Best Airline Credit Cards: 2018

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated Sep 24, 2018

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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! Frequent travelers will love the perks and abilities that come with airline cards, which can include free checked bags, free WiFi, access to airport lounges, and complimentary companion tickets.

If you’re spending money on air travel every year, consider getting a card with the airline you like the best or use most often.

Maybe you fly with a variety of airlines, or you always go with the cheapest flight no matter the airline. If that sounds like you, check out a general travel card which will provide rewards no matter who you fly with.

The Best Airline Credit Cards

Best for Alaska Airlines

  • 3X miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines purchases
  • Signup bonus: 30,000 miles and a companion fare
  • Standout benefit: Annual companion fare
  • Annual fee: $75

Read more and see why we picked this card below

 

Best for American Airlines

  • 3X miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases
  • Signup bonus: 75,000 miles
  • Standout benefit: Admirals Club airport lounge access
  • Annual fee: $450

Read more and see why we picked this card below

 

Best for Delta Airlines

  • 2X miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • Signup bonus: 40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs
  • Standout benefit: Delta Sky Club airport lounge access
  • Annual fee: $450

Read more and see why we picked this card below

 

Best for Frontier Airlines

  • 5X miles per dollar on Frontier Airlines purchases
  • Signup bonus: 40,000 miles
  • Standout benefit: Annual $100 flight voucher for spending $2,500
  • Annual fee: $79

Read more and see why we picked this card below

 

Best for Hawaiian Airlines

  • 3X miles per dollar on Hawaiian Airlines purchases
  • Signup bonus: 50,000 miles
  • Standout benefit: Annual $100 companion discount
  • Annual fee: $99

Read more and see why we picked this card below

 

Best for JetBlue

  • 6X points per dollar on JetBlue purchases
  • Signup bonus: 40,000 points
  • Standout benefit: 50% discount on in-flight purchases
  • Annual fee: $99

Read more and see why we picked this card below

 

Best for Southwest Airlines

  • 2X points per dollar on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • Signup bonus: 65,000 points
  • Standout benefits: Annual 7,500 bonus points and $75 travel credit
  • Annual fee: $149

Read more and see why we picked this card below

 

Best for United Airlines

  • 2X miles per dollar on United Airlines purchases
  • Signup bonus: 50,000 miles
  • Standout benefit: United Club airport lounge access
  • Annual fee: $450

Read more and see why we picked this card below

The Best Airline Credit Cards

Best for Card
Alaska Airlines Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
American Airlines Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
Delta Airlines Delta Reserve Credit Card
Frontier Airlines Frontier Airlines World Mastercard (Review)
Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® (Review)
JetBlue JetBlue Plus Card
Southwest Airlines Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card (Review)
United Airlines United MileagePlus® Club Card (Review)

Best for Alaska Airlines

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.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
Apply Now

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $75
  • Interest Rate: 16.74-24.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 3X miles per $1 on Alaska Airlines purchases, and 1X mile per $1 spent on everyday purchases
  • New—free first checked bag for you and up to six additional passengers on your reservation.* Terms and conditions apply.
  • Coach Companion Fare every year from $121 ($99, plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Spend $1,000 in the first 90 days to earn 30,000 bonus miles and a Companion Fare ($0, plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • No limit to the number of miles earned - award tickets start at 7,500 miles. See alaskaair.com for details on award levels.
  • Redeem miles for award tickets on Alaska Airlines, or towards travel with more than a dozen global airline partners including Delta, American Airlines™ and British Airways.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $75 annual fee

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 3X miles per dollar for Alaska Airlines purchases
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
Signup Bonus Offer
  • 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Value: $450–$600 (assuming 1.5–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 45–60%
  • Companion Fare credit ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Value: varies, about $120–$400 or more
    • Return on spend: 12–40% or more

Key Terms & Features

  • 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
  • Free 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 for American Airlines

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.

Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
Apply Now

Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Interest Rate: 17.49–25.49% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • For a limited time, earn 75,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $7,500 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and up to 10 authorized users
  • 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles from American Airlines after $40,000 spent in purchases each calendar year*
  • Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines and US Airways purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines and US Airways itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation*

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 2X miles per dollar for American Airlines purchases
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
Signup Bonus Offer
  • 75,000 bonus miles after spending $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
    • Value: $750–$1,125 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 1015%

Key Terms & Features

  • 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

 

Other Cards for Flying With American Airlines

Key Terms & Features

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

 

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at American Airlines
  • Signup bonus: 60,000 bonus miles for paying the annual fee and making a purchase in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $95

 

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

Key Terms & Features

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

 

Best for Delta Air Lines

The Delta Reserve Credit Card is expensive at $450 per year, but it comes with complimentary Delta Sky Club access and an annual Companion Certificate.

Delta Reserve Credit Card
Apply Now

Delta Reserve Credit Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Interest Rate: 17.49–26.49% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 2X miles for every $1 spent on purchases made directly with Delta
  • 1X mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Redeem points on Delta and 15 airline+  partners
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club access
  • Domestic First or Main Cabin Round-Trip Companion Certificate after card renewal
  • Spend $30,000 in a year to get 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles and 15,000 bonus miles
  • Spend $60,000 that year, get another 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles and 15,000 bonus miles
  • First checked bag free, priority boarding, 25% inflight purchase discount
  • $450 annual fee

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 2X miles per dollar for Delta Airlines purchases
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
Signup Bonus Offer
  • 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $400–$600 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 13.33–20%
  • 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening

Key Terms & Features

  • 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
  • Annual fee: $450
Read more about Delta Air Lines credit cards and find the right one for you!

Other Cards for Flying With Delta

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar spent at Delta Airlines
  • Signup bonus: 70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $195

 

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar spent at Delta Airlines
  • Signup bonus: 60,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 4 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

 

Best for Frontier Airlines

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.

Frontier Airlines World Mastercard
Apply Now

Frontier Airlines World Mastercard

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $79
  • Interest Rate: 17.99%, 21.99%, or 26.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 5X miles per $1 spent on purchases from Frontier Airlines
  • 3X miles per $1 spent at restaurants
  • Earn 40,000 Bonus Miles after spending $500 in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening and payment of the annual fee
  • No award redemption fee when you book an award ticket using your Frontier Airlines World MasterCard to pay the related taxes and fees, starting from $5.60 for a one-way ticket
  • $100 Frontier Airlines flight discount voucher after your account anniversary, after spending $2,500 on purchases in a given year
  • Use your Frontier Airlines MasterCard for at least one purchase every six months to keep your miles from expiring
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening
  • View your FICO® Score online - with no charge and no hidden fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $79 Annual Fee

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5X miles per dollar for Frontier Airlines purchases
  • 3X miles per dollar at restaurants
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
Signup Bonus Offer
  • 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%

Key Terms & Features

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard

Best for Hawaiian Airlines

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.

Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®
Apply Now

Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $99
  • Interest Rate: 17.99%, 21.99%, or 26.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 3X miles for every $1 spent on purchases made directly from Hawaiian Airlines
  • 2X miles per $1 spent on gas, dining, and grocery store purchases
  • 1X mile per $1 spent on every other purchase
  • 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • $100 annual companion ticket discount each year for roundtrip travel between North America and Hawaii
  • One-Time 50% Off Companion Discount for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and North America on Hawaiian Airlines
  • Discounted Award Travel for travel on Hawaiian Airlines
  • Free first checked bag on Hawaiian Airlines flights, for the primary cardholder only
  • 15-month 0% intro APR for balance transfers made in the first 45 days
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $99 annual fee

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 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
Signup Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening
    • Value: $500–$650 (assuming 1–1.3 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 16.67–21.67%

Key Terms & Features

  • $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
  • 15-month 0% intro APR: For balance transfers made in the first 45 days
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $99

Read more in our Review of the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

Best for JetBlue

The JetBlue Plus Card offers more points than your average airline card, along with an excellent discount rate on in-flight purchases.

