Travel is the only thing in life that you can purchase that will make you wealthier (or something to that effect), which is precisely why so many consumers are interested in learning which of the many airline credit cards available is the best one. Airline credit cards make travel a little sweeter by offering cardholders the ability to earn points and rewards redeemable for free travel, free flights, free upgrades and so much more, and they don’t stop there. Many airline credit cards take their job even more seriously than just free flights and miles, and they offer fee rewards, free checked luggage and carry-on luggage options and they also offer their cardholders the opportunity to enjoy the best that the airline has to offer.
Not all airline credit cards are created equal. Some are superior to others and other simply do not offer enough in terms of rewards to make them even remotely worthwhile. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot find one that is not right for you. The best airline credit cards are the ones that offer great rewards earning potential, easily redeemable points, few to no blackout dates for travel and plenty of other perks such as free luggage and even priority boarding. To find the best airline credit card, we’ve taken into consideration the best cards on the market and chosen the ones that offer the most to consumers.
We’ve narrowed the selection down to five primary airline credit cards that offer more than any other card on the market, and the also offer you the ability to maintain or improve your credit score. Before we tell you which airline credit cards allow you to make the most of your travel plans, however, we thought we’d remind you just how important it is to use your card wisely at all times. Remember that it’s important to pay your card in full at all times – or keep the balance at or below 30% of your available credit if you find yourself unable to pay off the card in full at any point. Always pay your card on time, and do not cancel it or risk seeing your credit score drop.
Before You Apply for an Airline Credit Card
There is much to consider before you apply for an airline credit card. We aren’t saying that it’s a bad idea to do so, but we are going to point out that these are not the most beneficial credit cards to have as a whole. The problem with this type of credit card is that it restricts you to one airline. You’re free to travel on as many airlines as you’d like, but you’re only going to get the best value for every dollar spent using this card if you are loyal to only one airline.
A few other factors to consider before you decide to apply for an airline credit card is how often you will use this card. If you are not a frequent traveler, it makes very little sense for you to apply for an airline credit card. A card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred with its own travel benefits and redemption points makes more sense for someone who only travels on occasion. Additionally, it’s typically only beneficial to apply for an airline credit card if you fall into the majority of the following categories:
- It’s possible for you to take advantage of companion fares
- You have no problem remaining loyal to one airline – even when airfare prices with that airline are more expensive than on other airlines
- You fly often; upwards of five times per year at the very least
- You do not carry a balance on your airline credit card at any time
- You are a responsible card user who does not use this card to make purchases you cannot afford and then blame the card for causing you to go into debt when clearly it is not the card’s fault you spent more than you could afford making airline and travel purchases
With that reminder and the knowledge that a great airline credit card can benefit your travel lifestyle significantly, it’s time to get to know the five best airline credit cards on the market. Compare the different features, the similar features and decide which features are most beneficial to you. What works well for one traveler might not work so well for another, which is what makes this decision such a highly personal one. Here are the five best and most beneficial airline credit cards on the market.
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
I’m particularly partial to this card because I do find that Delta and Jet Blue are my preferred airline travel partners. I like Jet Blue because we fly often to New York City and it’s a quick, clean, effortless and less expensive flight using Jet Blue out of Tampa, and I like Delta for almost all my other flights. It’s my personal opinion that they have some of the best flight crew, flights and itineraries for my own personal travel needs more often than not, and my husband and I will typically spend a bit more money on Delta flights than other flights for that specific reason. It does help that this is the largest airline in the country, as well.
What makes this airline credit card one of the most competitive and most worth considering is all that it has to offer; it’s highly competitive with the other airline credit cards on the market, and it has a lot to offer. Additionally, the Gold Delta SkyMiles Airline Credit Cards offers a partnership with Starwood Hotels. What this means for frequent fliers is that it’s possible to double earn your points when you travel using Delta because you earn points through both Delta and Starwood. This is free airline travel points and free hotel points that can be used to book upgrades and/or free nights at any Starwood hotel. This card is best used in conjunction with a Starwood Preferred Guest Membership and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card (also from American Express). It’s the most beneficial way to maximize points and get the most out of your card as you use it frequently.
