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Looking for the best airline credit cards? If a particular airline sees a good chunk of your annual travel, it’s usually a smart move to apply for its corresponding cobranded card. But that’s not the only reason to add an airline card to your wallet. Some benefits can apply well beyond travel just on that particular carrier, especially when you consider each airline’s partners and redemption perks.

The Best Airline Credit Cards of 2019:

How We Chose the Best Airline Credit Cards

When we assembled our list of the best airline cobranded cards for this year, we made sure to consider the extra value each card can bring. Because with so many varying benefits, it’s important to know which card will best match your own travel needs and preferences. In this post, we’re looking specifically at airline consumer credit cards, as opposed to business credit cards.

One thing to take into account when you are deciding on an airline credit card is your airline preference. If you know what airline you want to travel on, that makes your decision much easier. You can review the best and worst airlines here. The other major criteria that impacted our list include: the annual fee, travel perks, offer bonus and spending requirements.

Do You Need an Airline Credit Card?

Before we get into the list of top airline credit cards, let’s take a moment to address the question of whether you need one in the first place.

Airline cobranded credit cards usually don’t offer the highest return on spending for airline purchases, so if you’re simply looking to maximize your spending, you’d do better with the Platinum Card® from American Express, which earns 5x points on flights purchased directly with the airline, equal to a 10% return based on TPG’s valuations. That card has a $550 annual fee (see rates & fees), but you still have other strong options like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x points on travel, equal to a 4% return) with a $95 annual fee.

As a rule, credit cards that earn transferable points (such as Amex, Capital One, Chase or Citi points) generally get you a better return on spending, but airline credit cards are worth looking at for the airline-specific perks they offer. Most airline cobranded credit cards include a free checked bag, early boarding and sometimes even discounts on inflight purchases. More premium airline credit cards can also include the option to earn elite-qualifying miles for those pursuing airline status, and even lounge access in some cases.

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. Those who simply pick the cheapest fare available may be better served by a card that earns transferable points, but even those travelers could consider an airline credit card if they’re looking for miles to book a specific award itinerary.

Comparison Value

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. Terms Apply. $360 First bag checked free for you and up to 8 companions

2x miles on Delta purchases

20% inflight savings

$95*(see rates & fees) $360

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
35,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. Terms Apply. $420 Annual companion certificate for main-cabin travel

Earn 10k MQMs and 10k miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year, and another 10k of each after spending $50,000 in a year

First bag checked free for you and up to 8 companions

Main Cabin Priority 1 boarding

2x miles on Delta purchases

$195 (see rates & fees) $225

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Terms Apply. $480 Complimentary Delta Sky Club access when you fly Delta, discounted rates for up to 2 guests

Annual companion certificate for first class, Comfort+ or main cabin

Earn 15k MQMs and 15k miles after spending $30,000 in a calendar year, and another 15k of each after spending $60,000 in a year

First bag checked free for you and up to 8 companions

2x miles on Delta purchases

$450 (see rates & fees) $30

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
50,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months of account opening. $700 First bag checked free for you and up to 4 companions

2x miles on American Airlines purchases, at restaurants and at gas stations

25% inflight savings

$99* $700

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. $700 Admirals Club membership

First bag checked free for you and up to 8 companions

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit

2x miles on American Airlines purchases

$450 $250

JetBlue Plus Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days $520 First bag checked free for you and up to 3 companions

6x points on JetBlue flights

2x points at restaurants and grocery stores

50% inflight savings

5,000 bonus points each account anniversary

10% rebate on all redeemed TrueBlue points

$99 $421

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. $600 2x points on Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

$75 Southwest annual travel credit

4 upgraded boardings per year

20% inflight savings

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List status for meeting spend thresholds

7,500 points each year on your account anniversary

$149 $451

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
40,000 miles plus a companion fare from $121 ($99 + taxes and fees from $22) after you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days $720 First bag checked free for you and up to 6 companions

3x miles on Alaska Airlines purchases

Companion fare from $121 each year

50% off Alaska Lounge day passes

20% inflight savings

$75 $645

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Annual Fee Total Value
60,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days. $540 3x miles on Hawaiian Airlines purchases

2x miles on gas, dining and grocery stores

First bag checked free for the primary cardmember

One-time 50% off companion discount toward one round-trip coach fare

$100 off a round-trip coach companion flight every account anniversary

Cardmembers can share miles with family and friends for free

$99* $540

*Annual fee waived the first year.
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

Here we’ll dive into the details of the best airline credit cards and discuss how you can maximize the benefits of each offer.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express

(Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months.

Rewards: 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Benefits:

  • Free checked bag on Delta flights for you and up to eight companions
  • Priority boarding and no foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees).
  • Get Delta’s MQD requirement for status waived (up to the Platinum level) if you spend $25,000 on one of its cobranded cards; for Diamond Medallion status, you need to spend $250,000 to get the waiver.

Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

American Express has three personal cards in its Delta lineup, and the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card From American Express is the cheapest with a $95 fee that’s waived the first year. With this card, you’ll get a free checked bag, priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees and 20% in savings on inflight purchases.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express

Platinum Delta SkyMiles from American Express

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 35,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months.

