Airline credit cards can be an excellent addition to your wallet if you fly frequently with a certain airline. Here are the best airline credit cards from our partners.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — Best for total value
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card — Best for easy-to-use rewards
- Citi Premier® Card — Best for international airlines
- The Platinum Card® from American Express — New Platinum exclusive offer
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card — Best for occasional Delta flyers
- United℠ Explorer Card — Best for United flyers
- United℠ Business Card — Best for United business travelers
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card — Best for regular Delta flyers
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card — Best for earning Alaska Airlines miles
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® — Best for Admirals Club access
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card — Best for elite Delta flyers
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card — Best for Southwest Airlines business travelers
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card — Best for high-spending businesses
- 5X Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 3X Earn 3X points on dining.
- 2X Earn 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Why we chose it
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the most popular travel rewards credit card on the market. Sporting an all-time-high sign-up bonus and offering an excellent return on travel and dining purchases, the card packs a ton of value that easily offsets its $95 annual fee. Cardholders can redeem points at 1.25 cents each for travel booked through Chase or transfer points to one of Chase’s 13 valuable airline and hotel partners.
- 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Why we chose it
When it comes to simplicity and strong rewards, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a solid choice for most travelers. You’ll earn earns 2x miles on every purchase with no bonus categories to memorize, making it an ideal card for those with busy lives.
- 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
- 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
- 1X Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Why we chose it
The Citi Premier Card is one of the best starter travel rewards cards due to its gracious amount of bonus spend categories. You’ll not only earn triple points on air travel and hotel, but also on restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations — offering plenty of opportunities to earn on your everyday purchases. Best of all, your points are flexible and can transfer to a variety of frequent flyer programs in every airline alliance. Finally, enjoy an annual $100 hotel savings benefit through Citi on single-stay bookings of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees).
- 10X Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
Why we chose it
The Amex Platinum is unmatched when it comes to travel perks and benefits. If lounge access, hotel elite status and annual statement credits are important to you, this card is well worth the high annual fee.
- 2X Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- 1X Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
Why we chose it
The Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex provides valuable elite-like benefits for causal Delta flyers including a first checked bag free and priority boarding. It can easily justify getting and keeping this card.
- 2X Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases
- 2X Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services
- 1X 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
Why we chose it
Between a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry fee credit, two annual lounge visits and a free checked bag, the United Explorer card is packed with perks that will enhance your trips for even occasional United flyers.
- 2X Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting.
- 1X Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Why we chose it
If you’re a business owner, the United Business card offers excellent benefits for United flyers while charging a low $99 annual fee.
- 3X Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- 2X Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- 1X Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
Why we chose it
The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex is a good choice for Delta loyalists who need a little help reaching their elite status goals. This card offers some useful perks including an annual companion pass and your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- 3X Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases.
- 1X Unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Why we chose it
There’s a lot to love about the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, in part due to its highly valuable loyalty program: Alaska Airlines MileagePlan. Whether you’re a loyal Alaska flyer or a points maximizer looking to diversify your rewards portfolio, this card has a lot to offer. For starters, you’ll receive Alaska’s Famous Companion Pass each year for $121, free checked bags for you and up to six guests on your itinerary, 50% off Alaska lounge day passes and more. Plus, Alaska has joined the oneworld alliance, opening up endless redemption opportunities.
- 2X 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
- 1X 1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases
Why we chose it
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is the best for those who fly American Airlines and want Admirals Club lounge access. It also gives you helps you earn and maintain elite status and comes with priority perks.
- 3X Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
- 1X Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
Why we chose it
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card is the premier choice for Delta loyalists who value an accelerated path to elite status, Delta SkyClub lounge access, an annual companion certificate and strong earning rates on Delta purchases.
- 3X 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
- 2X 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services.
- 1X 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Why we chose it
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card is ideal for business travelers and loyal Southwest flyers interested in hitting A-List status or earning a Companion Pass.
- 3X Earn 3 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
- 1.5X After you spend $150,000 on your Card in a calendar year, you earn 1.5 Miles per dollar (that’s an extra half mile per dollar) on eligible purchases the rest of the year.
