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2019

Best Airline Credit Cards

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Do you travel often? Whether it's for business or pleasure, are you enjoying your trips as much as you could be? What about the price tag? Are you missing out on deals and discounts that could save money or get you more for your buck? Airline credit cards to the rescue!

Best Airline Credit Cards
Brendan Harkness

By Brendan Harkness

Our Selection Criteria

  • Reasonable annual fee: Most airline cards have annual fees, so you want to make sure you’re getting more out of the card than it costs.
  • Good rewards program: The standard is 2X miles per dollar for most cards, although some offer more than that.
  • Valuable travel benefits: The best airline credit cards offer credits for travel purchases and other cost-saving benefits that will lighten the load on your wallet.
  • Airport lounge access: Some airline cards provide complimentary or limited access to airport lounges, with all the amenities that come with them.
  • Free checked bags: You should usually expect to get your first checked bag free, although it’s not always true for airline cards with no annual fee.
  • Priority boarding: You can typically board the plane before non-cardholders — but again, not always for cards without annual fees.
  • No foreign transaction fees: Airline cards, like other travel cards, shouldn’t charge for purchases in foreign currency.
Is an Airline Card Right for You?
Best Airline Credit Cards
Brendan Harkness

By Brendan Harkness

Is an Airline Card Right for You?

Do you travel by plane every year? Are you planning a big trip?

If so, chances are good that you could save some money and access valuable travel perks with an airline credit card. You’re already planning on spending the money, so why not take advantage of a great card offer?

An airline card, if it’s right for you, should fit neatly into your current or projected spending habits. As long as you use it responsibly, and pay the statement balance in full each month, you can get a variety of benefits without paying a dime of interest.

Many big airlines provide co-branded credit cards, and you can probably find one to suit your needs. They come with perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, discounts on in-flight purchases, and access to airport lounges. You may be able to transfer miles to other loyalty programs.

The more you travel, the more value you’ll get out of an airline card.

In many cases there are no blackout dates when redeeming the frequent flyer miles you earn. This isn’t always true for general travel credit cards.

Ask yourself some questions to help figure out which airline card (or cards) you should apply for:

  • What’s my favorite airline?
  • Which airline do I use (or plan to use) the most?
  • Do I want to build a relationship with a specific airline to gain a higher status?
  • Are there any airport hubs nearby that focus on particular airlines?

If you don’t fly with a specific airline somewhat regularly, a co-branded card probably won’t be very valuable for you. Instead, look into a general travel rewards card like those above, which you can use with any airline.

Our Selection Criteria
BEST PICK FOR

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $75
Regular APR 17.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is one of the more popular airline cards thanks to the yearly Companion Fare, which can completely offset the annual fee and make this card basically free to use.

In fact, as long as you avoid interest and other fees, you’re effectively getting paid to use this card as long as you always take advantage of the Companion Fare.

This is also one of the best credit cards for earning airline miles, offering 3X miles for flight purchases when most airline cards only provide 2X, along with extra miles at some restaurants.

  • 5X miles per dollar at select restaurants
  • 3X miles per dollar for Alaska Airlines purchases
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Value: $600–$800 (assuming 1.5–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 30%–40%
  • Companion Fare credit ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Value: varies, about $120–$400 or more
    • Return on spend: 12%–40% or more
  • Annual Companion Fare credit: A yearly Companion Fare credit ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Additional mile-earning opportunities: Use Alaska Airlines’ shopping portal to earn bonus miles at select retailers
  • First checked bag free on Alaska Airlines flights: For you and up to six other travelers on the same reservation
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $75
BEST PICK FOR

American Airlines

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Credit range Excellent
Details
Annual Fee $450
Regular APR 17.49%-25.49%* (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is the premier card for flying American Airlines, with a hefty price tag of $450 per year. But if you’re already spending a lot of money and time with the airline, this card’s benefits, particularly the Admirals Club airport lounge membership, could make your life quite a bit more comfortable.

Authorized users of this card have no cost and actually get Admirals Club access as well, a rare feature on premium travel cards like this. Up to ten authorized users can be added.

