Airline Credit Cards

By updated on April 23, 2014

How to choose the best airline credit cards:  Airline credit cards offer cardholder travel benefits such as frequent flyer miles, as well as discounts on hotels or redeemable rewards points when the card is used for travel or other spending. For people who rack up considerable travel miles, frequent flyer credit cards can save a great deal of money.

Who should get an airline credit card?

If you travel frequently for work or for pleasure, you may want to look into the benefits of a travel rewards card. Not only can you add to your collection of frequent flyer miles, but you can also earn discounts on hotels or build up rewards points to use while you travel for gift cards or for future vacations. Credit card offers for some of the best travel rewards cards can be found on this page.

Airline credit cards are especially great for people who incur a great deal of business travel. Most of these cards help consumers save money through rewards points that are redeemable at major airlines, by earning frequent flyer miles that are accumulated into a personal account, or by rewards points that are good for discounts at hotels, low-fare car rentals and other travel-oriented kickbacks. Most major credit card companies offer some type of airline credit or rewards card.

What are some of the best ways to earn points on an airline reward credit card?

Reward points accumulate with spending, so using the card often helps build bonus miles or points much faster. However, don't go on a spending spree just to earn free miles; rather use the card when it makes sense. Using an airline credit card instead of paying cash or by check at the supermarket or for utility or phone bills can make a big difference in the number of bonus miles accumulated over the course of a year.

Air miles & travel credit card tips

Before you choose the best credit card that will get you closer to your flight (hopefully for a fun vacation), you will need to check on your credit score. In general, the best travel rewards card is only available to consumers with good or excellent credit.

Think about how you intend to use your travel credit card. If you are using it for business trips and are immediately reimbursed, you can pick a credit card regardless of the interest rate since you can pay the balance in full each month. But if you are not likely to be reimbursed for business travel quickly, or if you want to use your travel rewards card to extend the payments on your vacation over time, then you should carefully compare the interest rates on various credit card offers.

Some travel rewards cards charge a high annual fee or a high interest rate in order to offer the best rewards. Be realistic about your credit card use and whether you will consistently pay off your debt in order to make sure your rewards outweigh the costs of the credit card.  Compare lots of card offers to get the right credit card for you. 

What airline credit card attributes should I look for?

Compare the fine print

In addition to comparing the interest rate and the annual fee for each airline credit card, you should also review the terms and conditions to compare how quickly you can earn miles on various travel rewards cards. Some offer one mile per dollar spent, while others offer 1.25 miles or two miles per dollar spent. Other airline credit cards offer bonus miles from 10,000 to 25,000 to customers who spend a certain minimum within the first few months of owning the card, so compare how much you will need to spend to earn the maximum airline miles.

Many travel rewards cards are also tied to hotels, so you may be able to earn points for free hotel nights and for points to redeem for other travel-related spending. Check to see whether all your spending qualifies for earning points or whether you only earn points for charges that are made for specific items. Estimate how much you plan charge so you can see which card will reward you with the most airline miles for the amount you intend to spend.

So, if the travel bug has bitten you, check out the airline credit card offers on this page to see if one of them can reward you with the miles you need to take off on your next adventure.

Foreign travel tips

When comparing the offers for an airline credit card, you should think about where you travel. If you travel overseas often, look for a card that offers a low foreign transaction fee so you can save money while spending abroad.

Choose your airline

While some travel rewards cards offer frequent flyer miles on multiple airlines, others only earn miles on one or two airlines. Think about where you travel most, or where you want to travel in the future, and choose a rewards credit card that earns miles on airlines that fly from where you live to where you want to go.

Final Thoughts

When researching airline credit cards, choose one with a low or no annual fee, or one that waives the annual fee for the first year.  Also be sure to choose a card that allows you to earn bonus miles with your favorite airline or that allows you to redeem on any airline if you prefer flexibility. Bonus mileage accumulation per dollar spent, and ways to redeem miles or rewards points that you find appealing are also important. In general, it is best to stick with cards that allow cardholders to redeem bonus miles on any air carrier if you do not have a strong preference. 

What are some airline credit card negatives?

Although many airline credit cards waive annual fees for the first year, subsequent years often have annual fees of $85 or more. When shopping for the best airline credit card, compare how many points or miles are needed for free domestic flights and whether there is a cap on the amount of credit card rewards points cardholders can accumulate. If it takes several years to accumulate enough points or miles to earn a free ticket, ask yourself whether the benefits outweigh the annual fee.  Additionally, since airline credit cards typically have a higher interest rate than non-rewards cards, you shouldn’t use an airline card if you plan to carry a balance.  Interest charges can quickly negate any rewards you earn.

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Mutual of Omaha Bank Platinum Rewards MasterCard®

Editor's Rating

  • 5000 Reward Points bonus on first purchase
  • 2X Rewards for First 60 days
  • $1 purchase = 1 reward point
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Points or Miles

1 pt/$1

Bonus Miles or Points

5000 Reward Points bonus
on first purchase

Purchase APR

9.99%-20.99% Variable

Annual Fee

None 

Iberiabank Visa® Platinum

Editor's Rating

  • No annual membership fee
  • Low variable Purchase APR of 9.25%, 12.25%, or 15.25% based on your creditworthiness. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
  • Low Introductory APR on balance transfers of 1.99% for your first 6 billing cycles. After that, your APR will be the same as your assigned purchase APR, based on your creditworthiness. Applies to balance transfers processed within three months of your account open date.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Points or Miles

1 point for each $1 in qualifying purchases, redeemable for merchandise, travel or statement credit

Bonus Miles or Points

N/A

Purchase APR

9.25%, 12.25% or 15.25% Variable Purchase APR

Annual Fee

None 

Iberiabank Visa® Gold

Editor's Rating

  • Earn rewards on all qualifying purchases while enjoying one of the lowest rates in the country on purchases and balance transfers.
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Points or Miles

Bonus Miles or Points


Purchase APR

9.25%, 12.25% or 15.25% Variable Purchase APR

Annual Fee

None 

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

Editor's Rating

  • 20,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 within the first 3 months of opening the Card account
  • Earn 5 points per dollar spent on airfare purchases
  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Apply Now Credit Needed Excellent

Points or Miles

1-5 pts/$1

Bonus Miles or Points

20,000 bonus points
when you spend $2,500 within the first 3 months of opening the Card account

Purchase APR

9.99%* Variable

Annual Fee

$0 

These quotes are from credit card issuers which have paid for a link to their website. Offers are subject to change without notice and may not be the same for all consumers.