Why we chose it
If you’re a high-budget business owner and fly Delta often, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card is an elite airline card with a sleuth of benefits. While the card does come with a high annual fee, the impressive benefits including exclusive Delta SkyClub and Amex Centurion lounge access, airport, free checked bags, priority boarding and a fast track to Delta’s elite Medallion flying status by spending a considerable amount on the card.
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|Card||Best for||Welcome Offer/Sign Up Bonus||Earning Rate||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Best for total value||100,000 points||
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||New Platinum exclusive offer||100,000 points||
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Best for easy-to-use rewards||60,000 miles||
|Citi Premier® Card||Best for international airlines||80,000 points||
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||Best for occasional Delta flyers||70,000 miles||
||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.|
|United℠ Explorer Card||Best for United flyers||40,000 Bonus Miles||
||$0 Intro for First Year, then $95|
|Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card||Best for regular Delta flyers||90,000 miles||
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®||Best for Admirals Club access||50,000 miles||
|Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card||Best for earning Alaska Airlines miles||50,000 miles||
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card||Best for Southwest Airlines business travelers||80,000 points||
|Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card||Best for elite Delta flyers||80,000 miles||
|Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card||Best for high-spending businesses||80,000 miles||
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This bonus is worth up to $1,020, according to TPG valuations.
Rewards: Earn 2x on all purchases.
Why it’s the best airline card for simple rewards earning: Airline credit cards tend to offer a limited number of bonus categories. That can make it hard to justify using an airline credit card for everyday expenses. That’s where the Venture differs from airline cards — and it’s the card’s biggest strength. You’re earning a flat 2 miles per dollar across all purchases, which is great for anyone looking for a simple, one-and-done rewards credit card for all spending.
You can then use the miles earned to “pay” for any past travel purchases at a rate of 1 cent per mile or you can transfer miles to one of Capital One’s transfer partners, which includes 16 airline and three hotel partners. Cardholders also get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application-fee credit every four years (up to $100), which is a rare benefit for a card with a $95 annual fee. Capital One also has non-travel redemption options and temporary bonus categories to help make the card more valuable while people are putting travel on hold.
Annual fee: $95
Related: Capital One Venture card review
Welcome Offer: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in the first six months of card membership (valued by TPG at $2,000). However, be sure to check the CardMatch tool to see if you’re targeted for a higher 125,000-point welcome offer (offer subject to change at any time).
Rewards: Earn 5x on airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 each calendar year) and 5x on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel; 10x points on eligible purchases on the card at restaurants worldwide and when you “Shop Small” in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during the first six months of card membership.; 1x on other purchases.
Why it’s the best airline card for welcome bonus: There’s tons of award travel possibilities with the new Amex Platinum welcome offer. Whether you prefer to fly on Delta Air Lines or want to transfer your points over to Air Canada Aeroplan or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (and beyond), there are so many options with what your points can really do. While Amex has recently increased the annual fee to $695 (see rates and fees), the Amex Platinum is still the king of luxury travel benefits with a mile-long list of annual statement credits. You’ll get up to $200 in annual hotel statement credits for Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with Amex Travel, up to $200 in annual airline fee statement credits, on select prepaid hotel bookings with Amex Travel, up to $179 in statement credits each year on your CLEAR® membership, up to $300 in annual Equinox credits ($25 statement credit each month at Equinox), up to $200 in Uber Cash for U.S. services ($15 in Uber cash each month), up to $240 in annual digital entertainment statement credits (up to $20 back each month when you pay one or more of Peacock, The New York Times, Audible, or SiriusXM), up to $100 in statement credits at Saks Fifth Avenue and up to $100 statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee once every four years. Enjoy thousands of airport lounges worldwide, automatic Gold status with Hilton and Marriott, and elite status with car rental programs like Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Annual fee: $695 (see rates and fees)
Related: Amex Platinum review
Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. These points are worth $1,360 based on TPG’s latest valuations.
Rewards: 3x on air travel, hotels, gas stations, restaurants and supermarkets and 1x on all other purchases.
