Airline credit cards can be an excellent addition to your wallet if you fly frequently with a certain airline or want the flexibility to fly any carrier. Beyond offering bonus rewards when booking flights, many include value-added perks that can lower your out-of-pocket expenses or increase your comfort when on the road.
Here are the best credit cards for airline travel offered by our partners.
Why Trust Us?
At The Points Guy, our goal is to help you maximize your travel experiences while minimizing spending. Our travel and credit cards experts share their own experiences and give honest analyses to help you make decisions that benefit you the most. While we do receive compensation through our credit card application links, ads, and clearly indicated sponsored content, our editorial content, points valuations and card analysis are entirely our own.
Personal Credit Cards
- 2X Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants.
- 2X Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.
- 10 Miles 10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
- 5 Miles 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel
- 2 Miles 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
- 3X Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases.
- 2X New! Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible gas, cable, streaming services and local transit including ride share purchases.
- 1X Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- 2X Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. and at U.S. supermarkets.
- 1X Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
- 3X Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases.
- 2X Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
- 2X Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
- 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on travel including airfare, hotels, cruises, tours, car rentals, campgrounds, and vacation rentals.
- 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® Points on transit purchases including trains, taxicabs, rideshare services, ferries, tolls, parking, buses, and subways.
- 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the US.
- 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
- 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
- 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Business Credit Cards
- 3X Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
- 1X Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases – with no limit to the amount you can earn
- 4X Earn 4X points on Southwest® purchases.
- 3X Earn 3X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car partners.
- 2X Earn 2X points on rideshare.
- 2X Earn 2X points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services.
- 1X 1X points on all other purchases.
- 5X Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
- 1.5X Earn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
- 1X 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
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|Card||Best for||Welcome Offer/Sign Up Bonus||Earning Rate||Annual Fee|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Best for simple rewards earning||75,000 miles||
|Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card||Best premium travel credit card||75,000 miles||
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||Best for luxury benefits||Earn 80,000 points||
|Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card||Best for sign-up bonus||100,000 points||
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express||Best for business travel perks||Earn 120,000 points||
|American Express® Gold Card||Best for dining||Earn 60,000 points||
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®||Best for casual American Airlines flyers||50,000 miles||
||$99, waived for first 12 months|
|Citi Premier® Card||Best for Citi ThankYou rewards||60,000 points||
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||Best for occasional Delta flyers||Earn 40,000 miles||
||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card||Best for frequent Southwest flyers||Earn 60,000 points||
|Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card||Best for United business travelers||80,000 points||
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®||Best for loyal Southwest business travelers||50,000 miles||
|Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card||Best for Admirals Club Access||Limited Time Online Offer - 50,000 Bonus Miles||
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card||Best for earning Alaska Airlines miles||20,000 miles||
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Best for no annual fee||60,000 bonus points||
Are you utilizing benefits such as free checked baggage, priority boarding and lounge access? Does your airline credit card help you earn elite status faster? Do the card’s bonus categories allow you to earn additional miles on purchases?
If you’re getting more value out of your airline credit card than it’s costing you each year for the annual fee, it makes sense to renew the card so you can continue reaping those rewards.
However, even if you’re convinced you’re not getting the full value out of the card, consider how long you’ve had the card before you cancel it. The longer you’ve had a credit card card, the more harm canceling it could do to your credit score, since age of accounts is one of the factors that go into determining your credit score.
You can also try calling your issuer to explain that you’re considering canceling your card. By doing so, you might be offered a retention offer such as earning bonus points for hitting a spending threshold, or have your annual fee waived, which will make the idea of renewing all the more enticing.
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 the value of a mile or point. We take into consideration what it would cost to buy the points or miles, the value we could get when redeeming them, and variables such as award availability and fees for changes or cancellations.
Check out our points and miles valuations guide, which TPG updates on a monthly basis, to see a full list of the value of points and miles across airline, hotel and credit card loyalty programs.
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 free checked bags, priority boarding and discounts on inflight purchases — and even casual travelers can get a lot out of those perks.
Airline credit cards of a more premium nature may also earn elite qualifying miles for those pursuing airline status and even offer lounge access in some cases. Those who need a little help achieving 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.
