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What is an air miles credit card?

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Written by Martin Lane, Managing Editor

3 January 2019

You could earn free flights just by spending on an air miles credit card. Here is how they work and how to pick the right card.

air miles credit cards

How do air miles credit cards work?

With air miles credit cards you can collect air miles every time you spend money on your credit card. These are also known as frequent flyer miles or travel points.

When you have collected enough miles you can use them to pay for flights and other services offered by your airline.

Each credit card will earn you air miles for flights with a specific airline. Air miles credit cards are not the same as frequent flyer miles cards which only offer loyalty points when you fly with a particular airline.

Who can you collect air miles with?

AirlineAir miles scheme
British AirwaysAvios
Virgin AtlanticFlying Club Miles
EmiratesSkywards Miles
LufthansaMiles & More
United AirlinesMileagePlus
American AirlinesAAdvantage miles
EtihadEtihad Guest Miles
FlybeSpend&Fly

What else can you use them for?

If your airline offers them, you could swap your air miles for:

  • Hotel stays

  • Package holidays

  • Flight upgrades

  • Car hire

  • Travel insurance

  • Airport lounge access

  • Airport parking

  • Holiday tours

  • Hotel transfers

  • Cases of wine

  • Theatre tickets & experience days

  • Theme park tickets

Should you get a air miles credit card?

Only get an air miles credit card if you can pay off all of what you spend each month.

If you leave a balance on the card you will have to pay interest, which is likely to cost more than your air miles are worth. If you need to spread the cost of your spending, consider a 0% purchases card instead.

You also need to spend enough to earn sufficient air miles for a flight.

How to earn air miles

  1. Start spending on your card

  2. Buy flights using your new card - this may give you extra air miles

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

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

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

Choose the right air miles credit card

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

  • If you know where you want to fly: If only one airline flies there pick a card that offers air miles for their scheme. Then choose the card that will earn you the most air miles, including any bonus air miles you could to earn.

  • If you are more flexible: Work out how far you could fly using the air miles you are likely to earn in your first year. Every scheme is different and points are not always worth the same amount, so avoid comparing how many you'll earn per pound.

Compare every air miles credit card 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?

It 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

Set up a direct debit to pay your credit card bill in full each month.

If you miss the payment date you will be charged interest, which may be more than the air miles you earn.

Air miles you've earned may also be cancelled out if you are charged late payment fees or exceed your credit limit.

How to manage your credit card

Find the best credit card for you, whether you're looking for 0% card for balance transfers or purchases or day to day spending and rewards

Compare credit cards

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