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Best airline rewards credit cards of October 2020

Finding the best credit card for your travel plans doesn't have to be difficult. CardRatings editors reveal the best airline rewards credit cards for both personal and business travel.
Jennifer Doss, CardRatings Editor Last Updated, October 15, 2020

Our credit card articles, reviews and ratings maintain strict editorial integrity; however we may be compensated when you click on or are approved for offers (terms apply) from our partners. How we make money.

best airline rewards cards Airlines are vying for your loyalty any which way they can get it. Some offer lower prices, others entice with the offers of more leg room, priority boarding, deals with partner hotels and car rental companies – you name it, they'll offer it.

One way into your air travel heart that they have found includes partnering with financial institutions to offer credit cards tied to airline loyalty programs and rewards. This is nothing new, but it continues to evolve. Lenders are upping the ante daily, trying to lure qualified new card members into their ranks, which is why we've compiled our top picks for the best airline rewards credit cards from our partners to help make the decision making easier.

LIST OF WINNERS

Some advice when it comes to choosing the best airline rewards credit card:

  • Plan a budget: To assess various credit card offers and their associated rewards, you'll need to know how much you plan to spend monthly and yearly in order to apply for the one that will reap you the most rewards.
  • Find an angle: Do you want to be brand loyal or can you only afford flexibility with how you earn rewards and where you spend them?
  • Don't fall for the first offer you receive: Do your research, starting with reviews of our top picks for the best airline rewards credit cards.
  • Consider applying for a business credit card: Small business credit cards earn rewards on both business and personal expenses, and often times offer the best bonuses. For example, the Ink Business Preferred® offers a massive bonus of 100,000 points, good for $1,250 towards travel, to new cardholders who spend at least $15,000 in the first three months of opening an account. If you're a traditional small business owner, or even a non-traditional business owner such as a contractor, freelancer, Airbnb operator or rideshare driver, you could qualify for and really benefit from a small business credit card. When considering your options, don't be so quick to rule these cards out.

BEST FLEXIBLE AIRLINE CREDIT CARDS

Though the cards in this section aren't branded airline cards, they'll still earn you rewards on travel purchases — and since the rewards earned with these cards offer flexible redemption options, you won't be limited to booking travel with just one airline. These cards can be a great option for anyone not loyal to a particular travel brand.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Thanks to a newly increased signup bonus that's worth $1,000 when redeemed for travel, this card is a hard one to overlook. It earns two points on travel and dining out and one point on all other purchases. Plus, points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to a number of airline and hotel travel partners making it a great option for those not loyal to one particular airline brand.

The Bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account membership. Points are worth 25% more when redeemed through Chase's travel portal, meaning, the signup bonus alone could be worth $1,000.

The Rewards: Earn two points on travel and dining purchases and one point on all other purchases. Plus earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

The Annual Fee: $95

Added Perks: Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, cruises, and more when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus, this card has no foreign transaction fees, making it great for international travel, as well as a number of other benefits such as car insurance and travel and purchase coverage.

Credit Needed: Good/Excellent

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

PROS:

  • This card offers travelers one of the most valuable signup bonuses. New cardholders earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account membership. If you redeem your points for airfare, hotel stays, and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, your points are worth 25% more, making the bonus worth $1,000.
  • You also earn two points for each dollar you spend on travel and dining purchases and one point on all other purchases. Through March 2022, you’ll also earn 5X points on Lyft rides.
  • You can transfer your points at a ratio of 1:1 to many different airline and hotel loyalty programs, making it easier to travel with your preferred provider.

CONS:

  • There is a $95 annual fee, which isn’t the highest when it comes to airline credit cards, but you also don’t get a lot of the benefits you get with others, such as airport lounge access and travel credits.
  • While this card’s rewards program does cover several travel categories, it isn’t specific to a particular airline. If you have a favorite airline that you are loyal to, you might get more out of that brand’s rewards program and benefits.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card offers the flexibility to redeem your rewards to cover the cost of any flight on any airline at any time. Recently, however, it also added the flexibility to transfer your miles to multiple travel partners, meaning you might be able to make your rewards go even further than by simply redeeming them to cover a travel purchase.

The Bonus: Earn 100,000 miles when you spend $20,000 on your new card within the first 12 months or earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 within the first three months. That's worth up to $1,000 in flexible travel or you can transfer those miles to one several travel partners and possibly make the rewards go even further.

The Rewards: Earn two miles per $1 spent on every purchase, every day.

The Annual Fee: $95

Added Perks: Cardholders are eligible for up to $100 every four years to cover your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ application fee.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Enjoy up to a $100 application fee credit to cover Global Entry or Pre✓™ membership.
  • The rewards are more generous than many credit cards with travel rewards: unlimited two miles per $1 spent on every purchase.
  • Since miles earned can be used to cover almost any travel purchase, rewards can be used to cover the cost for ANY airline ticket.

CONS:

  • There's a $95 annual fee, which isn't too steep. But still…
  • If you decide to redeem for cash instead of travel, you won't be maximizing the full value of your rewards. So it's good for travel, but not as useful as a cash-back rewards card.

Read our full Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

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; keep reading to find out what we mean.

