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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Airline credit cards are not created equally, especially if you travel with a family. In a perfect world, traveling families would want an airline credit card that provides perks (such as waived bag fees) that will work for the whole crew, have built-in money-saving perks and the ability to earn award miles that are easy to use for family vacations. Thanks to transferrable points programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards, long gone are the days when earning 1 mile per dollar on an airline credit card is the only option to get closer to an airline award redemption. These days, competition is fierce, and an airline credit card needs to offer tangible benefits and savings to make it into my wallet.

With the needs of a family and valuable wallet real estate in mind, here are seven of the best airline credit cards for families.

In This Post

1. Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards

Far and away, the most popular airline credit cards for families (according to the TPG Family Facebook Group) are the Southwest Airlines cobranded credit cards. Not only are the Rapid Rewards points awarded by the cards insanely simple to use, but the sign-up bonus points awarded also count toward earning the valuable Companion Pass that allows you to bring a family member (or friend) on Southwest flights for just the cost of taxes.

Current Bonus: All three Southwest personal credit cards are offering a bonus of up to 60,000 Rapid Rewards points; 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 in the first 12 months your account is open.

The brand new Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card has an even higher welcome bonus of 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. There’s also the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card that awards 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. If you got bonuses from both the personal and small business card in the same calendar year, you could easily have enough to hit the 110,000 points needed to earn the Companion Pass.

Current Bonus Value: $900 for the bonus points on the personal cards, $900 – $1,200 for the small business cards bonus; based on TPG’s latest valuations

Standout Benefits: The Southwest Priority Credit Card offers the most perks for families of all the cards, including 7,500 bonus Rapid Rewards points at each account anniversary (worth $112.50 by TPG calculations), a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 20% back on inflight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies and four Upgraded Boardings in the A1–A15 position each year (worth up to $50 each).

Annual Fee: varies per card

Why It’s Worth It: Southwest Airlines is the winner of TPG’s Best Airline for Families study, in large part because its Rapid Rewards program is extremely straight-forward for families to use. You can simply log on to southwest.com, easily spot the cheapest dates to fly using your Rapid Rewards points using the calendar view and secure the award flights you need. If your plans change, you can redeposit your award without penalty, making the points earned by the Southwest credit cards extremely useful for families. Read the full card review here.

2. Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards

Right now the Delta SkyMiles co-branded credit cards have increased welcome bonuses that make them very attractive additions to your family’s wallet.

Current Bonus:

Current Bonus Value: TPG values SkyMiles at 1.2 cents each, which puts a 35,000 mile bonus at a value of $420 and a 30,000 mile bonus at $360. Of course, the statement credits are great, too!

Standout Benefits: Families can make great use of the companion certificate that is awarded each year with the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card. Those who like to fly a little fancier should note that the companion certificate available with the Delta Reserve® Credit Card From American Express even lets you sit up front! On a more everyday front, the Delta co-branded credit cards provide a free checked bag on Delta flights (for the card holder and up to eight companions) and 20% off in-flight Delta purchases.

Annual Fee: Varies by card.

Why It’s Worth It: Delta has comparatively great operational reliability and onboard products compared to other major US airlines and its periodic SkyMiles discounted awards can make using Delta miles pretty rewarding. Additionally, the companion certificates are as good as gold for family travelers.

Delta One 767-400ER_Business_MSP-HNL
(Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

3. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

If your family travels on American Airlines or its partners, then give a look to the currently increased Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and its 50,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months of account opening.

Current Bonus:

Current Bonus Value: TPG currently values American Airlines AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents each, which means the value of these bonuses are $700.

Standout Benefits: This first two cards listed provide for a free checked bag on American flights for you and up to four others on your reservation, convey priority boarding and a 25% rebate on inflight food and beverage purchases.

While some perks recently went away, the card did add 2x earning rates for spending at restaurants and gas stations, as well as a $125 American Airlines flight discount when you spend $20,000 on the card in a membership year and renew your card. But — you don’t have to spend that much to make this a good bet with the current 50,000-mile bonus and free checked bags with a discount on inflight purchases.

If you want lounge access, look at the Executive version of the card that provides for American Airlines Admiral’s Club access for the card holder and immediate family (or two unrelated guests). That card also allows up to 8 others on the itinerary to check a bag for free.

American Airlines Business Class
American Airlines Business Class

Annual Fee: $99 for the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard with a $0 intro fee the first year. The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has a $450 annual fee.

Why It’s Worth It: American Airlines, at least for now, is one of the few major US frequent flyer programs that still has an award chart. So, getting 60k or 70k bonus miles on a card with an annual fee that is $0 the first year is pretty solid with awards to Europe in business class bookable for 57,500 mile. The cards’ travel perks, such as free checked bags, don’t hurt either.

4. United Credit Cards

If your family flies on a United flight even just once or twice a year, you probably want to have a United credit card in your wallet — here’s one reason why.

Current Bonus: 

  • United Explorer Card: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
  • United Explorer Business Card: Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open and 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

Current Bonus Value: Based on our current valuations, if you earn the full bonus of 50,000 miles on the small business card, your sign-up bonus will be worth $650. The 40,000 mile bonus on the personal card is worth $520.

