Whether you have an airline credit card or a general travel card, you can use your hard-earned points or miles to book award tickets.
Whether you have an airline credit card or a general travel card, you can use your hard-earned points or miles to book award tickets. How many miles for a free flight, however, depends on the type of credit card you have and whether your card offers bonus value on travel redemptions.
How to Get Free Plane Tickets With Your Credit Card
Many credit card rewards programs allow you to use your points or miles for a variety of redemptions, including booking free airline tickets. If you have a card that offers this option, you may have one or more ways you can do it.
Book directly with a card. With some general travel credit cards, you simply use your card to book the flight you want. Then you can use your points or miles to get a statement credit against the purchase.
This option gives you flexibility to pick the right flight for you based on cost and any other preferences. Also, you can earn miles from the rewards program of the airline you choose.
However, you’ll typically only get 1 cent per point or mile with this option, limiting the value compared with other options.
Book using an issuer travel portal. Some card issuers have their own travel portal that allows you to use your credit card points or miles to book a flight, so you don’t need to pay out of pocket first.
If you book this way, you’ll typically be able to compare prices among several airlines. But your points may have a set value, typically between 1 and 1.5 cents apiece, depending on which card you have.
Transfer points to an airline program. A handful of credit card rewards programs allow you to transfer your points to an airline partner and book directly with the airline.
With this option, you can compare how many miles you need for a free flight through multiple programs, although doing so will require more legwork because you’ll need to compare itineraries from each program.
“Some cards allow you the option to send your points to over a dozen travel partners,” says Jon Nickel-D’Andrea, blogger at No Mas Coach, a resource for flying first class. “If one airline is sold out, it’s possible that another one of their partners will have space.”
If you’re redeeming your credit card points this way, Lee Huffman, author of travel website Bald Thoughts, recommends being as flexible as possible.
“If your schedule allows, be open to flying out of alternative airports or moving your travel days forward or back a couple of days,” he says. “Being flexible is the key to getting huge savings when booking flights.”
How Many Points Do You Need for a Roundtrip Flight?
If you’re interested in learning how to get free plane tickets with your credit card rewards, here’s what to expect from each of the major credit card rewards programs, based on U.S. News research.
American Express Membership Rewards. The Membership Rewards program allows you to book flights directly through AmEx or by transferring your rewards to one of the card issuer’s airline partners.
If you book through AmEx, your points are worth 1 cent apiece on travel redemptions. That means if a flight costs $500, you’ll need 50,000 points to book.
The only exception is if you have The Business Platinum Card from American Express, which gives you 35% of your points back when you use them to book a first- or business-class ticket on any airline or any cabin with an airline of your choice. With this arrangement, your points are worth 1.54 cents apiece.
You can also transfer points to several airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, mostly at a 1-to-1 ratio. Based on U.S. News research, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are worth 5.29 cents apiece on average.
Capital One Miles. If you have a Capital One travel credit card, you can use your rewards to book flights in any of the three possible ways.
If you book through Capital One or use your card to book and redeem rewards as a statement credit, each mile is worth 1 cent each. So if the cash price of the fare is $250, you’d need 25,000 miles to book.
Alternatively, you can transfer your miles to one of the card issuer’s airline partners at a 2-to-1.5 or 2-to-1 ratio, depending on the airline. For example, you could transfer 25,000 Capital One miles to 12,500 JetBlue points, which are worth 1.22 cents apiece, based on U.S. News research. While that’s more than what you’d get booking through Capital One, you lose value in the transfer, trading $250 in miles for $152.50 in points.
Other airlines may provide more value, but you’ll want to run the numbers to make sure you come out ahead with a transfer.
[Read: Best Airline Credit Cards.]
Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase allows you to book flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform, regardless of which card you have that earns the bank’s proprietary rewards…
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