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If you want to book free flights, you need a credit card from an airline or bank that cooperates with frequent flyer programs. Not only will you earn miles with every purchase you make, you can also earn a welcome bonus that can accelerate your frequent flyer account balance and help you book an award flight sooner than you think.
There isn’t just one best airline credit card. The right option for you depends on which airline you fly, whether you’re loyal or flexible, how you want to use your miles, the amount of the annual fee, and a number of other factors.
Best Reward Miles Credit Card
Personal Finance Insider selected its top airline cards based on the value each card offers compared to its annual fee. To make sure we’re looking at the best airline credit cards from every angle, we’ve researched recommendations and methodologies for the best airline card lists from other sites, including CreditCards.com, NerdWallet, The Points Guy, and Wirecutter:
Best Credit Cards For Points & Miles (2022)
In most cases, each publication had a different pick for the best credit card for a given airline, and in that case, we came up with our pick by going back to the question of which card gives you the most for its annual fee, benefits aside. . Need to spend extra money to unlock.
Note that we’ve focused on credit card options for flying with major US airlines, including American, Delta and United, as well as smaller, better-known carriers like Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest and Hawaiian Airlines. If you fly frequently with another airline like Frontier, you may want to explore co-branded credit card options, though we won’t discuss them here.
Note that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees that outweigh the value of any points or miles. When using credit cards it’s important to be financially disciplined by paying your balance in full each month, making payments on time and only spending 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 on transfers at a variety of airline and hotel partners, including United, British Airways, JetBlue and Marriott. So even though it’s not an airline co-branded card, you can use the points you earn from the Sapphire Preferred to book award flights.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Personal Finance Insider isn’t alone in recommending the Sapphire Preferred as the best starter card for newbies to rewards travel. Other publications in the credit card space, from The Points Guy to NerdWallet, also offer praise. This is because it offers a very strong set of bonuses and rewards for a relatively modest annual fee.
You’ll earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all your spending, along with 2x points on travel and dining. The trip includes everything from airfare to parking to hotels, and dining includes restaurants, delivery services, and even some bars. Sapphire Preferred also offers one of the best sign-up bonuses among consumer credit cards, and you get some valuable coverage benefits, including travel delay insurance and primary taxi insurance.
If you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and find you’re a fan of earning and redeeming travel points, remember that you can always upgrade to its higher-tier sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, after the first year. The pool has a $450 annual fee, but it earns 3x points on travel and dining (vs. 2x) and offers up to $300 in annual travel credits that apply to almost any travel purchase.
Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Who Is The American Express Platinum Card Best For? For frequent travelers who want to earn as many points as possible on their flight purchases with luxury travel benefits.
The 9 Best Airline Credit Cards For Earning Miles To Book Free Flights
An Amex Platinum card with a high annual fee doesn’t make sense if you only travel once or twice a year. However, if you’re on the road often, the card’s premium benefits, from airline lounge access to up to $200 in annual airline fee credits, 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 Amex travel directly or transfer them to more than a dozen airline partners to book award flights.
Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum Card. Who is the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard 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 the annual fee
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AAdvantage Aviator stands out by offering a generous sign-up bonus that only requires one purchase in the first three months. It’s one of only two American Airlines cards at this price point. The other is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®. The Aviator card currently offers a high sign-up bonus, but it also offers an introductory companion certificate for $99 per guest when you make your first purchase and pay the annual fee within the first 90 days.
In addition to those introductory benefits, the card also offers some perks that can enhance your experience when flying American, like a free checked bag, preferred boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases.
You might be wondering why we’re offering a Delta credit card with a $250 fee soon. Our answer is that, even with the higher fee effective in early 2020, the Platinum Delta Amex offers the best value among Delta credit cards, and the fee increase comes with several new benefits.
Beginning January 30, 2020, Platinum Delta Amex will earn 3x miles on hotel and Delta purchases and 2x miles at restaurants and US supermarkets. With these new and improved bonus categories, the card will now be a valuable option for everyday spending, not just earning bonus miles for your Delta purchases. Additionally, beginning in 2020, the card will offer a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. That allowance alone can offset the annual fee increase.
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Other benefits of the Platinum Delta Amex that make it a special choice for Delta loyalists include free first checked bag, an annual companion certificate and priority boarding.
Welcome Up to 65,000 United miles – 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months and an additional 25,000 miles when you spend $10,000 on total purchases in the first six months.
The United Explorer Card offers the benefits you’d expect from an airline credit card: a free checked bag (you must pay for a United flight with your Explorer Card to receive this bonus), priority boarding, discounts on in-flight purchases, and airline on purchases. Comes with bonus miles, but also some very valuable extras.
If you have this card (or any other United card), you’ll have extended access to United’s lowest “save” awards, which can help you save miles on upcoming flight bookings. The Explorer Card offers two United Club Passes and up to $100 in credits toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once each year.
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This is another case where the lower annual fee credit card options with this airline warrant a higher annual fee because of the value you get. Wirecutter and CreditCards.com praise the Southwest Priority Card for its overall value, and thanks to annual benefits like up to $75 in statement credits for travel on Southwest and four upgraded boardings when available, we’re inclined to agree.
The statement reduces the annual fee on Southwest purchases from $74 to $75 each year, which is less than the annual fee of the next cheapest Southwest consumer card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99).
Plus, the Priority Card offers a bonus of 7,500 Southwest Rapid Rewards points every year after your account anniversary (you can use these points to book award flights), and you’ll get 20% off flight purchases. If you fly Southwest more than once or twice a year, this card is easily worth the annual fee.
Welcome 40,000 Alaska miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. Plus, earn affiliate fees of $121 (starting at $99 plus taxes and fees) after you make $2,000 in purchases in the first 90 days.
Here Is An Air Miles Reward Credit Card For Frequent Fliers And Travelers. Card Offers Air Rewards, Miles, Points And Perks Stock Photo
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 card.
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