank among consumers:. For example, you might be eyeing a cash back card that offers improved rewards on everyday spending, such as the Blue Cash Everyday or Blue Cash Preferred.
When you are shopping for a rewards card, you see that they vary widely in whether they have an annual fee, a sign-up bonus and what kinds of ongoing rewards they have.
So, while most cash back cards have no annual fee, many travel cards do. And while you will be hard pressed to find a cash back card with extensive travel benefits, travel cards will likely have them in abundance. When earning rewards, whether it's cash back or points or miles, you'll want to make sure the card you choose reflects how you shop. When it comes time to redeem, you might choose a statement credit, a gift card or merchandise, or travel. Just know that certain cards favor certain types of redemptions — for example, in some cases, it may be more to your advantage to redeem for travel than to use the rewards for a gift card.
Take your time, shop around and use our excellent tools to pick the right card for you. Remember, if you don't choose a card that plays to your spending strengths, you are just leaving money on the table.
This is a higher amount and lower requirement than most comparable cards. This card has a feature not available elsewhere — earn an amazing 10X miles on thousands of hotels through hotels. That compares in some fashion to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, with a couple of notable differences. But the Sapphire Preferred has one big advantage, which we'll get into in a minute.
But the rewards on the Cash Back make it a special treat, because instead of a sign-up bonus, Discover matches your cash back at the end of your first year. The newly revamped Gold Card offers a tremendous amount of rewards value, especially on dining and groceries, with its 4X points per dollar spent at U. A rotating categories cash back card is a must have if you want to maximize rewards on all your spending, and the Chase Freedom card is one of the best options out there.
Quite possibly the best part about this card is the ability to pair it with a Chase Sapphire product so you can earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points, which are worth way more than just generic cash back, especially if you like to travel. Recently relaunched with much strengthened rewards, the Propel truly stands in a unique class that's a cut above the competition.
In terms of its rewards, there is a great amount of variety in categories that many consumers can take advantage of: In that way, the Propel is very balanced - you can take great advantage of it on special occasions like trips abroad, but also benefit from it on everyday expenses like your Netflix or Spotify subscription. In terms of bonus amounts, this far surpasses the bar that has thus far been set by credit cards that have no annual fee. Transferring points to travel partners has the potential to provide even more value.
But what makes the Quicksilver stand out is that it not only has no annual fee, but also no foreign transaction fees, which is handy when you travel overseas or make purchases online with merchants that use foreign banks.
We got a bit of a surprise when our October poll by YouGov PLC showed that about a quarter of those polled did not hold a credit card. With all the great rewards cards out there, that's money left on the table. Rewards cards can deliver great benefits, waived fees, and of course, points, miles or cash back.
However, if you have trouble meeting your budget, or you tend to overspend, then they may not be so great for you. Some disadvantages may actually be a blessing in disguise, such as annual fees, because they can be indicative of a card that offers superior rewards. But that's not always true.
That's why you should thoroughly research your choices before applying. Here, we look at the pros and cons of rewards credit cards to help you decide if they are right for you.
Accrue points, miles or cash — Earn hundreds of dollars a year in points, miles or cash back. It doesn't get better than this. Travel and shopping perks — Rewards cards can offer extended warranties, rental car insurance and other travel and shopping benefits.
With some cash back cards, you may not pay an annual fee at all. Here's what consumers report about the cards they have:. Make sure you check the required score of a card before applying. For example, if it's a card with rotating categories, you need to sign up for categories, then make sure you maximize spend without going over budget.
And some travel cards have blackout dates and limit your choice in travel partners. However, there are rewards cards with flat rates if you don't want to invest time on your rewards. Also, you can blow your budget it you don't pay attention to your spending, as well as undo any earnings you've made through rewards. But if you plan to pay in full each month, that shouldn't be a problem. The number who actually followed through was considerably lower:. There are a number of different types of rewards credit cards, including cash back, hotel and airline loyalty cards, and even retail and gas.
Here are different types of rewards cards:. Also called fuel cards, this product dates back to the s when the primary purpose was convenience. With the advent of rewards cards that also reward you for groceries, wholesale clubs and restaurants, rewards cards have all but replaced the gas credit card.
That said, gas cards can reward you generously for each gallon and sometimes only require fair credit. If you're on the road a lot, this might be a good choice. Some travel cards reward you for most brands through a redemption portal that tracks your travel expenses. While the redemption rate may be lower than a loyalty travel card, you might want this card if you don't travel with a particular brand.
Frequent flier programs became popular in the s. You can choose between a single loyalty card and a card with multiple airline partnerships.
This is an option for the traveler who is loyal to a specific brand. A version of the airline loyalty card, this type of card product is good for the consumer who has a favorite hotel brand.
Because hotel partnerships are so large today, you can access hotels in the hundreds in dozens of countries with a single card. Originating in , Discover developed its products as a way to give money back at the end of the year based on the amount of charges.
The cashback product has expanded to cards that give cash back in statement credits, checks and deposits in bank accounts. If you want rewards without thinking about it, a general-purpose cashback card might be the right decision. Sometimes called co-branded cards, this product is a type of loyalty card that is tied to department stores or other store brands. These cards can offer high percentages of cash back for first purchases and more. Many card issuers offer varying types of rewards cards, frequently with greater rewards than consumer rewards cards.
You can get cash back or points for business-related spending. If you often spend on business items, a business card might be an option. Credit card rewards programs come in any number of flavors, and one of them is bound to work well for you. There's Chase Ultimate Rewards, with generous rewards for your loyalty. And what about American Express Membership Rewards?
Then, there are popular hotel rewards plans. Chase Ultimate Rewards is a travel portal that can pack points into your account if used correctly.
In-Depth Reviews of The Best Rewards Credit Cards We’ll show below how each credit card we’ve picked gets you superior rewards for their category, and how you can maximize value from that card. Our picks offer rewards rates of 2% or higher – compared to the average of 1 to 2% across all cards. Best Rewards Credit Cards of Credit card rewards come in two flavors: points and cash back. Treat yourself to the best card for your lifestyle. Having recent credit card applications can raise concerns to lenders and applying for credit can cause a small drop in your credit score. With all that in mind, we have discovered some of the best rewards credit cards currently available in a few different categories.