JetBlue Plus Card
Apply Now

JetBlue Plus Card

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $99
  • Interest Rate: 17.74%, 21.74%, or 26.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days.
  • Earn 6X points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, 2X points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1X point per $1 on all other purchases.
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights.
  • Points in your TrueBlue account don't expire.
  • Free first checked bag for you and up to three traveling companions.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary.
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food & the primary cardmember's first checked bag is free on JetBlue-operated flights.
  • Enjoy TrueBlue Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year with your card.
  • Enjoy a $100 statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package of $100 or more with your JetBlue Plus Card.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $99 annual fee.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 6X points per dollar for JetBlue purchases
  • 2X points per dollar at:
    • restaurants
    • grocery stores
  • 1X point per dollar spent everywhere else
Signup Bonus Offer
  • 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%
Redemption Bonus Offer
  • 10% of points back on redemptions

Key Terms & Features

  • 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

 

Other Cards for Flying With JetBlue

Key Terms & Features

  • 3X points per dollar spent at JetBlue, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores
  • Signup bonus: 10,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Best for Southwest Airlines

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority 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.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card
Apply Now

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $149
  • Interest Rate: 17.74%–24.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 2X points per dollar for Southwest Airlines purchases
  • 1X point per dollar for every other purchase
  • 40,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 7,500 annual bonus points on your account anniversary
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year
  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases on Southwest flights
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $149 annual fee

The information for Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card has been collected independently by Credit Card Insider. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 1X point per dollar spent everywhere else
Signup Bonus Offer
  • 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%

Key Terms & Features

  • 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

 

Other Cards for Flying With Southwest

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X points per dollar spent at Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners
  • Signup bonus: 40,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $99

 

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X points per dollar spent at Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners
  • Signup bonus: 40,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $69

 

Best for United Airlines

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.

United MileagePlus® Club Card
Apply Now

United MileagePlus® Club Card

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Interest Rate: 17.74%–24.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 2X miles for every $1 spent on United Airlines purchases
  • 1.5X miles for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 50,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Miles never expire
  • United Club membership, with free access for you and two guests
  • Free first and second checked bags, for you and one traveling companion
  • Premier Access travel services
  • Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • World of Hyatt Discoverist status
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $450 annual fee

The information for United MileagePlus® Club Card has been collected independently by Credit Card Insider. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 2X miles per dollar for United Airlines purchases
  • 1.5X miles per dollar spent everywhere else
Signup Bonus Offer
  • 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%

Key Terms & Features

  • 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

Read more in our Review of the United MileagePlus Club Card

 

Other Cards for Flying With United

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar spent at United Airlines, hotels, and restaurants
  • Signup bonus: 40,000 bonus miles for spending $2,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

 

United TravelBank Card

Key Terms & Features

  • 2% cash back at United Airlines, 1.5% back everywhere else
  • Signup bonus: $150 in rewards for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $0

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

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

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

Key Terms & Features

  • 3X Avios per dollar on British Airways purchases
  • Signup bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 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

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar at Miles & More participating partners (Lufthansa and many others)
  • Signup bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and paying the annual fee
  • Signup bonus: 30,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $89

 

Best for Spirit Airlines

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar for every purchase
  • Signup bonus: 15,000 bonus miles after your first purchase
  • 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.

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for travel and dining
  • Signup bonus: 50,000 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 annual fee, waived the first year

 

Key Terms & Features

  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for travel and dining
  • Signup 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 annual fee

 

Key Terms & Features

  • 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar for flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel
  • Signup 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

 

Key Terms & Features

  • 2X miles per dollar for every purchase
  • Signup bonus: 60,000 bonus miles for paying the annual fee and spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Redemption bonus: 5% of points back when redeemed
  • Annual fee: $89, waived the first year

Is an Airline Credit 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?

The answers should help guide you toward a particular airline, or airlines. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple airline credit cards, as long as they all make sense for you to use.

Most airline cards have annual fees, and, as you’d expect, the best airline credit cards for miles and perks tend to have the highest fees: often $450 per year. You’ll need good credit scores to qualify for premium cards like that. There are a few airline cards with no annual fees, however, which usually offer similar rates for earning miles but much weaker extra benefits.

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.

Selection Criteria: What Makes a Great Airline Credit Card?

  • 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.
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.
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