The best airline credit cards of December 2020

Nov 25, 2020

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Airline credit cards can be an excellent addition to your wallet if you fly frequently with a certain airline. However, you might wonder why anyone would get an airline card while we’re all staying at home.

Although many TPG staffers have paused travel in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare now in order to make excellent redemptions once travel is safe again. As local and federal governments continue to make plans to reopen, many people are starting to plan trips for later in 2020 and into 2021. Many of the cards on this list offer great sign-up bonuses or earning structures that you can use to build miles now that you can redeem for an excellent getaway later.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

While you can get a more general travel credit card that still provides value on airline purchases, this guide covers the top airline credit cards — both cobranded cards and travel credit cards that earn transferable point currencies — to help you decide which ones might be right for you.

The best airline rewards credit cards

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The best airline credit card offers from our partners

Here are the top offers available from our partners right now.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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using Capital One's secure application

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

TPG Rating Full Star Full Star Full Star Full Star Half Star ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $95
TPG Valuation - $1,400 ?
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

Ends December 14, 2020: Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

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 10+ leading travel loyalty programs

More Information

  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 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✓®
  • Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named ‘Best Stand-Alone Card' by The Points Guy, 2019
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Intro APR on PurchasesN/A
  • Regular APR17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Balance Transfer Fee$0
  • Recommended CreditExcellent, Good

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

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

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

TPG Rating Full Star Full Star Full Star Full Star Half Star ?
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 - $420 ?
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 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

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, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

More Information

  • Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn now. Travel when you're ready. After you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year, you will receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit to inspire your next travel.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • 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 FeeN/A
  • Recommended CreditExcellent/Good

 

United℠ Explorer Card

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using Chase's secure application

United℠ Explorer Card

TPG Rating Full Star Full Star Full Star Full Star Half Star ?
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

60k bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10k bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.

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
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash
  • 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

More Information

  • 60k bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10k bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on United purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ fee credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 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 at restaurants and eligible delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash
  • Regular APR16.49% to 23.49% 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

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

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using Citi's secure application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

TPG Rating Full Star Full Star Full Star Full Star Empty Star ?
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
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 Full Star Full Star Full Star Full Star Half Star ?
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Annual Fee: $550
TPG Valuation - $480 ?
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 40,000 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.

Reward Rates

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

More Information

  • Earn 40,000 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.
  • With Status Boost™, earn 15,000 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.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • Complimentary access into the Delta SkyClubs® for you when travelling on a Delta flight.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge when you book your Delta flight with your Reserve Card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Regular APR15.74%-24.74% Variable
  • Annual Fee$550
  • Balance Transfer FeeN/A
  • Recommended CreditExcellent/Good

Comparing the best airline rewards credit cards

Some of the best airline credit cards aren’t currently available from our partners, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth highlighting. So today, we’ll dig deeper into our overall list of the best airline rewards credit cards to see which one may be the best choice for you.

Credit card Best for Annual fee Bonus value**
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Total value $95 $1,200
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® American Airlines business flyers $99, waived the first year $910
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Easy-to-use rewards $95 up to $1,400
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card Occasional Delta flyers $99, waived the first year (see rates & fees) $420
Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card Regular Delta flyers $250 (see rates & fees) $480
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® Admirals Club access $450 $700
United Explorer Card United flyers $95 (waived the first year) up to $910
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 & fees) $480
JetBlue Plus Card JetBlue flyers $99 $520

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

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature and JetBlue Plus cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best airline rewards credit cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

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

Rewards: Earn 5x on Lyft through March 2022, 2x on travel and dining.

Why it’s the best airline card for total value: 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 seven other airlines, along with three hotel chains — Marriott Bonvoy, The World of Hyatt and IHG Rewards Club. It’s also a Chase credit card that provides some great built-in 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 travel in late 2020 or early 2021. When those points hit your account after three months, it will be like an early Christmas present to yourself.

Keep in mind, too, that the Chase Sapphire Preferred has added a number of temporary benefits to help cardholders best utilize the card now while many of us aren’t traveling. This is a card you can apply for now to use on purchases such as takeout and streaming, and continue using on travel once you’re back in the air in the future.

Annual fee: $95

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred card review

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®

Sign-up bonus: 65,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first four months of account opening — worth $910, according to TPG valuations.

