Why choose one of the best airline credit cards to use when booking travel? It’s a question many consumers ask, and the answer is quite simple; the rewards are worth it. Unfortunately, not everyone chooses to listen to this advice, and that means that many consumers are missing out significantly on some of the best rewards and impressive free travel by not using one of the best airline credit cards on the market.
If you travel often, using one of the best airline credit cards for 2016 will help you earn more miles, more rewards and better service. We can teach you to use these cards in a way that allows you to make the most of each one, to turn each one into the most beneficial card you’ve ever had and also to take advantage of even more than you thought was possible. Since we are not advocates of making even the best airline credit cards your primary credit card, however, we will also help you pair the best airline credit cards with the best everyday credit cards on the market so that you can maximize your rewards and benefits and make the most of every dollar you spend.
Why an Airline Credit Card?
The best airline credit cards in the country make it worth it to have one of these cards in your wallet. Not as a primary credit card in most instances, but as a secondary card you can combine with your primary credit card to take full advantage of all that these cards have to offer. What we love about the best airline credit cards in the country is the fact that each one offers something unique and special that makes it easy for you to travel and to take advantage of the best that travel has to offer. What you will find in our list of best airline credit cards for 2016 is a comprehensive overview of the top 10 cards to have in your wallet this year, as well as a the reason behind each one. This comprehensive list allows you to see which card has the most to offer you; and that might be different than what the card has to offer someone else who also travels frequently.
If you’re going to apply for an airline credit card, though, you have to be someone who will use it often to ensure that you get the most bang for your buck. There are a few simple rules that we like to give our readers to help you determine whether or not you are an ideal candidate for this type of credit card. The best airline credit cards in the world will not help you if you do not travel often, and they will not benefit you much if you don’t live by the vast majority of these rules.
- Travel at least five times per year
- Stick to one airline most of the time
- This is not your primary credit card
- You will pay the card balance in full each month
If you cannot meet these requirements, not one of the best airline credit cards will be right for you. Traveling at least 5 times per calendar year is the only way to make sure you are getting your money back when it comes to your annual fee. It’s also the only way to ensure you earn at least one reward worth redemption in a calendar year. It helps to stick to one airline, because that’s how you earn the most out of your card when you fly. If you take five flights per year on five different airlines, it’s not going to benefit you to have an airline credit card that’s for one airline. Loyalty is key here. Additionally, it helps to be sure you’re near an airline that offers more flights, more destinations and more convenience for you. It’s not going to matter if you have a Jet Blue card but you live in a California city in which Jet Blue does not fly.
Your primary credit card should be one that offers more points for every dollar you spend on things you buy on a regular basis. For example, we’d recommend that you consider one such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, since you earn more points for every dollar you spend on things that are everyday purchases versus just flights. It’s great to have a Jet Blue credit card, for example since it is one of the best airline credit cards to have, so that you can earn 6 points on every purchase through the airline, but you only earn one point on every other purchase. It’s better to have another card that allows you to earn 2 or 3 points for every purchase. This help you build up your points catalog and future reward redemptions.
Finally, you must pay the balance of the card in full each month. Not one of these credit cards will prove to be the best airline credit card for you if you allow your balance to rotate throughout the year. You have to pay the card in full each month. This means every single month; not just on occasion.
How to Make the Most of the Best Airline Credit Cards
Now that you know who these cards are actually best for, it’s time to figure out how you can make the best of them. The first thing to understand is that you have to travel. If you don’t travel or you are just hoping for a card that will earn you free travel that you might not otherwise be able to afford, this is not the right list for you (though we do encourage that you check out the British Airways credit card to see if that might work for you).
It’s also important to keep in mind that you might have to become loyal to an airline you might not use as much as another. For example, sure, you might use Delta more than Jet Blue, but can you use Jet Blue more often by paying just a little bit more for each flight so that you earn even more and reap more benefits? This is another consideration all potential cardholders much look into; the best airline credit card for you might not be the one you think of immediately off the top of your head.
Ask yourself which of the best airline credit cards might be best for you. Ask yourself which one might work the best for you so that you can earn the most; and now you have to spend. We recommend that you use either your airline credit card to make all your airline purchases or you choose the partner card and make all your purchases with that card so that you can transfer your points to the airline card and get the most out of it. For example, if you choose to make the United Airlines credit card your choice airline credit card, be sure to also get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card since they link together and allow you to make the most of your miles with every purchase.
Now pay for everything with your card, and then pay it off in full. Many people assume they cannot afford to do that, but the benefit of using a credit card is that they are accepted almost anywhere. You can pay for your mortgage, your utilities, gas and groceries with your credit card to make the most out of your earnings and your points. Just be sure to pay off the card in full every month or the earnings are not worth it to you in any capacity.