Rewards: 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Benefits:

  • 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs when you spend $25,000 in a year, and another 10,000 of each if you charge $50,000 to the card in the same year.
  • Companion certificate for coach domestic travel each year after your account anniversary
  • Free checked bag on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding and no foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees).
  • Get Delta’s MQD requirement for status waived (up to the Platinum level) if you spend $25,000 on one of its cobranded cards; for Diamond Medallion status, you need to spend $250,000 to get the waiver.

Annual Fee: $195

In the middle of Amex’s Delta lineup of cards is the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, which has a $195 and offers a companion certificate (although it’s only valid for economy-class travel) each account year.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Platinum Delta SkyMiles from American Express

Delta Reserve Credit Card From American Express

With $25,000 in spend on a Delta credit card, you can waive the MQD requirement.
With $25,000 in spend on a Delta credit card, you can waive the MQD requirement.

Welcome bonus: 40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

Rewards: 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Benefits:

  • 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs when you spend $30,000 in a year, and another 15,000 of each if you charge $60,000 to the card in the same year.
  • Companion certificate for domestic travel each year after your account anniversary
  • Free checked bag on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding and no foreign transaction fees. (see rates & fees)
  • Get Delta’s MQD requirement for status waived (up to the Platinum level) if you spend $25,000 on one of its cobranded cards; for Diamond Medallion status, you need to spend $250,000 to get the waiver.

Annual Fee: $450

With a $450 annual fee, the Delta Reserve Credit Card is the most expensive of Amex’s three Delta credit cards. That said, it could be worth the price if you frequently fly with the carrier and are working toward Delta elite status.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

American Airlines
American Airlines’ excellent 777-300ER business class seats.

Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months of account opening.

Rewards: 2x miles on American Airlines purchases, at restaurants and at gas stations, 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Benefits: 

  • Free checked bag on American flights for you and up to 4 companions on your reservation (even if you use a different card to pay for the ticket)
  • Priority boarding
  • $125 American Airlines flight discount when you spend $20,000 on the card in a membership year and renew your card
  • 25% rebate on inflight food and beverage purchases

Annual Fee: $99 (waived the first year)

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

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 in the first 3 months

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

Benefits: 

  • Admirals Club access for the primary card holder as well as authorized users, meaning up to 33 people can get into these airport lounges for free based on one credit card annual fee
  • Priority check-in, airport screening and boarding when flying American
  • Earn 10,000 EQMs toward American AAdvantage status when you spend $40,000 on the card in a year
  • First bag checked free for you and up to 8 companions on the same reservation
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit

Annual Fee: $450

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

United Explorer Card

You
You’ll get access to more award space when you have the United Explorer Card.

Welcome bonus: 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months

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

Benefits:

Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

If you really value United Club access and aren’t averse to paying a higher annual fee, you might also consider the United Club Card. It offers a full United Club membership (the main draw), plus two free checked bags on United flights, priority check-in, security and boarding and more. There’s a $450 annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees. This card’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months — previously, it didn’t even offer a sign-up bonus.

The information for the United Club 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.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: United Explorer Card

JetBlue Plus Card

JetBlue’s Mint is one of the best domestic business class products, and you can redeem TrueBlue points for it.

Welcome bonus: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days

Rewards: 6x points on JetBlue purchases and at restaurants and grocery stores, 1 mile per dollar on everything else

Benefits:

Annual Fee: $99

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: JetBlue Plus Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority 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
© 2019 Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy

Welcome bonus: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months

Rewards: 2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

Benefits:

  • $75 annual travel credit for Southwest purchases
  • 4 upgraded boardings to use each year
  • 7,500 Rapid Rewards points each year after your account anniversary
  • Earn 1,500 tier-qualifying points (TQPs) toward A-List status for every $10,000 you spend on the card (up to $100,000 in purchases annually)

Annual Fee: $149

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900ER photographed in April 2016 by Chad Slattery.
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900ER photographed in April 2016 by Chad Slattery.

Welcome bonus: 40,000 miles plus Alaska’s companion fare from $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22) after you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days

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

Benefits: 

  • Annual companion fare from $121 each year after your account anniversary
  • First bag checked free for you and up to 6 companions
  • 50% off Alaska Lounge day passes
  • 20% inflight savings

Annual Fee: $75

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Barclay Card

Welcome bonus: 60,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days

Rewards: 3x miles on Hawaiian Airlines purchases, 2x miles on gas, dining and grocery stores and 1x on everything else

Benefits: 

  • First bag checked free for the primary cardmember
  • One-time 50% off companion discount toward one published full coach round-trip fare between Hawaii and North America (not including taxes, fees or surcharges)
  • $100 off a companion flight every account anniversary on one published full coach round-trip fare between Hawaii and North America (not including taxes, fees or surcharges)
  • Cardmembers can share miles with family and friends for free

Annual Fee: $99 (waived the first year)

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

No-Annual-Fee Airline Credit Cards

Although many airlines now offer no-annual-fee credit cards, none of them make our list of the top airline cards. That’s because they lack features like free checked bags and priority boarding, not to mention the most generous welcome bonuses. Nevertheless, there are some instances where a no-fee airline card can make sense.

