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Best airline credit cards with annual fees under $100

Aug. 12, 2021
12 min read
American plane in Oneworld livery and JetBlue plane at JFK airport
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Airline credit cards can be valuable tools to help you save money and enjoy the additional perks while flying. While some airlines have started offering no-fee credit cards, they are typically stripped-down versions that don't deliver many valuable benefits. The best airline credit cards, on the other hand, provide the first checked bag for free, priority boarding, discounts on in-flight purchases, and additional rewards on your spending...for an annual fee, that is. Still, there are great airline credit cards with annual fees of under $100 a year, and some of them even waive the first year's annual fee so you can test drive the benefits before paying a fee.

Here's a list of the best airline credit cards with annual fees of under $100, and why you might want to consider each.

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Best airline credit cards with annual fees under $100

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.

Comparison of the best airline credit cards with annual fees of $100 or less

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit cardCiti / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MastercardDelta SkyMiles Gold American Express CardJetBlue Plus CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit CardUnited Explorer Card
Welcome offerLimited time offer-Get 50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months of account openingEarn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and paying annual fee Earn  50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
Annual fee$75$99, waived first year$0 intro annual fee the first year, then $99 (see rates & fees)$99$99$0 intro annual fee the first year, then $95
Earning power3x on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases

1x on other purchases

2x on eligible American Airlines, at restaurants and gas purchases

1x on other purchases

2x on eligible Delta purchases, dining at restaurants, and U.S. supermarket purchases

1x on other purchases

6x on JetBlue purchases

2x on dining and eligible grocery purchases

1x on other purchases

3x spent on Southwest purchases

2x on local transit and commuting (including rideshare)

2x on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming

1x on other purchases.

2x on United, dining, and hotel purchases

1x on other purchases

Priority boardingNoneGroup 5Main Cabin 1NoneNoneGroup 2
Free checked bagsCardholder and up to six companionsCardholder and up to four companionsCardholder and up to eight companionsCardholder and up to three companionsN/A - all passengers get two free checked bagsCardholder and one companion
In-flight discounts20% off purchases25% off food and beverages20% off food, beverages and headsets50% off cocktails and food25% back on inflight purchases25% off food, beverages and WiFi
Foreign transaction feesNoneNoneNone (see rates & fees)NoneNoneNone
Other benefitsAnnual Companion Fare$125 AA flight discount after spending $20,000 or ore each cardmember year and after renewal$100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 each year

Secondary rental car protection*

Purchase protection**

Extended warranty***

Earn Mosaic status after $50,000 spend each year

5,000 bonus points each year

Up to $100 statement credit annually for JetBlue vacations

6,000 anniversary points each year

Lost luggage reimbursement

Baggage delay insurance

Extended warranty protection

Purchase protection

Earn PQPs towards elite status based on spending

Up to $100 every 4 years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

2, one-time United Club passes each year

Complimentary upgrades on award tickets

Travel protections

Primary car rental insurance

Purchase protection

Extended warranty

*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered, and geographic restrictions apply. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.

**Eligibility and benefit levels vary by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

***Eligibility and benefit levels vary by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

Alaska Airlines Visa® Signature credit card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $75

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Current sign-up bonus: Get 50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Why it's worth it: The Alaska Airlines Visa credit card is most famous for its annual Companion Fare. This benefit allows the cardholder to book a paid round-trip economy airfare on the airline and add a companion for only $99 plus taxes. Best of all, the primary ticket can be purchased for someone else, too, and both the first passenger and the companion earn miles and are eligible for upgrades, just like with a paid ticket.

As a new cardholder, you'll earn 50,000 bonus miles after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. Eligible purchases from Alaska Airlines earn 3 miles per $1, while all other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar. Cardholders also receive 20% back on in-flight purchases.

Related: Your guide to earning and redeeming with Alaska Airlines MileagePlan

The card provides one free checked bag for the cardholder and up to six guests on the same reservation. With checked bag fees of $30 each way, that's a savings of $60 per person on every round-trip flight.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $99; waived for the first 12 months

Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first three months.

