The best airline credit cards of 2020

Feb 28, 2020

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.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

If you spend a good chunk of your annual budget on flights, it’s usually a smart move to have a credit card that earns bonus miles on airline purchases and gives you extra perks and benefits when you travel. If you fly frequently with a specific airline, you should absolutely consider getting one of its cobranded credit cards. You can also get a more general travel credit card that still provides value on airline purchases.

This guide covers the top airline credit cards — including both cobranded and travel credit cards that earn transferable point currencies — to help you decide which card might be right for you.

The overall best card to have for airline purchases is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, one of the undeniable best credit cards. Earning 2x points on travel and dining purchases means you’re being rewarded no matter which airline you fly or what site you book your tickets through.

Plus, Ultimate Rewards points are flexible — you can use them at a fixed value for travel booked through Chase or transfer them to different hotel and airline partners, such as United, Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt and more.

Let’s take a deeper look at the best airline cards for all different kinds of travelers.

The best airline rewards credit cards

Comparing best airline rewards credit card offers

 

CREDIT  card Best for Annual fee Bonus value**
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Travel insurance $95 $1,200
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Easy to use rewards $95, waived the first year $700
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card Occasional Delta flyers $99, waived the first year (see rates and fees) $840
Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card Regular Delta flyers $250 (see rates and fees) $1,200
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® Admirals Club access $450 $700
United Explorer Card United flyers $95 (waived the first year) $780
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card Alaska Airlines flyers $75 $820
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card Southwest loyalists $199 $1,500
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card Elite Delta flyers $550 (see rates and fees) $1,200
JetBlue Plus Card JetBlue flyers $99 $520
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® Occasional American Airlines flyers $99 $840

**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

The information for the JetBlue Plus, Southwest Performance Business 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.

TPG Award icon
2019 TPG
Reader Award Winner

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Learn More
using Chase's secure application

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

TPG Rating ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $95
TPG Valuation - $1,200 ?
We calculate the value of points and miles programs based on a combination of purchase price, redemption value, and factors like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies. Learn more.

Welcome Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Reward Rates

?
The amount of points or miles you’ll earn per dollar for spending in select categories.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Top Benefits

  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises though Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Information

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
  • Regular APR17.49% - 24.49% Variable
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Balance Transfer FeeEither $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Recommended CreditExcellent/Good

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Learn More
using Capital One's secure application

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

TPG Rating ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
TPG Valuation - $700 ?
We calculate the value of points and miles programs based on a combination of purchase price, redemption value, and factors like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies. Learn more.

Welcome Offer

50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Reward Rates

?
The amount of points or miles you’ll earn per dollar for spending in select categories.
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

Top Benefits

  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates; plus transfer your miles to over 15+ leading travel loyalty programs

More Information

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ leading travel loyalty programs
  • Named ‘Best Stand-Alone Card' by The Points Guy, 2019.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Intro APR on PurchasesN/A
  • Regular APR17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
  • Balance Transfer Fee$0
  • Recommended CreditExcellent, Good

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Learn More
using American Express's secure application
Terms & Restrictions Apply See rates & fees

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

TPG Rating ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
TPG Valuation - $840 ?
We calculate the value of points and miles programs based on a combination of purchase price, redemption value, and factors like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies. Learn more.

Welcome Offer

Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 4/1/2020.

Reward Rates

?
The amount of points or miles you’ll earn per dollar for spending in select categories.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

More Information

  • Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 4/1/2020.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • New! Get ready for your next trip - spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year and receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit to get you there sooner.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Regular APR15.74%-24.74% Variable
  • Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Balance Transfer FeeEither $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Recommended CreditExcellent/Good

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Learn More
using American Express's secure application
Terms & Restrictions Apply See rates & fees

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

TPG Rating ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $250
TPG Valuation - $1,200 ?
We calculate the value of points and miles programs based on a combination of purchase price, redemption value, and factors like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies. Learn more.

Welcome Offer

Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles. Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 4/1/2020.