We love airline credit cards simply because they are the best in terms of rewards and travel redemption. Most of the best airline credit cards in the country offer the following:
- Huge sign-up bonuses
- Free flights
- Free companion tickets
- Free upgrades
- Free checked luggage
- Free priority boarding
- No blackout dates
- More miles for every airline purchase
- More opportunity to travel free of charge
- Hotel and rental car partnerships that enable you to earn more while paying less
Gold Delta SkyMiles from American Express
What we love about the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card is what makes it one of the best airline credit cards on the market. Delta is the largest North American Airline, which means you get more for your money. You get more routes, more destinations, more room, more comfort and more accessibility. You need not live in or near a Delta hub to take advantage of all that Delta has to offer, and it’s what makes this card one of the best airline credit cards on the market. Between the significant bonus miles offered to new cardholders, the rewards earning potential and the crossover program that Delta has with a prominent hotel chain, you get more than you expect out of this particular card.
Let’s get down to it. What makes the Gold Delta SkyMiles card one of the best airline credit cards to have is the fact that you can pair it with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express to earn double the points all the time. The SPG card offers significant advantages on its own. When paired with the Delta SkyMiles card, the rewards are even more impressive. The SPG card offers new cardholders 25,000 bonus points when you spend $3000 in 3 months, free nights on your cardholder anniversary, and 5 points with every purchase at a Starwood hotel. When added to the benefits of its sister card, which is one of the best airline credit cards in the business, earning points has never been easier.
If you’re a Starwood cardholder, the Delta card is a no-brainer for you.
Who this card is for – If you want one of the best airline credit cards offered, this is the card for you. However, you should be someone who flies Delta at least five times per year, someone who loves to stay at Starwood hotels and someone who frequently checks baggage when flying. Additionally, anyone who loves to make purchases in the midst of a flight is going to love this card and the discounts it offers to travelers who do this.
- Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in 3 months
- Earn a $50 statement credit once you make a purchase with your card in three months
- 2 miles for every dollar spent with Delta
- 1 point for all other purchases
- First bag is checked free on all Delta flights
- Priority boarding for all Delta cardholders
- No annual fee for one year ($95 per year afterward)
- Cross Rewards with Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express allows you to link your rewards and earn more points when you fly Delta and/or stay at a Starwood property
United MileagePlus Explorer Card
Some people love United Airlines and others are not all that impressed. However, that does not change the fact that this card is one of the best airline credit cards on the market thanks to its great reward system, its impressive earning potential and its flexibility. United is one of the largest airlines in the states, which means those who choose to fly United will be able to get more for their money, more routes, more convenient flights and lower fares. What really makes this one of the best airline credit cards for 2016, though, is the fact that it’s a card worth its weight in gold if you check bags when you fly. Your first bag is always free, which saves tremendously on all flights.
Who this card is for – The United MileagePlus Explorer card is for any credit cardholder that likes to have free luggage, free points and lots of options. Combined, these make it one of the best airline credit cards in the country. You’ll need to be a frequent United flyer, you’ll need to have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and you’ll need to have a love of an airline that can take you just about anywhere in the world.
- Earn 30,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in three months
- Earn 2 points for every dollar spent with United
- Earn 1 point everywhere else
- Miles do not expire
- There are not blackout dates and no restrictions when booking reward travel
- No annual fee for one year ($95 per year after)
- Priority boarding
- 2 free United Club passes each year
- No foreign transaction fees
- First bag is always free
- Use with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for the best rewards redemptions and earning ability
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card
Everyone loves Southwest Airlines. Not only does that make this one of the best airline credit cards in the world, it also makes the card one of the most beloved by those who love to travel on Southwest. It’s an affordable airline with inexpensive one-way flights to many major airports across the United States, Mexico and even parts of the Caribbean. What makes this card one of the best airline credit cards available in 2016 is the perks. They are numerous and they are expansive, which is what makes it such a desirable card. The biggest downfall of the Southwest card is that it does not waive the annual fee the first year like many of the other cards on this list do, but the rewards more than make up for the additional fee you’ll pay the first year.
When combined with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the Southwest card becomes even more noteworthy on the list of best airline credit cards available. The two cards are partnered so that you can transfer and share your points and rewards and miles so that you can earn more points and, in turn, more rewards. Just one more reason we feel that the Southwest card is one of the best airline credit cards on the market for 2016 is the fact that it was given the honor of being named the 2015 Freddie Award for Best Loyalty Credit Card for its consumers.
Who this card is for – The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card is one of the best airline credit cards to have, especially if you are already a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder. This card is great for anyone who loves to travel Southwest (and who doesn’t?) as well as anyone who wants to earn great rewards, free flights and even free perks that many other airlines do not offer.
- Earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in three months
- Earn 6,000 bonus points on your cardholder anniversary
- Earn 2 points for every dollar spent with Southwest and its partner car rental and hotel members
- Ear 1 point for every dollar spent anywhere else
- Chip-enabled card
- No blackout dates
- No baggage fees
- Points never expire
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard
Believe it or not, the Hawaiian card is not only one of the best airline credit cards for 2016, it is also one of the newest cards for the year. This card is one that earns you a lot of points, offers a lot of rewards and makes it very easy to travel without any hassle. The sign-up bonus is impressive, and the annual free ticket and companion fare is great. The reward points you earn with bookings made through Hawaiian Airlines might not be as high as some of the rewards you might otherwise earn, but everything else that this card has to offer is well worth it and highly beneficial to all travelers.
Who this card is for – Anyone that wants one of the best airline credit cards available in 2016 is going to want to look into the Hawaiian Airlines card. This card is great for anyone who flies often with the airline (I’d go ahead and say it’s safe to assume those who live in Hawaii will find this card the most useful and beneficial) and for anyone who wants to earn a lot of rewards.
- Earn 35,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in three months
- Earn one half-price companion fare each year
- First checked bag is always free
- Earn 2 points for every dollar spent with Hawaiian Airlines
- Earn 1 point for every other purchase
- Earn up to 10 points when you use your card at all Hawaiian Airlines partners
- No limit to mileage earnings
- No foreign transaction fees
- Share miles with friends and family at no cost
- Discounted prices on reward travel bookings
- Earn 5,000 bonus points when you spend $10,000 per year
- Earn a $100 statement credit for in-flight purchases every year
British Airways Visa Signature Card
What makes the British Airways card one of the best airline credit cards in the industry is the rewards. British Airways offers some of the most substantial sign up bonuses in the airline industry, and that makes this card worth it even for those who do not fly on this airline that often. Here’s the deal; the bonus points are amazing, and the annual perks are even better, but you have to really pay attention right now. If you spend $30,000 per year on this card (this is, hands down, the number one reason this is the best airline credit card available right now), you are given two airline tickets free of charge to anywhere in the world. This means that $3000 Italian fare could be yours free of charge. It means you can go anywhere in the world regardless of cost.
I know; how are you going to spend $30,000 per year on this card? Easy; you’re going to use it for everything that you purchase. You’re going to pay all your household expenses throughout the month using this card, and you’re going to use the cash otherwise spent on this to pay off the card at the end of every single month. That’s just $2500 per month that you’re spending on things like your utilities, gas and groceries regardless, to earn you two free tickets anywhere in the world.
Who this card is for – The British Airways Visa Signature card is for anyone who loves to travel free of charge. It’s one of the best airline credit cards in the world even though it cannot be used by many people in the states that don’t fly internationally on a regular basis. It’s great for international travelers and anyone who wants to use this card as a primary card to earn points for two free tickets anywhere in the world every year.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,000 in three months
- Earn 25,000 bonus miles when you spend $10,000 in one year
- Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $20,000 in one year (in addition to the other 25,000 bonus points you earned for spending $10k)
- Earn two free tickets anywhere in the world when you spend $30,000 per year
- Earn 3 miles for every dollar spent with British Airways
- Earn 1 point for every other dollar spent
- No foreign transaction fees
- Chip technology-based card
- Pair this card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to transfer your points and rewards between the cards for the most earnings potential
- Combine with the Chase Sapphire Rewards card for point transfers and more earning potential
American Airlines AAdvantage Citi Platinum Select
What makes this one of the best airline credit cards in the world is the fact that it offers fliers some of the best benefits. American Airlines is one of the largest airlines in America, and they are partnered with US Airways to offer more flights, more price options and far more flexibility. The rewards are good, and it’s easy to earn points with this airline being that it flies so often between so many cities across the country. Additionally, you do get one checked bag free of charge, which offers significant savings to anyone who is looking to book travel and save money at the same time.
Who this card is for – This particular airline credit card is for anyone who is looking to save money and flying domestically. American Airlines offers a number of international flights between several major international hubs, and that’s what adds to the fact that this is one of the best airline credit cards on the market. Anyone looking for a goo sign-up bonus will also appreciate this card.
- Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in three months
- Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent with American
- Earn 1 mile for every other purchase you make with the card
- Check your first bag free, and check the bags of four travel companions free
- No annual fee for one year ($95 after that)
- Priority boarding
- Access to airport lounge
Virgin America Visa Signature Card
This is one of the best airline credit cards right now because of all that it has to offer. It is true that Virgin flights are not as frequent or as inexpensive as some of the other airlines in the United States, but the card is worth considering if you do like to travel with Virgin America. You’ll earn impressive rewards and the card is very simple to use. Additionally, all cardholders are given certain perks and benefits that go along with being a cardholder, which makes it quite easy for you to earn points and then redeem them for free travel and other perks.