The Bonus: Your points are worth more – 2% or $.02 each – when redeemed for airfare. That means that 25,000 points are worth $500 in airfare. That's a significant bump in value over other flexible travel credit cards and could definitely go a long way toward helping you offset the annual fee. Furthermore, the value of your points is also elevated when you redeem them into a U.S. bank account; in that case they're worth 1.5% or 1.5 cents each, meaning those 25,000 points are worth $375 if you redeem them for cash.

The Rewards: Earn one point for every $1 you spend on all your purchases. Then, as mentioned above, enjoy extra value depending upon how you choose to redeem your points: they're worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed into a U.S. bank account or for statement credit and $.02 each when redeemed for airfare. In either case, you're receiving more value for your points than is typical.

The Annual Fee: $495

Added Perks: As a luxury card, this card comes with a number of luxurious benefits such as a $100 annual travel credit that can be used for airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades, etc.; a $100 statement credit that covers the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™; enrollment in the Luxury Card VIP Travel program which provides perks such as room upgrades, complimentary food, beverage, and spa credits, special car rental privileges, cruise privileges, charter services, and more. The VIP program also gets you into more than 1,000 lounges at airports in more than 500 cities. Additionally, cardholders can take advantage of access to a 24/7 luxury concierge who can help with booking travel, securing tickets, making reservations, conducting research and more.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This card is often forgotten when it comes to airline rewards cards, but it offers a decent value for earning on airfare. You can earn one point for each dollar you spend with the card, but if you redeem for airfare, your points are worth 2%.
  • Besides airline rewards, this card offers several other travel benefits such as an annual $100 airline credit, a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fee credit, VIP airport lounge access, and more.
  • You can also transfer a balance to this card and pay no interest for 15 billing cycles, if you transfer within 45 days of opening the account (then 14.99% Variable). There aren’t many airline rewards credit cards that also offer an introductory 0% APR for balance transfers.

CONS:

  • Because this is also considered a luxury card, it carries a hefty annual fee of $495. You’ll need to keep this in mind and weigh it against the rewards and benefits to determine if it’s worth it for you.
  • Although you have the opportunity to earn more when you redeem for airfare, it doesn’t offer a traditional signup bonus, which, with other cards, is often worth a couple of rewards flights.

Read our full Mastercard® Black Card™review.

Discover it® Miles

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Discover cards are kind of known for the fact that they don't charge annual or foreign transaction fees, as well as their coveted matching offer for new cardholders. This card includes all of that, plus unlimited 1.5x miles for every dollar spent on all purchases. Discover cards might not be as widely accepted abroad, however, they're more commonly accepted now than ever, making this card a great option for travel near and far.

The Bonus: Discover will match ALL the miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That's $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.

The Rewards: Earn unlimited 1.5x miles for every dollar spent on all purchases, with no annual fee.

Annual Fee: See Terms

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This card is a bit different from other airline rewards credit cards. For new cardholders, it matches all of the miles earned the first year, which means you essentially earn three miles per $1 spent on all your purchases your first year.
  • This card earns at a flat rate, which you might prefer if your spending varies and doesn’t fall into a particular category or airline.
  • There’s no annual fee, which is rare with airline rewards cards. The benefit of this is you won’t have to make sure you meet certain requirements to cover the annual fee often charged by other cards.

CONS:

  • The rewards rate of 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all purchases is convenient, but it’s also a fairly low rate. Most cards already offer one mile per $1 spent as the default amount you earn. There are several other cards that offer higher rewards rates if you can determine which ones cover the categories you use most.
  • Because of the non-traditional offer to match your spending the first year, you won’t earn your bonus until the end of the year. Many other cards require three or four months and then you get rewarded, often with enough to cover an award ticket or two.

Read our full Discover it® Miles review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Once again, this is a card with a higher-than-typical annual fee, but it offers plenty of solid perks and rewards to justify it, plus that whole, "no foreign transaction fees" part. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.

The Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn four Membership Rewards® points per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide as well as four points per $1 at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in supermarket purchases, then one point). Earn three Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. You can also earn up to $10 total in statement credits monthly, that's up to $120 each year, when you pay with your card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Boxed, Ruth's Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required). Lastly, you can save with up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year to cover incidental fees with one pre-selected qualifying airline.

Annual Fee: $250

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • You can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months.
  • For airfare, you can earn 3X points on flights you book directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. You can also earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • This card includes benefits such as a $100 annual statement credit that you can use to cover incidental fees on a pre-selected airline, which can be handy if you’re a frequent flyer.

CONS:

  • This card has an annual fee of $250 which can be expensive if you aren’t earning enough rewards to offset it.
  • This is a charge card, so you’ll have to pay the balance in full each month.

Read our full review of the American Express® Gold Card.

 

FREE TOOL

Dreaming of traveling more, but fear your budget can't handle it? You may be surprised at how far your rewards can take you when you're using the right credit card. Follow our lead to greater travel savings through 19 FREE lessons in our easy-to-use Travel Rewards 101 guide.


BEST AMERICAN AIRLINES CREDIT CARDS

If you are a frequent American Airlines traveler you'll make the most of your rewards by enrolling in the company's frequent flyer program, AAdvantage®. As an AAdvantage® member, you'll not only earn miles on American Airlines flights, but also on those operated by any of 13 Oneworld alliance carriers and nearly a dozen non-alliance partners.