Why it’s the best airline card for international airlines: With your Citi ThankYou points, you can transfer your points to Citi’s 15+ airline loyalty partners, most of which are international airlines. If your award travel strategy focuses on snagging business- or first-class flights on international travel, then there’s no better card than the Citi Premier. Until Nov. 13, 2021, you can transfer your Citi ThankYou points to American AAdvantage at a 1:1 rate — huge for AA flyers as the carrier isn’t part of any other transferable points program. You’ll also get a $100 hotel savings benefit once per calendar year when you book a hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) through thankyou.com.
Annual fee: $95
Related: Citi Premier review
Sign-up bonus: 65,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first four months of account opening — worth $910, according to TPG valuations.
Rewards: 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases, cable and satellite providers, gas stations, telecommunications merchants and car rentals; 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
Why it’s the best airline card for American Airlines business flyers: For a low $99 annual fee (that’s waived the first year), you’re getting a card that earns bonus miles across multiple categories and provides a few elite-type perks, such as a free checked bag, inflight discounts and priority boarding. You can also earn a companion certificate for domestic travel after $30,000 or more in purchases each card membership year and renewing the card (account must remain open at least 45 days after account anniversary date). And now that American Airlines has joined other top U.S. airlines in eliminating most change fees, there’s even more reason to rack up on American Airlines miles.
Although you aren’t getting any luxury benefits such as Admirals Club access, this is a great option for anyone who travels on American Airlines for business.
The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Welcome offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021
Rewards: 2x on eligible Delta purchases, on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and 1x on all other eligible purchases
Why it’s the best airline card for occasional Delta flyers: The Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card is the airline’s entry-level premium card, with an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees). With this card, you’ll get a free checked bag, priority boarding on Delta flights, no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) and 20% in savings on inflight purchases on Delta flights.
You’ll also earn a $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 in a calendar year. If you’re an occasional Delta flyer who wants a way to earn bonus miles while enjoying a few elite-status-like perks, this might be the card for you.
Annual fee: Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
Rewards: 3x on eligible Delta flights and Delta Vacations and purchases made directly with hotels, 2x on restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and 1x on everything else.
Why it’s the best airline card for regular Delta flyers: For starters, you’ll enjoy a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application-fee credit (up to $100).
For those starting from scratch for elite status, you will still be able to use this card as a way to get Delta’s Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) requirement for elite status waived (up to the Platinum level) when you spend $25,000 on it in a calendar year. You can also earn 10,000 MQMs when you spend $25,000 in a year and another 10,000 MQMs if you spend $50,000 in a year (although you will no longer get the bonus miles that used to accompany the MQMs). So if you need a little help hitting your desired Medallion status, this card can help you get it.
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)
Related: Platinum Delta SkyMiles card review
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — worth $700, according to TPG valuations
Rewards: 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
Why it’s the best airline card for Admirals Club: If you fly American frequently, this card is worth having for its perks. It comes with an Admirals Club airport lounge membership that gets you and your immediate family (or up to two guests) into dozens of club locations around the world when you have a same-day boarding pass for an eligible American Airlines or select partner airline flight. You can also add up to 10 authorized users — who receive the same benefit — at no additional charge.
You’ll get priority check-in, airport screening and boarding when flying American, a first bag checked free for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100) every five years. The card also offers a way to earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward AAdvantage elite status when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Annual fee: $450
Sign-up bonus: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — worth $2,000, according to TPG valuations.
- 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
- 3x points on select streaming services
- 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
- 2x points on all other travel
- 1x point on all other purchases
Why it’s the best airline card for total value: We’ve long suggested the Chase Sapphire Preferred for those who are new to earning travel rewards because it lets you earn valuable, transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points with strong bonus categories and a reasonable annual fee.
It’s particularly useful as an airline credit card, since the points earned on this card can transfer to United, Southwest, British Airways and seven other airlines, along with three hotel chains — Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt and IHG Rewards Club. It’s also a Chase credit card that provides some great built-in protections if you use it to purchase your travel. If you apply for this card now, you can earn the bonus in time to book your travel for later in 2021 or when you feel comfortable traveling. When those points hit your account after three months, it will be like an early Christmas present to yourself.
