Points and miles, miles and points. They seem synonymous, right?
Wrong. There are some key differences between airline miles and credit card points. And chief among them is the ability to earn miles on the award flights you book.
You won’t keep earning when using airline miles like Delta SkyMiles or American AAdvantage miles. But it’s a different story with flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Capital One Venture miles.
Not only can you fly for free with these points – you can earn miles while doing it.
Why You Earn Miles on Flexible Points Award Bookings
When you book award flights directly with an airline using their miles, you won’t earn miles for actually flying. In the airline’s eyes, because you’re using miles you earned, you can’t earn them at the same time.
With credit card points, it’s different. You have options.
In many cases, you can turn these points into miles by transferring them to different airline partners. And once you send them to partner, they’re airline miles – the same rules apply. But credit card points also give you the ability to book travel directly.
When you book a flight through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or through Amex, your points act like cash, where each point is worth 1 cent (or more) toward your airfare. In the eyes of the airline, you bought your ticket normally. And so long as you enter your frequent flyer number, you’ll still earn miles on the airline you’re flying.
Not familiar with booking a cash flight with points using flexible points like Chase or Amex? Check out our full guide. While you might get more value out of your points by transferring them, this is a no-nonsense way to book some free travel.
Simply put, you book a cash flight but pay with your points. For example, you’ll log into the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and search for a flight like you normally would. The best way to do this is to find the cheap flight first – either through our Premium flight deal notifications or by searching yourself on Google Flights. Then find your flight in the travel rewards portal.
The search will come back with your best options, listed in both cash price and points cost. When a deal is cheap, it can be a great time to use those flexible points to cover the cost! For example, you could book a recent Premium deal to Barcelona for just 24,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points – or less, depending on which card you hold.
Once you’ve selected the flight you’d like to redeem your points for, you’ll fill out your personal and travel information. This includes providing your frequent flyer program number for the airline you’ll be flying. Be sure to add this so you earn miles for your flight!
And it’s as simple as that. Book your flight for free using flexible points, and still earn miles for flying on that airline. That’s a win-win.
How to Earn Flexible Points
The three top flexible points programs are Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards, and Capital One Venture miles.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has become the gold standard in the points and miles world. Perks like lounge access, unbeatable travel insurance coverage, and bigtime travel credits make this card very popular, despite its relatively high annual fee of $550.
And when it comes to booking flights with points, it doesn’t get any better: Each point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth 1.5 cents. That means you could book $500 in flights for 33,333 Chase points.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
But the card we recommend for most points and miles beginners is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card offers a big welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months.
It comes with a mix of benefits like travel insurance, car rental coverage, and no foreign transaction fees – all at a low annual fee of $95. Each point on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is worth 1.25 cents toward travel, so you could book $500 in flights for 40,000 points.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Not sure which of the two is right for you? Read our comparison of the Preferred vs. the Reserve card.
On the American Express side, the heavy hitter is the Platinum Card from American Express. Some of its benefits include:
- 5x points on airline ticket purchases
- $200 annual airline fee credit
- $200 annually in monthly Uber credits (including Uber Eats)
- $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
- $100 Saks Fifth Ave Credit
- Broad lounge access, including a Priority Pass membership, Amex Centurion lounges, Escape lounges, and Delta Sky Clubs when flying with Delta.
- Elite status with Marriott, Hilton, National Car Rental, and more
Learn more about the Amex Platinum card, and see if you’re eligible for the 100,000-point offer (that’s a lot of free flights!) Unlike the top-tier Chase cards, you don’t get a value-bonus when using Amex points to book flights – every point is worth 1 cent.
But if you’re in the market for a business card, check out the Business Platinum Card from American Express. If you hold the card and book travel through the Amex Travel portal, you will get 35% of your points back for ANY first or business class flights, and all flights booked with your selected airline. It’s one of the best benefits of the card, and an easy way to get more out of your points … while earning more miles in the process.
Click Here to learn more about the Business Platinum Card from American Express.
If you’re looking for an even easier way to earn and redeem points on travel, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the best options for getting started.
The card offers a no-frills way to easily redeem miles and won’t cost you any money out of pocket in your first year of card membership.
The best part? You can can book flights as normal, directly with the airline, and then simply erase the purchase from your card statement with your points. This Purchase Eraser feature is a simple and easy way to use your flexible points! Plus, you can erase travel-related purchases other than flights!
Click Here to get more information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Yes, you can actually still earn miles for flying on a ticket booked with points. Use your credit card points to book a cash flight for free, toss your frequent flyer number into the reservation, and keep earning toward your next trip.