You can learn all about the numerous perks and rewards of the American Airlines AAdvantage® program in our American Airlines AAdvantage® program guide.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: American Airlines has extensive partnerships making these miles quite valuable if your travel passions are far-flung. Plus, with redemption options starting at just 7,500 miles, the welcome bonus alone can take you far. Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 on your card in the first three months of account opening.

The Annual Fee: $99, waived for first 12 months

The Rewards: Earn two AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases. Also earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card.

Added Perks: There are no foreign transaction fees and your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation. Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights and receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This card offers new cardholders 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 on your card in the first three months of account opening.
  • You can earn two miles for every $1 you spend at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases. Redemption options start at 7,500 miles.
  • Enjoy numerous airline perks such as your first checked bag free on American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions on the same reservation and 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.

CONS:

  • Although the annual fee is waived the first 12 months, you’ll still want to be sure you get enough from the rewards and card benefits to cover it afterward.
  • The most you’ll earn is double miles on purchases at gas stations, restaurants and American Airlines. If most of your spending is in other categories or you frequently travel with other airlines, you’ll likely want to consider a more general travel rewards card.

Read our full Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: No-annual-fee airline rewards cards are rare, so this one caught our attention. And not only is there a welcome bonus for new cardholders, but you can earn bonus rewards on more than just a branded flight, which is another rarity among airline cards.

The Bonus: Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® miles and receive a $50 statement credit after you make $500 in purchases within the first three months. That's a low spending threshold for any welcome bonus, but especially so for a card with no annual fee.

The Rewards: Rack up two miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores as well as on your American Airlines purchases. You'll earn one mile per $1 on your other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $0

Added Perks: You'll save 25% on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first three months. This is one of the lowest spending thresholds you’ll find with an airline rewards card.
  • You can earn two miles for every $1 spent at grocery stores and on American Airlines purchases, and one mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. You also get perks such as a 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card.
  • This card is one of the few airline travel rewards cards that does not charge an annual fee.

CONS:

  • This card has no annual fee, which is nice if you aren’t sure you’ll get enough out of the rewards to cover an extra charge for carrying the card; however, you might be missing out on valuable rewards or travel benefits that might be available with annual-fee cards.
  • You’ll only benefit from this card if the majority of your spending is on groceries and you frequently fly with American Airlines. If you also spend in other categories (such as restaurants) you might want to consider another American Airlines card or a general travel rewards card.

Read our full American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card review.

BEST DELTA AIRLINES CREDIT CARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Generous rewards, a free checked bag, a nice welcome offer and more make this a card worth considering if you're a frequent Delta flyer.

The Welcome Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months (offer expires 10/28/2020). Plus, after you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year, you will receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit to inspire your next travel.

The Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.

The Rewards:Earn 2X miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including delivery and takeout, and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn 1X mile on all other eligible purchases.

Added Perks: Save money as your first checked bag is free on Delta flights.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Travel when you're ready. After you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year, you will receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit to inspire your next travel.
  • You can earn 2X miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets, and 1X mile on all other purchases, so there's a lot of potential for racking up rewards, even when you're not flying.
  • You also get travel benefits such as free first checked bag on Delta flights, saving you money.

CONS:

  • It's lower than many others and it is waived the first year, but you’ll still need to determine whether you’ll earn enough to cover the annual fee the second year and afterward.
  • You do need to frequently fly with Delta to benefit the most from this card. However, even if you do travel quite a bit with the airline, you might get more out of the awards and benefits from the higher-tier Delta cards, even though they also come with higher annual fees.

Read our full Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card review.

 

UPGRADE YOUR CARD

The card mentioned above is the middle-of-the-road Delta card, which means you could certainly upgrade your experience if you appreciate a little luxury or know you'll offset the additional annual fees. The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card has an annual fee of $250, but it offers new cardholders an opportunity to earn 60,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months (offer expires 10/28/2020). On an ongoing basis, earn three miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases and directly with hotels, two miles per $1 at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and one mile per $1 on your other purchases. (See Rates and Fees.)

Enjoy even more luxury with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. This one comes with a $550 annual fee, but includes access to the Delta SkyClub® as well the ability to earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. (See Rates and Fees.)


BEST SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CREDIT CARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: A card that allows you to work toward bringing a friend along on your flights for FREE (except for taxes and fees) is a winner in our book. Add some of the additional perks and money-saving features in and this card really takes off.

The Bonus:  Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

Companion Pass is the gold standard of rewards air travel. Earn a pass in a given year and it means a friend can fly free with you for the remainder of that year as well as throughout the following calendar year. You can earn a pass by taking 100 one-way flights in a year or by accruing 125,000 points, which is where a credit card comes in. Points earned through your card purchases (or earned signup bonus) count toward your Companion Pass threshold.

The Annual Fee: $149

The Rewards: Receive two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and those with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners. Earn one point per $1 on your other purchases.

Added Perks: Enjoy a $75 Southwest travel credit each year as well as up to four upgrade boardings, when available. You'll also receive 7,500 bonus points each year after your account anniversary.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening an account.
  • You can earn two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, and one point per $1 spent on other purchases. Plus, the points you earn count toward earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.
  • You also get other travel perks with the airline such as a $75 Southwest travel credit each year and up to four upgraded boardings. Another benefit is 7,500 bonus points each year after your account anniversary.