When deciding if an airline card is right for you, it’s important to consider whether you’ll use the card and its benefits enough to offset the cost of its annual fee. Infrequent travelers may benefit most from a card with a low annual fee and fewer benefits, whereas those who are on the road more often might decide a premium card that costs more annually but offers luxury benefits is the right fit.
Unfortunately, your hard-earned airline miles can expire. Whether your miles will expire varies by airline, though.
The good news is that many of the top U.S. airlines (including Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United) don’t have mileage or points expiration dates, which means you won’t lose any miles even after a stint of account inactivity.
American Airlines miles expire after 24 months of inactivity, and Alaska Airlines will lock your account after 24 months of inactivity (though you can call customer service to reactivate your Alaska account).
As a general rule, make sure you’re earning or redeeming miles with the airlines that do have expiration dates semiregularly, and you won’t have to worry about losing out on any miles or points earned. Pro tip: Cobranded airline spending counts as account activity for airlines like American Airlines with miles that do expire, so carrying an airline credit card can actually help you avoid the expiration of your airline miles.
You can check out TPG’s full guide to airline and hotel loyalty program expiration policies for an in-depth look at how to keep your airline accounts active.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Why we love it: The card is easy to use and maximize, offering a valuable sign-up bonus and a rewards structure that helps you earn rewards across a lot of everyday spending categories. You can use those rewards in several ways, such as transferring them to a number of popular airline and hotel loyalty programs or using them through the Chase travel portal at a value of 1.25 cents each.
Who should use it: It can add a lot of value to almost any traveler’s wallet — from points and miles beginners to casual travelers who only fly once or twice a year to frequent flyers who are in the air at least once a month.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been in my wallet for over five years and is the go-to midlevel rewards credit card that I recommend to people. It usually has a pretty solid sign-up bonus, with points that can be transferred to some of my favorite loyalty programs, like British Airways Executive Club and World of Hyatt.” — Matt Moffitt, senior credit cards editor
Unlocking elite status: Unfortunately, the card doesn’t offer any benefits that help fast-track elite status with any airline.
Alternative card option: If you’re looking for a card that earns bonus rewards on all purchases, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns at least 2 miles per dollar on every purchase. The card has a low $95 annual fee, valuable sign-up bonus and the ability to redeem miles for travel through Capital One Travel or by transferring to nearly 20 travel partners.
Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Why we love it: You’ll earn at least 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchase, making this a great card for everyday spending. Plus, for a low $95 annual fee, you get a lot of value: a strong sign-up bonus, the ability to transfer miles to airline and hotel loyalty programs, two Capital One lounge passes per year and more.
Who should use it: The card is best suited to travelers who want a low-annual-fee credit card that can help them earn and redeem rewards on everyday purchases while still giving them some travel benefits.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Capital One Venture Rewards is a great card that can add value to pretty much anyone’s wallet. I use it to earn 2 miles per dollar on the purchases that fall outside of my other cards’ bonus categories. The annual fee is low, Capital One miles are easy to redeem and the card does come with a few nice perks — including TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee reimbursement.” — Madison Blancaflor, senior editor, content operations
Unlocking elite status: Unfortunately, the card doesn’t offer any benefits that help fast-track elite status with any airline.
Alternative card option: If you are looking for more travel perks and benefits (and are willing to pay a higher annual fee), look at the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. You’ll still earn at least 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchases, but you’re also getting a lot more in benefits, including lounge access, anniversary miles, a $300 yearly travel credit and more.
Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Card
The Platinum® Card from American Express
Why we love it: The Amex Platinum remains the No. 1 card for travel perks and benefits. You can easily offset the full cost of the annual fee (see rates and fees) if you know how to maximize the various perks and credits the card offers, and those benefits can go a long way toward upgrading your travel experience.
Who should use it: Frequent travelers who know they can make the most of the many perks this card has to offer will benefit the most from adding it to their wallet.
