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Most airlines offer frequent flyer programs which allow their passengers to earn miles when flying. These programs work really well for frequent travelers, who are rewarded with points for every flight they take.

But even if you’re not a frequent flyer, a great way to accrue airline rewards is by applying for frequent flyer credit cards. This type of program is geared towards rewarding card holders with miles that they can use for their future travels, earning miles based on the $$$ you spend.

If you’ve made the decision to apply for a frequent flyer credit card, or are interested in how it works, we’ve put together an overview on how to earn miles based on most airline credit cards.

How to Earn Miles with a Frequent Flyer Credit Card

How to earn miles with a frequent flyer credit card

Choose Your Card Wisely

There are so many credit card companies to choose from that offer frequent flyer programs. In fact, almost all major credit cards offer jetsetter incentives.

It’s important for you to choose a card that offers the best value, as you want to be able to enjoy free travels and large discounts on your flight expenses eventually.

A couple of things you should look for in cards are their rewards rate and how flexible and easy it is to use and earn them. Signing bonus and benefits are enticing as well. There are cards that offer as much as 40,000 points as a sign-up bonus when you spend at least $1000 within your first three months of use.

You should check the conversion rate of points to miles, as well as purchase amount to points. This will give you an idea of how many points you can earn from your everyday purchases. Some cards offer a 1:1 ratio of points to miles so don’t miss this kind of detail too.

Chase, Barclay, and Discover offer some of the best frequent flyer cards in terms of ease of earning miles and flexibility. They’re tied with dozens of airlines too so you can choose where you want to spend your miles.

Credit Card RF

Use Your Card for Everyday Purchases

There’s no better way to put it. The more you use your card for purchases, the more points you earn that you can trade for miles.

The difference with having a frequent flyer card is that the conversion rate for points to miles is usually lower. This means you can get more miles converted compared to other types of cards.

Owning a credit card is already a big risk in itself but if you can promise to handle your finances well, there’s no problem using it for shopping or dining.

Fly Often

Otherwise there’s no point in applying for a frequent flyer credit card!

Every time you book a flight, always take note of your frequent flyer number and include it in your booking details. This will automatically credit your miles to your account.

Once a certain number of miles have been met, you may be eligible to fly for free to a certain location. You may also get other perks like a seat upgrade or extra baggage weight.

Watch Out for Promos

Credit card companies are fond of offering promos to their clients to encourage you to use your card more. They’ll partner with different establishments to offer great deals and discounts which could also mean double rewards points for you.

Ultimately, airline partners want to make it easier for you to earn miles so that you can fly with them more often.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

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    20 Comments

  1. Though I am not an advocate of credit cards at all, I do love the idea of using a good sign up bonus for frequent flyer miles as long as you can be disciplined in your spending and usage after fullfilling the obligation for the miles.
    Great guide. Going to look into the Chase card for my business too.

    • Absolutely Eric – financial responsibility is first and foremost, it’s obviously not worth it to rack up purchases just for the sake of earning points – may as well just buy the flight with cash at that point!

      But the sign up bonuses on many cards are great, and if you can strategize to put your normal monthly expenses on those frequent flier cards, may as well accrue the points from it!

      Chase has a great range of credit cards and awesome programs for travel rewards – we have the Sapphire Preferred and love it.

  2. This is a really great article for those starting out using points! I know when I first started I felt overwhelmed but I’ve gone on to use miles/points to fly from San Fran to Bangkok business class for $5 USD!

    • Thanks Nathan! Glad to hear that you’ve mastered it! $5 from San Fran to Bangkok in Business Class is epic – massive kudos!

  3. A credit card is a tool that can deliver you a lot if you use it wisely for convenience and for maximizing returns on your hard earned money through shirt term credit. However, if you take the bait of credit card companies and spend till your limit exhausts, you would find yourself in a vicious circle.

    I have not used a co-branded card but I use all my eligible flights to accrue miles on two frequent flier programs and also collect miles on TripAdvisor. Enough to give me one free holiday every year.

    • Absolutely Anu – financial responsibility should be first and foremost in your mind when applying for a credit card, because if you can’t handle them responsibly you’re likely putting yourself in a worse situation than you were. But there are definitely benefits and perks if you can responsibly strategize its use.

      I didn’t know you could collect miles on TripAdvisor – thanks for the tip! Checking into that now!

  4. I always look for credit cards that offer bonus signing up points and good cash back schemes, and I change my cards the moment they change their incentives because I want to have cards that give good travel-related benefits. Thanks for all these tips Megan, I absolutely agree with all of them and also keep them in mind when I’m looking for the best credit card for myself.

    • Clever to change your credit cards as opposed to keeping them and ending up with a huge pile of active cards – can really hurt your credit rating otherwise.

      Sounds like you’re all over your frequent flyer credit card programs – happy travels Medha!

  5. We do this in our family, and my dad is the guru who keeps an eye on what cards and programmes are best, and when there are special offers for extra points on. Definitely adds up and is so worth it when you’re off to somewhere new on those airmiles!!

    • Awesome Kavita! Nice to have someone in the family who’s all over it!

  6. You’ve written it so clearly that it’s easy to understand everything about frequent flyer credit cards bcz I want to apply for one and it’s really so confusing.. The most important is that one needs to be able to pay the bill properly

    • Thanks Tanvi, I’m glad the advice here was helpful for you 🙂 And absolutely, you shouldn’t rack up purchases just for the sake of gaining frequent flier miles, because at that stage you may as well just pay for the flight outright 🙂 Financial responsibility should always be first and foremost.

  7. You’re speaking my language. LOL. I’m a huge fan of frequent flyer cards. Great tips. Because often forget to use their cards for everything.

    • Awesome! Haha yes, they’re great! We put literally everything on ours, and watch the points pile up 😀

  8. I am not good with credit cards but still the tempt to earn miles with a frequent flyer card pushes me to purchase one. You have mentioned some important points which we must take care of before buying any of these credit cards. 1:1 is definitely a good deal and do not forget to use them for your everyday shopping is the best tip.

    • If you’re not good with credit cards, I would be very cautious about using one just for frequent flier points – financial responsibility has to come first always, and you don’t want to put yourself in a position of being worse of than before you applied for one.

      But yes, if you can just them for your everyday expenses that you normally buy, the points can pile up without you noticing!

  9. This is a fantastic guide on how you can use credit cards to your advantage. I think a lot of people are scared to go near one but as long as your careful with your spending, it can work to your advantage!

    • Thanks Anita, glad you enjoyed the post. I agree, you should be financially responsible if you’re going to apply for a credit card, but if you can use it strategically and not go overboard with your spending, can definitely work it to your advantage!

  10. I lost my credit card in Dubai and did not get any after that. These are good tips and if ever I am going to get a new car, I will surely go with the one that can give me more miles and perks. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sorry to hear you lost your credit card, though if you’re doing well without one, good for you! If you’re making big purchases that’s definitely where a credit card which offers travel rewards can be handy. Something to consider if you go down that path in the future 🙂

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