Keep in mind, too, that the Chase Sapphire Preferred has added a number of temporary benefits to help cardholders best utilize the card now while many of us aren’t traveling. This is a card you can apply for now to use on purchases such as takeout and streaming, and continue using on travel once you’re back in the air in the future.
Annual fee: $95
Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred card review
Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The bonus is worth $520, according to TPG’s valuations.
Rewards: 2x on United purchases and at restaurants and hotels, 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
Why it’s the best airline card for United flyers: This personal credit card earns 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants, hotels and United purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. The main perks include a free checked bag for you and one companion on the same reservation, as long as you purchase your ticket (or any taxes and fees on an award ticket) from United using the Explorer Card. You’ll also get priority boarding, two one-time United Club passes each year, a 25% discount on inflight United purchases and access to additional award space at potentially lower award rates.
Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Related: United Explorer Card review
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening— worth $900, according to TPG valuations.
Rewards: 3x on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases, 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
Why it’s the best airline card for earning Alaska Airlines miles: There is a lot to love about the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card. First, you’re getting a solid sign-up bonus that includes a companion fare (which potentially adds hundreds of dollars in value). In addition, you get your first checked bag free, 50% off Alaska Lounge day passes and the companion fare (from $121) each year after your account anniversary. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who flies Alaska Airlines or its partners throughout the year. And remember, Alaska joined Oneworld, which will lead to even more earning and redeeming opportunities.
Annual fee: $75
Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. According to TPG valuations, this bonus is worth up to $1,200.
Rewards: 3x on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases; 2x on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
Why it’s the best airline card for Southwest business travelers: If you’re a Southwest fanatic (like TPG’s own Benét Wilson), this card helps you rack up Rapid Rewards points along with the best lineup of Southwest-specific benefits among the airline’s five consumer and small-business cards. You’re getting four upgraded boardings each year (lowering your chances of getting stuck in an undesirable seat), 9,000 points every year on your cardmember anniversary, up to $100 every four years to cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment fee and 365 Wi-Fi credits per year.
This card comes with the highest annual fee of Southwest’s business credit cards, but at $199 it’s still incredibly affordable for anyone who frequently flies with Southwest. Since any points you earn on this card count toward the Companion Pass, you could be that much closer to at least one year’s worth of free flights for a friend or family member. And keep in mind that Southwest is allowing cardholders to earn unlimited TQPs through spending this year, meaning this card could help you earn a Companion Pass and A-List status.
Annual fee: $199
Related reading: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card review
Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021 TPG values this bonus at up to $880.
Rewards: 3x on eligible Delta purchases
Why it’s the best airline card for elite Delta flyers: The Delta Reserve Card is the airline’s most expensive, with a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). The card comes with a free Sky Club lounge membership and two one-time passes for guests each year. You can also bring up to two guests for $39 per person per visit. Plus there’s now access to Amex Centurion Lounges.
You also receive a free checked bag and priority boarding for up to eight travelers on the same Delta flight reservation, no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) and 20% in savings on inflight purchases on Delta flights.
This card can also help you achieve Delta Medallion elite status, since you’ll earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year. Considering you get an MQD elite waiver (for up to Platinum status) after spending $25,000 in a year, this card could get you Delta Gold Medallion status without you ever having to step foot on a plane — or Platinum status if you can snag the above welcome offer and hit the $120,000 spending threshold.
You also receive a round-trip companion certificate every year when you renew the card, valid for domestic first class, Delta Comfort+ or domestic Main Cabin. Finally, you’ll now enjoy complimentary upgrades as a non-Medallion member and a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit.
Of course, this card is also eligible for the same limited-time benefits as the Delta Platinum.
If you’re a regular Delta flyer who wants the luxury perks, this is your card.
Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)
Related reading: Delta Reserve Amex card review
Sign-up bonus: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days — worth $520, according to TPG’s valuations. However, we have seen reports of targeted offers of up to 60,000 points, so look for those.
Rewards: 6x on JetBlue purchases; 2x at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
Why it’s the best airline card for JetBlue flyers: If you’re looking to use credit card spending to hit elite status with JetBlue, the JetBlue Plus Card can help. You’ll earn JetBlue Mosaic elite status after you spend $50,000 each year with the card.
