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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – United MileagePlus Explorer Card, Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MastercardPlatinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Everyone wants to save money on credit card annual fees, but the entry-level airline cards usually just aren’t worth it. That doesn’t mean you have to pay $450 a year for the carriers’ most premium travel rewards cards; luckily, there are some great options in the middle. In today’s post, I want to highlight the best (and most popular) mid-range airline credit cards, many of which have annual fees under $100.

What to Look for in a Mid-Range Airline Credit Card

  • Welcome bonus — Most of these cards offer new customers 30,000 miles after they spend $1,000 within three months or 90 days. Exceptions include the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, which is offering 35,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Meanwhile, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card offers 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
  • Rewards — Nearly all cards offer double miles for airline purchases, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. However, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card earns you 3x miles for all Alaska purchases, and — better yet — the JetBlue Plus Card offers an outstanding 6x points for JetBlue purchases and 2x points for grocery and restaurant purchases.
  • Travel benefits — All of these cards offer a free checked bag, and most feature priority boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases. Other rewards worth looking for include credit toward elite status. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card offers you a chance to earn MQMs, while the JetBlue Plus Card grants you Mosaic status if you spend $50,000 in a calendar year. Finally, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card feature valuable companion certificates.
  • Waived foreign transaction fees — Thankfully, none of the mid-range cards below charge foreign transaction fees, so you can use them anywhere in the world without having to cough up extra dough for the privilege.

The Top Mid-Range Airline Cards

1. Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Current Bonus: Earn 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 within three months of account opening. You also get a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase within three months of account opening.

Rewards: This card offers the standard double miles on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

Travel benefits: Get a first bag checked free and priority boarding for you and your traveling companions when you fly Delta. Other perks include Delta SkyClub access for you and two people for the reduced fee of $29 per person. You also receive a 20% savings on in-flight purchases of food, beverages, movies, television shows, video games and audio headsets.

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

2. Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

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Earn MQMs toward Medallion status with the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card.

Bonus: Earn 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within the first three months.

Rewards: 2x miles on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. You can also earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases in a calendar year, and another 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases in the same calendar year.

Travel benefits: You receive a companion certificate each year upon card renewal that can be redeemed for a companion airfare (minus taxes and fees) for a round-trip, economy-class ticket within the contiguous United States. Other benefits include discounted $29 Delta SkyClub access for you and two guests and the 20% savings on in-flight purchases.

While the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card has a higher annual fee than the other picks on this list, it isn’t Delta’s top-of-the-line option; that would be the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express. That card has a $450 annual fee and includes complimentary Sky Club access, along with the ability to earn MQMs toward elite status.

Annual fee: $195

3. United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Sign-up bonus: Earn 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 within three months of account opening.

Rewards: Double miles on all United purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. You can also receive 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 on purchases each calendar year.

Travel benefits: You receive a free checked bag for yourself and a companion when you purchase your ticket with the card. Other benefits include priority boarding and two United Club passes each year. You can also redeem your miles for any seat at the standard (double miles price). Better yet, this card includes the unpublished benefit of additional Saver award space.

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

4. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card

alaska 737 featured
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card includes great perks like an annual coach companion fare and a free checked bag.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 within 90 days of account opening.

Rewards: 3x miles on Alaska Airlines tickets, vacation packages, cargo and in-flight purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Travel benefits: You receive a coach companion fare from $121 ($99, plus taxes and fees from $22) after each year upon renewal. You also receive a free checked bag for yourself and up to six other passengers traveling on the same reservation.

Annual fee: $75

5. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. This is a limited-time elevated offer; the usual bonus is 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000.

Rewards: Double miles on all American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. Earn 10% of your redeemed miles back, up to 10,000 miles each calendar year.

Travel benefits: Receive a first checked bag for free for you and up to four companions traveling on the same reservation for domestic American Airlines itineraries. You also receive Group 1 priority boarding and a 25% savings on eligible in–flight food and beverage purchases. Finally, you can redeem your miles for select flights for 7,500 fewer miles thanks to reduced mileage awards.

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

6. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card

CHICAGO - APRIL 3: A Southwest Airlines jet takes off at Midway Airport April 3, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Officials from Southwest and other airlines will testify at a safety hearing on Capitol Hill today following recent cancellations of flights by Southwest, United, American and Delta airlines as jets were taken out of service for safety inspections. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Work toward the Companion Pass by earning the sign-up bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card. Image courtesy of Scott Olson via Getty Images.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 within three months of account opening. These bonus points count toward the 110,000 points needed to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

Rewards: Double points on all Southwest Airlines purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere. Receive 6,000 additional bonus points each year on your account anniversary.

Travel Benefits: Earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) toward A-List and A-List Preferred status for every $10,000 spent, up to $100,000/15,000 TQPs per year. Points also qualify toward the Southwest Companion Pass.

Annual fee: $99

7. AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard (not available to new applicants)

Sign-up bonus: Not applicable, though thanks to an agreement with Barclaycard, American will make co-branded Barclaycard options available to new customers at airports and in-flight starting in 2017.

Rewards: Double miles on all American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

Travel benefits: Receive a first checked bag free for yourself and up to four traveling companions, plus Group 1 boarding on domestic AA flights and a 25% savings on in-flight food, beverage and headset purchases. Redeem your miles for select flights for 7,500 fewer miles thanks to reduced mileage awards. Finally, you can earn a $100 American Airlines flight discount when you spend $30,000 or more in purchases during a cardmembership year and your account remains open for at least 45 days after your anniversary date.

Annual fee: $89

8. JetBlue Plus Card

JetBlue A321 Featured
The JetBlue Plus Card earns you a whopping 6x TrueBlue points on purchases with the airline.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 30,000 TrueBlue points after you spend $1,000 on new purchases within 90 days of account opening.

Rewards: 6x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Travel benefits: Receive a free checked bag for yourself and up to three traveling companions. Earn TrueBlue Mosaic status after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year. Get 10% of your points back each time you redeem. You also receive a 50% savings on eligible in-flight purchases, and a $100 statement credit after you purchase a Getaway vacation package with your card.

Annual fee: $99

What’s your favorite mid-range airline credit card?

The best beginner points and miles card out there.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Points Guy Assessment:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.