Why it’s in my wallet: “Whilst this card has a high annual fee, it more than justifies itself for frequent travelers like me. The lounge access options that come with the Platinum are unrivaled by competitors. I put all of my flights — whether bought with cash or points — on this card to earn 5 points per dollar spent (up to 500,000 points per year). I make sure to take full advantage of the Uber, Saks Fifth Avenue, Hulu/Disney+ and Clear Plus credits (enrollment is required). And, honestly, pulling a Platinum card out of your wallet to pay for something does feel pretty fancy.” — Matt Moffit, senior credit cards editor
Unlocking elite status: The Amex Platinum grants you automatic Gold elite status with both Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, and you’ll get some elitelike perks through access to Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts and The Hotel Collection. Frequent rental car users will also enjoy complimentary status with Hertz, Avis and National.
Alternative card option: Travelers who won’t utilize the various credits offered by the Amex Platinum might find more value with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. That card offers plenty of strong benefits — including lounge access, a travel credit and fantastic travel protections — but you’ll also get a strong earning rate across categories beyond just travel purchases.
Related: Amex Platinum review
Official application link: Amex Platinum
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Why we love it: The Capital One Venture X comes with a lot of travel perks for a more affordable annual fee than its premium counterparts from Chase and Amex. You also get a strong sign-up bonus and at least 2 miles per dollar spent across all your purchases.
Who should use it: Travelers looking for a premium card with a lot of benefits who don’t want to pay an exorbitant annual fee.
Why it’s in my wallet: “With an annual fee that is $300 less than the Amex Platinum, the Capital One Venture X card is my favorite travel credit card. The card comes with an annual $300 Capital One Travel portal credit, which I use to book flights. That effectively brings the annual fee down to $95 per year. Cardholders enjoy a Priority Pass Select membership, as do authorized users (you get four of them at no cost). I use my Venture X card to earn 2 miles per dollar (a 3.7% return at TPG’s valuations) in spending categories where most cards would only accrue 1 mile (e.g., auto maintenance, pharmacies, medical bills).” — Kyle Olsen, points and miles reporter
Unlocking elite status: Unfortunately, the card doesn’t offer any benefits that help fast-track elite status with any airline. However, you will receive complimentary Hertz status.
Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through December 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.
Alternative card option: The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a similar set of benefits, but its travel credit is less restrictive than the Venture X’s, and you’ll earn more on non-portal travel and dining spending. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve does come with a higher annual fee ($550).
Related: Capital One Venture X review
Official application link: Capital One Venture X
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Why we love it: The card offers elitelike perks that can provide solid value for casual Delta flyers — all at a low annual fee (that’s waived the first year; see rates and fees) compared to other Delta cobranded cards.
Who should use it: The card is best suited to casual Delta flyers who may not fly often enough to earn elite status but would enjoy elitelike perks such as priority boarding and a free checked bag.
Why it’s in my wallet: “As someone who likes flying Delta but doesn’t fly with them often enough to earn elite status, my Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex still gives me elitelike perks to help upgrade my travel experience.” — Madison Blancaflor, senior editor, content operations
Unlocking elite status: Unfortunately, the card doesn’t offer any benefits that help fast-track elite status with Delta.
Alternative card option: If you are a regular Delta flyer interested in earning elite status, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is a strong alternative. You’ll get the same elitelike benefits as with the Gold, but you’ll also get a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver that can help you earn elite status faster — up to Platinum Medallion.
Related: Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card review
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Why we love it: Along with lounge access, you can use perks like a 35% points rebate when paying for flights with Amex Travel (up to 1 million points per year), hundreds of dollars in annual spending credits and earning 5 points per dollar with Amex Travel.
Who should use it: Small-business owners who travel frequently and regularly charge large purchases to their card each month. The card has a very high annual fee, so it’s best suited to those who know they can maximize its benefits and earning structure.
Why it’s in my wallet: “I find that the annual perks and credits vastly outweigh the large annual fee. And that’s even without using some of them. By using the benefits with Priority Pass and Amex lounges, the airline incidental credits, plus the statement credits for Clear, our cellphone plan and restocking my home printer with ink and paper from Dell (enrollment required), I get more value out of the card than it costs to keep it. Plus, it earns my favorite points — American Express Membership Rewards — earning 5 points per dollar on flights and hotels booked with Amex Travel.” — Ryan Smith, credit cards writer
Unlocking elite status: While it doesn’t unlock elite status with any airline, cardholders do get Gold status with Marriott and Hilton, elite like perks through Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts and elite car rental status with Avis, Hertz and National.