Some credit card users simply refuse to pay an annual fee, and if you fall into this category but want to earn airline miles, opening a no-annual-fee cobranded card could make a lot of sense. Next are infrequent travelers, who simply can’t justify the cost of the annual fee based on the benefits that they will rarely use. Then there are the most frequent travelers who already receive these perks because they earned elite status, or because they typically travel in business and first class. If the benefits offered by premium airline cards are redundant, there’s no reason to pay an annual fee to receive them.

Welcome Bonus Earning Rate(s) Benefits Fees
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in the first three months 2x at grocery stores and on American Airlines purchases, 1x on everything else 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases 3% foreign transaction fee

 

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases within three months of account opening. Terms apply. 2x at US restaurants and on Delta purchases, 1x on everything else 20% savings on inflight purchases, various purchase protections. 2.7% foreign transaction fee (see rates & fees)
JetBlue Credit Card 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days 3x on all JetBlue purchases, 2x at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x on everything else 50% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases No foreign transaction fee
SkyBlue SkyPass Visa Card 5,000 bonus miles after your first qualifying purchase 1 Korean Air SkyPass mile for every $2 spent Car rental and travel accident insurance 3% foreign transaction fee (2% for transactions in US dollars)
United TravelBank Credit Card $150 in United TravelBank cash after spending $1,000 in the first three months 2% of your spending back in TravelBank cash on tickets purchased from United, 1.5% in TravelBank cash on all other purchases. 25% back as a statement credit when you use your card to purchase food and beverages on United-operated flights No foreign transaction fee

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card 

Welcome bonus: Earn 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 on new purchases within three months of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 2x AAdvantage miles not just on American purchases but also at grocery stores (including delivery services). Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Benefits:

  • 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases.

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

APPLY HERE: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Welcome bonus: Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases within three months of account opening.

Rewards: This card offers you double miles at US restaurants 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.

Benefits:

  • 20% savings on inflight purchases
  • (Secondary) rental car insurance, extended warranty coverage, return protection and damage and theft coverage

Fees: There’s no annual fee (see rates & fees), but there is a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

APPLY HERE: Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

JetBlue Credit Card

Welcome bonus: Earn 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.

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

Benefits:

  • 50% savings on inflight purchases
  • Pool you rewards between family members.

Fees: No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

APPLY HERE: JetBlue Credit Card

SkyBlue SkyPass Visa Card

Welcome bonus: Earn 5,000 bonus miles after your first qualifying purchase.

Rewards: Earn 1 Korean Air SkyPass mile for every $2 spent.

Benefits:

  • None beyond car rental and travel accident insurance.

Fees: No annual fee and a 3% foreign transaction fee (2% for transactions in US dollars).

APPLY HERE: SkyBlue SkyPass Visa

United TravelBank Credit Card

Welcome bonus: $150 in United TravelBank cash after spending $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.

Benefits:

  • 25% savings on inflight purchases

Fees: No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

APPLY HERE: United TravelBank Credit Card

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.

No-Fee Airline Cards Offered to Existing Account Holders

There are several no-fee airline cards offered to new applicants, but that’s not the whole story. Some card issuers also offer no-fee cards only to existing account holders. Typically, these offers are made when an existing account holder contacts the card issuer to close his or her account.

When card holders indicate that they are closing an account to avoid paying an annual fee, they might be offered a no-fee version as a way of retaining their business. And since these no-fee versions aren’t always available to new applicants, there may not be much information available on them. For more information on how to change cards without closing your account, read my story on When a Credit Card Product Change Makes Sense.

AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard

This no-fee card offers you 1 mile per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases, and just 1 mile for every $2 spent elsewhere. It does feature a 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases, but it also has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

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 Blue Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express is a great choice for infrequent travelers, and elite flyers who want to earn double miles at restaurants. Likewise, the AAdvantage MileUp Card lets you earn double AA miles at supermarkets and on grocery delivery services. And even the no-fee JetBlue card from Barclays offers you double points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 3x points for JetBlue purchases.

And yet, 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 potentially paying an annual fee for an airline card. Just make sure your choice fits your travel goals and makes sense within your normal travel profile. And of course, if you’re a regular flyer on one of these airlines, definitely take a hard look at these cards to see if one of them can make your time in the air cheaper, more comfortable, or (hopefully) both.

In Recap:

The Best Airline Credit Cards of 2019 are:

Check out our Beginner’s Guide if you’re new to the points and miles game.

Featured image courtesy of Chris Sattlberger via Getty Images.

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

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Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

If you are a Delta flyer who is looking to bank some extra miles this card is a great addition for your wallet. While you'll earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else, you'll also have access to other perks like priority boarding, a first bag checked free and discounted Delta  Sky Club access.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99%-26.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.