CONS:

  • The $149 annual fee is slightly higher than other airline rewards credit cards that offer similar benefits. Plus, it isn’t waived the first year, so you have to determine if the perks are valuable enough to cover it.
  • Of airline travel cards, this one offers pretty standard rewards and benefits, especially for the annual fee. Plus, you only earn rewards on Southwest flights and purchases with partners. If your spending varies or you often fly with other airlines, you might find a general travel rewards credit card to be more valuable.

Read our full Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card offers new cardholders the opportunity to earn a nice chunk of points toward earning that Companion Pass. Plus, as with other Southwest card options, all your purchases count toward earning that pass.

The Bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

The Annual Fee: $99

The Rewards: Receive two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and those with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners. Earn one point per $1 on your other purchases.

Added Perks: The lower annual fee means fewer, but still valuable, perks. There isn't an annual travel credit with this card, but you will receive 6,000 bonus points each year after your account anniversary.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn 40,000 points once spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account. These points can help you get closer to earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.
  • You’ll also earn two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, as well as one point per $1 spent on other purchases.
  • You also earn 6,000 bonus points each year after your account anniversary.

CONS:

  • The $99 annual fee. However, This is mid-level for Southwest cards and about standard for airline travel rewards cards.
  • If you are a frequent international traveler, you’ll likely be disappointed with the options that Southwest offers.

Read our full review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: We're just stepping down in annual fees here, but we're still liking a card that offers a bonus with enough points to get you well on your way to that "free travel" we discussed above.

The Bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You'll also earn 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.

The Annual Fee: $69

The Rewards: Receive two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and those with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners. Earn one point per $1 on your other purchases. The key with these Southwest cards is really how much you fly Southwest and whether that's enough for you to offset the lowest annual fee or the highest annual fee, which comes with additional perks/features.

Added Perks: The annual fee is even lower than that of the card above so, as you'd expect, the perks have gone down a bit too. In this case, you'll receive just 3,000 bonus points each year after your account anniversary.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This card is considered the bottom level of the Southwest cards but it still offers new cardholders a bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first three months of opening the account.
  • Like the other Southwest credit cards, you’ll earn two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, and one point per $1 spent on other purchases.
  • Earn an annual bonus of 3,000 points after your cardmember anniversary.

CONS:

  • The $69 annual fee is the lowest of the Southwest credit cards, which might be best for you if you aren’t sure you can get enough from the card to cover the fee. However, that also means fewer perks and lower annual bonuses.
  • The annual fee is still higher than other card fees, especially in comparison to the rewards and benefits.

Read our full review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card.

BEST UNITED AIRLINES CREDIT CARD

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: We like a healthy bonus, but we like ongoing perks and features even more, and this card for the United Airlines-loyal set certainly has those in abundance.

The Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

The Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

The Rewards: Earn two miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel accommodations, two miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, two miles on eligible delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash, and one mile per $1 spent on everything else.

Added Perks: Receive up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ statement fee credit every four years as reimbursement for the application fee for either program when charged to your card. Also, get 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on-board United-operated flights when you pay with your Explorer Card. Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per round-trip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This is a great card for rewards and benefits if you’re a frequent flyer with United airlines. New cardholders can earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account.
  • This card awards two miles per $1 spent at restaurants and select delivery purchases, and on hotel accommodations as well as purchases from United. You also earn one mile per $1 spent on other purchases.
  • Other travel benefits include up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ statement fee credit every four years, 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights, and first bag free, which are all worth way more than the annual fee.

CONS:

  • Although you get a bunch of rewards and perks for the annual fee, it is still going to cost you if you don’t fly frequently enough or use the rewards and perks.
  • Like all brand specific cards, you'll benefit most if the brand is actually a preference of yours. If you don't use United Airlines often, you'll miss out on the numerous perks this card has to offer.

Read our full United℠ Explorer Card review.

BEST BRITISH AIRWAYS CREDIT CARD

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: British Airways Avios are valuable and the welcome bonus opportunity means you can rack up quite a few bonus miles in your first year as a card member. Plus, you'll be rewarded with a Travel Together Ticket each year you spend at least $30,000 on your card, so the "bonuses," of sorts, aren't restricted to your first year.

The Bonus: Earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios — 50,000 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account, plus an additional 50,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 within your first year. Also, you'll receive 10% off British Airways flights that start in the U.S.

The Rewards: Earn three Avios per $1 spent with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and LEVEL; earn two Avios per $1 on hotel accommodations; earn one Avios per $1 on your other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn up to 100,000 Avios — 50,000 after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account and 50,000 Avios after spending $20,000 within your first year.
  • Earn three Avios for each $1 you spend with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and LEVEL, two Avios per $1 on hotel accommodations and one Avios per $1 on other purchases.
  • This card includes 10% off British Airways flights that start in the U.S., which can save you some money if you frequently travel from the U.S.

CONS:

  • There aren’t a lot of benefits and perks for the $95 annual fee, so you’ll want to be sure you’ll get enough value from the rewards program and the bonuses the card offers.
  • Except for the bonus rewards on British Airways purchases, you can earn similar rewards with other airline credit cards with similar annual fees.

Read our full British Airways Visa Signature® Card review.

BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR OTHER AIRLINES

The cards already mentioned on this page cover most of the best-known airlines in the United States, but that doesn't mean they're the only options. In fact, there are number of smaller airlines that offer credit cards with some excellent features and rewards-earning opportunities for the right customer. Additionally, a few of these are connected to larger airline networks, meaning that the loyalty miles you earn with these niche airlines just might be redeemable with some of the larger airlines that have more extensive networks. Here are a few options:

Avianca Vida Visa® Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Another niche card, but one that could be just right for the right customer. In this case, Avianca Airlines is part of the Star Alliance of airlines, which means Avianca loyalty club members have LOTS of options for other airlines on which to redeem and earn rewards. Note that you must be an Avianca LifeMiles member to apply for the card.

The Bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use.

The Rewards:  Earn two LifeMiles per $1 spent on all Avianca purchases and one mile per $1 on everything else.

The Annual Fee: $59

Credit Needed: Excellent,Good

PROS:

  • You can earn 20,000 bonus LifeMiles after the first card use, which might be the lowest spending requirement for a bonus on an airline rewards card.
  • You’ll also earn two LifeMiles per $1 spent on all Avianca purchases and one mile per $1 on other purchases.
  • Avianca Airlines is part of the Star Alliance of airlines which means club members have more options to redeem and earn rewards from other partner airlines.

CONS:

  • Although the $59 annual fee is lower than most airline rewards cards, there are also not a lot of extra perks and benefits.
  • It’s possible to earn similar value from your Avianca flights with a general travel rewards card that isn’t a specific branded card. There are various credit cards with similar rewards programs for airfare that do not charge an annual fee.

Read our full Avianca Vida Visa® Card review.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card is known for its companion fare, which cardholders receive each year after their cardholder anniversary and can be used for Alaska flights booked directly on the airline's website. The benefit offers you a base fare of $99, plus taxes and fees that start at $22. You also get discounts on in-flight purchases, Alaska Lounge day passes, and a free checked bag for you and up to six guests on your itinerary. If your travels often have you flying with Alaska Airlines, this could be a great fit. Furthermore, while not officially a member of the oneWorld airline alliance, Alaska Airlines does partner with those airlines, which include American Airlines, British Airways and many more, so your reward miles could land you on other airlines to reach other destinations as well.

The Bonus: Special limited time offer! Get a $100 statement credit, 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

The Rewards:  Earn three miles per $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and one mile per $1 on everything else.

The Annual Fee: $75

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • For a limited time new cardholders can get a $100 statement credit, 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after making $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening an account.
  • You can earn three miles per $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and one mile per $1 on everything else. You also get airline benefits such as discounts on in-flight purchases, Alaska Lounge day passes, and others.
  • Alaska Airlines partners with airlines that are part of the oneworld airline alliance, which provides offers with other airlines like American Airlines and British Airways.

CONS:

  • You only earn bonus miles on purchases with Alaska Airlines. You could earn miles from these flights plus bonus miles in other categories with credit cards that offer more options.
  • Because of the $75 annual fee, it’s important to make sure you earn enough from the rewards. You do get the companion pass each anniversary year, but it doesn’t cover the annual fee by itself.

Read our full Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card review.

BEST AIRLINE CREDIT CARDS FOR BUSINESSES

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: If you're a loyal fan of Delta Airlines, you'll want to consider this card. Cardholders can enjoy extra perks such as a free first checked bag, main cabin one priority boarding and $100 off your next Delta flight after you spend $10,000 with the card in a calendar year.

The Bonus: For a limited time, new cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership (offer ends Oct. 28, 2020).

The Rewards: Earn two miles for each dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta, on eligible U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, on eligible U.S. shipping purchases, and on every eligible dollar spent on dining at restaurants. Earn one mile on every other eligible dollar spent.

The Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99

Added Perks: After spending $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, earn a $100 Delta flight credit.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Save money when you travel with travel benefits such as first checked bag free and main cabin one priority boarding.
  • Avoid paying foreign transaction fees on purchases you make abroad with no foreign transaction fees.
  • The annual fee is waived the first year of card membership.

CONS:

  • Although the annual fee is waived the first year, you'll need to be sure you can benefit from the card enough for the annual fee after that.
  • If you frequently fly with Delta, it may be worth considering one of the other Delta credit cards that reward you more generously for Delta purchases and offer more travel benefits, even with higher annual fees.

Read our full Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Although another elite airline credit card, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card has a comparatively low annual fee, and offers business owners who travel several perks and benefits.

Welcome Offer: For a limited time, new cardholders can earn 70,000 bonus miles and 5,000 MQMs after spending $4,000 on purchases on your new card in the first three months (offer ends Oct. 28, 2020).

The Rewards: Cardholders earn 3X miles for every $1 spent on eligible purchases made with Delta and on purchases made directly with hotels, as well as 1.5X miles per $1 on single eligible purchases of $5,000 or more (an extra half point per dollar), up to 50,000 additional miles per year and 1X mile on all other eligible purchases.

The Annual Fee: $250.