Alternative card option: If you are looking for a card to maximize business expenses while enjoying the Amex Business Platinum’s redemption partners, the American Express® Business Gold Card is another option. For a much lower annual fee, you’ll earn more across your top spending categories while still having access to Amex transfer partners.
Related: Amex Business Platinum review
Official application link: Amex Business Platinum
Citi Premier® Card
Why we love it: The Citi Premier has a great rewards structure that allows you to earn points quickly and enjoy solid redemption options with its transfer partners. The card’s low annual fee of $95 makes this card easy to justify keeping in your wallet long-term.
Who should use it: Travelers looking to earn versatile rewards across both travel and everyday spending categories who are less interested in luxury travel perks (or receive those perks through another credit card or elite status).
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Citi Premier Card is a great way to earn Citi ThankYou Rewards points, especially while gas prices are high. I appreciate the card’s earning rate of 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets, as well as on air travel and other hotels. Plus, I appreciate that I can transfer my Citi ThankYou points to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs, where I can then redeem my newly acquired points or miles for high value.” — Katie Genter, senior points and miles writer
Unlocking elite status: Unfortunately, the card doesn’t offer any benefits that help fast-track elite status with any airline.
Alternative card option: The American Express® Green Card is a close competitor since it earns in similar spending categories. The Amex Green Card does have a higher annual fee at $150 (see rates and fees), but you’ll also get multiple travel perks and statement credits that can make the card even more valuable to those who utilize the benefits.
Related: Citi Premier review
Official application link: Citi Premier
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Why we love it: The card offers the most benefits for American Airlines flyers of any credit card on the market, providing Admirals Club lounge access, elitelike perks and more. Plus, you can add up to 10 free authorized users, and these users can take advantage of some of the card’s perks (like lounge access).
Who should use it: Loyal American Airlines flyers who are looking for ways to fast-track elite status and enjoy Admirals Club lounge access when flying with American.
Why it’s in my wallet: “This card helps me earn Loyalty Points for my elite status with American. But the real reason I keep it year after year is because of the generous lounge access policy and the ability to add so many of my friends and family as authorized users for free.” — Scott Mayerowitz, executive editor
Unlocking elite status: Because the card earns Loyalty Points, which are used to qualify for elite status, spending on your credit card can help you earn status faster.
Alternative card option: American Airlines flyers who are looking to earn Loyalty Points but aren’t interested in lounge access could benefit from the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®. It comes with a much lower annual fee and lets you earn bonus AAdvantage miles on additional spending categories: restaurants and gas stations.
Official application link: Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Why we love it: It offers a solid rewards structure, a number of benefits for Delta flyers (including an annual companion pass) and a way to earn elite status faster — all for a lower annual fee than premium cards like the Amex Platinum or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
Who should use it: Frequent Delta flyers who are interested in using their credit card to earn Delta SkyMiles on everyday spending while earning Delta elite status faster and enjoying a handful of elitelike benefits.
Why it’s in my wallet: “This card helps me earn Medallion Qualification Miles toward my elite status, but the real reason I keep it in my wallet is the annual companion pass. My family and I do a lot of domestic flying and often plan our vacations far in advance. Having the companion ticket can save my family hundreds of dollars a year in airfare. Plus, the tickets even qualify for free elite upgrades.” — Scott Mayerowitz, executive editor
Unlocking elite status: Cardholders earn a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver after eligible spending, which can be used to help you reach status up to Platinum Medallion. You also can earn extra Medallion Qualification Miles with eligible spending to help bridge the gap if you’re short on miles required for elite status.
Alternative card option: Delta is a transfer partner of the American Express® Gold Card, which means you can use the rewards earned on the Amex Gold to fly Delta without sacrificing the ability to redeem with other airlines. If you like the earning structure of the Delta Platinum but care less about using the card to earn elite status, the Amex Gold could be a great alternative.
