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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi Prestige CardJetBlue Plus Card

Are you planning on spending a significant amount on air travel this year? Every time you charge an airline ticket to your credit card, you have the opportunity to earn valuable bonus points or miles toward your next award trip. Before you miss the opportunity earn additional rewards on this spending, consider opening and using one of these eight top cards for airfare purchases:

The Top Cards for Airfare Purchases

1. Platinum Card from American Express
2. The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN
3. Chase Sapphire Reserve
4. Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
5. Citi ThankYou Premier Card
6. Citi Prestige Card
7. Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
8. Ink Business Preferred Card
9. JetBlue Plus Card

1. Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum card has always been known for its impressive benefits, but not for any special rewards for spending. But in late 2016, American Express made a key change to this card that now makes it perfect for airline purchases. You’ll now earn 5x points for airfare booked directly through the airline or Amex Travel. You also earn 5x points on hotels booked through Amex Travel, 2x points on other purchases from Amex Travel, and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Among numerous other cardholder benefits are a $200 annual airline fee credit, $200 in annual Uber credits and a $100 credit toward a Global Entry or $85 credit toward TSA PreCheck application. You also get access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, plus a Priority Pass Select lounge membership and access to the Centurion network of lounges. Finally, you receive Gold status with Hilton and Starwood (hence Marriott as well), and elite status with Avis, Hertz and National car rentals. There’s a $550 annual fee for this card (and it recently launched new benefits on March 30, 2017), and no foreign transaction fees.

2. The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN

Until recently, the personal Amex Platinum was the card to use for purchasing airfare, while the Business Platinum made the most sense on the redemption side due to the 35% rebate it offers when you use Pay with Points to book first or business-class airfare with any airline or any class of airfare with your selected carrier. As of March 30, however, you’ll earn 5x points on airfare (as well as on prepaid hotels) booked through Amex Travel. Unlike with the personal Amex Platinum, you won’t earn 5 points per dollar on tickets purchased directly through the airline, but if you’re able to find what you need through the Amex portal, paying with the business card will get you the same impressive 10% return (based on TPG’s valuations).

Other benefits include a $200 annual airline fee credit, a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application and Priority Pass lounge access with two free guests (as of March 30, 2017). This card has a $450 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

3. Chase Sapphire Reserve

The introduction of this card was the number-one story in the credit card industry in 2016. Its popularity went mainstream, and for good reason. With the Sapphire Reserve, you earn 3x points on all travel expenses, including not just airfare, but hotels, car rentals and even parking and tolls. You also get 3x points on all dining purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. According to TPG’s latest monthly valuations, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2.2 cents each.

New cardholders receive 50,000 points as a sign-up bonus after using their card to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. Points are earned in the Ultimate Rewards program, which includes 11 airline and hotel transfer partners. Or, points are worth 1.5 cents each toward travel and activities booked through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Center.

Other benefits include an annual $300 travel statement credit, a Global Entry application fee credit and a Priority Pass Select membership that includes guests. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

4. Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express 

Earn 3x points on airfare with the Premier Rewards Gold Card, and redeem for flights on carriers such as Delta.

This card offers 3x Membership Rewards on airfare purchased directly from the airline. According to TPG’s latest monthly valuations, American Express Membership Rewards points are worth 2 cents each, so you’ll earn a 6% return for each dollar spent on airfare.

You also get 2x points at US restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets, and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere. Other benefits include an annual $100 airline fee credit, a baggage insurance plan and premium roadside assistance. There’s a $195 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

5. Citi ThankYou Premier Card

This card is another great choice for airfare purchases, as you earn 3x points on all travel expenses. You also receive 2x on dining and entertainment and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The points you earn are part of the Citi ThankYou Rewards program and are worth 1.6 cents each, according to TPG’s valuations.

Currently, you can transfer your ThankYou points to several different partners, now including JetBlue. Points can also be redeemed for 1.25 cents each toward airfare purchased through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center. There’s a $95 annual fee (waived for the first 12 months) for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

6. Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige is a premium pick that earns 3x points on airfare.

This premium rewards cards offers you 3x ThankYou points on all airline and hotel purchases, so based on TPG’s valuations you’ll get a 4.8% return on all airfare with this card. You’ll also get 2x points on all dining and entertainment expenses and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Other benefits include an annual $250 air travel credit, a $100 Global Entry application fee credit and a 4th Night Free when you book a hotel stay through Citi’s ThankYou travel center. You also get a lounge membership with Priority Pass Select. New customers can earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening for a limited time. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

7. Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN 

This business card offers you 3x Membership Rewards points on your choice of purchase category from a list of five, one of which is airfare purchased directly from airlines (on up to $100,000 spent annually). You also get 2x points on the four remaining categories (on up to $100,000 per year per category), and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

New applicants can earn 50,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. This card has a $175 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

8. Ink Business Preferred Card

The Ink Business Preferred Card includes travel (and therefore airfare) among its 3x bonus categories.

In addition to launching the Sapphire Reserve, Chase introduced the Ink Business Preferred Card in 2016, replacing the Ink Plus for new applicants. This card offers 3x points on airfare and everything else that Chase includes in its travel classification. You also receive 3x points on all shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. Note that the 3x earning rate applies to the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases across those categories. You’ll also earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

New applicants can earn 80,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 on their card within three months of account opening. This bonus alone is worth $1,760 according to TPG’s valuations. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

9. JetBlue Plus Card

The standard formula for a co-branded airline credit card is double miles for all ticket purchases made with the carrier, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. But what makes this card special is the incredible 6x TrueBlue points you’ll earn for all JetBlue purchases. You also get 2x points on all restaurant and grocery store purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. TPG values TrueBlue points at 1.2 cents apiece, so each ticket purchase will get you a 7.2% return on spending.

In addition to its great rewards, this card offers a strong sign-up of 30,000 points after you spend $1,000 within 90 days of account opening. Benefits include a free checked bag for yourself and up to three other companions, and a 50% savings on in-flight purchases. Cardholders also receive 10% of their redeemed points back, and a $100 statement credit after purchasing a Getaways vacation package from JetBlue. Finally, you can earn TrueBlue Mosaic status by spending $50,000 on this card in a calendar year. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

What’s your favorite card to maximize airfare purchases?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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.

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