Reward credit cards offering air miles, and not affiliated with any airline, average 1.6 cents per mile, significantly less than the 2.5 to 3.0 cents per mile offered by credit cards sponsored by a specific airline. However, the non-affiliated air mile programs do offer lower redemption thresholds than the typical 25,000 miles needed to get a free domestic ticket. Overall, Diners Club offers the best value and the most flexibility of all the non-affiliated cards offering air mile options. Diners “Club Rewards” cardholders can convert their points-to-miles, effectively earning one air mile on any major U.S. airline for each dollar charged. American Express cardholders who earn double “Membership Reward points” can do the same but are limited in their choice of U.S. airlines. Discover cardholders can get a value as high as 2.2 cents per mile if they use their miles to fly to Canada or Mexico, otherwise domestic tickets carry a 2.0 cent per mile value and discount certificates have a 1.0 cent per mile value. Among VISA and MasterCard issuers, Fleet’s “Miles Edge” program ranks the highest in value while Capital One’s “Go Miles” and Bank One’s “Travel Plus” programs offer the least value. However, Capital One and Bank One programs do offer the lowest redemption thresholds of 9,000 miles and 5,000 miles, respectively.
REDEMPTION VALUE PER MILE CREDIT CARD VALUE MINIMUM Diners Club 2.5 cents 25,000 American Express 1.2-2.5 cents 25,000 Discover Miles 1.0-2.2 cents 10,000 Fleet Miles Edge 1.8-2.0 cents 18,000 Bank of America Travel Plus 1.6 cents 10,000 MBNA WorldPoints 1.6 cents 25,000 Capital One Go Miles 1.1 cents 9,000 Bank One Travel Plus 1.0 cents 5,000 Source: CardTrak (www.cardtrak.com)