Credit Cards

What Credit Card Is The Best For Airline Miles

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 13 minute read

Which credit card offers the best perks for frequent travelers? Perhaps you like the idea of using a hotel rewards card whenever you stay at a hotel to quickly rack up points toward free stays or other perks at your preferred chain. 

You might stick with the tried-and-true cash-back cards if you like the benefits they offer on petrol and restaurant spending, two categories that may add up quickly for frequent fliers.

Along with these helpful credit card options, regular fliers often favor airline rewards programs. The main U.S. airlines all offer branded credit cards that may be used to get you free or cheap tickets, as well as a slew of other bonuses that can help you save money on your trip or make it more pleasant overall.

While airline rewards cards from different issuers may look different, they all have a few similar features. Points can be accumulated at a quicker rate for airfare and possibly other travel expenses. You may get a lower point return on other purchases.

Top Airline Credit Cards for Miles and Rewards

Right now, these are the top airline credit cards available. Each card has its own unique perk, such as a yearly companion coupon worth hundreds of dollars or free lounge access at airports for the cardholder and their ticketed guests.

Our top option is the one we believe will appeal to the widest audience and provide the most benefit to the most people.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is the best overall.

The American Express Platinum Card® stands out as the finest airline credit card and as one of the top travel credit cards in general. 

Among the most important amenities for passengers:

  • Book your flight through an airline or American Express Travel and earn 5 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent.
  • Enjoy an annual $200 credit for your airline of choice’s service fees (enrollment required)
  • Benefit from free use of over 1,200 airport lounges across the world (enrollment required)
  • You can earn yearly credits of up to $200 to use at Uber (enrollment required) after you get to your final destination, you’ll be able to enjoy a huge benefit

What’s more, is not even the whole story. The Platinum Card has a high annual charge of $695 (for more information, check the rates and fees section of the terms and conditions), but it comes with many other substantial perks that are useful for both frequent flyers and locals. 

Some notable extras are:

  • Gain a $100,000 incentive Spend $6,000 in the first six months after creating your account, and you’ll get a 6,000-point welcome bonus from Membership Rewards.
  • Hotel stays paid in advance with American Express Travel earn 5 points for each $1 spent.
  • At Luxury Hotels and Resorts Collection hotels, guests receive complimentary amenities worth approximately $550 each night (terms apply and enrollment is required)
  • Obtain Hilton Honors Gold status at no cost, which entitles you to perks such as an 80% increase in base Hilton Honors point earnings on qualifying paid stays and free room upgrades (where available) (enrollment required)
  • Benefit from a free upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, an increase of up to 25% in base Bonvoy point earnings on eligible paid stays, and a bonus of 500 points for each qualifying stay.
  • There will be no additional charges for any international transactions (see rates and fees)
  • Qualifications apply.

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card has the best welcome offer.

New cardholders of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card can take advantage of a fantastic introductory offer. It stands out due to the contrast between its potential worth and its accessibility.

The bonus is split into two parts; Get 60,000 bonus SkyMiles and 5,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months (MQMs). Delta’s premium currency is called MQMs. Each of the four membership tiers, beginning with Silver, grants access to progressively better perks.

In the meanwhile, the 60,000-mile bonus is plenty to pay for a domestic round-trip journey within the United States, with some to spare.

Features beyond the basic:

  • Spend a dollar with Delta or a hotel directly, and you’ll get three miles.
  • Spending above $5,000 will earn you 1.5 SkyMiles per dollar. All other purchases will earn 1 SkyMiles per dollar (up to 50,000 additional miles at the 1.5-mile rate)
  • With Status Boost, you can get an extra 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles if you spend at least $25,000 in a calendar year on eligible purchases (MQMs)
  • An additional $10,000 MQMs can be earned for every $25,000 spent ($50,000 total qualifying spend), for a maximum annual spending incentive of 20,000 MQMs.

