I often get asked about which credit card someone should go with when deciding on a miles credit card.

You have the option of going with an airline branded credit card or you could go with a double miles credit card like the Capital One Venture. Both have their pros and cons and I actually think it’s a great idea to have both types of credit cards.

Airline credit card

Every major airline has their own branded credit card. Delta is partnered with American Express, while American Airlines is partnered with Citi. When deciding which airline credit card to go with, you have to think about a few things:

  • Which airline do you fly with the most?
  • Does the airline have a major presence at your nearby airport?
  • Does the airline fly to your favorite destinations?

Once you’ve narrowed it down to which airline credit card you’d like to go with, then it’s time to start earning miles! With most airline credit cards you’ll earn 1 mile for every $1 spent. Most free domestic flights start at 25,000 miles, meaning you have to spend $25,000 in order to earn enough for just 1 free ticket. This sounds scary, but stay with me!

American Airlines Jet

Diversifying your miles and having an airline credit card can be a great way to book an expensive ticket for less miles.

Double miles credit card

I’m sure you’ve seen the Capital One Venture commercials advertising double miles for each purchase. This means you’d only have to spend $12,500 in order to receive 25,000 miles. This sounds like a much better deal than the airline credit card above? Not necessarily.

Double miles credit cards work in the fashion that you can book your ticket with any airline of your choice. Once the charge appears on your statement, you can then erase the purchase with your miles.

If you purchase an international ticket for $1,500 on your Capital One Venture card, then you’ll need 150,000 miles ($75k in spending) to erase this 1 ticket!

Capital One card image

Having a 2nd miles credit card like the the Capital One Venture is a great way to erase smaller travel purchases! You earn 2x miles for each purchase. Erasing a cheap airline ticket will use less miles.

Why have both an airline credit card and double miles credit card

I like to use airline miles when I’m booking a ticket that would normally cost a substantial amount of money. In the example above, I would have been much better off booking that $1,500 international ticket with airline miles instead of a double miles credit card.

With American Airlines, you can typically fly over to Europe for 60,000 miles round-trip. This means that I would have to spend only $60,000 on an airline credit card to get a free international ticket.

If a ticket cost $1,500, then I’d have to spend $75,000 on the Capital One Venture card in order get the ticket for free. Using my airline’s miles would have been a better redemption rate.

When to use airline miles or double miles

To put things into perspective, I have a simple motto that I follow. For “cheap” airline tickets, I book them on a double miles credit card so I can erase the travel purchase with fewer miles. If the ticket I’m trying to book costs a substantial amount, then I head over to my airline frequent flyer accounts and start searching for award seats.

In April I’ll be flying from Italy to Paris for 3 nights. I booked a round-trip ticket for roughly $150. Since this ticket was cheap enough, I booked it with a Capital One Venture card and was able to erase the purchase for only 15,000 miles. Had I used 25,000 miles via an airline, this would have been an awful redemption rate.

Airline Miles

Look to see how much the ticket would cost if you were to pay out of pocket. Depending on the cost, you’ll have to decide if it would be better to redeem airline miles or use miles from a credit card like the Capital One Venture to pay for the ticket.

Other benefits of a double miles credit card

Barclaycard Arrival+ is another credit card that earns 2x miles on each purchase. Both the Barclaycard Arrival and the Capital One Venture card allow you to use your miles starting at 2,500. This means if you don’t have enough miles to erase the entire purchase, you can still use what miles you have and redeem them towards your travel purchase.

Let’s say you bought an airline ticket for $200 on your double miles card. You would need 20,000 miles in order to erase the entire purchase. If you only had 5,000 miles, both Barclaycard and Capital One would allow you to redeem the 5,000 miles towards the purchase to take $50 off the cost.

Double Miles

Don’t be mislead by double miles credit cards! They’re great for redeeming towards smaller travel purchases, but as soon as you ned to book an expensive ticket you’ll need a whole lot more miles to erase the entire charge!

Final thoughts on airline miles

Although airlines restrict how many award seats are available per flight, I still think it’s important to have airline miles. Typically you can book a domestic round-trip ticket for 25,000 miles.

What if you’re looking to book a ticket during peak travel times and the airline wants $700 for a round-trip ticket in coach? If you can book a ticket for only 25,000 miles with an airline then you’re getting a great redemption rate on your miles! If you were to book this $700 ticket on a double miles card, then you’re looking at using up 70,000 miles ($35,000 in spending) ;-(

Wrap up

Follow my motto above, and you’ll be in good hands. Use your double miles card to erase small travel purchases and use your airline miles on tickets that would cost a substantial amount.

Just remember, if you’re going to use airline miles, start looking for award seats as far in advance as possible. If there’s nothing available, continue to look each day as award inventory changes all the time.

Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below!