Rewards: 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, cable and satellite providers, gas stations, telecommunications merchants and car rentals; 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for American Airlines business flyers: For a low $99 annual fee (that’s waived the first year), 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. You can also earn a companion certificate for domestic travel after $30,000 or more in purchases each card membership year and renewing the card (account must remain open at least 45 days after account anniversary date). And now that American Airlines has joined other top U.S. airlines in eliminating most change fees, there’s even more reason to rack up on American Airlines miles.

Although you aren’t getting any luxury benefits such as Admirals Club access, this is a great option for anyone who travels on American Airlines for business.

Related: What credit score do you need to get the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard?

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Sign-up bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $20,000 on purchases within the first 12 months from account opening. Or still earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This bonus is worth up to $1,400, according to TPG valuations

Rewards: Earn 5x on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel, plus 2x miles on all other purchases.

Why it’s the best airline card for simple rewards earning: Airline credit cards tend to offer a limited number of bonus categories. That can make it hard to justify using an airline credit card for everyday expenses. That’s where the Venture differs from airline cards — and it’s the card’s biggest strength. You’re earning a flat 2x miles across all purchases, which is great for anyone looking for a simple, one-and-done rewards credit card for all spending.

You can then use the miles earned to “pay” for any past travel purchases at a rate of 1 cent per mile or you can transfer miles to one of Capital One’s transfer partners, which includes 13 airline and two 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. Capital One also has non-travel redemption options and temporary bonus categories to help make the card more valuable while people are putting travel on hold.

Annual fee: $95

Related: Capital One Venture card review

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Welcome offer: Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

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 premium card, with a $99 annual fee; waived for the first year (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 January 2020 refresh of the card added expanded earning categories and added a $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 in a calendar year (although a couple of perks from the old card were removed) — I actually ended up applying for the card earlier this year in light of those changes. 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.

Keep in mind that there are currently Amex Offers available on the Delta Gold that allows cardholders to earn 5x on Delta and 4x at restaurants through the end of the year.

Annual fee: $99, waived the first year (see rates and fees)

Related: Delta SkyMiles® Gold Amex card review

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Welcome offer: Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.

Rewards: 3x miles on eligible Delta flights and Delta Vacations and purchases made directly with hotels, 2x miles on restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and 1x on everything else.

Why it’s the best airline card for regular Delta flyers: The early 2020 changes to the card mean a higher annual fee, but you’re also getting a few added benefits — enhanced spending categories and a (long-overdue) TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application-fee credit (up to $100).

For those starting from scratch for elite status, you will still be able to use this card as a way to get Delta’s Medallion Qualification Dollars (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 MQMs when you spend $25,000 in a year and another 10,000 MQMs if you spend $50,000 in a year (although you will no longer get the bonus miles that used to accompany the MQMs). So if you need a little help hitting your desired Medallion status, this card can help you get it.

Like the Delta Gold, the Delta Platinum also has added benefits through the end of the year, including 5x miles on eligible Delta purchases and the ability to earn 500 Bonus Miles and 500 MQMs after spending $1,000 in purchases on your enrolled card (up to 25K miles and 25K MQMs).

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Related: Platinum Delta SkyMiles card review

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Sign-up 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, and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for Admirals Club: If you fly American frequently, this card is worth having for its perks. 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 can also add up to 10 authorized users — who receive the same benefit — at no additional charge.

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) toward AAdvantage elite status when you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Annual fee: $450

Related: Citi AAdvantage Executive Card review

United Explorer Card

Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first six months. The bonus is worth $910, according to TPG’s valuations.

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

Why it’s the best airline card for United flyers: This personal credit card earns 2 miles per dollar spent on restaurants, hotels and United purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent 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 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.  And for 2020, United is doubling the number of Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) you can earn with its consumer and small-business United Explorer cards, so this card could help you get that much closer to United elite status.

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Related: United Explorer Card review

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 miles 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, 1 mile per dollar spent 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 sign-up 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. And remember, Alaska joins Oneworld at the end of 2020, which will lead to even more earning and redeeming opportunities.

Annual fee: $75

Related: Maximizing the Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Fare

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Sign-up 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 1 point per dollar spent on everything else

Why it’s the best airline card for Southwest business travelers: If you’re a Southwest fanatic (like TPG’s own Benét 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 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.