Who this card is for:
- Guests who love Delta and are willing to choose this airline for travel purposes even when the price is higher through Delta than any other airline to ensure the maximization of airline points and rewards through this airline credit card
- International travelers as Delta is a great airline for that type of travel
- Frequent fliers that reside in or around cities in which Delta considers a hub, such as Atlanta, as there are numerous flights in and out of cities like these that make it possible to earn more points with this airline credit card
- Anyone who likes to drink or enjoy entertainment on board flights
- Travelers who prefer to upgrade their seats on any flight
- Travelers that tend to check a piece of luggage on every flight since this airline credit card offers all cardholders one free bag per trip
How to use this card to maximize points:
- The best use of this card is to book Delta travel in conjunction with a stay at Starwood hotels
- Link rewards program accounts through Cross Rewards to begin maximizing your points and earnings through both Starwood hotels and Delta airlines
- When checking in, boarding and checking luggage this card offers some perks that other airline credit cards do not offer, which is what makes it one of the best airline credit cards on the market today
- The bonus points are impressive with 30,000 points automatically given to all cardholders that spend at least $1000 within 90 days of becoming a cardholder
- Earn a $50 statement credit anytime a cardholder makes a purchase with Delta or on a Delta flight within the first three months of being a cardholder
- No annual fee for one year, only $95 per year after that
- One free bag with every checked flight per person – this is a huge savings when you consider that one checked bag is $50
- Priority boarding that allows you to enter the plane first and get settled – a great way to ensure that you have plenty of overhead space available for your carry-on luggage in a place that is convenient to your seat when it comes to getting off your plane and coming home
- All purchases with Delta earn cardholders 2 points for every dollar spent and 1 point is earned for every dollar spent on other purchases
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card
One of the biggest airlines in the world, United has plenty to offer in terms of airline credit card rewards, points and options. Many travelers prefer this airline credit card because they are aware that they can make the most of it. United flies all over the country and the world, which means travelers have more options with this particular airline and its credit card than they do with others. In addition to flying almost everywhere you can imagine, United also offers many of the most convenient flights imaginable. Having merged with Continental several years ago, the airline took on a number of additional routes and locations, making it one of the biggest airlines in the world.
What goes on to make this one of the best airline credit cards available is the fact that it does have much to offer in terms of rewards and bonuses. Of course, like all the other airline credit cards on the list, this is one that definitely does have some drawbacks in terms of only being really useful when purchasing flights and flight-related additions with United. It is not an everyday credit card designed to earn you ample rewards for just about anything. It’s great for United, but subpar for everyday purchases.
