Air miles credit cards are a great choice for frequent travellers looking to save on their flights or upgrade seats, but they tend to be more complicated than cashback credit cards. This guide explains how to earn air miles, which miles programmes are the best, and how to pick the best travel credit card for you.
Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many airlines have reduced flights and certain perks and rewards may not be available for redemption. Carefully review the websites and terms and conditions of air miles programmes before signing up.
What are Air Miles?
Air miles, sometimes referred to as frequent flyer miles, are rewarded to loyalists of different airlines. After joining a loyalist programme, you can earn miles every time you book a flight, and some credit cards offer miles rewards for your general spending as well. Air miles can be redeemed to pay for an entire ticket or to partially offset the cost. They can also be used to improve your travel by upgrading your seat and for other flight perks.
Your accumulated air miles don’t translate to mileage. Rather, they act as points that offset the price of your airline ticket. Most air miles are worth between .1 and .2 HKD depending on which flights they are being redeemed for. As an example, round-trip flights from Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to Taipei Taoyuan International Airport typically costs around HKD1,600* excluding taxes and fees. The same flight can be redeemed for 15,000 Asia Miles, making each Asia Mile worth around 0.11 HKD.
*Note: Due to Covid-19, the cost of air travel may be higher than usual due to fluctuating demand for travel.
Points vs Miles
While some airline affiliated cards directly reward you with miles for your spending, most miles credit cards actually earn points. These points can then be redeemed for one or several kinds of air miles depending on the card. Popular points programmes include BEA’s Bonus Points, BOC’s Gift Points, and DBS’s DBS$. The base rate for miles earned on general transactions is 0.067 miles per HK$1 spend, but many cards offer boosted rates for spending in certain categories such as dining, online shopping and especially for overseas purchases.
Some air miles credit cards allow flexible points redemption between multiple mileage programmes for no extra fee. DBS Black World Mastercard cardholders can convert points through the iGo platform into Asia Miles, PhoenixMiles, Avios and KrisFlyer Miles without a transaction fee. However, many other points cards have a conversion fee or a minimum points accrued requirement that can make redemption less convenient.
Compare Miles Programmes
Each air miles programme offers rewards with different airlines, which means frequent flyers should aim to earn air miles with the airway they fly with the most. If you tend to shop between airlines, you might want to apply for a flexible points card that allows you to redeem air miles with multiple airlines.
Asia Miles is the most popular air miles programme in Hong Kong, and most miles credit cards allow you to redeem points or earn Asia Miles. They can be redeemed with Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, British Airways, Air China and many other airlines. Asia Miles can also be redeemed for a range of entertainment, lifestyle, travel and entertainment rewards.
One competitive Asia Miles credit card is Standard Chartered Asia Miles Mastercard. Cardholders earn 0.167 Asia Miles per HK$1 general retail spend, boosted to 0.250 miles for dining, overseas and online purchases.
ANA Mileage Club
ANA Mileage Club is the miles programme of All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline. ANA loyalists can redeem flights for fewer miles for flights to Japan and the programme allows you to set up an account for your entire family. Dah Sing ANA World Mastercard cardholders earn ANA Mileage Club (AMC) miles at a boosted rate of 0.156 miles per HK$1 spend on ANA bookings and in-flight purchases.
Avios is the air miles programme of British Airways. Avois can be redeemed for reward flights, car rentals and hotel bookings across the world. You can earn rapid Avios with Dah Sing British Airways Platinum Card, especially when booking with British Airways and for spending overseas.
Fortune Wings Club (FWC)
Fortune Wings Club is the global loyalty programme of Hong Kong Airlines (HKA). Members can earn FWC points by booking with HKA as well as mainland airlines, including:
- Hainan Airlines
- Air Changan
- Grand Air China
- Fuzhou Airlines
- West Air
- Lucky Air
- Urumqi Airlines and more.
FWC are roughly equivalent to Asia Miles in value and can be redeemed for seat upgrades, flights and lounge access. Cards affiliated with Hong Kong Airlines like CCB (Asia) Hong Kong Airlines Fly Away Credit Card and BOC Hong Kong Airlines Visa Platinum Card are good choices for consumers looking for rapid FWC miles.
Other Air Miles Credit Card Features
Air miles or redeemable points are the primary rewards for using an air miles credit card. However, there are a number of other perks that can enhance your travel and help you save money. Many air miles credit cards offer free airport lounge visits, discounted hotel rooms and limousine service for meeting certain spending requirements. Read our full review of the best Hong Kong air miles carts to find the best option for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
After collecting enough rewards points on your credit card, you can redeem them over the phone, in person at the airport, or via online banking. Additionally, several banks offer mobile apps to redeem points, like DBS’s i-Go platform for the DBS Black World Mastercard. Air miles do not actually equate to the amount of miles you can travel, but they are redeemed at a set rate for certain flights and can also be redeemed to upgrade seats.
Consumers must redeem significantly more points for upgraded seats. As an example, a one-way flight from Hong Kong Airport to Taipei Taoyuan Airport costs 7,500 Asia Miles for an Economy class seat, 11,000 for premium economy, 16,000 for business class and 25,000 for first class. You can choose between redeeming a ticket entirely with points or partially offsetting the price with points and paying the rest with cash.
Many cards charge a transfer fee or conversion fee when redeeming points or miles, which can cut into savings from rewards. Some cards offer a special program to avoid fees, but you will be charged an additional annual fee to join. Other fees include taxes, airline handling fees, fuel surcharges, and local fees based on the airport you are flying from.
Before choosing an air miles credit card, you should consider the different rewards rates, annual fees and minimum income requirements and the perks and benefits. Some cards are especially good for airline loyalists, while others are better for people who shop between airlines. Read our full review of the most competitive air miles cards in Hong Kong to find the best choice for your lifestyle.