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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, see this post.

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Current welcome bonus: 10,000 miles after spending $500 within the first three months. Plus, for a limited time, earn 2 miles per dollar and up to $50 in statement credits on eligible US Lyft purchases during the first six months of card membership. 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 1x miles on all 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.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Current welcome bonus: 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months. According to TPG’s valuations, this bonus is worth $720. 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.

Citi / AAdvantage Gold World Elite Mastercard

Current welcome bonus: 25,000 miles after spending $750 within the first three months. TPG’s most recent valuation pegs this bonus at $350. Bonus miles aren’t available if you’ve have opened or closed any Citi / AAdvantage card (other than a CitiBusiness / AAdvantage card) in the past 24 months.

Other benefits: Earn 1x miles on all purchases. Use this card for a 25% discount on eligible in-flight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines-operated flights. Access to Reduced Mileage Awards. Travel and shopping benefits include price protection, extended warranty and lost baggage protection.

Annual fee: $0 first year, then $50

Quick take: This card can make sense if you want to avoid paying a substantial annual fee and need a lower minimum spending requirement. However, the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, which only requires one purchase in the first 90 days to get the bonus, is likely a better choice.

JetBlue Plus Card

Points from the JetBlue Plus Card’s bonus can help you unlock an award flight in Mint class.

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.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Get a companion fare code with the Alaska Visa Signature Card.

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.

Frontier Airlines $69 Annual Fee World Mastercard

(Photo by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr)

Current welcome bonus: 40,000 miles after spending $500 within the first 90 days. According to TPG valuations, those miles are worth $440.

Other benefits: Earn 2x miles on purchases at FlyFrontier.com and 1x on all other purchases. As the primary cardmember, you’ll get the award redemption fees assessed by Frontier Airlines 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. Earn a $100 Frontier Airlines flight discount voucher after your account anniversary if you’ve spent at least $2,500 on this card during the previous 12 months.

Annual fee: $69

Quick take: 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. However, it’s likely not a card to keep long-term due to limited benefits and the annual fee. The Frontier Airlines No Annual Fee World Mastercard, which provides a smaller welcome bonus after making just one purchase, is a better option for those looking to use the card a few times a year solely to keep Frontier miles from expiring.

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.

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 Aeroplan program and the airline are parting ways in mid-2020, after which time the Aeroplan program will continue to operate, just without affiliation with the carrier.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

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.

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More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you make $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months. Offer expires on 9/19/2018.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49%-26.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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