Annual fees for this card are $250. Check out our pricing and fees page for additional details.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Credit Card is the best option for frequent flyers.

If you’re a Delta lover and you want elite status, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is the right card for you. In fact, it’s the finest airline credit card for frequent flyers who want to quickly climb the loyalty ranks and enjoy premium privileges.

Key frequent flyer advantages for Delta SkyMiles Reserve members are:

  • Membership to Delta Sky Club, an airport lounge, is provided free of charge.
  • A free companion certificate is good for one free round-trip economy-class airfare per calendar year, with less applicable taxes and fees when you travel with a fully paid adult fare.
  • The Status Boost perk allows you to earn 15,000 MQMs after $30,000 in purchases, and you can do it up to four times a year (terms apply)
  • Regular perks for frequent fliers include shorter lines, faster check-in and boarding, and reduced or eliminated baggage fees.
  • You may also receive free first-class and Comfort+ upgrades, a discount on CLEAR® membership, and free upgrades for your scheduled companions based on your Delta Medallion status level (terms apply and enrollment is required for all these benefits).

Features beyond the basic:

  • Earn 3x SkyMiles on eligible Delta purchases
  • 1x SkyMiles on all other eligible purchases
  • $550 annual fee (see rates and fees)
  • No foreign transaction fee

The JetBlue Plus Card is the best for discounted airfare.

If you’re the type of traveler who doesn’t mind flying on budget airlines like JetBlue, then the JetBlue Plus Card is the finest credit card for you.

The JetBlue Plus Card is a highly generous offer, and JetBlue is often regarded as the best low-cost airline in the United States. One notable aspect of this card is the rapid rate at which JetBlue TrueBlue points, the airline’s loyalty currency, may be accrued.

Some of this card’s most useful qualities and perks are as follows:

  • Spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days and get 50,000 bonus TrueBlue points as a sign-up bonus.
  • For every dollar you spend on JetBlue, you’ll get six TrueBlue points.
  • Spending in restaurants and grocery stores can earn you double points for every dollar spent.
  • Collect 1 point for every $1 spent on anything else.
  • Benefit from a ten percent increase in value when exchanging TrueBlue points
  • Every year on the anniversary of your account, you’ll receive 5,000 bonus points.
  • Enjoy a 50% discount on select drinks and snacks while airborne.
  • You and your first three paying passengers will each receive one free checked bag.
  • Spend $50,000 a year and pay $99 a year to join JetBlue Mosaic and receive exclusive advantages.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUpSM Card is the best without an annual fee.

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUpSM Card, which is supported by Citi, is the only credit card on this list without an annual fee after the first year. This card is for you if you travel to America frequently enough to need an airline credit card but not frequently enough to obviously benefit from higher-end cards.

Features beyond the basic:

  • For a short time, receive a bonus of 10,000. When you spend $500 on eligible purchases within the first three months, you’ll receive AAdvantage miles and a $50 statement credit as a welcome gift.
  • Earn endlessly Every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases earns you two AAdvantage points.
  • Earn endlessly When using grocery stores and supermarket delivery services, qualifying items earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent.
  • Earn endlessly Every $1 spent on all other qualified purchases earns you one AAdvantage mile.
  • Use your card to receive a 25% discount on American Airlines aircraft’ in-flight food and beverage purchases.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is the best option for companion airfare.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is a better option than the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card if you value free companion airfare but can’t justify the card’s high annual fee or if you simply prefer Southwest Airlines.

Among airline credit cards, Rapid Rewards Priority Card holders benefit most from Companion Pass, the finest companion flight deal. A Companion Pass, once earned, allows the bearer to fly with a friend or family member at no additional cost, other than the standard $5.60 in taxes and fees per passenger.

Each of the following must be accomplished in a single calendar year in order to earn a Companion Pass:

  • Take 100 round-trip flights with Southwest and get $100 off your next journey.
  • Accumulate the required 125,000 Rapid Rewards points

After being earned, a Companion Pass is good for the rest of the current year and the following year.

