So, what kind of miles and points are there, and what is the difference?
I will try to keep it as simple as possible, but generally speaking there are three different kinds of miles and points.
- Airline miles and hotel points. Those miles and points are generally earned towards one specific airline or hotel chain, and can only be redeemed against this one airlines flights or hotels stays.
- Flexible points / miles. Those miles are generally earned towards one specific credit card, and you can then later choose to transfer some or all your points with them to a specific hotel or airline whenever you want. You can also transfer to several different airlines or hotels, or a combination of both.
- Fixed value points. Those points have (as the name indicates) a fixed value, and can be used as a direct discount for any purchase on the credit card you have made them from.
Let me try to elaborate a little bit more.
Airline miles and hotel points. This is probably the kind of miles we all are most familiar with, and the easiest to deal with. Those kind of miles are the same as you earn when you give your frequent flyer card when you book your ticket. You earn a certain amount of miles with for example Etihad for every dirham you spend on your credit card, and the miles are automatically transferred to your Etihad Guest account every week, and are available to use for spending as soon as they are in the account.
Those kind of miles are great if you are a regular customer with only one airline or hotel chain, and just want to boost your miles balance with them to quicker being able to redeem tickets, upgrades or rooms.
Flexible points / miles. This kind of miles are my favorite for the time being. I generally put all my spending on one credit card now, and this card gives me points with the issuing bank. The issuing bank has deals with several hotels and airlines, and I am able to transfer the miles from my bank balance to the airline or hotel of my choice, mostly at a 1:1 ratio. The good thing about this is that the miles with my bank never expires, so I don’t have to worry about that. It also gives me a great flexibility to being able to transfer miles today to Qatar Airways and next week to Emirates, so I am able to use miles with whatever airline I feel suits me best at the time.
Those kind of miles are great for people who wants flexibility to choose what airlines schedule fits them the best, and who are not too focused on a single airline. The negative is that it normally pays slightly less miles than an airline specific program, so you end up earning miles at a slower pace.
Fixed value miles / points. Those miles also goes into your account with your bank, and you can use them to partially or fully pay for tickets and hotels booked from the banks own pages normally. The great thing about those is that they have a fixed value, you know for example that 1000 points equals 10 dirhams, so if you have 200.000 miles in your account, you can use those to pay for a 2000 dirham ticket. There are no limitation to what airline you can book with, there are no black-out dates, and as long as there is a seat available on the flight, you can use those kind of points to pay for the fare.
Those kind of miles are great if you normally only fly economy class, if you want to be able to book exactly the dates you want and the flexibility to choose different airlines. The bad part is that business and first class tickets cost so much that you would normally never be able to use those kind of points for the premium tickets.
So what kind of miles are the best?
Well, that depends on you. As I said above, the miles all have different advantages, so you have to define what you want to use the miles for to figure out what is the right choice for you. What might be right for me might not be right for you, so I cannot answer that question for you.
However, I will try to help you defining your traveling goals in the next step: