Best airline credit cards with annual fees under $100

Aug 12, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

New to The Points Guy? Sign up for our daily newsletter and check out our beginner’s guide.

In This Post

Best airline credit cards with annual fees under $100

The information for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and 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 card Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card JetBlue Plus Card Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card United Explorer Card
Welcome offer 50,000 miles & Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22) after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days of account opening 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months of account opening 70,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months of account opening. Offer ends 11/10/2021 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and paying annual fee Up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months. Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
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 power 3x 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 boarding None Group 5 Main Cabin 1 None None Group 2
Free checked bags Cardholder and up to six companions Cardholder and up to four companions Cardholder and up to eight companions Cardholder and up to three companions N/A – all passengers get two free checked bags Cardholder and one companion
In-flight discounts 20% off purchases

50% off Alaska Lounge day passes

25% off food and beverages 20% off food, beverages and headsets 50% off cocktails and food 25% back on inflight purchases 25% off food, beverages and WiFi
Foreign transaction fees None None None (see rates & fees) None None None
Other benefits Annual 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

Alaska Airlines Visa® Signature credit card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $75

Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus miles and a Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 in purchases within 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 spending $2,000 in the first 90 days. Eligible purchases from Alaska Airlines earn 3 miles per $1, while all other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar. Cardholders receive 20% back on in-flight purchases and 50% off day passes for Alaska Lounge access.

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.

Related: Alaska Airlines Visa credit card review

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: 70,000 bonus miles when you make $2,000 in purchases within the first three months. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

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

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $99

Current sign-up bonus: up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

Why it’s worth it: LUV is in the air with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. Not only can cardholders earn a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 points after spending a total of $12,000 within 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 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

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.

Featured photo by NYC Russ for Shutterstock.com.

Updated on 9/08/21

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time 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 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.