  • 2X miles per dollar for American Airlines purchases
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
    • Value: $500–$750 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 10%15%
  • Admirals Club membership: You and up to ten authorized users have access to the Admirals Club airport lounge
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application credit: Get a credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓ ($85) once every five years
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after spending $40,000 on purchases in a given year
  • Reduced Mileage Awards: Get discounted travel for round trip (7,500 miles off) and one-way flights (3,750 miles off)
  • Enhanced Airport Experience: Including priority check-in, screening, and boarding privileges
  • 25% discount on in-flight purchases on AA flights: The 25% discount will be applied to in-flight purchases of food and beverages only
  • First checked bag free on AA flights: For you and up to eight traveling companions
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

  • 2X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at American Airlines
  • 50,000 bonus miles for spending $2,500 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $99, waived the first year
View card details

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®

  • 2X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at American Airlines
  • 60,000 bonus miles and a Companion Certificate for 1 guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after paying the annual fee and making a purchase in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $95
View card details

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

  • 2X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at American Airlines
  • 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details
2 3
BEST PICK FOR

Delta Air Lines

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

Our rating
Credit range Excellent
Details
Annual Fee $450 Annual Fee ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)
Regular APR 17.49–26.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express is expensive, but it comes with complimentary Delta Sky Club access and an annual Companion Certificate.

  • 2X miles per dollar spent at Delta Airlines
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 75,000 bonus miles and 5,000 MQMs for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
    • Value: $750–$1,125 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 15%–22.5%
  • Delta Sky Club membership: Complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs, with up to two guests at $29 each
  • Annual Companion Certificate: A certificate for a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin round-trip flight
  • Miles Boost tier 1: Spend $30,000 on purchases in a given year to earn 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs
  • Miles Boost tier 2: Spend $60,000 on purchases in a given year to earn an additional 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights: For you and up to eight traveling companions
  • Priority Boarding on Delta flights: Get on the plane more quickly with Zone 1 priority boarding
  • Priority Checkpoint on Delta flights: Access the Sky Priority security lane at participating airports
  • 20% in-flight discount on Delta flights: A 20% discount on eligible in-flight purchases, like food, beverages, movies, and audio headsets
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $450 Annual Fee ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • 2X miles per dollar spent at Delta Airlines
  • 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 MQMs for spending $1,000 in first 3 months; $100 statement credit for making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months
  • $195 Annual Fee ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)
View card details

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • 2X miles per dollar spent at Delta Airlines
  • 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months; $50 statement credit for making a Delta purchase in first 3 months
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. (Rates & Fees)
View card details
BEST PICK FOR

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines World Mastercard

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $79
Regular APR 18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% Variable
Apply Now

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The Frontier Airlines World Mastercard (Review) is one of the less expensive cards on this list, but it offers miles at a relatively high rate and has a good signup bonus, too. Frontier miles usually aren’t valued very highly, however, typically coming in around 1 cent each.

Take note that your Frontier miles will expire unless there is some account activity at least once every 6 months. Any purchase will qualify as account activity, so you can just buy a pack of gum to keep your miles active.

This is quite a bit more strict than other airline programs, which either give you a longer period or have miles that don’t expire. We recommend setting alerts or notifications of some kind so you don’t forget.

  • 5X miles per dollar for Frontier Airlines purchases
  • 3X miles per dollar at Restaurants
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 40,000 bonus miles after paying the annual fee and spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Value: $400 (assuming 1 cent per point)
    • Return on spend: 80%
  • Award redemption fee waiver: A fee waiver when you pay for flights using Frontier miles, starting at $5.60 for one-way tickets
  • $100 Frontier Flight Voucher: Get a $100 Flight Voucher after your account anniversary for every year that you spend at least $2,500
  • Fast track to Elite Status: Earn 1 Qualifying Mile for every $1 spent on purchases
  • Priority Boarding on Frontier flights: Zone 2 priority boarding privileges
  • 15-month 0% intro APR: For balance transfers made in the first 45 days
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $79
BEST PICK FOR

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $0 intro annual fee first year, then $99
Regular APR 18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% variable Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® (Review) is your only consumer card option for flying Hawaiian Airlines.

