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Best Airline Credit Cards

June 2024

Of all the types of rewards cards, airline credit cards have some of the best perks and bonuses. Choose the best airline credit cards, and you could find yourself traveling in style for free or at a huge discount.
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If you are loyal to a specific airline and travel frequently with them, it may be a good move to apply for one of their cobranded credit cards to rack up some travel miles. But there are other reasons to think about doing so such as an airline’s partners and redemption perks.
Below is a list of the best airline cards as recommended by SuperMoney community members and our algorithms.
Compare All Credit Cards

FAQs on Airline Credit Cards

How to choose an airline credit card

When you shop for the best airline rewards credit card for your financial situation, keep the following tips in mind.
  • Confirm whether or not you fly regularly with any one airline. An airline card can be a good choice if you regularly fly the same airline and do so often enough that the benefits you get from the card justify the annual fee. The more you fly a specific airline, the more likely you are to earn enough miles for a free flight or seat upgrade. If you fly mostly one airline, choose a card from that carrier. If you regularly fly a couple of airlines, you might even consider getting cards for both.
  • Consider the carriers at your local airport. If your local airport is dominated by a single airline — like Atlanta’s is by Delta, for instance, or Denver's by United — then that airline’s card might be your only practical option. Other airports have more competition, giving you a choice of cards.
  • Check for a checked bag perk. Checked bags are a big consideration because most major airline cards include a checked bag fee waiver, which can be valuable and quickly make up for the annual fee. Beware that a lower-tier, no-annual-fee airline card might not include free checked bags.
  • Consider whether or not lounge access is important to you. In choosing among a major airline’s credit cards, a primary differentiator is airport lounge access. If you think lounge access is worth it, get the premium card but be prepared to absorb a hefty annual fee.
  • Determine how you’ll use the card. For airfare? If so, what airline are you likely to use? Or will you be using the card for car rentals and hotels? You want to take the best advantage you can of the rewards offered by the card. Knowing how you’ll use it helps you accomplish this.
  • Do you have another card that carries a balance?. If so, an airline rewards card that features an introductory 0% APR is a good choice that helps you pay off a credit card balance while enjoying travel rewards.
  • How easy is it to use the rewards and benefits?. If you have to wait long periods and jump through hoops to take advantage of earned rewards, the card may be more of a hassle than it’s worth.
  • Consider getting more than one airline rewards card. By splitting spending among cards for travel, you can get even more rewards. This usually works well when you get cards by the same company. For instance, there is the Venture One From Capital One and the Venture From Capital One.
  • Look for as many perks as possible, as they all add up. For instance, a card with no annual fee or foreign transaction fees saves you money over the long haul. Bonus points are also important to consider.
  • Check the fine print. Some cards may look good on the surface by offering substantial bonus points, but the balance transfer fees and foreign transaction fees can add up.
  • Look closely at the APR. If you’re planning a big trip and think you might carry a balance, the APR is important. Those cards on the higher end, such as 23.49%, quickly lead to high-interest costs that can make your dream vacation a financial nightmare.

How to make the most of your airline credit card

The simple answer is to study every perk and benefit that comes with an airline credit card and use it.
  • Take advantage of free checked bag perks. If you check luggage on flights, you can save $60 round-trip with the free checked bag that comes with a card. So make sure to choose a card that offers this perk.
  • Link your airline card with your frequent-flyer account. Make sure to link your airline card with your frequent-flyer account. This is how some airlines allow you to qualify for free checked bags. And with some airlines, notably United Airlines and JetBlue Airways, you must use your airline card to pay for your tickets in order to qualify for free checked bags.
  • Take advantage of no foreign transaction fee perks. Many airline cards have no foreign transaction fees. These fees can easily add up to scary levels. Make sure you transact with a card that has no foreign transaction fees while traveling abroad.
  • Purchase airline tickets with your airline card. Because airline cards typically give you accelerated rewards for airline purchases — often 2 miles or more per dollar spent — use the card for airfare, in-flight purchases and other airline-related expenses.
  • Take advantage of airport lounge access and other perks. Use fee credits to cover expenses such as airport lounge access, seat upgrades or inflight food and beverage purchases.
  • Earn your statement credits. If the card comes with statement credits, do the spending required to get them (sensibly).
  • Avoid carrying a balance and make on-time payments. Rewards only mean something if you aren’t paying interest or late charges. Try to pay the card off each month and on time. Doing so also helps your debt-to-income ratio and your credit score.

What is the difference between airline and travel credit cards?

Credit cards that earn transferable points (such as Amex, Capital One, Chase or Citi points) generally get you a better return on spending. However, they don't usually have airline-specific perks, such as priority check-in and boarding, a free checked bag and airport lounge access. They also don't have a way to earn elite status on airlines, but they do allow you to transfer points to a specific carrier's loyalty program.

How much is an airline mile worth?

General travel cards are pretty simple in that they have a fixed value, usually between 1 and 1.5 cents per point, and you can spend them like cash. With airline miles on the other hand, you earn frequent-flyer program miles every time you use the card, but the value of these miles depends both on the airline. Additionally, the value you get for your miles typically depends on how you redeem them. As a general rule, airline miles go further if you use them for business- and first-class accommodations on international flights.
The tables below show average point values derived from empirical research.
Average value per point/mile, in cents
AIRLINESDomesticInternational
Alaska1.21.1
American1.05.0
Delta1.42.7
Frontier0.81.1
JetBlue1.51.7
Southwest1.61.9
Spirit0.40.7
United1.33.3

Should you consider a no-annual-fee airline card?

The three biggest domestic airlines all offer credit cards with no annual fee:
If you don't travel regularly a no-annual-fee airline card might be a good fit. But if you are a frequent flyer then you may be better off with a card that does have an annual fee as these are the airline cards with the most valuable benefits:
  • Annual-fee airline cards typically offer a free checked bag for you and at least one other person traveling on your reservation. $30 is a standard bag fee these days. So this perk alone can save a couple $120 on a round trip, more than a typical annual fee.
  • Annual-fee airline typically offer priority boarding. Some airlines call this "priority boarding," others call it "preferred boarding." It generally means that you're allowed to board the plane after the passengers with elite frequent-flyer status but before everyone else.
  • Annual-fee airline cards offer richer bonuses.Sign-up bonuses on cards with fees are typically hundreds of dollars more than on no-annual-fee cards.

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