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 at least one year’s worth of free flights for a friend or family member. And keep in mind that Southwest is allowing cardholders to earn unlimited TQPs through spending this year, meaning this card could help you earn a Companion Pass and A-List status.

The Southwest Performance Business Card is among the select Chase business cards that are eligible to earn 5x on shipping and advertising purchases made on social media and search engines on up to $10,000 spent in combined purchases through Oct. 31, 2020.

Annual fee: $199

Related reading: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card review

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Welcome offer: 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. TPG values this bonus at $480.

Rewards: 3x miles 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. Plus there’s now access to Amex Centurion Lounges.

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 an 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.

Of course, this card is also eligible for the same limited-time benefits as the Delta Platinum.

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

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Related reading: Delta Reserve Amex card review

JetBlue Plus Card

Sign-up 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 look for those.

Rewards: 6x points on JetBlue purchases; 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar spent 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, including a free checked bag (which even applies on 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

Related reading: JetBlue Plus card review 

Airline credit cards with no annual fee

The best airline credit cards offer a panoply of perks that save travelers time, money and stress.

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. However, 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 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 of account opening. $190
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening $120
JetBlue Card 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening $130

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

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Sign-up 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 miles 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: 3% foreign transaction fee

Apply here: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

Welcome offer: 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening

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 there are no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).

Fees: No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Apply here: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

JetBlue Credit Card

Sign-up 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. The information for the JetBlue Card 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.

Fees: No foreign transaction fees.

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. But 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 such as 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 may also 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, but those who simply pick the cheapest fare available may be better served by a card that earns transferable points. 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 best 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 cards 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 points on airfare booked directly with the airline — that 5x for airfare is capped at $500,000 per calendar year effective Jan. 1, 2020. The card has 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 all the perks and benefits that come 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 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.

Popular airline rewards programs

Pretty much every major airline has a loyalty program that is free to use. Here are a few of the top programs for U.S.-based travelers:

  • Delta SkyMiles – While Delta does have an inconvenient dynamic award chart, Delta also frequently offered award sales on some routes in the pre-COVID world. And with a number of great business and personal credit cards, there is a lot of reason to rack up Delta SkyMiles. Delta is part of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which means you can use your miles to book trips on a number of partner airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and Korean Air.
  • United MileagePlus – United is another airline that offers a number of credit card options to fit the needs of essentially any traveler. It’s part of Star Alliance, which means you can use United miles to fly with partner airlines such as Singapore Airlines.
  • American Airlines AAdvantage – I live in a city with an American Airlines hub, so the AAdvantage program is especially valuable to me. While American Airlines doesn’t offer quite the same lineup of credit cards, there is still a lot of value in the overall AAdvantage program. As part of Oneworld, you’ll be able to book flights with partner airlines such as Cathay Pacific, British Airways and more.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards – Southwest is a fan-favorite for North American flights and has a reputation for excellent customer service. It’s TPG Senior Credit Cards Editor Benét Wilson‘s absolute favorite airline, and with good reason. Plus, Southwest offers a Companion Pass benefit for loyal flyers that can save you thousands on flights each year.
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan – Alaska Airlines currently earns the most valuable airline currency that TPG publishes valuations for each month. The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program may not be top-of-mind for those who don’t live on the U.S. West Coast, but there is a ton of value you can get from the program no matter where you live.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of airline programs, but it’s a solid overview of a few of the top programs in the U.S.

How much are airline miles worth?

There’s no hard and fast rule for how much an airline mile is worth, as it can be a rather subjective topic. At TPG, we use a combination of factors to determine how we value a mile or point. We take into consideration what would pay to buy the points or miles, the value we could get when redeeming them and variables such as award availability, change fees and cancellations.

Check out our points and miles valuations guide that TPG updates on a monthly basis to see a full list of the value of points across airline, hotel and credit card loyalty programs.

Here’s how we value airline miles in the above five most popular rewards programs.

Points Program Value (cents per mile) 
Delta SkyMiles 1.2
United MileagePlus 1.3
American Airline AAdvantage 1.4
Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.5
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1.3

Bottom line

Most airline credit card users will be better off paying an annual fee to reap many 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.

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

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Featured photo by Ryan Patterson for The Points Guy.

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.  

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • 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, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel 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 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.