Related: Delta SkyMiles Platinum card review
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Platinum
Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card
Why we love it: For a low annual fee, the card offers a generous sign-up bonus and some solid perks like an annual companion fare ticket (after spending $6,000 or more on purchases in the preceding year). Now that Alaska Airlines is a member of Oneworld, you can use the miles earned with the Alaska Airlines Visa to fly with not only Alaska but also Japan Airlines, American Airlines and more.
Who should use it: The card is an obvious choice for anyone who flies with Alaska Airlines regularly, offering a generous sign-up bonus and elitelike perks to help elevate your travel experience.
Why it’s in my wallet: “With new benefits, this card is even more valuable to me — even with the annual fee going up $20 this year. It provides a free first checked bag, discounts on inflight purchases and priority boarding. My favorite feature, however, is the annual Companion Fare. I get hundreds of dollars in annual value from this perk.” — Ryan Smith, credit cards writer
Unlocking elite status: Unfortunately, the card doesn’t offer any benefits that help fast-track elite status with Alaska Airlines.
Alternative card option: Cards that earn flexible rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, are great alternatives. Since Chase is a transfer partner with other Oneworld airlines and has its own travel portal, you still have the ability to book Alaska flights with your points —and you aren’t limited to only Alaska Airlines and its partners.
Official application link: Alaska Airlines Visa credit card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Why we love it: The card offers some great perks for loyal Delta flyers, including free checked bags, space-available upgrades, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit, lounge access, an annual companion certificate and more.
Who should use it: Because of the high annual fee (see rates and fees), this card is best for those who fly Delta regularly and can maximize all of the card’s benefits.
Why it’s in my wallet: “As a Delta Diamond Medallion, I spend a lot of time on Delta jets. The Delta Reserve card helps me maintain my status by offering Medallion Qualification Mile bonuses, which have done a lot to help me earn and retain status. Plus, the card’s annual companion ticket is valid on first-class itineraries and has helped me offset the card’s annual fee multiple years in a row.” — Andrew Kunesh, former senior editor, points and miles
Unlocking elite status: New cardholders can earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles toward status as part of the welcome bonus. Cardholders also have access to Status Boost: You can earn up to 60,000 MQMs per year with associated spending, plus you can earn a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver up to Platinum Medallion status.
Alternative card option: The Amex Platinum offers a host of benefits for travelers who want to keep their redemption options open beyond Delta and its partners. While it won’t help you earn Delta elite status, Amex Platinum cardholders do have access to Delta Sky Club lounges (when flying Delta that same day) and can transfer points to Delta for award redemptions.
Related: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex review
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
Why we love it: For a cobranded airline card, it has a great rewards structure that extends far beyond just Southwest purchases. Combined with its Southwest-specific benefits, strong sign-up bonus and moderate $199 annual fee, this card is a no-brainer for frequent Southwest business travelers.
Who should use it: Small-business owners who fly regularly with Southwest will get the most out of this card’s earning categories and benefits.
Why it’s in my wallet: “It made sense for me to get this as my first Southwest card, given that I live in Austin, where almost 40% of flights are operated by Southwest. I get the most value out of this card by taking advantage of the upgraded boardings, inflight Wi-Fi credits and 9,000 anniversary bonus points, which help offset the significant annual fee.” — Matt Moffitt, senior credit cards editor
Unlocking elite status: In addition to a few elitelike perks, cardholders earn 1,500 tier qualifying points per $10,000 spent in a calendar year, helping you hit elite status faster.
Alternative card option: The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points across a variety of business expenses and has a lower annual fee than the Southwest Performance Business card. While it doesn’t offer Southwest-specific perks or a fast-track to elite status, Southwest is a Chase transfer partner, so you can transfer your points to book Southwest flights.
Official application link: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business
United Business Card
Why we love it: The United Business Card has a low annual fee (that’s waived the first year), but it offers a lot of value to cardholders: bonus earning on categories beyond just United purchases, elitelike benefits such as priority boarding, two one-time United Club passes and more.
