Are Credit Card Flying Miles Worth It?

Frequent flyers adopted the miles programs years ago and many learned to manipulate their earnings into substantial savings while traveling.

Free flying miles are awarded for a reason. The best airline customers are those with loyalty to a certain airline. Companies know it costs more to get a new customer than to retain a repeat customer.

By awarding credit card users with flying miles subsidized by airlines, both the lender providing the card and the specific airline profits.


Prior to 1981 no one asked for flying miles because such programs did not exist. American Airlines initiated AAdvantage that year. They began with their own list of customers who used American Airlines.

The company analyzed how many miles were flown and tracked the flying habits of its customer base. With that information, AA developed rewards where each mile of paid flight time earned one free mile.

To make the rewards program more attractive, the company included the ability to earn flying miles with related businesses such as Hertz rental cars and Hyatt hotels. This provided a plan that was perfectly suited to business travelers especially and the AAdvantage program was an instant success in the marketplace.

Other airlines such as United quickly copied the AA plan and added their own twists and bonuses. Credit card offers touted the benefits of each airline’s program with bonus flying miles for new account holders and double miles to some destinations or when flying on specific days of the week.

Finding The Top Offers

As already mentioned, back in time, consumers never bothered asking for flying miles. Instead, they asked where the best deals were and compared airline offers to see how they earn maximum air miles using their credit cards. For the airline industry, the promotion was highly profitable and promoted brand loyalty.

It didn’t take long for other corporations to see the benefits of becoming a real player in the air miles market. Initially, hotels and car rental agencies were participating businesses in the airline’s promotions.

Hotel chains began offering their own credit card flying miles offers with discounts for frequent stays. They also offered free nights to be paid for with airline miles.

Hertz was the first car rental company to participate in a program of air miles rewards but withdrew from the partnerships for a time. Hertz developed its own promotions for travelers but a big drop in business convinced the company to return to participation in credit card flying miles promotions.

Over the years, more merchants have joined the partnerships offered by these airline promotions. You can now earn miles for purchases unrelated to flying as well as discounts on services as widespread as long distance telephone services, stock market trades and mortgage loans.

Many retail store chains allow their reward points programs to be used to buy additional credit card flying miles.

How Air Flying Miles Work

When you earn “miles” or earn point that can be redeemed for air flying miles, you accumulate points in a personal account. Today those points usually will never expire but there are requirements from some lenders that accounts remain active in order to maintain the miles earned.

Once a certain threshold is reached, you can redeem your air flying miles for any of the awards offered by that credit card lender. This might be a free flight or payment for part of a flight.

Terms and Conditions

If you wonder if flying miles are actually worth it the answer is in the terms and conditions of the credit card offer. The best programs do not add pages of details that limit how your flying miles can be used.

Programs with a high number of blackout dates or high costs for redeeming miles you’ve earned should be avoided. Competition among airlines and participating partners who promote credit card air flying miles have led to some very good offers where limitations are minimal and the miles you earn can be used to save a significant amount of money when you travel.


So, are flying miles worth the effort? Maybe, but only if you choose carefully from the many offers available. The airlines now often allow you to use miles on more than one airline which is a big bonus that widens the travel area available.

Before making application, be certain the miles you earn can be applied during the season and days of the week you plan to travel.

Avoid any offers with tight restrictions on use of accumulated flying miles and read terms and conditions for each offer carefully to avoid any fine print that might limit your use of the credit card rewards program.