Standout Benefits: Those with United elite status, or even just a simple United credit card, are given access to extra United saver award inventory that non-card holders simply don’t have access to booking for the pre-Nov. 15 travel dates where award charts are still in use. As United is phasing out award charts, the cards save you 1,000 miles on many United award bookings.

Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee the first year, then $95

Why It’s Worth It: The United Explorer cards provide primary card holders and one other on the reservation a first free checked bag on United-operated flights and priority boarding (must use card to pay for the tickets). This can also help when flying on Basic Economy fares as card holders can also bring a full-sized carry-on, even on Basic Economy tickets.

The United Explorer cards also provide 25% back on onboard purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi when swiped on United flights, along with two annual one-time United Club day passes. 

5. JetBlue Plus Card

Jetblue Plus offers a complimentary checked bag. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Current Bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.

Current Bonus Value: $520

Standout Benefits: You’ll get 6 points spent on purchases with JetBlue; 2 points at restaurant and grocery stores; and 1 point per dollar on everything else. As a card holder, you’ll get 10% of your redeemed JetBlue points back with no cap and get a free checked bag for you and up to three companions on the same reservation. You can also save 50% on eligible in-flight purchases like cocktails and food on JetBlue-operated flights.

Annual Fee: $99

Why It’s Worth It: The JetBlue TrueBlue program is pretty unique in that it permits family members to pool their miles together in order to earn award flights faster. The onboard JetBlue experience is top-notch for families, with complimentary assigned seats, the most economy legroom among US airlines, a free snack basket and both free DirecTV and free gate-to-gate Wi-Fi for all passengers.

Families that want to take advantage of JetBlue’s family-friendly programs and policies will benefit from having a JetBlue Plus credit card, both for the points it earns and for the savings it can provide on JetBlue award flights, bag fees and onboard purchases. You can also earn JetBlue Mosaic elite status for one year if you spend $50,000 or more on the card annually. Read the full card review here.

(Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)

6. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card

Alaska Airlines unveils special-edition Captain Marvel plane
Alaska Airlines unveils special-edition Captain Marvel plane.

Current Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Companion Fare certificate from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22) with $2,000 or more spent in the first 90 days

Current Bonus Value: $720

Standout Benefits: You’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases, 1 mile per dollar elsewhere. Card holders get a free checked bag on Alaska-operated flights for themselves and up to six others on the reservation. I particularly love the Companion Fare certificate that comes with this bonus and at each card renewal. The companion certificate allows you to bring a friend or family member on a round-trip Alaska-operated flight in economy for $99 plus taxes and fees — which can be a great strategy to get two people to Hawaii, which is exactly what we did this summer.

Annual Fee: $75

Why It’s Worth It: TPG values Alaska miles the highest of any individual type of airline mile at 1.8 cents each, making this bonus worth a solid $720. You can potentially get even more value out if it though if you redeem these miles for flights on one of Alaska’s partner airlines, such as Cathay Pacific. A one-way business class award from the US to Asia with a free stopover in Hong Kong (HKG) only costs 50,000 Alaska miles, though these tickets often sell for several thousand dollars.

However, it isn’t just high-end redemptions that are worth it on Alaska. You can also book shorter hops starting at just 5,000 miles, making Alaska miles useful for all types of family travelers. The annual Companion Fare is also pivotal in making some cash trips affordable — both parents could get an Alaska card and use the Companion Fares to bring two kids along on vacation.

7. Frontier Airlines World Mastercard

Image by JT Genter

Current Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after $500 spent in the first 90 days

Current Bonus Value: $440

Standout Benefits: You’ll get 5 miles per dollar on Frontier Airlines purchases, 3 miles at restaurants and 1 mile per dollar elsewhere. Card holders earn a $100 discount voucher with $2,500 or more in purchases charged to the card during each card member year. Card holders can also unlock family pooling of miles and can spend their way to Frontier elite status. Frontier elite status can unlock free seat assignments, bags and more — valid for the entire traveling family.

Annual Fee: $79

Why It’s Worth It: This cobranded card for an ultra low-cost carrier won’t be the right fit for all families, but if your family likes to fly as inexpensively as possible, and Frontier’s route network works for you, then it’s a card to consider. Not only does Frontier offers “kids fly free” to Discount Den members on select dates, but the ability to pool miles among family members for card holders and being able to spend your way to elite status makes this card an interesting value for the right families.

Bottom Line

The best airline credit card for your family will depend on your travel patterns and needs (and how big the welcome bonuses are when you are ready to apply). Truth be told, I don’t put a ton of our everyday spending on my airline credit cards (other than my United Club Card), but I do hold on to them for some built-in perks that help us save money and enjoy a more comfortable in-flight experience. This is especially true on airlines where we don’t otherwise have elite status, such as Delta.

Now that you know our favorites, we’d love to hear about which airline credit card(s) make sense for your family either for the bonus, the companion certificates or the everyday perks and savings.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually

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

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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.

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