Added Perks: If you spend $25,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year you can earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs). Spend a total of $50,000 in eligible purchases on the card in a calendar year and earn an additional 10,000 MQMs. Other perks include your first checked bag free, priority boarding and 20% in-flight savings and a number of other travel, shopping and expense management perks.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Limited time bonus! Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 5,000 MQMs after spending $4,000 on purchases on your new card in the first three months (ends Oct. 28, 2020). This is a valuable bonus considering the lower annual fee.
  • Earn more perks and benefits with Medallion® status with Status Boost™. When you spend $25,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs). Spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the card in a calendar year and earn an additional 10,000 MQMs. Plus, you can earn 3X miles for every $1 spent on eligible purchases made with Delta and on purchases made directly with hotels, 1.5X miles per $1 on single eligible purchases of $5,000 or more up to 50,000 additional miles per year and 1X mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • This card offers many travel perks such as your first checked bag free, priority boarding and 20% in-flight savings.

CONS:

  • Although the annual fee of $250 is lower than other elite airline card annual fees, you’ll still need to be sure you’ll use it enough to justify the annual fee. If you won’t get enough out of the rewards and benefits, you should consider a different business or travel card.
  • This card benefits those who frequently travel with Delta airlines. If you prefer switching airlines or if you only travel with Delta a couple of times a year, you’ll be better off with a different card.

Read our full Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card isn't exclusively a travel card, but it's great for airline travel because of the opportunity to earn 25% points back after you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel (up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.)

The Bonus: You can earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases with the card within the first three months of opening an account.

The Rewards: Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points on the two select categories where your business spends the most each month and 1X point on all other purchases. The 4X point rate applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from the bonus categories each calendar year.

The Annual Fee: $295

Added Perks: Get 25% points back after you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Although it's not strictly a travel card, it does not charge foreign transaction fees so you're safe from extra fees if you make purchases abroad.
  • This card offers a flexible payment option with interest to help manage cash flow on purchases of $100 or more.
  • The ability to earn 25% points back after you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year, is a unique offer that could be a beneficial perk for frequent travelers.

CONS:

  • The annual fee isn't the highest considering the value of the card's perks, but if you don't travel often, some of the card's offerings might not benefit you much.
  • Earning 4X points where you spend most is nice if you regularly spend money on the same things. If your expenses vary, you can likely find a card that better suits your spending habits.

Read our full American Express® Business Gold Card review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is a popular card for business travelers for good reason. It offers healthy rewards and a number of travel benefits you won't get with other cards.

The Bonus: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn five points per $1 spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. You'll also earn an extra half-point (1.5 points) per $1 spent on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million points per year) and one point per $1 on all other purchases. Plus, when you Pay with Points for a first or business class flight with any airline through amextravel.com, or book any class ticket through the portal on your pre-selected airline, you'll receive 35% of your points back to use on a future redemption (up to 500,000 points back each year). 

The Annual Fee: $595

Added Perks: This card includes up to $200 in statement credits each year to cover incidental charges with your pre-selected airline. You'll also get complimentary airport lounge access, and once every four years, you'll be eligible to have your Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application fee reimbursed via statement credit.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • This card allows you to earn 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That’s an extra half point per dollar on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more.
  • When you use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of those points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when you book on amextravel.com.
  • This card gives you access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 120 countries and counting through the Global Lounge Collection℠.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

CONS:

  • Although it offers several perks and benefits, the annual fee is substantial. If you don’t expect to use the card enough to offset this fee, you might be better off with a card that charges a lower (or no) annual fee.
  • The welcome bonus for new cardholders is a great offer, but the spending requirement is higher than most.

Read our full review of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card offers a number of valuable perks, such as complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club®, a Delta Comfort+® or main cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon card renewal and priority boarding. Plus, you can earn Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), which helps you reach new levels of Medallion Status, and provides access to even more benefits like waived fees complimentary upgrades.

The Bonus: Earn 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. With Status Boost™ you can earn 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your new card in a calendar year, up to four times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status.

The Rewards: Earn three miles on every $1 spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. After you spend $150,000 on your card in a calendar year, you earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent(that's an extra half mile per $1) on eligible purchases the rest of the year. Eligible purchases after spending $150,000 do not include Delta purchases.

The Annual Fee: $550

Added Perks: This card offers complimentary Delta Sky Club® access and complimentary access to The Centurion Lounge when flying on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight (the eligible flight must be booked on a U.S. issued American Express credit card). It also comes with priority boarding, a domestic first class, Delta Comfort+® or main cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card, your first checked bag free and many other perks.

Credit Needed:Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • New cardholders earn 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months.
  • You also get a bunch of luxury travel perks such as complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club®, a Delta Comfort+® or main cabin round-trip companion certificate each year you renew, priority boarding and many others.
  • Earn three miles on every $1 spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. After spending $150,000 on your card in a calendar year, you earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on eligible purchases the rest of the year.

CONS:

  • This card includes several valuable travel perks but it also has a fairly high annual fee of $550. It’s important to figure out if you can get enough value from the extras to justify the annual fee.
  • Most, if not all, of the luxury perks and benefits you get with this card are exclusive to Delta airlines. If you are not a frequent Delta flyer or you don’t travel enough to use these benefits, you’ll want to consider a different travel or business card.