Reward Rates

?
The amount of points or miles you’ll earn per dollar for spending in select categories.
  • New! Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • New! Earn 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

More Information

  • Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles. Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 4/1/2020.
  • New! 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. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • New! Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • New! Earn 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • 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.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Regular APR15.74%-24.74% Variable
  • Annual Fee$250
  • Balance Transfer FeeEither $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Recommended CreditExcellent/Good

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Learn More
using Citi's secure application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

TPG Rating ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $450
TPG Valuation - $700 ?
We calculate the value of points and miles programs based on a combination of purchase price, redemption value, and factors like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies. Learn more.

Welcome Offer

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Reward Rates

?
The amount of points or miles you’ll earn per dollar for spending in select categories.
  • 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases

More Information

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Regular APR15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$450
  • Balance Transfer Fee3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
  • Recommended CreditExcellent

United℠ Explorer Card

Learn More
using Chase's secure application

United℠ Explorer Card

TPG Rating ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $0 Intro for First Year, then $95
TPG Valuation - $780 ?
We calculate the value of points and miles programs based on a combination of purchase price, redemption value, and factors like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies. Learn more.

Welcome Offer

60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Reward Rates

?
The amount of points or miles you’ll earn per dollar for spending in select categories.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United
  • 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

More Information

  • Limited-time offer! Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Regular APR17.99% - 24.99% Variable
  • Annual Fee$0 Intro for First Year, then $95
  • Balance Transfer FeeEither $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Recommended CreditExcellent Credit
TPG Award icon
2019 TPG
Reader Award Winner

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Learn More
using American Express's secure application
Terms & Restrictions Apply See rates & fees

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

TPG Rating ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $550

Welcome Offer

Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs). Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 4/1/2020.

Reward Rates

?
The amount of points or miles you’ll earn per dollar for spending in select categories.
  • New! Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

More Information

  • Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs). Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 4/1/2020.
  • New! With Status Boost™, earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to four 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.
  • New! Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Complimentary access into the Delta SkyClubs® for you when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • New! Enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge when you book your Delta flight with your Reserve Card.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Regular APR15.74%-24.74% Variable
  • Annual Fee$550
  • Balance Transfer FeeEither $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Recommended CreditExcellent/Good

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

Learn More
using Citi's secure application

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

TPG Rating ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $99
TPG Valuation - $840 ?
We calculate the value of points and miles programs based on a combination of purchase price, redemption value, and factors like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies. Learn more.

Welcome Offer

Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Reward Rates

?
The amount of points or miles you’ll earn per dollar for spending in select categories.
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

More Information

  • Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Regular APR15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$99
  • Balance Transfer Fee3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
  • Recommended CreditExcellent/Good

The best airline rewards credit cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months — worth $1,200, according to TPG valuations

Rewards: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining

Why it’s the best airline card for travel insurance: We’ve long suggested the Chase Sapphire Preferred for those who are new to earning travel rewards because it lets you earn valuable, transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points with strong bonus categories and a reasonable annual fee.

It’s particularly useful as an airline credit card, since the points earned on this card can transfer to United, Southwest, British Airways and six other airlines. It’s also a Chase credit card that provides some great built-in travel protections if you use it to purchase your travel. If you apply for this card now, you can earn the bonus in time to book your summer travel in 2020. When those points hit your account after three months, it will be like an early Christmas present to yourself.

Additionally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a myriad of travel protections including:

  • Baggage delay: Up to $100 reimbursed per day for up to five days if your baggage is delayed more than six hours
  • Lost/damaged baggage: $3,000 per passenger, but only $500 per passenger for jewelry, watches, cameras and other electronic equipment
  • Trip delay reimbursement: Up to $500 per ticket if you’re delayed more than 12 hours or require an overnight stay
  • Trip cancellation and interruption protection: Up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses
  • Travel accident insurance: Accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $100,000 (up to $500,000 for common carrier travel)
  • Rental car coverage: Primary coverage for damages caused by theft or collision up to the actual cash value of most rented cars on rentals of 31 days or less

Annual fee: $95

Further reading: Chase Sapphire Preferred card review

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months — worth $700, according to TPG valuations

Rewards: Earn 2x miles on all purchases

Why it’s the best airline card for simple rewards earning: Generally speaking, airline credit cards tend to offer a limited number of bonus categories (that includes either airfare as a whole or spending with a specific airline, depending on the card). That can make it hard to justify using an airline credit card for more than just specific airline expenses.

