BUSINESS, Credit Cards

Travel Rewards with Top Credit Cards That Offer Airline Miles

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By Ryan Robinson

Have you ever dreamed of jetting off to an exotic destination for free? The secret is airline mile credit cards. These cards allow you to earn points and miles through everyday spending. Then you can redeem those rewards for free flights and hotel nights.

This article will explain everything you need to know to start earning free travel with airline mile credit cards. You’ll learn:

  • How airline credit card rewards work
  • The top airline mile cards for 2023
  • Tips to maximize your earnings
  • Other ways to boost airline miles

Let’s get started!

How Do Airline Credit Card Rewards Programs Work?

Airline mile credit cards are affiliated with a specific airline frequent flyer program like American AAdvantage or United MileagePlus. Some cards offer flexible points that transfer to multiple airline partners. Here’s an overview of how you’ll earn and redeem rewards:

Earning Miles and Points

You’ll receive 1-2 miles or points per $1 spent on the card. Some cards offer bonus categories with increased earning rates:

  • 3x points on dining or travel
  • 4x points on groceries or gas
  • 5x points on purchases with the airline

Many cards also have a large signup bonus if you meet minimum spending requirements. For example, the United Explorer Card offers 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in 3 months.

Earning Rates and Signup Bonuses Can Really Add Up

If you spend $1,500 a month on a card earning 2x miles per $1, you’d earn 36,000 miles a year. Plus a 50,000 mile signup bonus brings you to 86,000 miles in year one!

Redeeming Miles and Points

Once you’ve accumulated enough rewards, you can redeem for award travel:

  • Domestic economy flights may start at 12,500 miles one-way
  • Business/first-class international flights cost a lot more miles
  • Transfer flexible points to airline partners to access more award options

Aim for at least 1-2 cents per mile in redemption value.

Try doing a points transfer to see if you can get more value booking award flights through airline partners.

Now, let’s look at the top airline mile credit cards for 2023.

Best Airline Mile Credit Cards

Credit Cards That Offer Airline Miles

Here are some top-rated options in different categories:

Flexible Points

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – $95 annual fee, earn 2x on travel/dining, 60,000 point bonus, transfer to 13 airline/hotel partners
  • Capital One Venture Rewards – $95 fee waived year 1, unlimited 2x miles on all purchases, 50,000 mile bonus, transfer to 15+ airline partners

Airline Co-Branded

  • United Explorer Card – $0 intro annual fee, earn 2x on United purchases, 40,000 mile bonus, perks like free checked bag
  • Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex – $0 intro annual fee, earn 2x on Delta purchases, 70,000 mile bonus, free checked bag
  • British Airways Visa – $95 fee, earn 3 Avios per $1 on British Airways, 50,000 Avios bonus, reduced award fees

See NerdWallet’s list of the best airline mile cards for more recommendations.

Compare Card Signup Bonuses and Rewards Rates

Choosing the right card for your spending habits can maximize mileage earnings. {{< /cta2 >}}

Now, let’s get into tips for getting the most from your airline mile credit card.

6 Tips to Maximize Your Airline Mile Credit Card

Follow these strategies to squeeze every mile out of your card:

1. Meet Minimum Spend for the Signup Bonus

Aim to spend the minimum required (typically $3,000 – $4,000) within three months of opening your account to earn the big welcome bonus.

2. Use for Everyday Bonus Category Spending

Focus spending on your card’s high-earn bonus categories like groceries, gas, or airline purchases.

3. Pay Bills and Expenses on the Card

Use your airline mile card as your primary payment method for utilities, subscriptions, insurance, and other bills. It all adds up.

4. Check Transfer Partners Before Booking Awards

Research if transferring points to airline partners unlocks better award availability or value.

5. Compare Redemption Values

Calculate your points value per mile/dollar spent when redeeming and aim for at least 1-2 cents per point.

6. Downgrade or Cancel After Year 1

After you earn the signup bonus, consider downgrading or canceling cards with high annual fees.

The key is using your airline mile credit card strategically – sign up for bonuses, maximize bonus categories, and get the most value from your redemptions.

There are also ways to boost airline miles outside of credit card spending.

Other Ways to Increase Airline Mile Earnings

Your credit card isn’t the only way to rack up more miles. Consider utilizing these strategies, too:

  • Online shopping portals – Shop through the airline’s portal and earn bonus miles
  • Dining rewards networks – Enroll and earn airline miles when dining at partner restaurants
  • Rental cars – Rent with airline brand partners and opt-in to earn miles
  • Get an airline credit card for your business – Earn miles on business expenses
  • Credit card referrals – Refer friends to apply and earn referral bonus miles
  • Promotions – Take advantage of special promotions to earn bonus miles
  • Surveys – Some airlines offer miles for completing surveys
  • Airline-affiliated credit cards – Apply for a retail card like a Starbucks card that earns airline miles

Check your airline’s website for details on special promotions, mile-earning opportunities, and enrollment bonuses. These can give your balance an easy boost!

Let’s Recap – How to Earn Airline Miles

  • Airline mile credit cards allow you to earn rewards through spending
  • Cards are tied to a specific airline or offer flexible transferable points
  • You’ll earn miles/points on your spending and get a signup bonus
  • Redeem miles for award flights, aiming for 1-2 cents per mile in value
  • Maximize your card’s bonus categories and signup offer
  • Transfer points to airline partners to unlock more award options
  • Take advantage of additional mile-earning opportunities like portals and dining programs

The right airline mile card combined with bonus-earning strategies can unlock almost unlimited free travel! Enjoy exploring the world on rewards flights with a savvy airline mile credit card approach. Safe travels!

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