Who this card is for:
- Cardholders who also have a Chase Sapphire Rewards Card as these two have a partnership that allows cardholders to maximize their travel rewards and benefits in a manner not available to most other airlines and partners
- Those who fly United more often than any other airline and/or are willing to pay just a bit more for each flight to continue their loyalty to the brand
- International travelers that need an airline that will take them on all domestic and international trips so that the most rewards are earned in the simplest of manners
- Those who live in areas in which United uses as a hub so that more flights, routes, time and destinations are available for passengers looking to travel for business and/or pleasure purposes
How to use this card to maximize points:
- Use your Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card to buy everything on a regular basis (we like to recommend that cardholders use it for everything from their fun purchases to their monthly expenses to earn the most points and then pay the card off in full using the cash typically reserved for those items at the end of each month) to earn points and then transfer those points to your United airlines credit card to earn free flights, upgrades and additional tickets
- Add an authorized user to the account to get an even better signup bonus when you apply for this airline credit card
- Use the card every single time you buy a flight with United
- Use the card to pay for baggage, drinks and entertainment and food on board and all other fees associated with United flights
- Compare flight prices and determine whether or not more expensive United fares are worth using this airline credit card to book a flight and utilize the points available
- Spend at least $1000 in the first three months that you are a cardholder to earn a 30,000 bonus miles gift; just makes sure to pay off those purchases in full to ensure you are able to keep earning your mileages and rewards for free travel and upgrades
- Take advantage of to United Club entrances every year when you become a cardholder; this allows passengers to enjoy the perks of being able to use the club with this airline credit card and all that the club has to offer to frequent fliers
- Take advantage of priority boarding on all flights, which allows you first access to boarding so that you can get your bags up in the compartments directly above you to ensure that you have room for your carry-on and so that you are able to get it easily and without hassle when the flight is over and it’s your turn to exit the plane
- Earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on all United flight tickets, drinks on board, food on board, upgrading your seats, baggage and everything in between
- Earn 1 point for every dollar spent on all other purchases with the United airline credit card
- Take advantage of a lack of foreign transaction fees in foreign countries – particularly beneficial during layovers
- Take advantage of the fact that you never have to worry about your miles and rewards expiring once they are earned; as long as you remain loyal and keep your airline credit card active, you will never see points expire
- There is no limit to the amount of points that you are eligible to earn on this card, which means it’s great for fliers that earn tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles ever year – and even more
- Enjoy no annual fee for one year after becoming a United airlines credit card member, and the fee is only $95 per year after the first year
- There are no blackout dates associate with reward travel, which means travelers can redeem free flights, free upgrades and rewards on any flight on any day anytime of the year
- There are no seat restrictions when redeeming reward travel, either, which means travelers are eligible to use their free mileage on any flight, any seat, any time of the year
- Combine this card with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card and enjoy transferring credit card reward points from your Chase card to your airline credit card for free flights anytime
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
Travelers love this card, and they love this airline. This is one of those airlines that has a flight crew that always seems to go above and beyond, they have a convenient flight schedule and options and they have some of the best flights around. It also helps that the airline offers some of the most competitive rates for travel throughout the country. What makes this particular airline credit card one of the best in the market is the long list of bonuses and extras that come with the card. For one, not all airline credit cards offer bonus points on the anniversary of a cardholders membership the way that hotels tend to do when their members have been around for a year and continue to remain loyal to their brand. This airline credit card offers an impressive number of bonus miles on the anniversary date of a cardholder’s membership. The airline is always expanding, too, to include more destinations and more perks for their customers. It’s a growing airline with a lot to offer, and that’s why many travelers are completely loyal to this particular brand and this particular airline credit card.
Perhaps the biggest downfall of this particular airline credit card is the fact that you do not get to enjoy a waived annual fee the first year of card membership. The annual fee with the Southwest airlines credit card is $99, and it is due right away.
