Points & Miles 101: Different Types of Points & Miles

To recap thus far in the Points & Miles 101 series, we have discussed:

Today’s topic will discuss the different types of points and miles out there. As you will learn shortly, all points and miles are not equal.


1. Airline Miles – Ever hear the word “Skymile” or phrase “frequent flyer miles”? Airline miles are probably the most well-known type of points or miles out there. Every major carrier has them and calls them something different. Examples include Delta SkyMiles, American Airlines AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, JetBlue TrueBlue etc..

As the name suggests, these miles are best for flights but not much else. The old school way to earn airline miles is by flying paid tickets but I and many other travel hackers now primarily earn airline miles through credit card signup bonuses and spending on these credit cards.  For perspective, I could either earn 50,000 miles for signing up for a Citibank American Airlines Credit Card or by flying 50,000 miles in the air on American Airlines on tickets paid for by myself or others. I think I know what I would choose 🙂

2. Hotel Points – All major hotel chains have hotel loyalty programs such as Hilton HHonors, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Starpoints. Hotel points are generally more flexible then airline miles as you could use them for free hotel nights or convert them to airline miles. In some programs this can be very beneficial – for example Starwood will allow you to convert 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 airlines miles. In others though, the ratio isn’t as great and the best use remains towards free nights at hotels.

3. Bank Reward Points  – There are two types within this category with one being significantly better than the other.

• Transferrable Rewards Points – These points are my favorite types of points and they include Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. There are so many options on what to do with these points. You could book any flight or hotel room with these points directly and just pay the total cost in points or you could transfer these points to many different airlines or hotels. I personally love the 2nd option most because it gives me the most options for my trip and doesn’t lock me into one specific program. If I have 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I could transfer 25,000 points to United to book my flight and 50,000 points to Hyatt to book 3 free nights at a hotel and still have 25,000 left over to top off an account or save for a future trip. The flexibility here is what makes them so valuable.

• Fixed Value Rewards Points – This is the more traditional bank reward points and this is also what I’d guess many people have as this covers Capital One, Barclays and Bank of America points. These points are generally worth .01 each and they allow you to book any flight or hotel. So for example a $400 domestic flight will require 40,000 points but with United or Delta or American Airlines, a domestic flight is only 25,000 airline miles. Many people also redeem these points for cash back or merchandise which I personally would never do nor would I recommend. I generally stay away from these points as I can get a lot more value out of flexible points or even airline miles and hotel points.

What kind of points or miles do you plan to collect?