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The best credit cards for buying points and miles

Jan. 07, 2023
11 min read
a man sits outside a luxury resort using his laptop to shop online
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


Truth be told, buying points and miles usually is not a great deal. You typically have to buy them in batches of 1,000 or more, and airlines and hotels charge several cents per point or mile you purchase — usually well above the typical value of points and miles that you can expect to achieve when making a redemption.

But every so often, airline and hotel loyalty programs offer significant discounts or bonuses on purchased points that might be well worth it to some customers. This is usually the case if you can get the points for about half the price and have a specific and imminent award redemption in mind. Other times, it can make sense to buy points when you only need a few more before making a redemption for your next vacation.

If you're about to make a purchase, these are the best credit cards for buying points and miles. We'll also highlight which purchases could qualify for bonus points.

When it makes sense to buy points and miles

While we generally advise against purchasing points and miles, sometimes it’s your last resort.

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For example, you’re just shy of a dream redemption and need the points or miles urgently to make the award ticket a reality. If award availability is limited, you may need to top off your balance by buying points or miles. If earning rewards through credit card spending or on a sign-up bonus might take too long — meaning that hotel room or award seat could disappear — it would make sense to purchase airline or hotel currency. Just make sure that this purchase doesn’t negate the value of your existing rewards, making it a poor redemption altogether.

Related: Current buy points and miles promotions

Consider whether buying points and miles could help you complete a redemption or could be cheaper than the cost of paying for your travel outright. However, points and miles are always devaluing, so there’s no reason to convert your hard-earned cash to an unstable loyalty program currency. That's especially true since most of these purchases can't be canceled or refunded.

Related: How to book your first award flight using airline miles

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Moreover, if your airline or hotel rewards are expiring soon, there are other ways to keep them expiring aside from purchasing points and miles. Consider shopping or dining portals or other simple activities to keep your balances alive.

Related: How to earn thousands of miles per month without taking a single flight

The best credit cards for buying points and miles

Let's say you've looked through our current offers to buy points and miles and decided to make a purchase. If you are going to purchase points or miles, it pays to know which credit card will earn you the best return.

Most points programs sell points via Points.com rather than directly through the loyalty program. This means buying hotel points may not code as "hotel" or "travel," preventing you from earning spending category bonuses as you normally would if booking travel. But, there are still ways to maximize your points purchases.

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Points.com

Points.com is a third-party clearance house for many of the major hotel and airline loyalty programs. Among those that run their purchases through Points.com are:

Airlines

  • Aer Lingus AerClub.
  • Aeromexico Club Premier.
  • Air Canada Aeroplan.
  • Air Europa SUMA.
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue.
  • AirMiles.ca.
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.
  • British Airways Executive Club.
  • Caribbean Airlines Caribbean Miles.
  • Copa Airlines ConnectMiles.
  • Emirates Skywards.
  • Ethiopian Airlines ShebaMiles.
  • Etihad Guest.
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands.
  • Finnair Plus.
  • Frontier Miles.
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles.
  • Iberia Plus.
  • Icelandair Saga Club.
  • JetBlue TrueBlue.
  • LATAM Pass.
  • Lufthansa Miles & More.
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club.
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards.
  • Spirit Airlines Free Spirit.
  • Turkish Airlines Miles& Smiles.
  • United MileagePlus.
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer.
  • Virgin Red.
  • WestJet Rewards.

Hotels

  • Choice Privileges.
  • Hilton Honors.
  • IHG One Rewards.
  • Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Melia Rewards.
  • Radisson Rewards.
  • Shangri-La Golden Circle.
  • World of Hyatt.
  • Wyndham Rewards.

As you can see, most of the major programs use Points.com as their mileage retailer. Unfortunately, these purchases won’t code as airfare, hotel reservations or general travel purchases. That means you won’t get any bonus miles for using an airline credit card, a hotel credit card or a card that earns bonus points on travel, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Your best bet is to use a card that earns a bonus on everyday spending. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, for instance, earns 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, and TPG values these at 1.85 cents apiece — a 3.7% return on spending. The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express also earns 2 Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 in purchases per calendar year (then 1 point per dollar after that), providing a 4% return on your first $50,000 of purchases each year in TPG's valuations.

Some exceptions

The good news is that some airlines still process their own mileage purchases. If you buy miles from the following airlines, it should code as an "airfare" purchase:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage.
  • Avianca LifeMiles.