Who should use it: Small-business owners who want some United perks without spending hundreds of dollars on an annual fee.
Why it’s in my wallet: “As a frequent United traveler, I actually have a couple of United credit cards that unlock different perks and benefits. While I initially got the United Business Card for the bonus and to keep business expenses separate, I keep it for the discount on inflight purchases, the annual 5,000-mile bonus for having both a business and personal United card, and the $100 statement credit for charging at least seven United flights to the card each year.” — Summer Hull, director of content
Unlocking elite status: Cardholders earn 500 Premier qualifying points after $12,000 in spending to help you hit elite status faster, with a maximum of 1,000 PQPs earned this way annually. Plus, elite status holders with this card are eligible for space-available upgrades on United flights.
Alternative card option: Loyal United flyers who are interested in even more benefits (including lounge access and additional ways to fast-track elite status) should consider the United Club Business Card. While the annual fee is much higher, frequent United flyers who maximize the benefits can easily offset the additional cost.
Related: United Business Card review
Official application link: United Business Card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
Why we love it: As Delta’s top-tier cobranded business card, the Delta Reserve Business Amex comes with a long list of perks tailor-made for loyal Delta flyers — from a solid welcome offer to lounge access to fast-tracked elite status with spending and much more.
Who should use it: Business travelers with large monthly expenses who are loyal to Delta will benefit the most from this card, especially if they’re looking for ways to hit elite status faster and want lounge access.
Why it’s in my wallet: “The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Amex helped me attain airline status without actually having status. As a newbie Delta flyer, I wanted to have a credit card that will make my overall travel experience better. Having access to the Delta Sky Club and Centurion Lounges when flying Delta were massive perks. Along with triple miles when making Delta purchases, an annual companion pass and a 15% discount when using my SkyMiles to book travel make the high annual fee worth it.” — Hannah Streck, senior SEO manager
Unlocking elite status:
Cardholders can earn a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver eligible for up to Platinum Medallion elite status, plus up to 60,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles after eligible spending.
Alternative card option:
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express gives cardholders incredible benefits that extend beyond Delta. However, since Delta is a partner of American Express, cardholders still can transfer points to book with Delta and have access to Delta Sky Club lounges when flying with the airline.
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Amex
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Why we love it: The Ink Business Preferred is one of the best business credit cards on the market, offering an awesome sign-up bonus, a strong rewards structure for business spending, a low annual fee, access to Chase’s transfer partners and more.
Who should use it: Small-business owners who want to earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points across a number of business expenses without a high annual fee. Those with a company cellphone also could benefit from this card through its cellphone protection.
Why it’s in my wallet: “I originally signed up for the Ink Business Preferred primarily for its sign-up bonus. But, over the last year, I’ve found myself making it my go-to card when booking travel. After all, the Ink Business Preferred earns 3 points per dollar spent on travel and provides excellent travel protections, including trip delay protection and rental car insurance.” — Katie Genter, senior points and miles writer
Alternative card option: For small-business owners who are interested in maximizing their monthly expenses, the American Express® Business Gold Card offers a very strong rewards structure that adapts to your spending habits. Plus, TPG values Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each (equal to our valuation of Chase Ultimate Rewards points).
Related: Ink Business Preferred review
Official application link: Ink Business Preferred
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
Why we love it: Business travelers will get elitelike perks such as a free checked bag and priority boarding, plus an annual companion certificate. The card also has a solid sign-up bonus and the ability to earn Loyalty Points toward elite status.
Who should use it: The card provides the most value to small-business owners who fly with American Airlines regularly.
Why it’s in my wallet: “I originally signed up for the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard for its sign-up bonus. But I’ve kept the card to earn American Airlines miles and Loyalty Points on my spending. I have American Airlines elite status, so I don’t get any incremental value from the card’s first-checked-bag-free benefit on domestic itineraries. But I sometimes enjoy getting a 25% discount on inflight purchases of food and beverages when I use my card for purchases on flights operated by American Airlines.” — Katie Genter, senior points and miles writer
Unlocking elite status: Like all AAdvantage cobranded cards, the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card earns Loyalty Points on every purchase, helping you earn elite status with American Airlines faster.
