The Best Points for Domestic Travel

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Airline and credit card points and miles have the power to fly you around the globe, but what if your vacation dreams this summer are to take your family to Disneyland, or finish your quest to visit every National Park?

You want to know which points are the best for domestic travel… and which cards you should be spending on to earn them.

To understand which miles you want and which cards will get you those, it’s good to learn how different airlines price their domestic awards. Here’s a breakdown of the number of miles a one way ticket in the U.S. will cost on some of the most popular legacy and budget domestic airlines:

American Airlines: 12,500 miles one way / 7,500 miles one way (routes under 500 miles)
Delta: Based on price starting at 12,500 one way
Frontier: Based on price, starting at 10,000 miles one way
JetBlue: Based on price
Southwest: Based on price
United: 12,500 miles one way / 10,000 miles one way (routes under 700 miles)
Virgin America: Based on price

Looking at this list, you’ll notice that domestic airlines fall into two camps: those that charge a fixed number of miles no matter where you fly, and those that decide how many miles you’ll pay based on how much the ticket would cost if you were paying cash for it. If you understand these two systems, you can use them to your advantage to determine which points will work best for where you want to go.

Here are some simple tips to maximize points for domestic travel:

1. If you need to go somewhere that requires purchasing an expensive ticket, you’ll want to check out award options on one of the carriers that charges the same no matter how much the ticket costs, like United or American.

2. If you’re headed to a destination where a budget carrier flies, you can probably get a better mileage deal using the rewards program from a carrier like JetBlue or Southwest.

3. Remember that award tickets are all one-way these days, so you can always mix up your journey. Fly a budget carrier one way if the award is cheap, and if you need to fly home on a day with higher award prices, fly home on one of the big carriers.

4. Diversify your mileage earning credit cards so you have the points you need for whatever option is the best for you. If you have the United Explorer card already, you may consider adding the Southwest credit card or the new JetBlue Plus card to your mileage earning strategy. Another great option is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which allows you to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to both Southwest and United—covering your bases on both the budget airline and the fixed price redemption front.


Go ahead. It’s time to go somewhere.