That’s where the Venture differs from other airline cards and in my opinion, it’s the card’s biggest strength. You’re earning a flat rate 2x points across all purchases, which is great for anyone looking for a one-and-done simple credit card for all spending.

You can then use the miles earned to “erase” any travel purchase at a rate of 1 cent per mile or you can transfer miles to one of Capital One’s transfer partners — which just expanded to include some new hotel partners.

Cardholders also get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years (up to $100), which is a rare benefit for a card with a $95 annual fee.

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Further reading: Capital One Venture card review

APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles: 60,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months and an additional 10,000 miles after your first card anniversary. This bonus is worth up to $840, according to TPG’s valuations. (Offer expires 4/1/2020 )

Rewards: 2x miles on eligible Delta purchases, restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and 1x on everything else.

Why it’s the best airline card for occasional Delta flyers: The Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card is the airline’s entry-level card with a $99 annual fee (see rates and fees). With this card, you’ll get a free checked bag, priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) and 20% in savings on inflight purchases.

A recent refresh of the card added expanded earning categories and a $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 in a calendar year. Unfortunately, you are no longer able to use this card to earn a waiver of the Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) requirement for elite status and you’ll no longer have discounted Sky Club access.

If you’re an occasional Delta flyer who wants a way to earn bonus miles while enjoying a few elite-status-like perks, this might be the card for you.

Annual fee: $99, waived the first year

Further reading: Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card review

APPLY HERE: Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Up to 100,000 bonus miles (an all-time high). Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months, plus an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of card membership.

This bonus is worth up to $1,200, according to TPG’s valuations. (Offer expires 4/1/2020.)

Rewards: 3x on eligible Delta flights and Delta Vacations and purchases made directly with hotels, 2x restaurants and U.S. supermarkets

Why it’s the best airline card for regular Delta flyers: The new changes to the card mean a higher annual fee, but you’re also getting a few added benefits to help maximize your travel experience. The card has added enhanced spending categories and a (long overdue) TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit (up to $100).

For those hoping to hit elite status, you will still be able to use this card as a way to get Delta’s MQDs requirement for elite status waived (up to the Platinum level) when you spend $25,000 on it in a calendar year.

You can also earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you spend $25,000 in a year and another 10,000 MQMs if you spend $50,000 in a year (though keep in mind you will no longer get the bonus miles that used to accompany the MQMs). So if you need just a little help hitting your desired Medallion status, this card is one way to help you get it.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Further reading: Platinum Delta SkyMiles card review

APPLY HERE: Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)
Get Admirals Club access with the Citi AAdvantage Executive card. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months — worth $700, according to TPG valuations

Rewards: 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1 mile per dollar on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for Admirals Club: If you fly American frequently, this card is worth having for the perks it provides. It comes with an Admirals Club airport lounge membership that gets you and your immediate family (or up to two guests) into dozens of club locations around the world, when you have a same-day boarding pass for an eligible American Airlines or select partner airline flight.

You’ll get priority check-in, airport screening and boarding when flying American, a first bag checked free for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application-fee credit (up to $100) every five years.

The card also offers a way to earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) towards AAdvantage elite status when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Annual fee: $450

Further reading: Citi AAdvantage Executive Card review

APPLY HERE: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

United Explorer Card

Welcome bonus: For a limited time, earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.The full bonus is worth $780, according to TPG’s valuations.

Rewards: 2x miles on United purchases and at restaurants and hotels, 1 mile per dollar on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for United flyers: The entry-level United personal credit card earns 2 miles per dollar spent on restaurants, hotels and United purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

The main perks include a free checked bag for you and one companion on the same reservation, as long as you purchase your ticket (or any taxes and fees on an award ticket) from United account using the Explorer Card.

You’ll also get priority boarding, two, one-time United Club passes each year, a 25% discount on inflight United purchases and access to additional award space at potentially lower award rates

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Further reading: United Explorer Card review

APPLY HERE: United Explorer Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737s in Seattle (Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy)
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737s in Seattle. (Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Limited time offer of 40,000 miles, plus a $100 statement credit and Alaska’s companion fare from $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22), after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening — worth $820, according to TPG valuations.