The JetBlue Plus also comes with some nice benefits, including a free checked bag (which even applies on Blue Basic fares), an unlimited 10% rebate when you redeem points, a 50% discount on inflight purchases and 5,000 bonus points on your account anniversary — all of which could make this a long-term keeper in your wallet.The JetBlue Plus also comes with some nice benefits, including a free checked bag (which even applies on Blue Basic fares), an unlimited 10% rebate when you redeem points, a 50% discount on inflight purchases and 5,000 bonus points on your account anniversary — all of which could make this a long-term keeper in your wallet.
Annual fee: $99
Related reading: JetBlue Plus card review
The information for the JetBlue Plus Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Airline credit cards with no annual fee
The best airline credit cards offer a panoply of perks that save travelers time, money and stress.
Those incentives typically include free checked bags, some measure of priority in the boarding process, the ability to earn multiple miles per dollar on airfare and other purchases. You’ll even find airport lounge access and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application-fee reimbursements at the higher echelons. However, the airline credit cards that offer these advantages often charge annual fees ranging from $95-$450.
Sensing an opportunity to attract younger customers or those who might just be getting started with credit, as well as customers who prefer earning miles over elite-style benefits, several airlines have introduced new no-annual-fee credit cards with pared-down perks.
These cards may not offer the same rewards as their more expensive counterparts, but they are worth considering in some cases. For example, if you want to hang onto a credit card for several years without having to shell out an annual fee each year, a no-annual-fee card can be a good solution.
|Airline card||Sign-up bonus /Welcome offer||Bonus value**|
|American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card||10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$190|
|Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card||10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening||$120|
|JetBlue Card||10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening||$130|
|United Gateway Card||Earn 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn 3x on grocery store purchases up to $15k for the first year of account opening.||$195|
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
Sign-up bonus: 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases within three months of account opening
Rewards: 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores (including delivery services), 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
Why you should consider it: The MileUp Card is a decent option to start earning miles in the AAdvantage program without having to fly frequently or pay an annual fee.
Though its sign-up bonus is low, applicants don’t have to worry about hitting high minimum spending requirements. Likewise, travelers who already enjoy travel benefits on American thanks to elite status but want a card that makes earning on tickets and grocery purchases easier might find this card useful.
Fees: 3% foreign transaction fee
Apply here: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card
Welcome offer: 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
Rewards: This card offers you double miles at restaurants worldwide as well as on all Delta purchases, including Sky Club membership or passes, Delta Vacations packages, seat upgrades and inflight purchases of food, beverages and audio headsets. You earn 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.
Why you should consider it: If you want a major mileage haul and benefits that mimic Delta Medallion status, you’re better off carrying one of the more premium Delta credit cards. However, if you already enjoy elite status or simply want to rack up miles on everyday purchases, including a bonus at restaurants, all without an annual fee (see rates and fees), the Blue version might be a good choice for you.
Fees: No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)
Apply here: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
JetBlue Credit Card
Sign-up bonus: 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening
Rewards: 3x on all JetBlue purchases; 2x at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere
Why you should consider it: Both the JetBlue Card and the JetBlue Plus Card are great products. If you don’t mind paying a $99 annual fee, the JetBlue Plus offers several extra benefits, including a higher welcome offer, an anniversary bonus, redemption refunds, statement credits and a shot at Mosaic status.
If the majority of your spending is on non-JetBlue purchases and you prefer a card with no annual fee, you might as well get the regular JetBlue Card since it earns the same number of points on non-airline spending.
The information for the JetBlue Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Fees: No foreign transaction fees.
Sign-up bonus: Earn 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn 3x on grocery store purchases up to $15k for the first year of account opening.
Rewards: 2x on United purchases, gas stations, local transit and commuting and 1x on everything else.
Why you should consider it: If you’re looking for an entry point into earning United miles, the United Gateway Card is a solid option. The sign-up bonus is a bit more valuable than many no-annual-fee cards out there, and you’re getting a solid rewards structure. Plus, you’ll get 25% back on inflight purchases and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
Fees: No foreign transaction fees.