Who this card is for:
- Travelers who also carry a Chase Sapphire Rewards credit card because the airline partners with Chase and allows travelers to transfer their points 100% through the airline and the credit card, which allows travelers to really take advantage of all that both cards have to offer – and both are the best of the best in their particular categories and fields
- Southwest Airlines lovers as this card is not going to benefit anyone who lives anywhere that Southwest does not travel or anyone that prefers to use a different airline
- Those who love to travel in the Southeast and the Northwest as options become a bit more limited when it comes to travel elsewhere; there are very few destinations as you begin flying toward the northwest and even some of the Midwestern states and the Caribbean
How to use this card to maximize points:
- Use this card to book all flights and luggage, upgrades and other fees on Southwest flights to earn the most points and the most benefits from the card
- Also apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card as an everyday credit card so that you can transfer your points and take advantage of all that both cards have to offer
- Monitor deals and travel on Southwest flights and use your Chase Sapphire Preferred points to book travel on the cheap, or even free, as often as possible
- The best way to do this is to use your Sapphire Preferred card to make all your other purchases outside of your flights so that you earn the most possible number of points; but remember to pay off your card in full each month or you hurt your credit and your ability to earn points with an outstanding balance on the card
- Chip-enabled cards keep you protected every hour of every day from fraud, protecting your credit and your finances every moment of the day
- There is never any expiration date on points that you earn through this airline credit card
- There are no travel blackout dates at all, even when redeeming your reward points, which is a huge plus since many other airline credit cards come complete with a long list of blackout dates for their customers when it comes to booking reward travel
- Earn 6,000 bonus points every year on the anniversary date of your cardholder membership
- All bags fly free on Southwest if you are a Southwest airline credit card holder
- Make $2000 in purchases within three months of being a cardholder through Southwest and you will enjoy a 50,000 bonus point reward on your account
- Earn 2 points for every dollar spent with Southwest airlines when you use this airline credit card
- Earn 2 points for every dollar spent when you use your Southwest airlines credit card to book rental cars and hotel rooms with participating hotels and car rental agencies
- Earn 1 point for every dollar spent on all other purchases with the card
- No foreign transaction fees when using this card in a foreign country
British Airways Visa Signature Card
This is a card worth considering even if you are not a frequent flier in other countries. It is true that the biggest downfall of this particular airline credit card is the fact that it is only beneficial to those who are frequent fliers in the United Kingdom as the carrier is not a major US carrier, but the perk is that this is the airline credit card with the biggest sign up bonus available to all new cardholders in the airline credit card industry. This means that it’s worth considering just because the bonus is so significant. If you just so happen to be a frequent visitor to the hubs and destinations that the British Airways fleet visits, you’ll only benefit from carrying this card that much more.
In addition to having the best airline credit card bonus in the industry, this airline credit card also has the best rewards points available. And while it’s not usually recommended that travelers and cardholders spend their everyday purchases on an airline credit card, this is a card with a different level of beneficial. This card does pay quite well for all cardholders that choose to use this card for their everyday needs, which puts it more in line with a regular rewards credit card. Anytime travelers are able to spend $30,000 per year with this card, they earn a free flight for themselves as well as a free companion ticket – and both tickets are good for first class flights.
Let’s take a second to view this situation in this light; even if you do not use British Airways on a regular basis, you can use this card to earn your dream vacation pretty much free of charge. Let’s say that you get the signup bonus; you can use that to upgrade your free flights to first class. Let’s say that you use this card to pay your mortgage, your utilities, your gas bill, your grocery bill; you use this card all year to pay for every single expense that you have. That guarantees that you spend $30,000 or more in one calendar year. You’re buying these items regardless, so you use the cash designated each month to pay your expenses and you pay off the airline credit card at the end of the month, every month. You’ve just earned two free flights that you can use anywhere in the world. So, that Tahitian vacation or that trip the UK or Italy or wherever it is you want to visit but don’t want to spend thousands on airfare to go just became free. Take that, think about it and consider this card as a major player in the airline credit card industry simply because of that offer. This is what makes this card one worth considering even though it’s not really relevant to the vast majority of American travelers.
