Cashing In Q&A columns

Why don’t miles show up on my credit card statement?


Purchases made with an airline credit card can get you reward miles, often at one mile per dollar spent, but why can’t you see an up-to-date tally on your credit card bill?

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Dear Cashing In,
I have two rewards cards, a Chase Continental (although I guess now it’s United Explorer) and a Citi AAdvantage for American. Both cards offer me double miles on flights booked with the cards and double miles on purchases. But I have to log into the credit card account to see my purchases, then log into the airline account to see the miles. Information on both sites gets updated at different times, so it’s not always easy to see the 1 to 1 (or 1 to 2) correlation between purchases and miles. I’d love a simple way to see both at the same time, to verify that I’m getting the rewards I’ve been promised. Is there a better way? – Neville

Dear Neville,
Yes, your Chase card is indeed a United Explorer card now. Continental’s last flight departed on March 1 and if you had logged into your account at in the days after, you would have found your Continental account had automatically morphed into a United account. I’m surprised Chase hasn’t issued you a new card by now – not that the card itself will behave any differently, without or without its proper logo.

I’m confused about what you mean by “double miles on purchases,” unless you mean purchases (other than flights) on the airlines themselves — i.e., meals and in-flight merchandise. Just to be clear, both the Citi American AAdvantage card and the United Explorer card offer double miles on charges made on their respective airlines but only one mile per dollar for all other purchases.

As for the delay between the miles appearing in your credit card accounts and your airline accounts, there’s not much you can do about that. The reason for the lag is that your miles don’t actually appear in the airline’s loyalty program — i.e., your frequent flier account — until your credit card bill has been paid in full for that month. While Citi and Chase have partnered with the airlines to produce the deal you get via your credit cards, they remain separate entities and keep separate accounts.

Here’s how it works with the miles earned via an airline credit card. During the current billing period — say, this month, before your next credit card bill comes due — your miles are being logged by the bank that manages your credit card, but those miles (or any reward points, for that matter) aren’t redeemable until you’ve paid in full for charges made in that billing period. At that point, the bank reports the miles earned that month to the airline and they go into your frequent flier account.

Once miles have been transferred to the airline’s loyalty program — whether by flying or by making charges on a co-branded airline credit card — the airline manages the miles, not the bank that issued your credit cards. That’s true of American AAdvantage and United MileAge Plus, just as it was for your Chase Continental OnePass card. In fact, it’s true across the board for all airline loyalty programs.

In a sense, the miles you’re earning for any charges accrued since your last payment are phantom miles. The banks are holding them hostage until you cover the charges you made to earn them. As far as Chase and Citi are concerned, your miles are a reward for charges made and paid for, not debt accrued.

See related: 4 rules to win at the credit card rewards game

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