Using an air miles credit card to pay for your purchases is one of the best ways to save on travel. The miles you earn are really a reward for purchases that you would make anyway, so it's fair to say that credit cards can help you earn free travel. In 2016, Pedro from GET.com got US$54,000 worth of free air tickets by redeeming one million air miles earned from credit cards.
Credit card issuers can offer you these miles because every time you use your credit card to make a payment, the merchant (shop, service provider) that accepts your card has to pay the issuer a fee. This fee comes to a fair bit more than the miles you earn, but for you as a cardholder, it's pretty much a win-win setup.
Aside from how to earn miles, the next most important thing to learn is how to go about redeeming your miles for travel. The way that you redeem your travel rewards can make a big difference in how much you get for your miles. For example, some programs let you earn a part of the miles you redeem back, when you redeem them in a certain way. Other programs offer more value when you redeem for specific types of travel, such as airline tickets. Here I will list a few tips and tricks for several popular travel rewards programs to help you get more for your miles.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
This program is used by several popular Chase rewards cards. Although this isn't a miles program per se (you earn rewards as points), I've included it here because if you use an eligible Chase credit card it offers 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. That means you can use this card to earn travel from Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air SKYPASS and British Airways Executive Club.
You can also enjoy this 1:1 rate when you transfer your points to these hotel loyalty programs: Marriott Rewards®, Hyatt Gold Passport® and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.
It's important to note that once you transfer points from your Ultimate Rewards account to one of these frequent flyer programs you cannot reverse the transfer, so be sure to make your decisions carefully and plan ahead.
Depending on current airline and hotel offers, you may get better deals booking travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Chase Ultimate Rewards travel agents are available 24/7 for assisted phone bookings (cruise bookings only 9am-5pm weekdays. If you want to treat a friend of family member, Chase also lets you redeem your points towards travel for someone other than yourself.
The main allure of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program is its flexibility. You can redeem points you earn for most travel expenses and transfer points to 6 partner airline programs and 4 hotel programs. You can also choose to redeem your points for merchandise, gift cards or cash back. Points don't expire as long as your card account is not in default.
No Hassle Miles From Capital One
Redeeming miles you earn when using rewards cards from Capital One for travel can be done in three different ways.
You can either book travel through the Capital One reward program, book travel yourself and then redeem your miles for a statement credit towards that travel or transfer your miles to one of the participating airline partners. That makes this one of the more flexible programs when it comes to the way miles can be redeemed for travel.
Like many miles programs, the rate of miles to dollars is 100 miles to $1, or 1 mile per cent. If you collect 100,000 miles, you can redeem them towards $1,000 worth of travel. As well as travel purchases, you can also redeem your miles for gift cards (starting from just 1,000 miles for a $10 gift card), merchandise or cash back.
The Capital One miles program could work well for you if you like some flexibility in the way miles are earned and redeemed.
Barclays Arrival Program
If you have an Arrival card from Barclays you can take advantage of the Barclays Arrival program to earn and redeem miles for travel.
This program provides a lot of flexibility when redeeming your miles, as you can make travel purchases of your choice, and then redeem your miles for a statement credit towards those purchases up to 120 days after you make them.
You can redeem as little as 2,500 miles at a time, which is half of what many similar rewards programs require. That means that as soon as you collect 2,500 miles you can already redeem them for a $25 statement credit towards a travel purchase.
You get 5% of your miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem.
To redeem your miles for travel statement credit, simply log into your account, click on 'Manage Rewards' and select 'Redeem Now' in the 'Travel Statement Credits' area. You will then see a list of all eligible travel purchases.
After settling on the purchase you want to redeem your miles towards, you can click on the corresponding 'Redeem Now' button. Select the amount of miles you would like to redeem and complete the transaction by clicking the 'Redeem' button.
You can only redeem one time towards any one transaction, so you should think ahead when choosing how to redeem. For example, if you plan to redeem the miles you already have towards paying off the booking for a recent vacation, and then redeem another batch of miles earned towards this same booking in 2 months time, you should wait and redeem the full amount of miles towards this booking in one go.
This program is best suited to those of you who prefer to manage your own travel bookings, and who don't mind redeeming miles for a statement credit refund on purchases you have already made, rather than redeeming miles to pay for purchases directly or transferring your miles to frequent travel programs.