Credit Card Rewards Programs And Flexible Travel Rewards Cards
Chase Ultimate Rewards
American Express Membership Rewards®
Flexible Travel Rewards Cards

The term "miles" is used pretty liberally these days. But most of us still think of earning reward miles in the framework of frequent flyer programs. If your credit card lets you earn 1,000 miles per $1,000 spent, you probably expect those 1,000 miles to convert into 1,000 airline frequent flyer miles.

But there are good travel credit cards nowadays that let you earn miles that don't actually convert to frequent flyer miles. Instead these "miles" actually act like points or cash back because you can redeem them towards a travel purchase, instead of converting them to frequent flyer miles.

This can make things very confusing, because you might think that miles have the same value on all cards. But a frequent flyer mile that can be redeemed directly with airlines might have a very different value compared to a mile that can be redeemed towards travel purchases.

For Example...

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you transfer the points you earn with 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. That means you get full value: 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points converts to 1,000 frequent flyer miles or points with partner airlines and hotels listed down below.

  • United MileagePlus
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport®
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards®
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®

On the other side of the coin...

The popular Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card lets you earn miles (that are more like points) which can be redeemed towards purchases you make with the card that fall under travel categories (hotels, airlines, car rentals, travel packages, etc). That makes Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card a very flexible travel card, as you can book your travel on any airline, hotel or vacation package as you choose, and then redeem your miles towards that purchase.

One big question - how do these miles compare to actual frequent flyer miles?

Let's use the bonus you earn as an example. When you sign up for Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, you will enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles, equal to $500 in travel. That's a nice incentive, and you can see here that 50,000 miles are equal to $500 in travel, so 10,000 miles would equal $100 in travel.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Those 50,000 bonus points are worth $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. If you redeem them for frequent flyer miles at a 1:1 conversion rate with a partner airline, you would get 50,000 frequent flyer miles.

If you converted those 50,000 miles to the United MileagePlus® program (the same frequent travel program used by United MileagePlus® Explorer Card), you could currently get an economy round-trip flight to Peru or another country in the northern part of South America, from the continental US.

50,000 Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card miles equal $500 in travel. In other words, frequent flyer miles may be worth many times more than "miles" offered by many travel cards. But these alternative miles may be more flexible, since you can redeem them in different ways. Although, you can also redeem your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points for other types of travel purchases, not just frequent flyer miles - making it a very flexible card too.

Almost all dedicated airline credit cards, including United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, let you earn actual frequent flyer miles/points. But the downside of these miles is that you are usually limited to using them on one airline or airline group.

2 Credit Card Rewards Programs To Know About

Chase Ultimate Rewards

If you hold a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to some popular frequent travel programs at a full value.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card provides the best of both worlds because it lets you earn flexible points that you can transfer to participating leading hotel and airline loyalty programs at a full 1:1 value (so 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points). If you prefer, you can also redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and get 25% off travel. However, you may get better value converting to frequent flyer miles. Not only that, you can also redeem your points for gift cards, cash back, merchandise and more. But, keep in mind you get exceptional value when you redeem for travel.

It lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (worth $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®). This card also lets you earn 5,000 bonus points after adding your first authorized user and making a purchase within the first 3 months after account opening.

You earn 2X points per $1 spent on travel and restaurant dining worldwide, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Travel perks include trip interruption/trip cancellation insurance, no foreign transaction fee, travel accident insurance, primary auto rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance services, trip delay reimbursement and baggage delay insurance. For a card with an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95, you get a lot of benefits.

To reiterate, Chase Ultimate Rewards' travel programs eligible for 1:1 transfers from Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card include:

  • United MileagePlus
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport®
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards®
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®

American Express Membership Rewards®

If you use an American Express card that rewards you with Membership Rewards® points, you can transfer your points to a frequent flyer program which you are enrolled in. You will pay a small fee ($0.0006 per point, maximum fee $99) for the transfer.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, a GET.com advertiser, The Platinum Card® from American Express and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express are examples of Amex cards that give you Membership Rewards® points.

You can transfer your points to any of these frequent travel programs:

  • Delta SkyMiles®
  • JetBlue TrueBlue®
  • HawaiianMiles® (Hawaiian Airlines)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Virgin Australia Velocity
  • Club Premier (Aeromexico)
  • Aeroplan (Air Canada)
  • Flying Blue (Air France, KLM)
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Matmid Club (EL AL Israel Airlines)
  • Iberia Plus
  • MilleMiglia Club (Alitalia)
  • Krisflyer (Singapore Airlines)
  • Etihad Guest
  • Air New Zealand Airpoints
  • Malaysia Enrich (Malaysia Airlines)
  • Qantas Points
  • Asia Miles
  • ANA Mileage Club (All Nippon Airways)
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Hilton Honors
  • Starwood Preferred Guest®

Flexible Travel Rewards Cards

If you prefer a card that lets you earn rewards that can be redeemed towards the cost of travel purchases without a 1:1 conversion rate for frequent flyer miles, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, and Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card are solid options.

But it may help if you look at the rewards you earn from these cards more as cash back that you can apply towards travel purchases, rather than looking at them as airline miles.

Here I've divided cards that let you earn actual frequent flyer miles or transfer points at a 1:1 conversion rate from cards that let you earn rewards that can be redeemed towards travel purchases in other ways.

Top 2 non-airline specific cards that let you earn rewards which can be used as frequent flyer miles (or 1:1 conversion):

Credit CardFeaturesIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeWhy we like itWe least likeCredit RequiredRelated links
Chase Sapphire Preferred<sup>®</sup> Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

APPLY NOWAt Chase's secure website
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
APPLY NOWAt Chase's secure website

N/A

17.49% - 24.49% Variable

$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

Why we like it
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Excellent Credit
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

APPLY NOWAt American Express' secure website
  • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 per calendar year for baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, when available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
APPLY NOWAt American Express' secure website

N/A

N/A

Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195.

Why we like it
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
  • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Excellent Credit

Top 2 cards that let you use your points towards other travel rewards:

Credit CardFeaturesIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeWhy we like itWe least likeCredit RequiredRelated links
Capital One<sup>®</sup> Venture<sup>®</sup> Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

N/A

14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)

$0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Why we like it
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.
We least like
  • No low introductory APR period.
Excellent, Good
Bank of America<sup>®</sup> Travel Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

APPLY NOWAt Bank of America's secure website
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 16.49% - 24.49% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
APPLY NOWAt Bank of America's secure website

0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases

16.49% - 24.49% Variable APR

$0

Why we like it
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
Excellent/Good