Features beyond the basic:

  • Earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) toward A-List status for every $10,000 spent in purchases each year, with no caps on how much you can earn
  • Get a $75 Southwest annual travel credit each year
  • Earn 7,500 points every year after your cardmember anniversary
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on eligible Southwest purchases
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on eligible internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming purchases
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on eligible local transit and commuting purchases
  • Get 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • No foreign transaction fee

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card is the best for access to airport lounges.

Through Priority Pass Select, a significant international airport lounge network, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card provides free admission to more than 1,300 airport lounges globally. Your traveling mates also participate.

Most major international hubs have at least one Priority Pass lounge, so if you and your family travel frequently, you may easily recoup the $550 yearly charge just by using the lounges.

Features beyond the basic:

  • After your account anniversary, receive a yearly $300 travel credit.
  • Earn 80,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points by making eligible purchases totaling at least $4,000 within three months. When used to pay for flights, hotels, and other travel-related purchases on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website, it can be worth up to $1,200.
  • Transfer Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to about a dozen Chase travel partners.
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent on flights booked via Chase Travel and 10 points for every $1 spent on hotels and auto rentals.
  • Earn endlessly The majority of international travel and dining purchases earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points for every $1 spent (after earning your trip credit).
  • Earn limitless Ultimate Rewards points for every $1 spent elsewhere.
  • Get up to $10,000 in approved travel interruption and cancellation insurance.

Top Ideal for Business Travelers: Platinum Business American Express Delta SkyMiles Card

Business owners can get their own Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Card from American Express. This card is a must-have for any frequent Delta business traveler.

A few of the most important features and benefits are as follows:

  • Spend $3,000 in the first three months and receive a welcome bonus of 60,000 bonus SkyMiles and 5,000 bonus MQMs.
  • Spend a dollar with Delta or a hotel directly, and you’ll get three SkyMiles in return.
  • Gain 1 SkyMiles for every $1 spent on anything else, with the exception of purchases of $5,000 or more, for which you will gain 1.5 SkyMiles for every $1 spent (up to 50,000 additional miles per year)
  • When your annual purchase total reaches $25,000, you’ll receive a bonus of 10,000 MQMs, and when it reaches $50,000, you’ll receive the same incentive (conditions apply).
  • One domestic passenger riding along on your ticket can ride for free (minus any taxes and fees).
  • Take advantage of early boarding, 20% off select in-flight purchases, and a free checked bag on your first Delta journey (terms apply)
  • Find Costs Here

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best All-Purpose Travel Card

In general, those who frequently take flights should apply for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.

Some of the main advantages of flying are:

  • There are never any redemption restrictions on airfare.
  • Capital One Travel is offering 5x miles on all flights booked through them.
  • The credit of $300 per year can be used toward airline or other qualifying travel expenses
  • Benefit from preferential point-exchange rates with 15 of Capital One’s travel partners, including major airlines, and save up to $100 on your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.

Features beyond the basic:

  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles as an early spend bonus once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening
  • Earn 10x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn 2x miles on all other eligible purchases
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles every year, starting on your first anniversary — worth $100 when redeemed for travel
  • $395 annual fee

The Best Airline Credit Cards Are Chosen Using the Following Methodology

The best airline credit cards on the market right now are selected after careful consideration of a number of criteria. All of these aspects influence the functionality, price, and utility of these cards for tourists like you.

Status of Co-Branding

Credit cards issued by certain airlines often have strong ties to that airline. Co-branded cards are what we call cards that are shared between two companies. There is no clear advantage or disadvantage to using a co-branded card instead of a generic travel credit card. 

However, they are obviously more beneficial for frequent fliers who are loyal to or just frequently fly with specific airlines. It’s common for these cards to offer better redemption values on flights and a faster rate of reward accrual than general-use cards.

