Credit cards offer multiple travel benefits including airport lounge access, low foreign exchange markup rates, hotel memberships and air mile earnings. All of these help you in reducing the cost of your travels either in the form of complimentary services or by offering rebates on certain expenses. In this article, we will talk about air miles- what they are and how you can use them to your advantage. But before that, let us understand what air miles are.
What are Air Miles?
Air Miles are usually related to an airline’s frequent flyer program. These loyalty programs are designed to reward regular customers. Every time you book a ticket with the said airline, you earn points or air miles which can later be redeemed to reduce the cost of your next trip or even to get a free air ticket. To earn air miles without using a credit card, you would have to enrol for the airline’s frequent flyer program. Different airline memberships have given different names to their air mile offerings. Given below are the air miles programs of some popular airlines.
|Airline||Frequent Flyer Program||Air Miles|
|Air India||Flying Returns||FR Points|
|Jet Airways||Jet Privilege||JP Miles|
|Singapore Airlines||Kris Flyer||KrisFlyer Miles|
|Vistara Airlines||Club Vistara||CV Points|
|British Airways||British Airways Executive Club||Avios Points|
Air Miles on Credit Cards
You can also earn air miles on credit cards. Usually, credit cards that are co-branded with an airline would offer air miles of the associated airline. For example, Jet Privilege HDFC Bank World Credit Card offers JP Miles. On the other hand, there are some cards that would offer general air miles that can be redeemed across multiple airline programs.
How to Earn Air Miles on Credit Cards?
There are multiple ways in which you can earn air miles on your credit card. In India, the air miles program works similar to the rewards program. You can earn miles or points on all your purchases; the rate at which you earn the miles may differ from card to card and transaction to transaction. Usually, booking air tickets will give you higher points than other purchases. If your card is co-branded with an airline, booking the tickets of that airline would reward you more.
So, if you are looking for ways to earn more air miles, you should read further:
Sign-up/Welcome Bonus- Mostly, air miles are not offered on basic credit cards. The air miles card would usually come with a joining fee and annual fee. To make up for the fees, the bank offers sign-up bonus in the form of rewards, air miles or vouchers. For example, Citi PremierMiles Credit Card offers 10,000 Miles as the welcome gift. This welcome benefit can be good if you are looking forward to starting with a good air mile balance in your credit card account.
Milestone Bonus- Credit card companies also reward their customers for reaching a spending threshold. This is known as milestone bonus. In case of air miles credit card, the milestone bonus may be offered in the form of miles. This will significantly add to the miles balance of the card user. Axis Bank Vistara Signature Credit Card offers 3,000 bonus Club Vistara Points on spending Rs. 75,000 in the first 90 days of card activation.
Accelerated Miles- Since the miles program is like rewards, you can strategize the usage of the card in order to earn more miles. If the card offers extra miles on booking flight tickets through the bank’s dedicated platform, you can do so to earn the accelerated miles. Use the card for purchases that offer extra air mile earnings. Air India SBI Signature Credit Card offers extra rewards for booking air tickets through Air India website or through the Air India Mobile app. Rewards can easily be converted into Air India Air Miles.
Flexible Rewards- Instead of choosing a card specifically for air miles, you can go for a card that offers excellent rewards that can also be converted into air miles of selected airlines. Cards that are designed to offer rewards would be more flexible with the earning and redemption rate. You can use them across multiple categories to earn extra points. HDFC Diners Club Miles Credit Card offers 4 reward points for every Rs. 100 and the rewards can be converted into air miles of Vistara, Jet Airways, British Airways and Singapore Airlines in 1:1 ratio.
How to Redeem Air Miles?
Before we dig deeper to understand how to redeem air miles, let us first be clear that the air miles are not equivalent to actual miles that you can travel. So, if you have 10 air miles, it does not mean that you can travel 10 miles for free. Airlines set the ratio in which miles can be utilized for booking air tickets. The benefit can be availed accordingly.
So, as we have said above, air mile programs on credit cards can be of two types- co-branded and general. Here we will talk about how you can redeem these.
Redeeming Co-branded Air Miles
Usually, co-branded credit cards also offer complimentary membership to the airline’s frequent flyer program. So, you can redeem the air miles directly while booking your tickets of that airline. When you book the ticket on the airline’s website or mobile app, you have the option of redeeming the air miles right away. However, if the card does not offer complimentary membership, you will have to register for the same. If you already have the membership, you will have to link it with your credit card in order to redeem the miles.
Redeeming Common Air Miles
When your credit card offers air miles that can be redeemed across multiple airlines, you will have to transfer the accumulated miles/points to the airline of your choice (from the list of eligible airlines). The bank would usually have a partnership with only select airlines where you can transfer these points.
In order to transfer the points, you would have to log in to the online banking portal of the bank. The option of transferring the points is usually available in the rewards or reward redemption section of the portal.
The same process can be followed to convert reward points into air miles.
Best Credit Cards in India to Earn Air Miles
There are several travel credit cards in India that offer wide range of privileges on travel. Here we have listed the best credit cards with a rewarding air mile program.
|Credit Card||Air Miles Rate||Accelerated Miles|
|Citi PremierMiles Credit Card||4 miles per Rs. 100||10 miles per Rs. 100 on Airline Spends & transactions with Partners|
|JetPrivilege HDFC Bank Diners Club Credit Card||8 JPMiles per Rs.150||24 JPMiles per Rs.150 spent on every flight ticket booked on www.jetairways.com|
|Standard Chartered Emirates World Credit Card||3 Skyward Miles per Rs. 150||6 Skyward Miles per Rs. 150 spent on Emirates transactions|
|HSBC Premier Mastercard Credit Card||2 Reward Points per Rs. 100*||N/A|
|SBI Air India Signature Credit Card||4 Reward Points per Rs. 100**||30 Reward Points per Rs. 100 spent on Air India tickets|
*Reward Points can be converted into JPMiles, KrisFlyer Miles or Avios Miles
**Rewards can be converted to Air India Air Miles.
When does it make sense to get an Air Miles Credit Card?
An air miles credit card is like any other travel card but with the major focus on the miles/points earnings. Having said that miles would allow you to reduce the cost of your travel or sometimes offer you with a free ticket, they would also take a lot of time and usage to accumulate.
Credit cards co-branded with airlines would make a lot of sense if you religiously travel with the given airline because then you will be able to make the most of the miles program. Cards that offer flexible air miles redeemable across multiple airlines would be better for people who travel a lot but are not loyal to a particular airline.
Also, when you are looking for an air miles credit card, look for other travel benefits as well, such as-
- Airport Lounge Access
- Priority Check-in, Excess Baggage Allowance at the Airline
- Low Foreign Currency Mark-up Fee
- Hotel Benefits
Air miles seem to be simple enough on the surface but, for a layman, it can be complicated to understand how to make the most of it. If you are planning to get an air miles credit card, choose one that offers a good sign-up bonus as you will start strong. Also, if you are loyal to a particular airline, look for cards co-branded with that airline. Understand the air miles earning on your card and use it in a way that you earn the most miles. However, do not spend money just for the purpose of earning miles as it would lead to higher bills. Also, credit card miles or rewards come with an expiry date so keep it in mind so that none of your rewards goes waste.