Why it's worth it: The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard earns cardholders 2 miles per dollar spent on dining, gas, and American Airlines purchases. These bonus categories are a quick way to earn enough miles for a free flight.

A welcome bonus of 50,000 miles is earned when you spend at least $2,500 in three months. When you take advantage of American's low-cost web specials, this is enough miles for multiple award flights. You'll also earn a $125 flight credit when you spend $20,000 each account year and renew your card.

The big savings comes with people who check their bags. Cardholders and up to four companions traveling on the same itinerary can get their first bags checked for free. That's a savings of $60 per person on round-trip flights.

Related: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard review

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees)

Current welcome bonus: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.

Why it's worth it: Delta passengers should apply for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card because it provides the most free checked bags of any of the best airline credit cards with annual fees of under $100. The cardholder and up to eight companions on the same itinerary can check their first bag for free, which is a savings of $60 per person on each round-trip itinerary.

When you spend $10,000 in a calendar year, you'll receive a $100 flight credit towards future travel on Delta. That benefit alone offsets the annual fee that you're charged. Plus, since the intro annual fee is $0 the first year, you can earn extra miles and use all of the card's perks for a full 12 months before paying any fees.

Related: Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card review

JetBlue Plus Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $99

Current sign-up bonus: 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 and pay the annual fee within the first 90 days.

Why it's worth it: The JetBlue Plus Card provides a generous solid bonus of 40,000 points after spending just $1,000 in the first 90 days. Plus, cardholders earn an additional 5,000 bonus points every year that they renew the card. With JetBlue points worth 1.3 cents on average according to TPG valuations, this welcome bonus is worth $520 and the annual bonus is worth $65.

Cardholders receive the first checked bag free for themselves and up to three companions on the same reservation, which saves the $35 fee each way. For a family of four, that's a savings of $280 on a round-trip flight. Plus, you'll save 50% on in-flight food and cocktail purchases.

Big spenders can earn JetBlue Mosaic status when they spend $50,000 on purchases in a calendar year. Mosaic status includes an extra 3 points per dollar spent with JetBlue, free same-day changes, free checked bags and in-flight drinks, priority boarding, and free same-day Even More Space seat selection.

Related: JetBlue Plus Card review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Annual fee: $99

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
.

Why it's worth it: LUV is in the air with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. Not only can cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, but they'll also earn 3 points per dollar on dining, including restaurants, takeout, and eligible delivery services, for the first year.

The welcome bonus and all of your points from spending count toward qualifying for the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. I've had the Companion Pass every year since 2007, and it saves my family thousands of dollars each year on flights.

Cardholders also receive 6,000 anniversary points when you renew your card each year. With Southwest points worth an average of 1.5 cents each, that's $90 towards future travel that comes close to offsetting the card's annual fee.

Related: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card review

United Explorer Card

Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee the first year, then $95

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

Why it's worth it: The United Explorer Card is the only one on this list that includes airline club passes (two one-time United Club passes each year), upgrade eligibility on award tickets, and reimbursement of up to $100 for either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee once every four years (4 1/2 for PreCheck). Cardholders are also eligible for complimentary Premier Upgrades on United award tickets when available. These benefits, plus the fact that the first year's annual fee is waived, make it a no-brainer to try out.

Cardholders earn 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, dining, and hotel stays booked directly with hotels. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar. Folks with this card also receive a first checked bag free for themselves and one companion traveling on the same reservation. Although this is the lowest number of free checked bags of any card on this list, it still amounts to a potential savings of $140 per round-trip itinerary.

Related: United Explorer Card review

Bottom line

Airline credit cards offer numerous benefits for travelers. Although some of the best airline credit cards charge annual fees, you can still expect benefits of free checked bags, discounts on in-flight purchases, and priority boarding with those that charge $100 or less per year to carry.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card, click here.

Updated on 9/7/22.

Featured image by (Photo by NYC Russ / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees