Airline credit cards that earn 3 or more miles per dollar on airfare

Dec 16, 2019

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Airline credit cards offer a lot of time- and money-saving perks to entice cardholders both to sign up for and hang on to them year after year.

While these may include benefits such as lounge access, free checked bags, priority boarding, companion tickets and more, one of the most significant perks they can offer is to earn multiple miles per dollar on airfare. Many airline credit cards have added non-airline bonus categories recently, but only a handful still earn more than a mere 2x miles per dollar on purchases with the associated airline.

That’s changing, and some of the best airline credit cards now earn 3x, 5x, or even 6x points or miles per dollar spent with their respective carrier. Here is our list of the airline credit cards with the best airfare earning rates, as well as other reasons why you might want to consider each one:

In This Post

Air France-KLM World Elite Mastercard

Air France
(Photo by Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

Earning rate: Earn 3x miles on purchases from Air France, KLM and SkyTeam member airlines, which potentially expands your earning opportunities dramatically. Earn 1.5x on everything else.

Annual fee: $89

Current welcome offer: 25,000 miles after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days, as well as 60 XP (Experience Points) toward elite status.

Other reasons to consider it: Launched late last year, this card is an interesting, if perhaps overpriced, option. Aside from the interesting alliance-wide earning perk, its main benefit is that it rewards cardholders with 20 XP points toward elite status annually, plus an additional 40 (for 60 total) for those who spend $15,000 or more on purchases within their anniversary year. Cardholders also receive a 5,000-mile anniversary bonus if they spend $50 or more on purchases.

Read our Air France-KLM World Elite Mastercard review.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Earning rate: Earn 3 miles per dollar on Alaska purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Annual fee: $99

Current welcome offer: 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Other reasons to consider it: This card’s main perk is its potentially valuable annual companion ticket benefit, which you can redeem for a free round-trip economy airfare from $121 ($99 plus taxes of usually $22) each year you renew it and pay the annual fee. Cardholders and up to six companions on the same reservation can check a bag for free. It also waives foreign transaction fees.

For more information, read our Alaska Airlines Visa Signature review.

American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Silver

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

Earning rate: This card earns 3x on American Airlines purchases, but also 2x at hotels and car rental agencies. It earns 1x everywhere else.

Annual fee: $195

Current welcome offer: Not available to new applicants, although you can upgrade from the AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard.

Other reasons to consider it: Aside from being the only American Airlines co-branded credit card to earn more than 2x miles per dollar on airfare purchases, this product offers some great bonus categories. You also enjoy up to $25 back per day in the form of statement credits toward inflight food and beverage purchases and $50 back each year toward inflight Wi-Fi purchases. The card enables members to take advantage of Barclays’ Flight Cents program, which allows them to round up purchases to the nearest dollar and earn miles at a rate of two cents each on the overage.

British Airways Visa Signature Card

Earning rate: Earn 3x Avios per dollar spent with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Level; 2x per dollar on hotel accommodations; and 1x on everything else.

Annual fee: $95

Current welcome offer: Up to 100,000 Avios. Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening, plus earn an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 on your purchases within your first year of account opening.

Other reasons to consider it: This card has some pretty great benefits that keep it a contender for U.S. frequent flyers. First, you can earn a Travel Together Ticket, which is a two-for-one award, every calendar year you make $30,000 or more in purchases. Through March 31, 2020 (though possibly extended), cardholders receive a 10% discount on flights when booking direct and entering the required promo code. The card has also recently added an award ticket statement credit to combat high fuel surcharges. Cardholders are eligible for these credits up to three times per year — $100 on economy and premium economy tickets, or $200 on business and first class awards. Foreign transaction fees are waived, and cardholders can take advantage of all the Visa Signature benefits.

For more information, read our British Airways Visa Signature Card review.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

Earning rate: As part of the major Delta credit card overhaul that goes into effect Jan. 30, 2020, this card will earn 3x miles on Delta purchases and 1x on everything else.

Annual fee: The annual fee is currently $450, but will go up to $550 after Jan. 30, 2020 (see rates and fees).

Current welcome offer: 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months.

Other reasons to consider it: Beginning January 30, Delta’s premium card will include both Delta Sky Club access when flying Delta and entrance to American Express Centurion Lounges. Cardholders will also be eligible for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100; every four years for Global Entry, every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck). The card offers a spending-based elite benefit now, but starting next year, members can earn an additional 15,000 MQMs toward Medallion status after hitting $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in spending. Finally, cardholders will still be able to take advantage of its generous annual companion ticket benefit.

For more information, read our review of the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express. You might also want to consider the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, which will also earn 3x miles on Delta purchases and at hotels, 2x at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and 1x everywhere else starting Jan. 30, 2020 ($195 annual fee; increasing to $250 in January 2020; see rates and fees).

Frontier Airlines World Mastercard

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

Earning rate: Rack up 5x miles on Frontier website purchases including airfare, 3x at restaurants and 1x everywhere else.

Annual fee: $79

Current welcome offer: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Other reasons to consider it: Often underrated, this card proffers some unique perks. Cardholders enjoy waived award fees and can share miles with up to eight other members for free. They are eligible for priority boarding, and receive a $100 flight voucher every account anniversary after spending $2,500 or more on purchases during a cardmember year. Miles earned with it also count toward elite status, which can be a great way to spend your way to a higher tier.

For more information read our full review of the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard.

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

Earning rate: Cardholders accrue 3x miles per dollar on Hawaiian Airlines purchases, 2x on gas, dining and groceries, and 1x everywhere else.

Annual fee: $99

Current welcome offer: Earn 60,000 miles when you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days

Other reasons to consider it: This card also comes with a one-time, 50% off companion benefit for a round-trip economy ticket between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland as well as an annual $100 discount on the same type of travel. Cardholders can book discounted awards, share miles with friends and family for free up to 10 times per year, and get a free checked bag. They also get the host of World Elite Mastercard benefits such as Postmates and Lyft discounts and cellphone protection.

For more information, read our review of the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard.

JetBlue Plus Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Earning rate: Earn 6x points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, 2x per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x on everything else.

Annual fee: $99

Current welcome offer: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days and pay the annual fee — worth about $520, based on our valuations.

Other reasons to consider it: Aside from great earning potential, this card is packed with perks. It confers 50% savings on inflight meals and alcoholic beverages in the form of statement credits, lets cardholders check a bag for themselves and up to three companions for free, and entitles them to a refund of 10% of their redeemed points. Cardholders can also spend their way to TrueBlue Mosaic elite status by making $50,000 or more in purchases using their card in a calendar year.

For more information, read our review of the JetBlue Plus Card. You might also want to consider the JetBlue Business Card, which has a similar earning structure, or the no-annual-fee JetBlue Card, which earns 3x on JetBlue purchases, but the same 2x at restaurants and grocery stores as the Plus version.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas)
(Photo by Eric Helgas)

Earning rate: Southwest’s premium business card is unique among Rapid Rewards cobranded cards in that it earns 3x points on Southwest purchases, including purchases made from Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. You can also rack up 2x points on social media and paid search advertising, internet, cable and phone services, then 1x on everything else.

Annual fee: $199

Current welcome offer: Earn up to 100,000 bonus points; earn 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.

Other reasons to consider it: Cardholders receive a 9,000-point anniversary bonus each year (the highest among Southwest’s four credit cards), four upgraded boardings per year, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee waiver of up to $100 once every four years, and up to $8 per day in statement credits (365 total) toward onboard Wi-Fi purchases. For every $10,000 spent, cardholders also earn 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points toward A-List status, up to 15,000 TQPs per year.

For more information, read our review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

Earning rate: This card offers a relatively lucrative earning structure. Cardholders rack up 3 miles per dollar on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else.

Annual fee: $90

Current welcome offer: Up to 80,000 bonus Flying Club miles – 60,000 after you spend $2,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening; 2,500 miles for each of the first two authorized users added to your card; 7,500 bonus miles after you spend $15,000 with your card within the account year and an additional 7,500 miles after you spend $25,000 within the account year.

Other reasons to consider it: Cardholders can earn 25 Tier Points per $2,500 in purchases up to 50 Tier Points per month toward elite status. Those who spend $25,000 or more on purchases annually can also earn a companion reward for travel in the same cabin class when redeeming Flying Club miles for a Virgin Atlantic award ticket, though there are many restrictions to this. The card waives foreign transaction fees and includes the new World Elite Mastercard benefits like cell phone protection and Lyft discounts.

For more information, check out our Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard review.

Other options

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

Although a lot of airline credit cards now offer attractive earning bonuses on airfare purchased with their associated carrier, it might still be worth using a different credit card to book airfare.

That’s because certain travel rewards cards offer even more valuable bonuses, either specifically on airfare or on travel in general.

Both The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee. See rates & fees) and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express rack up an incredible 5x points per dollar on flights booked directly through Amex Travel (or directly with the airline using the personal version). With a lower $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), the American Express® Gold Card earns 3x points on such purchases when booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card both earn 3x points per dollar on a broad range of travel purchases, including airfare (on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each calendar year on the Ink Business Preferred). The Citi® Prestige Card earns 5x points per dollar on air travel, while the Citi Premier℠ Card earns 3x points on travel, including airfare. The information for the Citi Prestige, Citi Premier 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.

Don’t forget about all the great hotel credit cards out there, either, many of which also offer airfare bonuses. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card ($450 annual fee. See rates & fees.) earns 7 points per dollar on flights booked through Amex Travel or directly through airlines. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card ($450 annual fee. See rates & fees.) earns 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines. And The World Of Hyatt Credit Card earns 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline.

Bottom line

There are a lot of great reasons to carry an airline credit card, including elite-like perks and discounts on airfares and awards. However, if your main goal for having an airline credit card is to leverage its earning potential on airline purchases, make sure you get one that racks up at least 3x miles per dollar. More products than ever fall into this category, so you should be able to take advantage of one, assuming it’s offered by your carrier of choice.

Featured image by wundervisuals/Getty Images.

For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, 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.

Apply Now
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 & 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.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49% - 24.49% 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.