Rewards: 3x miles on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases, 1x mile on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for earning Alaska Airlines miles: There is a lot to love about the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card. First, you’re getting a solid welcome bonus that includes a companion fare (which potentially adds hundreds of dollars in value).

In addition, you get your first checked bag free, 50% off Alaska Lounge day passes and the companion fare from $121 each year after your account anniversary. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who flies Alaska Airlines or its partners throughout the year.

Annual fee: $75

Further reading: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card review

APPLY HERE: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

A Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737-700 (Registration N713SW) taxis on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, March 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif. © 2019 Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy
(Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Earn up to 100,000 bonus points: 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening,  plus an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first six months. According to TPG valuations, this bonus is worth up to $1,500.

Rewards: 3x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, 2x points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services and 1x point on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for Southwest business travelers: If you’re a Southwest fanatic (like TPG’s own Benet Wilson), this card helps you rack up Rapid Rewards points along with the best lineup of Southwest-specific benefits among the airline’s five consumer and small business cards.

You’re getting four upgraded boardings to use each year, lowering your chances of getting stuck in an undesirable seat, 9,000 points every year on your cardmember anniversary, up to $100 every four years to cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment fee and 365 Wi-Fi credits per year.

You can also earn Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) toward A-List status by hitting annual spending requirements. This card comes with the highest annual fee of Southwest’s business credit cards, but at $199 it’s still incredibly affordable for anyone who frequently flies with Southwest.

Since any points you earn on this card count toward the Companion Pass, you could be that much closer to nearly two years worth of free flights for a friend or family member.

Annual fee: $199

Further reading: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card review

APPLY HERE: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Up to 100,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs, an all-time high for this card. Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 bonus MQMs after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months, plus earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of card membership. TPG values this bonus at $1,200. (Offer expires 4/1/2020)

Rewards: 3x on eligible Delta purchases

Why it’s the best airline card for elite Delta flyers: The Delta Reserve Card is the airline’s most expensive, with a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). The card comes with a free Sky Club lounge membership and two one-time passes for guests each year. You can also bring up to two guests for $39 per person per visit.

You also receive a free checked bag and priority boarding for up to eight travelers on the same reservation, no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) and 20% in savings on inflight purchases.

This card can also help you achieve Delta Medallion elite status, since you’ll earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year. Considering you get a MQD elite waiver (for up to Platinum status) after spending $25,000 in a year, this card could get you Delta Gold Medallion status without you ever having to step foot on a plane — or Platinum status if you can snag the above welcome offer and hit the $120,000 spending threshold.

You also receive a round-trip companion certificate every year when you renew the card, valid for domestic first class, Delta Comfort+ or domestic Main Cabin.

Finally, you’ll now enjoy complimentary upgrades as a non-Medallion member and a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit.

If you’re a regular Delta flyer who wants the luxury perks, this is your card.

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Further reading: Delta Reserve Amex card review

APPLY HERE: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

JetBlue Plus Card

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
JetBlue’s Mint is one of the best domestic business class products and you can redeem TrueBlue points for it. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days — worth $520, according to TPG’s valuations. However, we have seen reports of targeted offers of up to 60,000 points, so be on the lookout for those.

Rewards: 6x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, 1x point on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for JetBlue flyers: If you’re looking to use credit card spending to hit elite status with JetBlue, the JetBlue Plus Card can help. You’ll earn JetBlue Mosaic elite status after you spend $50,000 each year with the card.

The JetBlue Plus also comes with some nice benefits when you fly JetBlue, including a free checked bag (which even applies on new Blue Basic fares), an unlimited 10% rebate when you redeem points, a 50% discount on inflight purchases and 5,000 bonus points on your account anniversary — all of which could make this a long-term keeper in your wallet.

Annual fee: $99

Further reading: JetBlue Plus card review 

APPLY HERE: JetBlue Plus Card

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

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 60,000 miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — worth $840, according to TPG valuations.

Rewards: 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, restaurants and gas stations, 1x mile on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for casual American Airlines flyers: For a low $99 annual fee, you’re getting a card that earns bonus miles across multiple categories and provides a few elite-type perks such as a free checked bag, inflight discounts and priority boarding.

While you aren’t getting any luxury benefits like Admirals Club access, this is a great option for anyone who travels on American Airlines just a few times per year.

