What is an air miles credit card?

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You could earn free Avios reward flights – or other free flights – by spending on an Avios rewards credit card or air miles rewards credit card. Here’s what you need to know.

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air miles credit cards

What are air miles?

Air miles are points that can be spent on flights and other services offered by your airline. 

For example, if you have an Avios rewards credit card, you can spend your Avios points on flights with British Airways. With a Virgin Atlantic credit card, you can collect Virgin Points to spend on Virgin Atlantic flights. 

If you have a different air miles rewards credit card, you can spend your points on rewards flights elsewhere.

How does an air miles credit card work?

Air miles credit cards allow you to earn points or air miles when you spend on the card which can then be exchanged for flights with certain airlines. In some cases, these points can be used for other rewards such as hotels, car hire or days out. 

Some air miles cards offer bonus points when you first sign up, providing you spend a set amount in the first few months. Others also offer companion flights if you’ve spent a certain amount in a year, enabling you to take someone else with you.

How do I get Avios reward flights and air miles rewards? 

With an Avios rewards credit card or air miles rewards credit card you can collect air miles or points every time you spend money on your credit card. The more you spend, the more you’ll earn.

Every air miles card earns you points for flights with a specific airline. There’s more information below on which card earns you airmiles for which airline. If you have a preferred airline then you could base your choice of air miles rewards credit card around this. Perhaps you have a preference based on where they fly to, or their service.

Are air miles rewards cards the same as frequent flyer miles cards?

An air miles card isn’t quite the same as a frequent flyer miles card. 

Frequent flyer miles cards offer loyalty points when you fly with a particular airline. Air miles rewards credit cards let you earn points on your spending, which can then be spent on flights.

Who can you collect air miles with?

A number of airlines allow you to collect air miles, as outlined below:

British AirwaysAvios
Virgin AtlanticFlying Club Miles
EmiratesSkywards Miles
LufthansaMiles & More
United AirlinesMileagePlus
American AirlinesAAdvantage miles
EtihadEitihad Guest Miles

What else can you use your air miles card reward points for?

Some airlines let you swap your air miles card reward points for other benefits. Depending on which air miles card you have, you could swap your points for:

  • Hotel stays

  • Package holidays

  • Flight upgrades

  • Hotel upgrades

  • Car hire

  • Travel insurance

  • Airport lounge access

  • Airport parking

  • Holiday tours

  • Hotel transfers

  • Cases of wine

  • Theatre tickets and experience days

  • Theme park tickets

You can also convert points from other reward schemes like Nectar or the Shell Drivers' Club. Then you can put these converted points towards your Avios reward flights or other free flights.

You can also convert Avios the other way round too, swapping them for Nectar points.

Should you get an Avios rewards credit card or air miles rewards credit card?

If you’re a regular traveller and you also frequently spend on a credit card, an Avios rewards credit card or air miles rewards card can be well worth considering. However,  you should only get an air miles credit card if you’re able to pay off what you spend in full each month.

If you leave a balance on the card, you’ll usually have to pay interest. Interest rates on rewards cards such as these can be higher than on standard cards which means the amount you pay could be more than your air miles are worth. 

In other words, if you carry over a balance on your credit card on a regular basis, an Avios rewards card or air miles reward credit card won’t be right for you.

If you need to use a credit card to spread the cost of your spending or make a big purchase, think about getting a 0% purchases card instead.

In addition, an air miles credit card will only be suitable if you are happy flying with the network of airlines linked to your credit card. If you’d prefer to have the flexibility of flying with several different airlines, it’s best to look at other options.

You also need to spend enough money on your card to collect enough air miles for a flight. So, if you don’t use your card very often, there might not be much point in having one. That said, the Avios rewards credit card – for example – lets you put your points towards your Avios reward flights and top up with cash. This essentially reduces the price of your flights, rather than giving them to you for free.

If you do get an Avios rewards credit card or air miles rewards card, you could use it for frequent, planned purchases. For example, fuel or supermarket shopping. Just make sure you pay it off in full at the end of each month.

How do I claim free Avios reward flights or other free flights?

  • Take out an Avios rewards credit card or alternative air miles rewards card

  • Start spending on your card

  • Buy flights using your new card – this may give you extra air miles

  • Buy from the airline's partner companies to earn extra air miles

  • Convert points from other reward schemes like Clubcard or Shell Drivers' Club.

  • Log in to your air miles rewards card site, and find the flight you’d like to book.

Air miles points usually take a day or two to be added to your account, but can take up to 35 days. This depends on where you’ve used your card.

You should also keep in mind that you will have to pay for your flight taxes and charges separately - you won’t be able to pay for them with air miles. 

Choose the right air miles rewards credit card

To get the right air miles rewards credit card, you need to consider:

  • Whether you know where you want to fly. If only one airline flies there, look at cards that offer air miles for that airline. Then choose the card that will earn you the most air miles, including any bonus air miles you could earn.

  • Whether you’re more flexible: Work out how far you could fly using the air miles you’re likely to earn in your first year. Every scheme’s different and points aren’t always worth the same amount. So avoid comparing how many points you'll earn per pound and look instead at how far the points you’ll earn could get you.

Compare air miles credit cards to check their interest rates and annual fees.

Amex, Visa or MasterCard?

Most air miles cards are American Express rather than Visa or MasterCard.

Amex cards are not accepted for payment everywhere but they usually offer more air miles per pound you spend than Visa or MasterCard.

Some providers offer an Amex card with a second Visa or MasterCard so you can use the secondary card as a backup in places that do not accept Amex.

The differences between Visa and MasterCard are minor, so choose the card that offers most air miles.

Should you avoid air miles credit cards with annual fees?

This depends on whether you will earn air miles points worth more than the fee you need to pay. For example:

  • With one card you might earn one point per £1 you spend and pay no annual fee

  • With a different card you might get two air miles per £1 spent with an annual fee of £24

It would only be worth taking out the second card if it would earn you air miles worth an extra £24 or more than the first card.

Get the most from your air miles credit card

If you’ve been accepted for an air miles credit card, it’s worth setting up a direct debit to pay your credit card bill in full each month. That way you won’t forget.

If you miss the payment date, as well as being charged interest on the balance, you’ll have to pay a late payment fee. This can have a negative impact on your credit file. 

It’s also important to ensure you only ever spend what you can afford to repay on your card. As keen as you might be to earn as many points as possible, it’s crucial that you don’t overspend and end up struggling to pay off your balance.

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