The Difference Between Miles & “Miles”

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When you’re new miles & points, the lingo can be confusing.  Especially because there are cards that advertise earning “miles” that are NOT airline miles.  Like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card that earns Barclaycard Arrival miles, and the Discover it Miles card.

And although the miles you earn with these types of cards do NOT transfer to airlines, they can still be very useful.

Plus, there are other cards that earn flexible points that DO transfer to airlines, like Chase Ultimate Rewards and AMEX Membership Rewards points.

Cards That Earn Miles

Smile! Even Though You Can’t Transfer Certain “Miles” to Airlines, You Can Still Use Them for Things Like Taxi Rides, Airline Tickets, and Airbnb Stays, Depending on Which Card You Get.

I’ll show you examples of cards that earn miles that are NOT airline miles, and cards that earn transferable miles & points.

Cards That Earn Miles Are NOT Created Equal

Cards like the Barclaycard Arrival PlusCapital One Venture, and Discover it Miles, earn miles that you can redeem for travel purchases or cash back, depending on which card you have.

But you can NOT transfer the miles you earn with these cards to airlines.

That said, they can still be great cards, because you can use the miles you earn to offset the cost of things like hotel stays, airline tickets, taxi rides, and cruises.  Without having to worry about blackout dates, finding award seats, or looking through award charts!

Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Link:   Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Link:   My Review of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus

With the highest offer ever for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, you can earn 50,000 Barclaycard Arrival miles after meeting minimum spending requirements.  That’s worth $525 in statement credits towards travel purchases of $100 or more, because you’ll get 5% of your miles back when you redeem them for travel.

That’s a great sign-up bonus for a card that waives the annual fee the first year!

Cards That Earn Miles

Use the Miles You Earn From the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card to Help Offset the Cost of Your Train Ticket. Then You Can Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride, Knowing You Got a Great Deal!

With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card, your miles are worth 1 cent each, and you’ll get 5% of your miles back when you redeem them for travel.

This effectively makes the card a 2.1% back card when you redeem miles for travel.  The minimum redemption amount is $100 (10,000 miles).

Million Mile Secrets team member Jasmin recently got this card.  She plans to use it for an upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic because it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees!

Here’s my full review of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card.

Discover it Miles

Link:   Discover it Miles 

Link:   My Review of the Discover it Miles 

The Discover it Miles card doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus, but it doesn’t have an annual fee either.

And you’ll get 1.5 miles per $1 you spend (1.5% back) on all purchases.

If you’re a new cardmember, Discover will match the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year on your credit card.  Here’s my review of the card.

Capital One Venture

Link:   Capital One Venture 

Link:   My Review of the Capital One Venture 

You’ll earn 40,000 Venture miles (worth at least $400 in travel) after meeting minimum spending requirements on the Capital One Venture card.  And 2X miles per $1 you spend on all purchases.

Cards That Earn Miles

Many Folks Like the Capital One Venture Card Because It’s Easy to Earn & Use Points for Paid Travel Without Worrying About Blackout Dates. So You Can Use Your “Miles” to Fly to Hawaii, Even During the Busy Travel Times!

That’s a decent deal for a card with no annual fee the first 12 months!

Check out my post about whether the Barclaycard Arrival Plus or Capital One Venture card is best for you.

Flexible Points That DO Transfer to Airlines

There are also other flexible points that transfer directly to airlines, like:

Chase Ultimate Rewards is my favorite points program because you can transfer points to great travel partners like United Airlines and Hyatt for Big Travel.  And they’re relatively easy to earn.

A nice perk of using Starwood points is that for each transfer of 20,000 Starwood points to airlines with a 1:1 transfer ratio, you’ll earn an extra 5,000 airline miles.  That’s like getting a 25% bonus!

Note:   Transfers of Starwood points to airlines can take up to 4 weeks!  But in my experience, it usually takes ~2 to ~12 days.

Here’s my beginners guide to using flexible points for Big Travel with Small Money.

Just keep in mind, once you transfer your points to airlines, you can NOT transfer them back.

Cards That Earn Flexible Points

If you want a card that earns flexible points you CAN transfer directly to airlines, consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Plus.

These cards offer incredibly valuable sign-up bonuses and earn (my favorite!) Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Plus, I always recommend applying for any Chase cards you want first because of their stricter application rules.

Or check out cards that earn AMEX Membership Rewards points, like the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold or the Mercedes-Benz Platinum card.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Expresscards both earn Starwood points.  The normal sign-up bonus for the personal card is 25,000 Starwood points after meeting minimum spending requirements.

Bottom Line

There are certain rewards cards, like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Capital One Venture card, that earn “miles” that can NOT be transferred to airlines.  But they’re still a great choice for folks who want to book award tickets without having to worry about blackout dates!

Or, consider cards that earn flexible points that CAN be transferred to airlines (and other travel partners!), like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred.

Both of these cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, my favorite kind of points!

You can also get cards that earn transferable points like AMEX Membership Rewards pointsCiti ThankYou points, or Starwood points.

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4 responses to “The Difference Between Miles & “Miles”

  1. Can you talk a little bit about using miles or “miles” for Air BnB stays? I was excited to see this mentioned.

  2. I don’t think of “miles” as miles at all — it’s just around 2% cash back that you can redeem exclusively for travel. For that reason, I’d rather have an actual 2% cash back card like the Citi Double Cash, and then I can easily put that cash towards airbnb or anything else. But rather than any of those, I’d really rather have the Chase Sapphire Reserve + Freedom Unlimited combo, which earns 1.5%-3% cash back, but that becomes 2.25%-4.5% when used for travel, or potentially even more if the points are transferred to an airline for an advantageous award redemption.

  3. @Tina – You can use the “miles” you earn from cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus or Capital One Venture to offset the cost of an Airbnb stay because they can be redeemed for travel purchases. Check out this post for more ideas about saving money when booking an Airbnb stay:

    @Ivan X – Agreed! But the sign-up bonus from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card is certainly nice. 😉

  4. Darius,
    Good picture of you there on Charles Bridge, in the heart of Prague.