Who this card is for:
- International travelers as this is not an airline credit card that works with a partner that does much in the way of US domestic flights
- Anyone looking to earn a free vacation anywhere in the world for two passengers
- Anyone looking to take advantage of what is considered the most flexible and beneficial airline reward mileage program in the world
- Anyone who wants free tickets for two passengers
- Anyone who can afford to spend $30,000 per year on this card and pay it off in full each month to earn two free flights every year
How to use this card to maximize points:
- Use this card to book all trips on a British Airways flight
- Make more than $2000 worth of purchases in the first 90 days you are an airline credit card holder for this airline and earn 30,000 bonus points
- Earn three points for every dollar you spend with British Airways
- Earn 1 point for every other dollar you spend on the card
- Use this card to buy everything that you have to buy throughout the year so that you can earn your 30,000 bonus points at sign up and at least 50,000 reward points throughout the year if you spend nothing with British Airways (More if you do spend with the airline) and so that you earn your two free tickets at the end of every year
- Combine this airline credit card with your Chase Sapphire Rewards Credit Card so that you can transfer your points to this card whenever you want to book free travel, upgrades or anything in between
- Spend $30,000 per year on this airline credit card and earn two first class tickets anywhere in the world to use every year – this could mean dream vacations every single year are within your budget and your price range
- Earn 50,000 bonus points when you sign up for the card and spend at least $2,000 in three months
- Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend at least $10,000 in the first three months of having this card in your wallet
- Earn another 25,000 bonus points when you spend a total of $20,000 per year with this airline credit card
- Enjoy an airline credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees for any purchase in any country
- Make $30,000 in purchases on this airline credit card per year and earn two first class tickets anywhere in the world free of charge (each ticket is valid for two years before expiring)
- Earn three points on every dollar spent with British Airways
- Earn 1 point on every dollar spent on other purchases with this airline credit card
- Enjoy the perks of Chip based technology that allows your card to be used in any foreign country with the added bonus of additional protection on all your purchases
American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard by Citi
What makes this airline credit card one of the best in the industry is simple; it’s availability that makes this card such a prominent one. American Airlines is an airline that travels all over the country, to many international destinations, and it has frequent and very convenient flights you can take advantage of. The bonus point are also impressive, with means that this airline offers credit card holders the ability to earn more, redeem more and enjoy more in terms of travel.
The card is not for everyone, but it is for many travelers that prefer domestic travel but are not opposed to international travel as a way of maximizing bonus points and getting the absolute most out of this particular credit card. There are a number of benefits associated with this card that make it a great card for anyone who is willing to forgo travel with other airlines in favor of this credit card. One of the biggest benefits of this particular airline credit card is that it also works on US Airways flights, which doubles the amount of points you can earn as you are eligible to earn points on twice the airlines.
The biggest drawback with this airline credit card is the fact that unlike the rest of the airline credit cards we’ve chosen as the best of the best, this card does come with a foreign transaction fee. However, since it is primarily a domestic airline, you might not have to worry much about that if your travels keep you in the United States as often as possible. The fee is 3%, which can become quite expensive when you travel overseas on a regular basis.
Who this card is for:
- Airline credit card holders that enjoy domestic travel and fly five or more times per calendar year
- Those who will use American Airlines for the bulk of their air travel
- Anyone who also uses US Airways on a regular basis
- Anyone who likes savings
- Those who have excellent credit
How to use this card to maximize points:
- Book travel on any American Airlines or US Airways flight to earn the most points per dollar spent on airline travel
- Forgo other airlines in favor of American and/or US Airways
- Spend at least $1000 in purchases during the first three months that you have an open account with this airline credit card and enjoy 30,000 bonus miles added to your account
- Spend at least $1000 in the first three months that you have this airline credit card in your wallet and earn 30,000 bonus airline miles that are good for redemption with both American Airlines and US Airways
- Enjoy flight perks, benefits and points earned with both American Airlines and US Airways – a feature no other airline credit card offers with their particular program
- All cardholders earn 10% of their redeemed mileage back in cash up to 10,000 miles per year, every year
- Priority boarding on both American Airlines and US Airways flights – which means you board before those on the flight and get your first pick of overhead storage space and convenience of having your carry-on luggage near you when you get off your flight
- All American Airlines credit card members receive a 25% discount on all purchases made on each flight, which encompasses food and beverages if you use your airline credit card to make those purchases during your flights
- Enjoy one checked bag per flight, per person up to five passengers so long as their airline tickets were purchased using your airline credit card
- Enjoy the fact that the annual fee for this airline credit card is waived the first year of card membership and is only $95 per year after the first year
- Earn two points for every dollar spent on an American Airlines flight or US Airways flight with this airline credit card
- Earn 1 point for every dollar spent elsewhere when you use your airline credit card to make purchases
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