We have a wide range of travel cards, from those with specific brands to those that may be used anywhere. When choosing which co-branded cards to market, we look for those that provide tangible benefits to the customer.

Partner Airlines

There are associated airlines for both co-branded and general-purpose airline credit cards. The primary airline partner for co-branded cards is the co-branded airline. As an added bonus, you may usually use your miles on partners of the co-branded airline. Some multipurpose cards don’t work with all airlines.

For those that do, it’s common for them to have a point transfer arrangement with a partner that lets cardholders exchange their points for the partner’s loyalty currency at a discount. 

Using this strategy, you can often obtain more redemption values than you would have with the original points or miles. To the same extent, we favor airline credit cards that have a wide range of partner airlines or that have established exceptionally fruitful ties with select partner airlines.

Prizes and Redemption

Your satisfaction as a cardholder and a traveler hinges on the rewards program and the redemption terms. For obvious reasons, we like airline credit cards with high reward-earning rates and abundant redemption values.

Sign-Up Bonuses (New Cardholder Offers)

There are many airline credit cards that provide lucrative welcome bonuses to new cardholders. However, the hundreds of dollars in points, miles, or statement credits that are usually on the other end of the hoops you have to jump through to receive these benefits are well worth it.

A lack of a welcome bonus need not be a deal breaker. Even so, we give our top pick for a credit card to those who provide the most bonuses to new cardholders who fly frequently.

Annual Fee

In general, credit card annual fees are unpopular. However, most premium airline credit cards include annual fees, and the more perks the card offers, the greater the fee. As a rule, we try to find the best deal possible. That is why we give preference to airline credit cards with no annual charge or a very cheap ones.

Advantages of Frequent Flying

In the same way that you can earn rewards on airfare purchases and other transactions with any airline credit card, so can you with any other type of credit card issued by an airline. More flights equal more points, and more points equal more chances to get free or cheap flights.

While this is one description of frequent flyer benefits, some airline credit cards actually offer considerably more. Faster advancement through frequent flyer levels (loyalty status), which can grant important privileges such as priority boarding and free checked bags, is one example of how this value might be realized.

Additional Value-Added Advantages and Perks

In order to attract new customers, most airline reward cards highlight fringe advantages that, while not directly increasing the value of the card, are still appealing to existing cardholders. 

Among the most notable are:

  • Free or discounted airport lounge access
  • Free or discounted companion airfare, ideally awarded at least once per year
  • Application fee credit or reimbursement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership
  • Discounts or special perks with participating partner hotels and car rental companies
  • Purchase protections, such as coverage for items damaged or stolen after purchase
  • Loyalty status with participating non-airline partners, such as hotels

How to Pick the Best Credit Cards for Airlines

Feeling confused by the plethora of airline credit cards available today? Come on and join the fun. Having options is great, but narrowing down your options can be challenging when you need to make a decision quickly. Evaluate your needs with regard to an airline credit card. 

Consider:

  • Whether or whether you fly frequently enough with a specific airline to warrant getting a co-branded card
  • How many flights do you take and how much do you spend on airfare in a single year, broken down per carrier?
  • Whether or not free meals, free drinks, and early boarding are high on your list of priorities when airborne, there are a number of bonuses that come with flying
  • Whether you’re a frequent flyer who uses airport lounges regularly or would if you had access to them for free with your card
  • To what extent you might benefit from a yearly companion certificate
  • Is the extra yearly charge for frequent flyer status worth it to you, and how often do you fly?
  • In addition to airfare, how else do you intend to use your airline credit card?
  • What other features do you look for in an airline credit card when you travel?
  • The quality of your credit history can determine whether or not you qualify for these cards (most of which call for exceptional or very good credit).

The answers to these questions may not be conclusive enough to make a final choice. However, the information you provide will unquestionably assist in shortening the selection process.

The next step is to compare your alternatives and select the credit card that you believe will accommodate your spending habits and trip plans the most conveniently.

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