The spending rewards are about average for an airline card, but it has a valuable annual companion discount that can completely offset the $99 annual fee.

  • 3X miles per dollar for Hawaiian Airlines purchases
  • 2X miles per dollar at:
    • Gas stations
    • Restaurants
    • Grocery stores
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Value: $600–$780 (assuming 1–1.3 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 30%–39%
  • $100 annual companion ticket discount: Each year you’ll get a $100 discount on a companion ticket for roundtrip travel between Hawaii and North America
  • One-time 50% companion ticket discount: Eligible for roundtrip travel between Hawaii and North America
  • Free first checked bag on Hawaiian Airlines flights: For the primary cardholder only
  • Discounted flight award prices for Hawaiian Airlines flights
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $99, waived the first year
BEST PICK FOR

JetBlue

JetBlue Plus Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $99
Regular APR 18.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% Variable
Apply Now

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The JetBlue Plus Card is one of three rewards cards available through JetBlue. It offers more points than your average airline card, along with an excellent discount rate on in-flight purchases.

  • 6X points per dollar for JetBlue purchases
  • 2X points per dollar at:
    • Restaurants
    • Grocery stores
  • 1X point per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Value: $400–$600 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 40%–60%
  • 10% point redemption bonus
  • 5,000 annual bonus points: Get 5,000 bonus points every year on your account anniversary
  • First checked bag is free on JetBlue flights: For you and up to three traveling companions
  • 50% discount on in-flight purchases on JetBlue flights: 50% off eligible in-flight purchases, like food and cocktails
  • Fast track to TrueBlue Mosaic status: Spend $50,000 on purchases in a given year to get TrueBlue Mosaic status for a year
  • $100 vacation package credit: Get a $100 statement credit every year that you buy a vacation package of $100 or more
  • 12-month 0% intro APR: For balance transfers made in the first 45 days
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $99

JetBlue Card

  • 3X points per dollar at JetBlue
  • 2X points per dollar at Restaurants and Grocery stores
  • 10,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details
BEST PICK FOR

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $149
Regular APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Apply Now

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The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (Review) is the newest entry in Southwest’s line of credit cards, offering an annual flight credit to help offset the $149 annual fee.

Read more about how you can fly for free with Southwest Airlines credit cards.

  • 2X points per dollar at:
  • 1X point per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $400–$600 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 40%–60%
  • 7,500 annual bonus points: You’ll receive 7,500 bonus points every year on your account anniversary
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit: An automatic statement credit every year for Southwest purchases, excluding upgraded boardings and in-flight purchases
  • Upgraded Boardings: Get four upgraded boardings per year (reimbursed as a statement credit at the end of the year)
  • Tier Qualifying Points: Every $10,000 spent earns 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points toward A-List status, up to $100,000 spent
  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases on Southwest flights: 20% off eligible in-flight purchases, like food, drinks, and WiFi
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $149
BEST PICK FOR

United Airlines

United MileagePlus® Club Card

Our rating
Credit range Good
Details
Annual Fee $450
Regular APR 18.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Compared to the other United co-branded credit cards available, the United MileagePlus® Club Card (Review) is expensive ($450 annual fee), but it comes with several perks to help make your time spent at airports and hotels more enjoyable.

  • 2X miles per dollar for United Airlines purchases
  • 1.5X miles per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$750 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 16.67%–25%
  • United Club membership: Complimentary membership to the United Club airport lounge, with free access for you and two guests
  • Premier Access airport travel services: Includes priority check-in and security screening, and boarding/baggage handling privileges
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Hotel perks like daily breakfast for two, complimentary WiFi, and room upgrades when available
  • World of Hyatt Discoverist status: A 10% point bonus, room upgrades, and other benefits at Hyatt properties
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle Elite Status: Get a 25% point bonus, upgrades, and exclusive offers at Hertz
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades on United award flights: MileagePlus Premier members can get award ticket upgrades when available
  • Free first and second checked bags: For you and one traveling companion
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

