If you like to travel, signing up for a credit card that rewards your everyday spending with air miles is a wise move. Used correctly, you could receive one, two or even more free flights to a destination of your choice every year.

Those wary of falling into debt should look at it this way: You have to grocery shop every week and pay monthly utility and phone bills, right? So, why not pay those regular costs on an air miles linked credit card and earn thousands of miles in the process?

By setting yourself a limit on the credit card and paying it off in full each month, you will maximise the benefit of having the card without the worry of paying interest on unwanted debt.

[Compare UAE credit cards with air miles programs]

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However, before you pick a card, there are a number of factors you need to consider to ensure you find the best deal for you.

1. ‘Earning vs burning’ ratio

The most important of those is the earning versus burning ratio; in other words how much you need to spend to earn miles, and how much those miles are actually worth.

Read the marketing slogans attached to travel reward credit cards and you’ll find terms such as “earn 1 air mile for every $1 spent” or “earn 1 air mile for every AED 1/ SR 1 spent”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But to really assess how good it is, you need to research the redemption rate carefully.

To do this, find out how much you need to spend to gain a free flight. Let’s say two cards offer 1 mile per $1 spent with two different frequent flyer programs. If card A’s loyalty program requires 42,000 miles to travel to Hong Kong, for example, and card B’s loyalty scheme needs 60,000 miles for the same trip, it’s easy to see which card offers the better deal.

2. Airport taxes and fuel surcharges

Another factor to consider is that while a flight booked using air miles is effectively free, you will still pay airport taxes or fuel surcharges on top. A return to the United Kingdom, for example, could cost around AED1,000 in extra costs.

3. General miles or one airline?

Consider your own travel habits too. Do you like flying with the same airline every time? If so, pick a credit card that links to your favourite airline’s loyalty program. However, if you like shopping around for the best flight bargains, choose a card that links to a general air miles or points reward scheme that allows you to buy flights with different airlines.

4. Airport lounges, golf and discounts

Frequent flyers also like access to airport lounges, so check which lounges (both locally and internationally) the chosen card will allow you to use. And travel reward cards come with a host of other benefits, such as discounts at retail and dining outlets, travel discounts and golf privileges, so compare the options first. We give you the option to compare cards with all of these features individually.

5. Credit card costs

Finally, don’t ignore the actual costs of the credit card itself. Remember, cards offering great rewards can still come with annual fees, hefty interest rates on outstanding balances and late payment fees on missed payments. Also, it’s pointless signing up for a card to gain free flights and lounge access if you then run up huge debts with expensive high-interest charges.