Apply here: United Gateway Card
Is it worth renewing an airline credit card for 2021?
While travel is making a return in 2021, there’s still a long way to go before we’re travelling like we used to. This begs the question, is renewing your airline credit card worth it?
To answer this question, you simply need to work out if the value you will get from the card will offset the cost of paying for it in the first place. This applies only to cards with annual fees.
When making your decision, it’s worth checking to see if your card issuer has brought in temporary benefits or bonus categories in lieu of the usual travel related perks that don’t make much sense right now. Typically these will be related to spending in categories like groceries, gas and ordering in.
If you’re convinced there’s no value in renewing your card, it’s worth considering how long you’ve had the card before you cancel it. The longer you’ve had the card, the more chance there is that cancelling could harm your credit score, undoing all the hard work you’ve put in to building a strong score.
If all else fails, try calling your issuer to explain that you’re considering cancelling — you might just be offered a retention offer or have your annual fee waived which will make the idea of renewing all the more enticing.
The difference between airline and travel credit cards
We included two travel credit cards — the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture — in our list because of their flexibility. Both of these cards are great for beginners, but luxury travelers who want to maximize airfare purchases should consider a card such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers 5x on airfare booked directly with the airline — that 5x for airfare is capped at $500,000 per calendar year. The card has a 10% return on spending according to our valuations.
As a rule, credit cards that earn transferable points (such as Amex, Capital One, Chase or Citi points) get you a better return on spending. They don’t usually have airline-specific perks or a way to earn elite status on airlines, but they do allow you to transfer points to a specific carrier’s loyalty program.
How to maximize your airline credit cards
The simplest way to make the most of your airline credit card(s) is to study all the perks and benefits that come with these products and then use them. If you check luggage on flights, you can save $60 round-trip with the free checked bag that typically comes with these cards — or even more if you have travel companions.
If the card comes with statement credits, complete the spending required to get them. Use fee credits to cover expenses such as airport lounge access, seat upgrades or inflight food and beverage purchases.
For those chasing airline elite status, see if your credit card offers a way to help achieve it. If it does, consider doing the spending required to get it — but remember the TPG Golden Rule of paying off your credit cards every month to get the maximum benefit.
You should also take advantage of free companion certificates to take a friend or loved one on a trip with you.
Finally, don’t overlook benefits such as extended warranty coverage and purchase and return protection.
Popular airline rewards programs
Pretty much every major airline has a loyalty program that is free to use. Here are a few of the top programs for U.S.-based travelers:
- Delta SkyMiles – While Delta does have an inconvenient dynamic award chart, Delta also frequently offered award sales on some routes in the pre-COVID world. And with a number of great business and personal credit cards, there is a lot of reason to rack up Delta SkyMiles. Delta is part of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which means you can use your miles to book trips on a number of partner airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and Korean Air. But be warned — the carrier recently did a large devaluation of Sky Miles, to the disappointment of travelers.
- United MileagePlus – United is another airline that offers a number of credit card options to fit the needs of essentially any traveler. It’s part of Star Alliance, which means you can use United miles to fly with partner airlines such as Singapore Airlines.
- American Airlines AAdvantage – I live in a city with an American Airlines hub, so the AAdvantage program is especially valuable to me. While American Airlines doesn’t offer quite the same lineup of credit cards, there is still a lot of value in the overall AAdvantage program. As part of Oneworld, you’ll be able to book flights with partner airlines such as Cathay Pacific, British Airways and more.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards – Southwest is a fan-favorite for North American flights and has a reputation for excellent customer service. It’s TPG Senior Credit Cards Editor Benét Wilson‘s absolute favorite airline, and with good reason. Plus, Southwest offers a Companion Pass benefit for loyal flyers that can save you thousands on flights each year.
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan – Alaska Airlines currently earns the most valuable airline currency that TPG publishes valuations for each month. The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program may not be top-of-mind for those who don’t live on the U.S. West Coast, but there is a ton of value you can get from the program no matter where you live.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of airline programs, but it’s a solid overview of a few of the top programs in the U.S.
How much are airline miles worth?
