Airline travel has come a long way – and not necessarily in the right direction – from its "golden age" in the 1950s. Gone are the days of five-star cuisine and abundant leg room during what can only be called a truly magnificent experience. In those days, the journey was part of the joy.
Fast forward to the 21st century when legroom is a premium commodity and food is... well, let's not talk about the food. That said, taking a flight is a lot more accessible these days to the average person, so the changes haven't been all bad.
Still, paying to be uncomfortable, whether for 45 minutes or 15 hours, isn't ideal. That just makes airline rewards credit cards an even sweeter deal. Use your card right and you could rack up some serious miles. The rewards miles won't magically give you more legroom, but they they could help you accumulate the miles to cover an upgrade. So, now that we think about it, maybe they are magic.
Here are our picks for the best airline rewards credit cards. Looking for more? Check out our full database of credit cards and offers.
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Why We Like It: Priority boarding, a free checked bag, a nice intro bonus and more make this a card worth considering if you're a frequent Delta flyer.
The Bonus: Receive 30,000 bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases in the first three months. Also, earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first three months. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees
The Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year).
The Rewards: Rack up two miles per $1 spent directly with Delta and one mile per $1 on all other purchases. Read our full review
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
Why We Like It: American Airlines has extensive partnerships making these miles quite valuable if your travel passions are far-flung. Furthermore, that limited time bonus is impressive.
The Bonus: Receive 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, for a limited time.
The Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first 12 months).
The Rewards: Earn two miles per $1 spent with American Airlines and one mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
Why We Like It: A 50,000-mile bonus opportunity is always nice, plus the free checked bag for you and a traveling companion could save some serious cash if you're a regular United guest.
The Bonus: Receive 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
The Annual Fee: $95
The Rewards: Earn two miles per $1 spent with United and one mile per $1 on all other purchases. Read our full review
Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
Why We Like It: This metal credit card exudes luxury. Beyond that, there isn't a traditional points-dump bonus, but the bonus is ongoing when you redeem your points for airfare.
The Bonus: Your points are worth double when redeemed for airfare. That means that 25,000 points are worth $500 in airfare.
The Annual Fee: $495 ($195 for each additional card).
The Rewards: Earn one point for every $1 you spend; however, your points are worth 1.5 percent when redeemed into a U.S. bank account or for statement credit and 2 percent when redeemed for airfare. Read our full review
Added Perks: This is a luxury card and offers airport lounge access, an annual statement credit for travel expenses and so much more that goes along with being a luxury credit card.
Credit Needed: Excellent