Who this card is for – This is only going to be one of the best airline credit cards for travelers that love Virgin America and want to travel this airline as often as possible. If you do not, you will not find that this card is particularly good for you. However, it does make the list as one of the best airline credit cards because it does work well for those who are frequent Virgin travelers.
- Earn 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in three months
- Earn 3 points for every dollar spent with Virgin America
- Earn 1 point for every other dollar spent
- Your first bag is checked free
- You get one $150 discount on a companion ticket every year
- All in-flight purchases receive a 20% discount
- Reward flights begin as low as 2,500 points (which means your sign-up is good for four free flights)
- No blackout dates on Virgin
- Annual fee of $49 is not waived the first year, but it is half the price of all the other best airline credit card company annual fees
Jet Blue TrueBlue Card by American Express
If you are looking for one of the best airline credit cards on the market, the TrueBlue card by American Express for Jet Blue is at the top of the list. This card offers cardholders the chance to earn more and save more than just about any other airline on the market. This card is one of the best airline credit cards because it allows people to earn significantly despite the fact that Jet Blue has more limited flights than many other airlines. The company is working to expand their routes and offer more to passengers in areas outside the east coast, but that could take a while. Until that happens, Jet Blue is offering passengers serious point potential as a reward.
Who this card is for – The Jet Blue card is one of the best airline credit cards on the market for those who live on the East Coast. It’s great because people here have the most flight options, the most convenient travel and the best chance to earn rewards. If you fly Jet Blue more than five times a year – and as someone in Florida who does fly Jet Blue more than five times a year, I can attest to it being very simple to do – you’ll want this card.
- Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in three months
- Earn 6 points for every dollar spent through Jet Blue
- Earn up to 8 points when you book Jet Blue vacation packages
- Earn 3 points for every dollar spent on rotating flight destinations
- Earn 1 point for all other purchases
- Earn 5,000 bonus points when you purchase three roundtrip or 6 one-way flights per year
- Earn 10,000 bonus points when you buy 10-one way flights that travel 1,600 miles or more
- Earn a 50% statement credit on all in-flight purchases
- The lowest annual fee in the airline industry at only $40 per year
- Annual fee waived the first year
- No blackout dates
- No expiration dates
- No reward limit
Spirit World Mastercard
There are not that many people that might agree with me on this one, but I like to think of this as one of the best airline credit cards in the country right now simply because it gives you so much. Spirit flies many places, but not as many places as other major airlines. However, this is a very affordable airline (I just booked 7 roundtrip tickets for family from Tampa to Dallas – no layovers – for $70 per ticket). This is a card that offers a significant number of airline miles, perks and bonuses. It’s great for someone who is looking for many free flights, cheap travel and options that are flexible. Did I mention that in the few times I’ve flown Spirit Airlines I have had the best customer service, the best flight crew and the most entertaining flight crew in the history of my significant travels?
Who this card is for – The Spirit Airlines card is great for anyone looking to save money on travel, who lives near a Spirit-frequented airport and for anyone looking to go to some of the biggest cities in the county and some out of the country. It’s also for those who like quick boarding, efficient staff and an airline that apparently requires its crew and staff to have a serious sense of humor – because I’ve only encountered comedians on my Spirit flights, and it makes them fun. These are just a few of the many reasons this is one of the best airline credit cards in the world.
- 1 free flight just for filling out the card application
- 15,000 bonus miles for being approved or the card (that’s 7 free one-way flights)
- Earn 2 points for every dollar spent with this card no matter what you are buying or where you are buying it
- Earn 5,000 bonus points on your cardholder anniversary
- One way ticket reward redemption is worth only 2500 points
- No annual fee for the first year ($59 per year after that)
- Chip Technology enabled
Frontier Airlines World Mastercard
What makes the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard one of the best airline credit cards in the world is the fact that you have so much earnings potential with this card. Additionally, the earnings and spending requirements are a little less stringent with this airline than they are on others. This means your earnings potential has the opportunity to rise significantly even if you are not traveling as often as you’d like. You will still need to fly at least five times per year with Frontier to really make sure you get the full advantage offered by this card, but that’s not difficult.
Who this card is for – Anyone who enjoys using one of the best airline credit cards in the world to fly with perks and benefits not offered by other airlines should consider this card. If you use Frontier regularly, you should also consider this card as a primary airline credit card.
- Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend only $500 miles in three months
- Earn 2 points for every dollar spent with Frontier
- Earn 1 point for every dollar spent elsewhere
- Miles do not expire when you use the card at least once every 6 months
- No APR for 15 months
- Free credit score every month
- No annual fee version available
Take your time going through this list comparing the best airline credit cards for 2016. Each one has something to offer that another card might not offer, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right airline credit card for you. Some are better than others, and some are not worth it to certain travelers. Make a list of what you need, how the best airline credit card is going ot benefit you, and then go from there. Good luck, and happy travels.