Read our full Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: How does a $1,250 bonus to use towards travel sound? In addition to three points earned on travel purchases as well as in select business categories each account anniversary year (up to $150,000 spent), that's exactly what this card has to offer for new cardholders. Spend $15,000 within your first three months as a cardholder, and you'll be looking at 100,000 bonus points, worth $1,250 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The Bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The Rewards: Earn three points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year and one point per dollar on all other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

Added Perks: No foreign transaction fees; trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance; trip delay reimbursement; auto rental collision damage waivers; cell phone insurance for the primary cardholder and employee phones on the same account; employee cards at no additional cost; and purchase, price, return, and extended warranty protection plans.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This card awards three points on travel purchases as well as in select business categories each account anniversary year (up to $150,000 spent.)
  • If you spend $15,000 within your first three months as a cardholder, you can earn 100,000 bonus points, which is worth $1,250 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This is one of the best offers we’ve seen.
  • You also get other travel and business benefits such as trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance.

CONS:

  • The annual fee of $95 is mid-level but it can still be expensive if you don’t expect to use the card often enough to help offset it.
  • For a travel rewards card, this one offers fewer actual airline and travel benefits than many others.

Read our full Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card review.

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Because this card doesn't require brand loyalty to reap its benefits, small businesses can be fiscally savvy by shopping around for the best rates and prices while still earning rewards that can be spent wherever they choose.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles worth $500 in travel when you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first three months of card membership.

The Rewards: Rack up two miles per $1 spent on every purchase, every day. Rack up five miles per $1 on your hotel and car rental purchases through Capital One TravelSM.

The Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Added Perks: Add employee cards for free; track your expenses with quarterly and year-end summaries, downloadable purchase records and a mobile app to manage purchases. Save money with no foreign transaction fees, car rental insurance, purchase protection, roadside dispatch and lost luggage reimbursement. Plus, receive up to a $100 credit for one Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ application fee.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus miles worth $500 in travel when you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first three months of card membership.
  • You’ll also earn a flat rate of two miles per $1 spent on every purchase and five miles per $1 on your hotel and car rental purchases through Capital One Travel.
  • This card includes travel benefits such as up to a $100 credit for one Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ application fee and lost luggage reimbursement.

CONS:

  • The annual fee is waived the first year, but you’ll still need to make sure you earn enough from the rewards to cover it the second year and onward. Fortunately, if you take advantage of the bonus offer and the travel perks, it shouldn’t be too hard to offset this cost.
  • It’s convenient to earn a flat rate of two miles for each dollar you spend, without any limitations, but if the majority of your purchases fall into a specific category or you frequently fly with a particular airline, you’ll likely earn more from other airline rewards cards.

Read our full review of Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business.

Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is the no-annual-fee version of the card above. Yes, your bonus opportunity and ongoing rewards rate are a bit lower, but you don’t have to worry about offsetting an annual fee.

The Bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from opening an account.

The Rewards: 1.5 miles per $1 spent on every purchase, every day. Plus, earn five miles per $1 spent on hotels and car rentals through the Capital One portal.

The Annual Fee: $0

Added Perks: Take advantage of a 0% intro APR on purchases for nine months (then 14.49% - 22.49% (Variable)). You’ll also save with included auto rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • New cardholders can earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months from opening an account.
  • Earn a flat rate of 1.5 miles per dollar spent on every purchase, plus five miles per $1 spent on hotels and car rentals through the Capital One travel portal.
  • There’s no annual fee for this card, which isn’t typical of airline rewards credit cards. Plus, there’s a 0% intro APR on purchases for nine months (then, 14.49% - 22.49% (Variable)), which is also not an offer you’ll find with a lot of travel rewards cards.

CONS:

  • The rewards program is one of the simplest to navigate of any airline rewards card, with very few restrictions and no purchase categories to manage. However, 1.5 miles per dollar is one of the lowest rates you’ll find with a rewards card.
  • Although there’s no annual fee, there’s also not many travel or small business benefits. If don’t mind paying an annual fee, you could likely find other travel and airline rewards cards with more valuable benefits and perks.

Read our full review of Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is a favorite of ours, in part, because of the all-important Companion Pass, which allows a passenger of your choice to travel with you free for the remainder of the year in which you earn the pass as well as for the entire calendar year after that. Given the high bonus as well as the opportunity for all your employees’ spending on the card to count toward earning that Companion Pass, we see this as an excellent business card for the annual fee.

The Bonus: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

The Rewards: Earn two points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and one point per $1 spent on all your other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $99

Added Perks: You’ll receive 6,000 bonus points each year after your card member anniversary. Enjoy no blackout dates when you redeem points, no seat restrictions, no change fees and no foreign transaction fees. And, as per usual with Southwest Airlines, your bags fly for free.

Credit Needed:Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Like the consumer version of the card, your spending counts toward earning a Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to take a passenger with you for free the remainder of the year and the calendar year after.
  • New cardholders can earn a bonus of 60,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account.
  • You also earn two points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and one point per $1 spent on all your other purchases. An extra perk is 6,000 bonus points each year after your card member anniversary.

CONS:

  • The annual fee of $99 can get expensive if you don’t eventually earn the Companion Pass or enough rewards for award flights.
  • You only earn double miles for Southwest purchases, which is actually not the highest level of rewards offered by a travel card. If you have spending in other areas or with other airlines, you might earn more with other travel rewards credit cards, especially with similar annual fees.

Read our full Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card review.

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: >As we mentioned with the consumer version of this card above, the Companion Fare option is fantastic, especially given the low annual fee this card requires.

The Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees starting at $22) after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. You'll also enjoy a companion fare on Alaska flights booked directly through the airline each year after your cardholder anniversary.

The Rewards: Earn three miles per $1 spent on qualifying Alaska Airlines purchases and one mile per $1 on all your other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $50 for the company and $25 per card

Added Perks: Save with a free checked bag for you and up to six guests on the same reservation and enjoy discounts on in-flight purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • Like the consumer version of the card, you’ll get the Companion Fare option, which allows a $99 base fare plus taxes and fees starting at $22, each year on your cardholder anniversary and as a new cardholder after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening the account.
  • You’ll also earn three miles per $1 spent on qualifying Alaska Airlines purchases and one mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. This card includes travel benefits like first checked bag free for you and up to six guests.
  • The annual fee of $50 for the company and $25 per card is lower than the fee you’ll pay with many other travel and business credit cards.

CONS:

  • Although the annual fee is lower than most, you’ll still need to be a frequent flyer with Alaska Airlines to get your money’s worth.
  • You only earn bonus miles on Alaska Airlines purchases. If you frequently spend in other categories or with another airline, you may want to consider another option.

Read our full Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card review.

WHAT IS THE BEST AIRLINE CREDIT CARD?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card appears on several best of lists of credit cards, but it can be an especially lucrative card for airline rewards even though it isn’t actually linked to a specific airline brand. In fact, its flexibility is exactly what makes it the best airline credit card. Not only can you earn bonus points on a variety of types of travel purchases (not just a specific airline) but your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for several different types of travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Plus, this card comes with one of the most valuable signup bonuses you’ll find with an airline travel credit card. It’s worth $750 if you redeem through Chase’s travel portal.

HOW TO COMPARE AIRLINE CREDIT CARDS

As you review airline credit cards, you need to take into account several factors, including:

  • Airline loyalty: Do you have one airline you love or are you open to using different carriers? Some cards will only earn miles for a specific airline while others accrue points that can be redeemed for travel on multiple airlines.
  • Everyday spending: Some credit cards offer reward points only in specific categories of spending, such as travel, dining or groceries. Select a card that will allow you to maximize your rewards based on what you normally buy.
  • Annual fee: Airline credit cards can sometimes come with pretty hefty fees, however, these pricier cards usually come with valuable perks such as free checked bags, airport lounge access and travel credits. If you travel regularly, these benefits can easily offset the cost of the fee. However, if you tend to take a single trip each year, you may be better off with a low or no-fee card.

Remember, it’s important to choose a card that matches your lifestyle; not the other way around. By taking these factors into consideration, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision, choosing a card that works for your lifestyle and spending habits.

CAN YOU TRANSFER MILES BETWEEN AIRLINES?

The short answer is, sometimes. Many airlines are part of an alliance. There are three major alliances most people are familiar with: Star Alliance, OneWorld and SkyTeam. Each includes one U.S. legacy airline. United is part of Star Alliance, American Airlines is a member of OneWorld and Delta is a SkyTeam carrier.

One perk of alliances is the ability to book reward travel on multiple airlines. For instance, Delta SkyMiles may be used for reward travel on partner airlines within the SkyTeam alliance, such as Air France and KLM. So in this case, yes, you can transfer miles, as long as you’re transferring to an airline within the same alliance.

Another way to transfer miles is to use a travel credit card that is not connected to a specific airline. Some card issuers have their own rewards programs, such as Membership Rewards from American Express or Ultimate Rewards from Chase. Points earned in these programs can be used to book travel directly or can be transferred to a partnering airline. Just be aware that once points are transferred, they can't typically be transferred again to a competitor airline.

HOW TO MAXIMIZE AIRLINE REWARDS

Selecting the right credit card is only the first step in earning free travel. You also need to know how to maximize airline rewards. To do that, follow these basic strategies:

  • Stick with a single loyalty program: Select your favorite airline and try to concentrate your travel with that carrier. Most major airlines have loyalty programs which provide elite status to frequent flyers or those who earn a certain number of rewards miles. Gaining status is a good way to earn additional perks such as free upgrades, checked bags and bonus reward miles.
  • Use all mile-earning opportunities: Airlines let customers earn miles in multiple ways. They can gain them from flying, buying items through an online portal or using a co-branded credit card. Use all available options to maximize your airline reward miles
  • Don't be afraid of stops: While non-stop flights are convenient, stopping along the way can help speed your journey to elite status. Some programs will let you earn status based on qualifying segments. A segment typically refers to each leg of your flight so multiple stops can result in multiple segments.
  • Look for discounted award travel: Some airlines let customers redeem for award travel at a reduced rate. For instance, United has Saver Awards on certain routes with extra availability, and American Airlines has reduced mileage awards to select cities for those with co-branded credits cards.
  • Be flexible: Many airlines use dynamic award charts that may change how many miles you need to redeem for flights depending on when you want to travel. Check multiple dates before locking in your award flight.

To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links:Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (See Rates and Fees); Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (See Rates and Fees); Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (See Rates and Fees); Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card (See Rates and Fees); Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (See Rates and Fees); American Express® Gold Card (See Rates and Fees); American Express® Business Gold Card (See Rates and Fees); The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees); Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (See Rates and Fees); Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card (See Rates and Fees); The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees)

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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