Other Airline Credit Cards

Best for Card
Aeromexico Aeromexico Visa Signature® Card
Allegiant Air Allegiant World Mastercard
Asiana Airlines Asiana Airlines Visa® Signature Credit Card
British Airways British Airways Visa Signature® Card (Review)
Cathay Pacific Cathay Pacific Visa Signature Card
Korean Air SKYPASS Select Visa Signature Card
LATAM Airlines LATAM Visa Signature Card
Lufthansa Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard® (Review)
Spirit Airlines Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®

Best for Aeromexico

Aeromexico Visa Signature® Card

Aeromexico Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$80
Regular APR15.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar on Aeromexico, gas, and grocery purchases
  • Signup bonus: 15,000 bonus miles after your first purchase
  • Annual fee: $80

 

Best for Allegiant Air

Allegiant World Mastercard

Key Terms & Features

  • 3X points per dollar on Allegiant purchases (air, hotel, car rental and attractions), 2X points at select restaurants
  • Signup bonus: 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $59

 

Best for Asiana Airlines

Asiana Airlines Visa® Signature Credit Card

Asiana Airlines Visa® Signature Credit Card

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$99
Regular APR17.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Key Terms & Features

  • 3X miles per dollar on Asiana Airlines purchases, 2X miles on gas and groceries
  • Signup bonus: 30,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $99

 

Best for British Airways

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR17.99% - 24.99% Variable

Key Terms & Features

  • 3X Avios per dollar on British Airways purchases
  • Signup bonus: 50,000 bonus Avios for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months; 50,000 bonus Avios for spending $20,000 within the first year
  • Annual fee: $95

 

Best for Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific Visa Signature Card

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar on Cathay Pacific purchases, 1.5X miles on dining and international purchases
  • Signup bonus: 35,000 bonus miles after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $95

 

Best for Korean Air

SKYPASS Select Visa Signature Card

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar on Korean Air purchases, and at hotels, airlines, and car rentals
  • Signup bonus: 15,000 bonus miles after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $450

 

Best for LATAM Airlines

LATAM Visa Signature Card

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar on LATAM Airlines ticket purchases
  • Signup bonus: 20,000 bonus points after your first purchase
  • Annual fee: $75, waived the first year

 

Best for Lufthansa

Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®

Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$89 (waived for Senator and HON Circle Members)
Regular APR18.24%, 22.24% or 27.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar at Miles & More participating partners (Lufthansa and many others)
  • Signup bonus: 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
  • Signup bonus: 20,000 bonus miles for spending $25,000 in the first year
  • Annual fee: $89

 

Best for Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®

Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$59, $0 first year
Regular APR17.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar for every purchase
  • Signup bonus: 15,000 bonus miles after your first purchase; 15,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $59, waived the first year

General Travel Credit Cards for Airlines

Maybe you don’t have a favorite airline, or you tend to take whatever flight will work best for you. If that’s the case, a general travel rewards card will probably be more useful than a co-branded airline card.

General travel cards can be used to earn points anywhere, no matter which airline you’re taking. And they provide points for other travel purchases as well, like hotels, car rentals, and taxis.

Many travel cards even allow you to transfer the points you earn to airline and hotel loyalty programs, where they’ll often be worth more. So, if you’re planning a trip and you’ve got a bunch of points ready and waiting, you can transfer them to the airline you’re booking to get a better redemption value.

Here are some of the best travel rewards credit cards for general travel spending.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR17.99% - 24.99% Variable

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for travel and dining
  • Introductory bonus: 60,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Redemption bonus: 25% point bonus through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Annual fee: $95

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Our rating
Credit rangeExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$450
Regular APR18.99% - 25.99% Variable

Key Terms & Features

  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for travel (after using the full $300 travel credit) and dining
  • Introductory bonus: 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Redemption bonus: 50% point bonus through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Airport lounge access: Priority Pass Select membership
  • Annual fee: $450

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$550
Regular APRN/A
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Key Terms & Features

  • 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar for flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel
  • Introductory bonus: 60,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Airport lounge access: Global Lounge Collection (includes a wide variety of lounge brands)
  • Annual fee: $550 (Rates & Fees)

 

So, did you find the right airline card for you? If not, check out some general travel rewards credit cards that might be more your style. Or consider hotel credit cards, which are co-branded with specific hotels and tend to be quite valuable.

For rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

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