Air miles are a type of credit card reward that can be exchanged for complimentary flight tickets or flight booking discounts, as well as special offers on many other travel-related expenses including hotels, seat upgrades, tour and vacation packages, car hire services, and more.
If you have a credit card, chances are, you’re already earning airline miles—or air miles—every time you use your card to pay for goods or services. Most credit cards in Hong Kong are co-branded, which means they partner with an airline that offers a frequent flyer program or converts rewards points into redeemable airline miles.
If you’re not exactly a frequent traveller, you still have a chance to get airline perks at the level of those subscribed directly to an airline’s frequent flyer program.
History of Air Miles
The first frequent flyer programs started in the US in the late 70s and early 80s. At first, these programs only offered special fares or discounts to frequent customers. Eventually, airlines rolled out programs that used mileage tracking to offer rewards to loyal customers.
Until the introduction of airline alliances, these frequent flyer program rewards could only be obtained and redeemed with one airline. Now, however, you can already receive and claim air miles with any airline of your choice, thanks to airline alliances and co-branded credit cards.
How to Collect Air Miles
To obtain air miles, you’d usually need to buy a plane ticket for a domestic or international destination. The more frequently you travel, the more frequent flyer points or airline miles you get. The miles you earn also vary according to the type of ticket you book (i.e. economy, business, or first class).
Other ways to accrue air miles would be to use co-branded credit cards with specific airlines, or airline alliances. Using co-branded cards, you can earn points whenever you use your card to pay for goods or services, and then you can convert the points into airline miles.
Your accumulated air miles don’t translate to actual mileage. Usually, they only cover a percentage of the actual ticket price you’re intending to redeem your air miles on.
You may also choose to use your air miles to upgrade your ticket, get discounts on hotels, and other travel expenses—the availability of which depends on your credit card provider, the airline of your choice, your destination, and the air miles program you’re enrolled into.
Air Miles Conversion
Most credit cards usually convert to one mile every set amount of Hong Kong dollars spent either locally or internationally. For example, the Standard Chartered WorldMiles Card earns 1 air mile for every HKD 5 spent on local and international purchases. On the other hand, the Citibank PremierMiles Card earns 1 air mile for every HKD 8 spent locally, or HKD 4 spent overseas.
You can also choose to avail of airline miles promotions on your credit card. Some credit card issuers offer bonus air miles for every successful credit card application. Citibank’s Citi Prestige MasterCard, for instance, offers 40,000 free Asia Miles as a welcome gift, while Standard Chartered’s WorldMiles Card offers up to 35,000 airline miles.
How to Redeem Air Miles
When you’ve accumulated enough rewards points on your credit card, you may redeem them for airline miles which you can then exchange for plane tickets. It doesn’t mean, however, that the number of miles you accumulated will be the same number of miles you can travel. Each bank, and consequently each airline, has its own conversion rate for airline miles—which usually falls between 1-2 cents per mile. Sometimes, it even varies depending on the credit card type.
For example, if you want to travel domestically, you might need to collect up to a total of 15,000 airline miles in order to obtain a complimentary (or free) one-way economy class airline ticket, as opposed to 100,000 airline miles needed to obtain a one-way business class airline ticket.
You can also use air miles to upgrade your seat from economy to business, or business to first class. This can cost around 50,000 air miles or more, depending on the seat you want to upgrade to, and the airline of your choice.
Redeeming air miles for a companion is also possible, at a discounted air miles rate. For example, your business class ticket can cost 120,000 air miles. If you buy another business class ticket for a companion, you can get it in exchange for only 75,000 air miles.
You can redeem your airline miles over-the-counter, through online banking, or over the phone, depending on the bank. You can either select a specific airline or airline alliance at the time of credit card application, or during redemption.
These banks will act as a liaison between you and your airline of choice, and they will sometimes charge a conversion fee if you’re converting rewards points to airline miles.
Start Earning Air Miles Now!
In essence, airline miles are a great way to reward yourself if you use your credit card a lot. The more you spend, the more rewards points you can get; and the more points you collect, the more air miles you can redeem for a complimentary airline ticket that can take you to any destination you desire.
Find out which Hong Kong credit cards offer the air miles feature, or see how you can earn more rewards points from your existing credit card provider. Choose the right credit card and start earning air miles today!