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Co-branded airline credit cards like the United Explorer Card and the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard offer some great perks to frequent flyers and valuable welcome bonuses of several thousand miles, but earning these bonuses can require spending as much as $5,000 in the first three months after account opening. Not everyone can comfortably make such substantial charges in that timeframe, though, and fortunately you’re not out of luck if you’re in this boat.
The following airline cards offer welcome bonuses of points and miles that can get you well on your way to a free flight, and you won’t have to spend more than $1,000 in the first three months to earn any of them.
For info on card bonuses that only require a single purchase, like the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, see this post.
Current welcome bonus: 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months. According to TPG’s valuations, this bonus is worth $360. Bonus miles aren’t available to those who currently have or have had this product. You can also earn a $50 statement credit after making an eligible Delta purchase in the first three months.
Other benefits: 2x miles on eligible Delta purchases and 1x miles on all purchases. Travel benefits include your first bag checked free on Delta flights, access at $29 person to a Delta Sky Club for the cardholder and up to two travel companions, priority boarding, 20% off eligible in-flight purchases on Delta flights and no foreign transaction fees. Shopping benefits include extended warranty, return protection and purchase protection.
Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $95
Quick take: If you’re mainly interested in getting a card for the SkyMiles welcome bonus or don’t (or can’t) qualify for Delta elite status, the Gold Delta SkyMiles card is a better choice than the higher-fee Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
Current welcome bonus: Earn Companion Pass and 30,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. (Companion Pass is promotional and will be valid through 12/31/19.)
Other benefits: 2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases; 1x points on all other purchases. Receive 6,000 Southwest points, which TPG values at $90, on each cardmember anniversary. No foreign transaction fees. Spending on this card earns qualifying points toward A-list Status and Companion Pass.
Annual fee: $99
Quick take: This card is the mid-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card and a card I’ve decided to keep long-term since the 6,000 points I get every anniversary effectively wipes out the $99 annual fee. However, if you want more benefits with a higher annual fee or less benefits with a lower annual fee, two other Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards currently offer the exact same sign-up bonus: the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card with a $69 annual fee and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card with a $149 annual fee.
Current welcome bonus: 30,000 miles and a companion fare code after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days. This companion fare code allows a round-trip coach companion fare on Alaska Airlines from $22 ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) when traveling with another passenger on a paid published coach airfare on the same itinerary and booked at the same time on alaskaair.com. TPG’s most recent valuations peg the bonus miles alone at $540.
Other benefits: Earn 3x miles on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1x on all other purchases. Travel benefits include no foreign transaction fees, a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation and a companion fare code each year on your account anniversary. This code works the same as the one that’s part of the welcome bonus, except that the cost is from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22).
Annual fee: $75
Quick take: Between the companion ticket, the welcome bonus miles and decent earning on Alaska Airlines, this card can be a strong choice.
Current welcome bonus: 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 within the first three months. 10,000 AAdvantage miles are worth $140 based on TPG’s valuations. The statement credit and bonus miles aren’t available if you’ve had an AAdvantage MileUp card opened or closed in the past 24 months.
Other benefits: Earn 2x miles on grocery store and American Airlines purchases; 1x on all other purchases. 25% savings when this card is used for food and beverage purchases on board American Airlines flights.
Annual fee: $0
Quick take: The 10,000 mile sign-up bonus offered with this card is much less than the sign-up bonuses currently offered by other American Airlines co-branded credit cards. But, this card offers no annual fee and a very low spend required to earn the sign-up bonus. Plus, a 2.8% return on grocery and American Airlines purchases is great for a no annual fee card.
Current welcome bonus: 10,000 miles after spending $500 within the first three months, TPG’s most recent valuations peg this 10,000-mile bonus at $120. The bonus isn’t available to those who currently have or have ever had this product or the Delta SkyMiles Options Credit Card. The bonus is also not available to those who currently have or have had other Delta cards within the last 90 days.
Other benefits: 2x miles on eligible Delta purchases and at US restaurants and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. 20% off eligible in-flight purchases on Delta. Shopping benefits include extended warranty, return protection and purchase protection.
Annual fee: $0
Quick take: This card offers a relatively small welcome bonus, but its lack of an annual fee and $500 minimum spend may be attractive to some in search of SkyMiles for a Delta or SkyTeam award.
Current welcome bonus: 40,000 points after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days. According to TPG’s most recent valuations, 40,000 JetBlue points are worth $520. Bonus points are only offered to first-time cardmembers with new accounts.
Other benefits: Earn 6x points on eligible JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x points on all other purchases. Get the first checked bag free for the cardholder and up to three travel companions on the same reservation when flying on a Blue fare on a JetBlue-operated flight and paying with this credit card. Earn TrueBlue Mosaic for at least a year after spending $50,000 within a calendar year on this card. 10% of points are returned to your account after making a redemption. Travel benefits include no foreign transaction fees, 50% off eligible in-flight purchases on JetBlue and a $100 statement credit each calendar year that a JetBlue Vacations package of more than $100 is bought using this credit card. Finally, earn 5,000 points annually after your account anniversary, which TPG values at $65.
Annual fee: $99
Quick take: There are many reasons to sign up for the JetBlue Plus Card if you fly on JetBlue. In fact, TPG’s Nick Ewen calculates that the card gave him $793.62 in value during his first year as a cardholder.
Current welcome bonus: 40,000 miles after spending $500 within the first 90 days. According to TPG valuations, those miles are worth $440. You might not be eligible for the bonus if you currently have or previously had a Frontier Airlines World Mastercard.
Other benefits: Earn 5x miles on purchases at FlyFrontier.com, 3x on restaurant purchases and 1x on all other purchases. Unlock family pooling of Frontier miles for up to nine people as well as the ability to spend to elite status. Get priority boarding in Group 2 when flying Frontier. As the primary cardmember, you’ll also get the award redemption fees assessed by Frontier waived when using miles from your account when you pay all fees and taxes using this card. Making one purchase every six months on this card keeps your Frontier miles from expiring.
Annual fee: $79
Quick take: Frontier recently overhauled its loyalty program and credit card. If you’re willing to fly Frontier, this card’s bonus could get you up to four one-way flights within the US and Puerto Rico. And if you and/or your family fly Frontier frequently, having this card unlocks valuable family pooling and the ability to spend to get elite status.
TD Aeroplan Visa Signature Credit Card
Current welcome bonus: 25,000 miles after spending $1,000 within the first three billing cycles. 25,000 Aeroplan miles are worth $375 based on TPG’s valuations. This welcome bonus is a one-time bonus, so you might not be eligible if you’ve received this bonus before.
Other benefits: Earn 2x miles on Air Canada purchases and 1x on all other purchases. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $95
Quick take: You can earn a solid number of Aeroplan miles with this card, so it could make sense if Air Canada or one of its partners is your priority for award redemptions. Just keep in mind that the future of the Aeroplan program is uncertain: Aeroplan and Air Canada originally decided to part ways in mid-2020 but now Air Canada is set to buy back Aeroplan and may decide to transfer Aeroplan points to Air Canada’s new program at a 1:1 ratio.
If you are a Delta flyer who is looking to bank some extra miles this card is a great addition for your wallet. While you'll earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else, you'll also have access to other perks like priority boarding, a first bag checked free and discounted Delta Sky Club access.
- Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
- Earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
- Check your first bag free on Delta flights - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
- Want even more flexibility? Pay with Miles is a Card Member feature that gives you the option to redeem miles for all or part of the price of your tickets on Delta.com.
- Settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding.
- Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Terms Apply.
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