If you spend $20,000 in a calendar year and renew the card, you’ll also get a $125 American Airlines flight discount. Plus, the card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 miles when you hit minimum spending requirements.

Further reading: Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select review

APPLY HERE: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Airline credit cards with no annual fee

The best airline credit cards offer a panoply of perks that save travelers time, money and stress. The benefits that most airline cards confer seem fairly standard at this point, with only slight variations from one product to another.

Those incentives typically include free checked bags, some measure of priority in the boarding process, the ability to earn multiple miles per dollar on airfare and other purchases. You’ll even find airport lounge access and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application-fee reimbursements at the higher echelons. Unfortunately, the airline credit cards that offer these advantages often charge annual fees ranging from $95-$450.

Sensing an opportunity to attract younger customers or those who might just be getting started with credit, as well as customers who prefer earning miles over elite-style benefits, several airlines have introduced new no-annual-fee airline credit cards with pared-down perks.

These cards may not offer the same rewards as their more expensive counterparts, but they are worth considering in some cases. For example, if you want to hang onto a credit card for several years without having to shell out an annual each fee each year, a no-annual-fee card can be a good solution.

Airline  card Welcome Bonus  Bonus value**
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months $190
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card (see rates and fees) 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. Offer ends 4/1/2020. Terms apply. $180
JetBlue Credit Card 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days $130
United TravelBank Credit Card $150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months $150

**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Welcome bonus: 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases within three months of account opening

Rewards: 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores (including delivery services), 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases

Why you should consider it: The MileUp Card is a decent option to start earning in the AAdvantage program without having to fly frequently or pay an annual fee.

Though its sign-up bonus is low, applicants don’t have to worry about hitting high minimum spending requirements. Likewise, travelers who already enjoy travel benefits on American thanks to elite status but want a card that makes earning on tickets and grocery purchases easier might find this card useful.

Fees: There’s no annual fee, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee.

APPLY HERE: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

Welcome bonus: 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. (Offer expires 4/1/2020.)

Rewards: This card offers you double miles at restaurants worldwide as well as on all Delta purchases, including Sky Club membership or passes, Delta Vacations packages, seat upgrades and inflight purchases of food, beverages and audio headsets. You earn 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

Why you should consider it: If you want a major mileage haul and benefits that mimic Delta Medallion status, you’re better off carrying one of the more premium Delta credit cards. However, if you already enjoy elite status or simply want to rack up miles on everyday purchases including a bonus at restaurants, all without an annual fee (see rates and fees), the Blue version might be a good choice for you.

You’ll also now get access to Pay with Miles and enjoy no foreign transaction fees with the card’s recent refresh.

Fees: No annual fee (see rates and fees), no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)

APPLY HERE: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

JetBlue Credit Card

Welcome bonus: 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening

Rewards: 3x points on all JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere

Why you should consider it: Both the JetBlue Card and the JetBlue Plus Card are great products. If you don’t mind paying a $99 annual fee, the JetBlue Plus offers several extra benefits, including a higher welcome offer, an anniversary bonus, redemption refunds, statement credits and a shot at Mosaic status.

If the majority of your spending is on non-JetBlue purchases and you prefer a card with no annual fee, you might as well get the regular JetBlue Card since it earns the same number of points on non-airline spending.

Fees: No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

United TravelBank Credit Card

Welcome bonus: $150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening

Rewards: Earn 2% of your spending back in TravelBank cash on tickets purchased from United. You also earn 1.5% in TravelBank cash spent on all other purchases.

Unlike miles, a dollar of TravelBank cash equals a dollar of credit that you can use toward the purchase of a ticket on flights operated by United, but not for flights operated by Star Alliance carriers or other partners. TravelBank cash can be used alone or combined with select forms of payment during the purchase.

Why you should consider it: The TravelBank Card’s two main attributes are its lack of an annual fee and a solid 1.5% earning rate on everyday purchases. However, the fact that you can only redeem the cash back you earn for United tickets limits its usefulness.

The United Explorer Card is probably a better all-around choice for most frequent flyers thanks to its travel benefits, multiple bonus earning categories and the usefulness of United MileagePlus miles for awards not only on United flights, but also on flights of its Star Alliance and other partners.

