Credit Cards How To Use Credit Cards Wisely

Miles vs. Points in Credit Card Churning

Elizabeth Aldrich

Having a good credit score and not taking out a credit card that offers great rewards is a huge waste. Believe it or not, it’s possible to take advantage of a good credit score to milk free vacations, first class flights, and free nights at all-inclusive resorts. This is called credit card churning.

Some credit cards offer points, whereas others offer miles. Before you start applying for new credit cards to earn travel rewards, it’s important to know the difference. Which one gets you the most bang for your buck?

Figuring this out will help you develop a credit card churning strategy. As with most things related to personal finance, it depends. There is no hard and fast rule, but here’s some information to help you decide whether points or miles would work best for you.

Airline Specific Miles

These are miles you accrue with credit cards that are tied to a specific airline. The miles you earn can only be used on that airline and their partner airlines. Some airlines, such as JetBlue and Southwest, use a points system rather than miles, but it works the same. This is also the case with hotel specific points and even gas station rewards programs.

It’s important to note that having 25,000 miles saved up does not mean you get to fly 25,000 miles for free. It, in theory, means that you have flown 25,000 miles. However, due to bonuses and credit card rewards, you can easy accrue 25,000 miles without flying that much.

Airline specific miles are valued differently by each airline, but almost all airline miles are valued at at least 1 cent. Many airlines have miles that are worth closer to 1.5 or even 2 cents.

To see how much an airline’s miles are worth, you’ll need to look up their awards chart. That will explain how many miles you need for a given flight, helping you figure out whether or not the airline’s miles are a good deal.

As of right now, some of the most valuable airline miles include Alaska, Amtrak, Virgin America, and Avianca.

Pros: Airline specific miles can be useful to accumulate if you consistently fly on the same airline. Focusing on one airline will help you pool your rewards toward that airline and you’ll also get extra perks like free checked bags and upgrades.

Cons: Airlines are consistently devaluing their miles each year, with many airlines offering miles that are barely valued 1 cent each. This is especially true of major airlines. Airline specific miles are also less flexible and require you to book rewards with one specific airline and sometimes their partners.

Bank Specific Points

Many banks issue credit cards that offer travel rewards in the form of points that can be applied to hotel stays or airline tickets. They don’t necessarily have to be spent on a specific airline, but many of these banks have specific travel portals where you book your stay.

About the author

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and “digital nomad” specializing in small business, entrepreneurship, career advice, real estate, travel, arts, and culture. She’s written for outlets as varied as Rawckus Music and Arts Magazine, Itcher Entertainment, Sweden Tips, Houzz, Hometalk, JobHero, Tico Times, and Eugene Weekly. Thanks to a three-year stint in a travel job, a knack for mining great deals, and credit card churning, she has not paid for a single flight since 2012, despite her constant travels. You can find her on Twitter @LizzieAldrich or her website, www.elizabethaldrich.com.

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