That means making these purchases with The Platinum Card® from American Express could earn 5 points per dollar (on up to $500,000 of airfare purchases per year). You could earn 3 points per dollar with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or even offset the purchase with your annual $300 in travel credits.

Additionally, there are occasions where purchasing Delta SkyMiles codes as an airfare purchase, but this is not a guarantee. If you're considering buying Delta SkyMiles, make a test purchase first to see how the transaction appears on your billing statement.

Southwest Airlines also sells Rapid Rewards points via points.com. However, an exception exists for those paying with a Southwest Airlines credit card.

SOUTHWEST.COM

When choosing the option for "Rapid Rewards credit card" and paying with a Southwest Airlines cobranded credit card, you'll typically earn the points multiplier for Southwest purchases associated with your credit card. Making a small test purchase first before committing to a large purchase is a good idea here; this way, you'll know how the purchase codes before receiving a surprise on your larger purchase.

Related: Should I buy airline miles?

If your purchase codes as "airfare," use these cards

If your purchase will code as airfare, these are the best credit cards for purchasing points and miles.

Related: Maximize your airfare: The best credit cards for booking flights

Card nameEarning rate on airfare purchases directly from airlinesValue of the rewards*
The Platinum Card® from American Express5 points per dollar (on up to $500,000 of flights purchased from airlines or Amex Travel per year, then 1 point per dollar).10 cents.
Citi Prestige® Card (no longer available to new applicants)5 points per dollar.9 cents.
Chase Sapphire Reserve3 points per dollar (but not on purchases covered by the yearly $300 travel credit).6 cents.
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card3 points per dollar (on the first $150,000 of annual purchases across multiple business categories, including travel, then 1 point per dollar).6 cents.
American Express® Gold Card3 points per dollar.6 cents.
American Express® Green Card3 points per dollar.6 cents.
Citi Premier® Card3 points per dollar.5.4 cents.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card2 points per dollar.4 cents.

* Value is based on TPG's latest valuations and is not provided by the credit card issuer.

The information for the Amex Green Card and Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Alternatives

Even with promotional bonuses, purchasing airline miles or hotel points is oftentimes too expensive to be worth it. Instead, consider your other options.

Those include applying for a new credit card with a high welcome bonus that can quickly stock up your loyalty account with thousands of points. This is a great choice for folks who do not need the miles or points in a hurry for any specific redemption but are looking to stockpile them for the future.

Also, consider getting a card that earns transferable points that you can convert into airline miles or hotel points with partner programs. Ultimate Rewards points that you earn with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for instance, transfer to loyalty programs including Air France-KLM Flying Blue, United MileagePlus, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt and more. So rather than actually paying for points and miles, you can earn them on everyday spending and then transfer them as needed.

Additionally, Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards regularly offer transfer bonuses to specific partners. Keep your eye on our transfer bonuses page and take advantage of these to stretch the value of your points.

Stack with shopping portals

As with any purchase you make online, you should look for opportunities to increase your earnings with a few extra clicks. Many purchases from Points.com won't track through shopping portals, but it's worth checking sites like Rakuten, Cash Back Monitor or your favorite airline portal to see if you can add extra points or miles onto your purchase.

These portals should work well on purchases run directly through the loyalty program, however. That means you could earn extra cash back or extra points on purchases of Avianca LifeMiles, for example.

Related: Earn even more rewards by adding this one small step to your online shopping routine

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Bottom line

In short, buying points is only one of several useful means to put certain awards within reach and help you achieve your travel goals. If you decide that this is the route you want to go, be sure to use a credit card that helps you maximize your purchase and racks up more bonus points along the way.

The ability to buy points and miles can be useful in certain circumstances. Significant discounts or bonuses can bring down the sometimes-exorbitant prices airlines and hotels tend to charge for such purchases. If you need to buy a small number of points for an otherwise out-of-reach premium award, it may be worthwhile to buy points or miles. Add in the bonuses some credit cards offer on these purchases, and you can get a decent return on your spending in the end.

However, there are easier and cheaper ways to rack up the points and miles you might need. Signing up for a new credit card with a welcome bonus is one way. Focusing your points strategy on cards that earn transferable points for maximum flexibility is another.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Ryan Smith.

Featured image by MARTIN DIMITROV/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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