Fees: No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

The information for the United TravelBank Credit 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.

Do you need an airline credit card?

Cobranded airline credit cards usually don’t offer the highest return on spending for airfare purchases, so if you’re simply looking to maximize your spending, you’d do better with a card that earns valuable transferable points. That being said, airline credit cards are worth looking at for the airline-specific perks they offer.

Just about every type of traveler can take advantage of an airline card, whether you’re a beginner to the points and miles game or a seasoned frequent flyer.

Most airline credit cards include benefits like a free checked bag, early boarding and sometimes even discounts on inflight purchases — which can be particularly valuable if you live in a hub city for one of the major carriers.

Airline credit cards of a more premium nature can also include the option to earn elite-qualifying miles for those pursuing airline status and even lounge access in some cases. Those who need a little help hitting elite status or want to enjoy elite status-like benefits while they work to hit a tier can benefit from an airline card and its perks.

In short, having an airline credit card can make your flight experience more enjoyable (and even less expensive) if you frequently fly with a specific carrier, while those who simply pick the cheapest fare available may be better served by a card that earns transferable points. However, even those travelers could consider an airline credit card if they’re looking for miles to book a specific award itinerary for later this year.

How we chose the top airline credit cards

When we assembled our list of the best airline credit cards for this year, we took into account the extra value each card can bring to flyers with different travel needs and preferences. In this post, we’re looking at consumer airline and business airline credit cards, evaluating annual fees, travel perks, offer bonuses and spending requirements to compile the best airline credit cards

If you know what airline you want to travel on, it makes choosing an airline credit card much easier, but you can review our analysis of the best and worst airlines here to see what the major carriers offer.

At the end of the day, TPG staffers all have our favorites and there is no right or wrong preference. In fact, as you saw from the above list, most major airlines offer multiple cobranded options to fit the needs of a wide range of customers.

The difference between airline and travel credit cards

We included two travel credit cards — the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture — in our list because of their flexibility. Both of these cards are great for beginners, but luxury travelers who want to maximize airfare purchases should consider a card such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers 5x on airfare booked directly with the airline (a 10% return on spending according to our valuations).

As a rule, credit cards that earn transferable points (such as Amex, Capital One, Chase or Citi points) get you a better return on spending. They don’t usually have airline-specific perks or a way to earn elite status on airlines, but they do allow you to transfer points to a specific carrier’s loyalty program.

How to maximize your airline credit cards

The simplest way to make the most of your airline credit card(s) is to study every perk and benefit that comes with these products and then use them. If you check luggage on flights, you can save $60 round-trip with the free checked bag that typically comes with these cards — or even more if you have travel companions.

If the card comes with statement credits, complete the spending required to get them. Use fee credits to cover expenses such as airport lounge access, seat upgrades or inflight food and beverage purchases.

For those chasing airline elite status, see if your credit card offers a way to help achieve it. If it does, consider doing the spending required to get it — but remember the TPG Golden Rule of paying off your credit cards every month to get the maximum benefit.

You should also be sure to take advantage of free companion certificates to take a friend or loved one on a trip with you.

Finally, don’t overlook benefits such as extended warranty coverage and purchase and return protection.

Bottom line

Most airline credit card users will be better off paying an annual fee to enjoy far more benefits from their card, but there are some exceptions. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card is a great choice for infrequent travelers and Delta flyers who want to earn double miles at restaurants.

Likewise, the AAdvantage MileUp Card lets you earn double AAdvantage miles at supermarkets and grocery stores. Even the no-annual-fee JetBlue card from Barclays offers you double points at restaurants and grocery stores, along with 3x points for JetBlue purchases.

Every one of the airline cards with an annual fee offers at least one unique benefit not available on any other credit card. So if one of those perks fits your travel needs, you’ll want to consider paying an annual fee for an airline card. Just make sure your choice fits your travel goals.

Of course, if you’re a regular flyer on one of these airlines, definitely take a hard look at a higher-end cards to see if one of them can make your time in the air cheaper, more comfortable or more rewarding — or potentially all three.

Related guides:

Additional reporting by Eric Rosen and Benét J. Wilson.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Blue Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, please click here.  


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page with the best currently available airline credit cards, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older offers below.

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.