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If you want to book free flights, a credit card from an airline or bank that cooperates with frequent flight schedules is required. Not only will you earn miles on every purchase you make, but you can also earn a welcome bonus that can jump-start your frequent flyer account balance and help you book an award flight sooner than you think.
There is simply no best airline credit card; The right option for you depends on which airline you fly, whether you’re loyal or want flexibility, how you want to use your miles, how much of the annual fee you’re comfortable paying, and other factors.
Credit Cards That Give Airline Miles
Personal Finance Insider has selected the best selection of airline cards based on the value each card offers relative to the annual fee. To make sure we’re looking at the best airline credit cards from every perspective, we researched the recommendations and methodology of the top airline card lists on other websites, including CreditCards.com, NerdWallet, The Points Guy and Wirecutter.
Credit Card That Rewards Users With Airline Miles And Points. Stock Illustration
In many cases, each publication had a different pick for the best credit card for a particular airline — and in this case, we came up with our pick by going back to the question of which card offers the most value in exchange for its annual fee, excluding benefits. which requires spending extra money to unlock.
Note that we’ve focused on credit card options for flights with major U.S. airlines—including the “big three” American, Delta, and United, as well as smaller popular carriers like Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, and Hawaiian Airlines. If you frequently fly with another airline like Frontier, we recommend looking into common branded credit card options, although we won’t discuss them here.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and benefits that make these credit cards great choices, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to exercise financial discipline when using credit cards, paying balances in full each month, making on-time payments, and spending only what you can afford to pay back.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns Ultimate Rewards points that you can use to book travel directly through Chase or by transfer to a variety of partner airlines and hotels, including United, British Airways, JetBlue and Marriott. So while it’s not a common airline brand card, you can use the points you earn from the Sapphire Preferred to book award flights.
The 9 Best Airline Credit Cards For Earning Miles To Book Free Flights
Personal Finance Insider isn’t alone in recommending the Sapphire Preferred as the best starter card for travel rewards newbies; other credit card publications — from The Points Guy to NerdWallet — sing it. This is because it offers a very strong range of benefits and rewards in exchange for a relatively moderate annual fee.
You’ll earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all your spending, with 2x points on travel and dining. Travel includes everything from airfare to parking to hotels, while meals include restaurants, delivery services and even some bars. The Sapphire Preferred also offers one of the best sign-up bonuses among consumer and consumer credit cards and some valuable coverage benefits, including travel delay insurance and basic rental car insurance.
If you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and find you’re a fan of earning and capitalizing on travel points, remember you can always upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve after the first year. Booking has an annual fee of $450, but also earns 3x points on travel and meals (compared to 2x) and offers up to $300 in annual travel credits that apply to virtually any travel purchase.
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred. American Express Platinum Card Best for: Frequent travelers who want to earn as many points as possible on their airline purchases with a few luxury travel benefits to get them started
Credit Card That Rewards Users With Airline Miles And Points. Stock Image
With a high annual fee, the Amex Platinum card doesn’t make sense if you only travel once or twice a year. However, if you’re a frequent traveler, the card’s many premium benefits—from airline lounge access to up to $200 in airfare credits each year—make it a worthwhile choice.
The Platinum Card earns a spot on our list of the best airline credit cards because it earns 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel. The points you earn are in the Amex Membership Rewards program, and you can use them to book travel directly with Amex or transfer them to more than a dozen partner airlines to book award flights.
Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum Card. AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard Who it’s best for: American Airlines flyers
Welcome Bonus: 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after you make your first purchase within the first 90 days and pay your annual fee
Top Ways To Earn Airline Miles
AAdvantage Aviator sets itself apart by offering a generous sign-up bonus that only requires you to make a purchase within the first three months. It’s one of two American Airlines cards at this price—the other is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®. The Aviator Card currently offers a higher sign-up bonus, but it also offers an introductory guest certificate for a guest for $99 after you make your first purchase and pay the annual fee within the first 90 days.
In addition to these introductory benefits, the card also offers some perks that can enhance your American flying experience, such as free baggage allowance, preferred boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases.
You might be wondering why we’re recommending a Delta credit card that will soon have a $250 fee. Our answer is that even with the higher tax that goes into effect in early 2020, the Platinum Delta Amex offers the best value among Delta credit cards — and the tax increase comes with several new benefits.
Beginning January 30, 2020, the Platinum Delta Amex will earn 3x miles at Delta hotels and purchases, plus 2x miles at U.S. restaurants and supermarkets. Thanks to these new and improved bonus categories, the card will now be a valuable option for your everyday spending, not just for earning bonus miles on your Delta purchases. In addition, beginning in 2020, the card will provide a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. That benefit alone can offset the increase in the annual fee.
Faq: What Credit Cards Earn/transfer To Frequent Flyer Miles
Other Platinum Delta Amex benefits that make it an outstanding choice for Delta loyalists include a free first bag, an annual companion and priority boarding.
Welcome Bonus: Up to 65,000 United miles – 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months and another 25,000 miles after spending a total of $10,000 in purchases in the first six months
The United Explorer Card offers the benefits you expect from an airline credit card—free hold baggage (you must pay for a United flight with your Explorer Card to receive this benefit), priority boarding, discounts on purchases during the flight and bonus miles for purchases with the airline – but also some very valuable extras.
If you have this card (or any other United card), you get extended access to United’s lowest-cost “save” awards, which can help you save miles on a future flight booking. The Explorer Card also offers two unique United Club passes each year and an application fee credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
Credit Card Points Vs Airline Miles — And Why You Should Earn Both
This is another case where, while there are lower annual fee credit card options with this airline, the higher annual fee is warranted because of the value you’re getting. Wirecutter and CreditCards.com highlight the Southwest Priority Card for its overall value and, thanks to annual benefits like up to $75 in Southwest travel statement credits and four board upgrades where available, we’re inclined to we agreed.
A statement credit of up to $75 on Southwest purchases each year effectively reduces the annual fee to $74 — less than the annual fee for Southwest’s next-cheapest consumer card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99).
Additionally, the Priority Card offers a bonus of 7,500 Southwest Rapid Rewards points each year after your account anniversary (you can use these points to book award flights) and you’ll get 20% off in-flight purchases. If you fly Southwest a few times or twice a year, this card could easily be worth the annual fee.
Welcome Bonus: 40,000 Alaska miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days after opening your account. Plus, you get a $121 affiliate rate ($99 plus taxes and fees starting at $22) after you make $2,000 in purchases in the first 90 days.
Understanding Cash Back Vs. Airline Miles
Alaska Airlines doesn’t have the largest route network among US carriers, but if you live in the Pacific Northwest or another area where the airline offers extensive service—or if you’re flying from Alaska to Hawaii—this is a great book.
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