Alternative card option: The Ink Business Preferred is a great option for business owners who are interested in earning more-flexible rewards on spending and care less about earning Loyalty Points or airline-specific perks. The card has a fantastic sign-up bonus and a low $95 annual fee, and you can transfer points to a number of different airlines for award travel.
The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum 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.
JetBlue Plus Card
Why we love it: The JetBlue Plus card comes with a lot of benefits and a strong sign-up bonus, all with a low annual fee of $99.
Who should use it: Travelers who fly with JetBlue regularly can get a ton of value out of this card — especially those looking to fast-track elite status.
Why it’s in my wallet: “Anyone who flies JetBlue even a few times a year should look hard at the JetBlue Plus. I love the free-checked-bag perk (even on basic economy tickets), and I automatically get 10% of my TrueBlue points back when I redeem them for flights. And nothing starts a vacation better than enjoying inflight snacks and drinks at 50% off.” — Nick Ewen, director of content
Unlocking elite status: Cardholders can earn Mosaic status through credit card spending alone, with $50,000 in card purchases annually.
Alternative card option: Those looking for a card that earns more on everyday spending — like dining and groceries — should check out the Citi Premier Card. It has a similar annual fee and a quality earning structure. Plus, JetBlue is a transfer partner, meaning you can still use your rewards to book JetBlue flights.
Related: JetBlue Plus Card review
The information for the 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.
The difference between airline and travel credit cards
While both airline and travel credit cards earn rewards that you can put toward trips, there are differences between airline and travel credit cards.
Travel credit cards earn bonus rewards on travel purchases (generally in addition to other spending categories, such as dining or groceries) that you can redeem for future travel that might include flights, along with other expenses such as hotel stays or car rentals. Airline credit cards are specifically suited to pay for airline purchases, earn miles that can be redeemed for flights and offer perks that can make your flights more enjoyable.
Airline credit cards are cobranded, meaning they are affiliated with a specific airline (or sometimes group of airlines) and earn rewards and provide benefits that can be used specifically with that airline’s loyalty program. Airline cards are great for travelers who fly regularly with a specific carrier and its partners.
By comparison, general travel credit cards usually come with a bit more flexibility when it comes to earning and redeeming rewards. While you typically won’t get benefits specific to any particular airline, you’ll be able to redeem the rewards you earn with travel credit cards across multiple airlines (and hotels), and more-premium travel credit cards offer broader benefits such as general travel statement credits and travel protections.
A few of these more general travel credit cards are included in our best airline credit cards lineup because they can still help travelers maximize airline purchases and upgrade their overall flight experience with benefits such as lounge access.
How to choose an airline credit card
The goal is to find an airline credit card that best fits your lifestyle and spending habits.
Do you frequently fly with just one or two carriers? If so, you may be a good candidate for an airline-specific credit card. However, if you spread your trips across multiple airlines, a general travel card could be a better fit.
Next, think of your spending habits and what purchases you plan to put on the card. If you spend a lot on dining each month and are looking to use your new card on those expenses, it makes sense to pick a credit card that offers dining as a bonus earning category. If groceries are your largest expense, consider cards that offer the best earning rates at supermarkets.
Next, evaluate the perks a card offers. Here, you’ll want to consider how often you can use those benefits in a given year and compare the value you’d get from them versus the card’s annual fee. If you never check a bag when traveling, enjoying waived baggage fees thanks to an airline credit card carries little value.
Meanwhile, cards with airport lounge access typically charge high annual fees but can make your airport experience much more enjoyable if you find yourself spending hours between flights needing a place to get work done or grab a meal.
And don’t forget to look at the welcome offer on a card. This initial haul of bonus points or miles can put a trip within reach — but be sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements to earn those rewards responsibly and pay off your balance in full and on time.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all “best” credit card. It’s all about choosing a card that fits your needs and travel goals.
Airline credit cards with no annual fee
The best airline credit cards offer a lot of perks that save travelers time, money and stress — from free checked bags to priority boarding to a faster way to earn elite status. However, the airline credit cards that offer these advantages often charge annual fees ranging from $95-$550 and above.
