What You Need to Know About the 3 Types of Credit Card Points and Miles

CREDIT CARDS - TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
Understanding your options can help you maximize the value you get out of your rewards.
Updated April 9, 2024
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Young man happy to travel using credit card points and miles

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When it comes to travel credit card rewards, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get by just looking at the card’s marketing page. All these credit cards use either “points” or “miles,” but there are a few types of credit card points and miles out there — and they’re not all created equal.

Sign-up bonuses and rewards rates can look appealing, but they might not all translate the same when it comes time to redeem them. You may get more value from a card with a lower bonus and rewards rate than one that allows you to quickly rack up rewards.

As such, it’s crucial to understand how the different types of credit card points and miles work and how to assign value to the points you earn so you can maximize your rewards every time you redeem them.

3 types of credit card points and miles to know about

Before you pick the best travel credit card for you, it’s important to know what you’re getting with the various rewards program. Here’s how to differentiate between the different types of credit card points and miles that are available. 

Transferable points

As the name suggests, transferable points allow you to use your rewards within the program where you’ve earned them or transfer them to one of the program’s travel partners. Depending on the card, these partners can include airlines, hotels, and potentially even more.

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer transferable points, and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card comes with transferable miles. Points earned with any card that offers Amex Membership Rewards will also be transferable.

The main benefit of transferable points and miles is that they give you flexibility in how you use your rewards. Also, because airline and hotel loyalty programs typically offer dynamic rewards values, transferable points can give you a chance to squeeze more value out of your rewards than you might by redeeming them with the original program.

That said, you won’t have the chance to transfer your points to just any program. Instead, you’ll be restricted to the travel companies with whom your card issuer has partnerships. Also, in some cases, you may lose value by trading your points to a different loyalty program.

Fixed-value or eraser points

These types of credit card points and miles typically offer a fixed value per point or mile with a lot of flexibility in how you redeem your rewards.

With the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, for instance, you use your card to book just about any type of travel, then use your points within 12 months to get a statement credit for the purchase — effectively erasing the transaction.

Another way to use these kinds of points is to book travel directly through a reward program’s booking tool. For example, the Sapphire cards allow you to use your points to book travel through the Chase Travel℠ platform, and you get extra value when you do so. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get 50% more value out of your Ultimate Rewards points when you use them this way. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the bonus is 25%.

This type of credit card points and miles can be a great way to get a lot of flexibility with redemptions. As long as a purchase is coded as travel or you can find something in the program’s booking tool, you can use your rewards.

The drawback to these programs is that giving you a fixed value can ultimately result in you leaving money on the table. If, for example, you could use 100,000 points to book a $1,000 hotel stay, that’s a rate of one cent per point. But if you could get the same stay by transferring 75,000 points to the hotel’s loyalty program, that would be 1.33 cents per point, giving you more value — and making transferable points the better option.

Co-branded cards and points

Co-branded credit cards are cards that partner with a specific brand — in the case of travel rewards cards, that means airlines and hotels — to offer rewards and special perks. So, when you earn miles with your favorite airline, you can easily redeem those rewards for nearly free flights without having to jump through hoops.

Some of the better airline and hotel cards that offer co-branded points and miles include the United℠ Explorer Card, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express CardThe World of Hyatt Credit Card, and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.

Earning points or miles with a co-branded credit card can be an excellent choice if you’re loyal to that brand and want to take advantage of other perks the card provides, such as priority boarding, free checked bags, complimentary room upgrades, or a free anniversary night.

On the flip side, these loyalty programs typically don’t offer a lot of value when used for anything but their primary purpose — booking flights and hotel stays. Also, because they have a dynamic rewards structure, it can be harder to tell exactly how much value you’re getting out of each point or mile you earn.

Why the 3 types of credit card points matter when it comes time to redeem your rewards

The type of credit card points and miles you’re earning has a significant impact on the real value of the rewards you’re getting with your credit card.

For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card welcome bonus is: Earn 155,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months. With Hilton points worth roughly 0.5 cents apiece on average, you’re getting just $650 in average value from that incentive. 

Contrast that with The World of Hyatt Credit Card sign-up bonus: Earn up to 60,000 bonus points: 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, plus up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point, on up to $15,000 spent. With Hyatt points worth 1.6 cents each on average, new cardholders will get $800 in average value from the bonus.

Because valuations can vary drastically based on the program, your itinerary, and when you book, it’s not always easy to nail down a good rewards rate. However, if you can manage to get more than the average value, you’ll be in good shape.

Which type of credit card points are the best for you?

Card Type of rewards Rewards rate Annual fee
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
4.1
Fixed-value 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases $0
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
4.9
Transferable 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases $95
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
Transferable 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25 $95
United℠ Explorer Card United℠ Explorer Card
4.5
Co-branded 2 miles per dollar spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases $95 (waived first year)
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
4.6
Co-branded 2X miles on qualifying Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S supermarkets; and 1X miles per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $150 per year thereafter (terms apply)

Picking the right credit card isn’t always easy, especially when the rewards programs can vary so wildly. So it’s important to understand your travel habits and goals before you choose the card that’s a good fit for you.

For example, if you love traveling with just one airline or hotel chain, getting a co-branded credit card could help you level up with elite status and give you access to exclusive perks. If, however, you want more flexibility, a card that provides transferable partners, a fixed-value redemption rate, or both will likely be your best bet.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple formula for how to calculate how much a credit card point or mile is worth. However, you can do some research while you’re booking your trip.

For example, if you find a Delta Airlines flight for 25,000 miles or $400, you’re getting 1.6 cents per mile out of that redemption. If you look at another flight with the same mileage requirement but a $300 price tag, you’re getting just 1.2 cents per mile — not as worth it.

As you learn more about the different types of credit card points and miles, you’ll see it’s easy to get lost in the math. But to make sure you always have a good experience, remember to keep things fun. Instead of getting overwhelmed by all the options, choose the one that works for you now and run with that.

You can always start with a simple rewards card and get more adventurous later as you’ve learned more. Using this strategy won’t necessarily ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck every time you use the card. But it can make earning and redeeming rewards more fun and fulfilling.

FAQ

What are the 3 main types of credit card rewards?

Rewards credit cards typically earn cash back, points, or miles. Cashback redemptions could include statement credits and bank deposits. Points and miles redemptions often include travel-related options, such as flights, hotel stays, and rental cars.

What are the most common types of rewards cards?

The most common types of rewards cards include cash back credit cards and travel credit cards. The travel card category can be further divided into airline cards, hotel cards, and cards that earn flexible rewards currencies. Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Amex Membership Rewards points are two of the most popular flexible rewards currencies.

Should I redeem all my credit card points?

It’s often better to use your credit card points rather than hang onto them for long periods of time. This is because credit card rewards often lose their value as card issuers and loyalty programs change their terms and conditions without prior notice. 

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 18.24% - 28.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
4.1
Apply Now

on Bank of America’s secure website

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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

$0

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Why we like it

Author Details

Brandon Neth Brandon Neth is a credit card and award travel expert. He runs social media and audience growth for FinanceBuzz, including the FBZ Elite Facebook travel group. He’s spent the last 11 years using credit card points and miles to travel the world, taking him to 600 cities in 76 countries and counting. He's well-versed in credit cards, early retirement, real estate investing, and frugal living. He's been featured in Business Insider, Yahoo, MSN, Credit.com, U.S. News, Reader's Digest, and The Wirecutter (A New York Times Company).

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