There’s no hard and fast rule for how much an airline mile is worth, as it can be a rather subjective topic. At TPG, we use a combination of factors to determine how we value a mile or point. We take into consideration what would pay to buy the points or miles, the value we could get when redeeming them and variables such as award availability, change fees and cancellations.
Check out our points and miles valuations guide that TPG updates on a monthly basis to see a full list of the value of points across airline, hotel and credit card loyalty programs.
Here’s how we value airline miles in the above five most popular rewards programs.
|Points Program||Value (cents per mile)|
|American Airline AAdvantage||1.4|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1.5|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||1.3|
Do airline miles expire?
Unfortunately, your hard-earned airline miles can expire. However, as a general rule, if you’re earning or burning on a regular basis then you shouldn’t lose any.
Here is a list of some of the biggest airline miles programs and information on how to keep your miles from expiring.
|AIRLINE REWARDS PROGRAM||DO MILES EXPIRE?||HOW TO STOP MILES FROM EXPIRING|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||Yes||Redeem or earn miles once every 24 months|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||Yes||Redeem or earn miles once every 24 months|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||Yes||Redeem or earn miles once every 18 months|
|British Airways Executive Club||Yes||Redeem or earn miles once every 36 months|
|Delta SkyMiles||No||Not required|
|JetBlue TrueBlue||No||Not required|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||Yes||Redeem or earn miles once every 24 months|
|United MileagePlus||No||Not required|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||Yes||Redeem or earn miles once every 36 months|
Frequently asked questions
Do you need an airline credit card?
Cobranded airline credit cards usually don’t offer the highest return on spending for airfare purchases, so if you’re simply looking to maximize your spending, you’d do better with a card that earns valuable transferable points. But airline credit cards are worth looking at for the airline-specific perks they offer.
Just about every type of traveler can take advantage of an airline card, whether you’re a beginner to the points and miles game or a seasoned frequent flyer.
Most airline credit cards include benefits such as a free checked bag, early boarding and sometimes even discounts on inflight purchases — which can be particularly valuable if you live in a hub city for one of the major carriers.
Airline credit cards of a more premium nature may also earn elite-qualifying miles for those pursuing airline status and even lounge access in some cases. Those who need a little help hitting elite status or want to enjoy elite status-like benefits while they work to hit a tier can benefit from an airline card and its perks.
In short, having an airline credit card can make your flight experience more enjoyable (and even less expensive) if you frequently fly with a specific carrier, but those who simply pick the cheapest fare available may be better served by a card that earns transferable points. Even those travelers could consider an airline credit card if they’re looking for miles to book a specific award itinerary for later this year.
How we chose the best airline credit cards
When we assembled our list of the best airline credit cards for this year, we took into account the extra value each card can bring to flyers with different travel needs and preferences. In this post, we’re looking at consumer airline and business airline credit cards, evaluating annual fees, travel perks, offer bonuses and spending requirements to compile the best airline credit cards.
If you know what airline you want to travel on, it makes choosing an airline credit card much easier, but you can review our analysis of the best and worst airlines here to see what the major carriers offer.
At the end of the day, TPG staffers all have our favorites and there is no right or wrong preference. In fact, as you saw from the above list, most major airlines offer multiple cobranded cards to fit the needs of a wide range of customers.
Most airline credit card users will be better off paying an annual fee to reap many more benefits from their card, but there are some exceptions. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card is a great choice for infrequent travelers and Delta flyers who want to earn double miles at restaurants.
Likewise, the AAdvantage MileUp Card lets you earn double AAdvantage miles at supermarkets and grocery stores. Even the no-annual-fee JetBlue card from Barclays offers you double points at restaurants and grocery stores, along with 3x points for JetBlue purchases.
Every one of the airline cards with an annual fee offers at least one unique benefit not available on any other credit card. So if one of those perks fits your travel needs, you’ll want to consider paying an annual fee for an airline card.
Of course, if you’re a regular flyer on one of these airlines, definitely take a hard look at a higher-end card to see if one of them can make your time in the air cheaper, more comfortable or more rewarding — or potentially all three.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Daniel Ross.
Featured photo by Ryan Patterson for The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Blue Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, please click here.