If you aren’t comfortable paying an annual fee or know you won’t use the benefits of an airline card enough to justify paying one, there are some no-annual-fee airline credit cards available to you.
These cards may not offer the same rewards as their more expensive counterparts, but they are worth considering in some cases. You can check out a few of these options below and read more about them in TPG’s review of each card.
|Airline card||Sign-up bonus/welcome offer||Bonus value**||TPG review|
|American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®||10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$227.||American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp review.|
|Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card (see rates and fees)||10,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.||$141.||Delta SkyMiles Blue Amex review.|
|JetBlue Card||10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.||$130.||JetBlue Card review.|
|United Gateway Card||Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||$242.||United Gateway Card review.|
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
The information for the JetBlue 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.
How to maximize your airline credit cards
The simplest way to make the most of your airline credit cards is to study all the perks and benefits that come with them, and then use them to their full potential.
Use your airline credit card for purchases where you’ll earn additional points or miles, such as airfare with the associated airline, or on any bonus categories your cards may offer, such as gas or groceries.
Make note of any day-of-travel perks your airline credit cards may offer, such as free checked luggage and priority boarding, as well as the terms and conditions required to take advantage of those perks, such as whether you need to use the card to pay for at least part of the flight.
If your airline credit cards offer statement credits, complete the spending or other activities required to unlock them. Use any fee credits to cover expenses such as airport lounge access and seat upgrades, and take advantage of any discounts on purchases such as inflight food and beverages. Take advantage of free companion certificates to bring a friend or loved one along on a trip with you, too.
The earning structure and benefits that come with airline credit cards are what help offset their annual fees, which makes it crucial to maximize these perks. For example, if you check luggage on flights, you could save $60 round-trip per flight with the free-checked-bag benefit that typically comes with these cards — or even more if you have travel companions. That benefit alone could help you justify a card’s annual fee, depending on how often you fly.
For those chasing airline elite status, see if your credit card offers a way to help achieve it. If it does, consider putting the spending required for this type of perk on the card. (Just make sure you’re still able to pay off your card in full at the end of every month to avoid paying interest and racking up debt.)
Don’t overlook protections such as travel delay reimbursement, extended warranty coverage and more. In a pinch, those lesser-used benefits can save you hundreds of dollars when things go wrong.
Finally, make sure you understand how to redeem the airline points or miles you earn with your credit card so that you are reaping value from the travel that these points and miles make possible. Each frequent flyer program has its sweet spots, and by leveraging those, you can dramatically increase the value your airline credit card can provide.
Popular airline rewards programs
Pretty much every major airline has a loyalty program that is free to join. Here are a few of the most popular airline rewards programs for U.S.-based travelers:
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: Alaska Airlines currently has the most valuable airline currency, according to the valuations that TPG publishes 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, thanks to its great award charts and excellent airline partners.
American Airlines AAdvantage: While American Airlines doesn’t offer as extensive a lineup of credit cards as some other airlines, such as Delta Air Lines, there is still a lot of value in the overall AAdvantage program. Since it’s part of the Oneworld airline alliance, you’ll be able to book flights with partner airlines such as Cathay Pacific, British Airways and more.
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles: Delta is one of the top U.S. airlines and has won multiple TPG Awards. It’s part of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which means you can use your Delta SkyMiles to book trips on a number of partner airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic and Korean Air. Delta also has an extensive credit card lineup, making it easy to earn miles on everyday spending.
JetBlue TrueBlue: While not as well known as some of the other programs on this list, JetBlue’s loyalty program still offers a lot of value to travelers. The program is easy to use, making it ideal for casual budget travelers. Currently, redemptions are largely restricted to flights within the Americas, but the airline is expanding to Europe.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards: Southwest is a fan favorite for North American flights and has a reputation for excellent customer service. Southwest offers a Companion Pass benefit for loyal flyers that can save you thousands of dollars on flights each year.
United Airlines 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.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of frequent flyer programs, but it’s a solid overview of a few of the top airline programs in the U.S.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Blue Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, please click here.