What Is The Best Airline Credit Card?

Finding the best airline credit card can quickly turn into a headache if you have several airline cards to choose from. The best cards all have various annual fees, different rates, blackout dates, mileage caps and so on. I’m here to help you relieve some of that aching with important sought after information about how to select the best frequent flyer programs.

I can tell you up front that my personal favorite airline is Southwest Airlines, just because I have often taken non stop flights on them from Kansas City to Las Vegas. Too, I really like their boarding policies. Unfortunately, just because they are my favorite airline does not necessarily mean that the Southwest Airlines credit card is the best miles credit card, even for me.

There are multiple factors that go into deciding what the best airline miles credit card is.

Airline Reward Card Selection Tips

  • Take into consideration the annual cost of earning your favorite airline miles. Annual fees can be quite pricey. I have seen a few lower quality airline reward credit cards that do not charge one at all and I’ve seen executive business cards that charge upwards of $450 a year! Always read the pricing information with the airline credit card application in order to find the annual fee.
  • Watch out for miles that expire. Several airlines say that their frequent flyer miles don’t expire, but they also have a disclosure stating that if your frequent flyer account is inactive for a specific length of time, you will lose them. What kind of hypocrisy is that?
  • Don’t be surprised when you get your first credit card statement, find out up front how many frequent flyer miles you will earn for each dollar you spend. Some frequent flyer credit cards only give you one mile for every two dollars you spend while others give two miles for every dollar you spend.
  •  If you want to use your mileage around the popular holidays, check to make sure the frequent flyer credit card of interest does not have those unpopular blackout dates and reward seating restrictions that many airline programs impose. These will usually be displayed in the reward program details.
  •  When you are searching for the best airline credit card, find out how many airline miles you can earn each year before you spend money without getting mileage. Many banks impose mileage caps on their frequent flyer cards, some as low as 40,000 miles per year.
Airline Credit Card
credit card on keyboard – buy tickets online close up

Airline Credit Card Offers

The best frequent flyer credit card, in my opinion, should always offer you some type of special promotion to sign up. One promotion often given by the bank I used to work for was a certain number of free airline miles, usually enough to get a free roundtrip ticket.

If bonus miles were not given, sometimes a discount or free travel certificate was given to the applicant instead. Credit card issuers come up with new offers everyday to entice potential customers into applying for their most lucrative type of credit cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Regular APR:
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee:
$95
Balance Transfer Fee:
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit:
Excellent/Good

Top Benefits

  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises though Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Information

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Regular APR:
17.24% – 24.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee:
$95
Balance Transfer Fee:
$0
Recommended Credit:
Excellent/Good

Top Benefits

  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates; plus transfer your miles to over 10+ leading travel loyalty programs

More Information

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Regular APR:
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee:
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99
Balance Transfer Fee:
N/A
Recommended Credit:
Excellent/Good

Top Benefits

  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Delta Flight Credit
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • 20% Back on In-Flight Purchases

More Information

  • Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn now. 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.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Regular APR:
15.99% – 24.99% (Variable)
Annual Fee:
$450
Balance Transfer Fee:
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum
Recommended Credit:
Good

More Information

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% – 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.

United℠ Explorer Card

United Explorer Card
Regular APR:
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee:
$0 Intro for First Year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee:
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit:
Good

More Information

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on United purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ fee credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
Regular APR:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable
Annual Fee:
$199
Balance Transfer Fee:
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit:
Excellent/Good

More Information

  • Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
  • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • Inflight WiFi Credits.
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit.
  • Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.

Comparing the best airline rewards credit cards

Co-branded airline credit cards sometimes offer the biggest benefits toward airfare and related purchases. Travel rewards cards provide broader rewards categories, but many don’t offer the same level of rewards for airline-based earnings. If you fly frequently with a particular airline, you should consider a co-branded airline card. If this isn’t your approach to travel, then a travel rewards card might be a better choice for your wallet

Credit cardBest forAnnual feeBonus value**
Chase Sapphire Preferred CardTotal value$95$1,200
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®American Airlines business flyers$99, waived the first year$910
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardEasy-to-use rewards$95$840
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express CardOccasional Delta flyers$99, waived the first year$420
Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express CardRegular Delta flyers$250$480
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®Admirals Club access$450$700
United Explorer Card
United flyers
$95 (waived the first year)$520
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit cardAlaska Airlines flyers$75$820
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit CardSouthwest loyalists$199$1,500
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express CardElite Delta flyers$550$480
JetBlue Plus CardJetBlue flyers$99$520

The bottom line

Airline credit cards offer some of the most lucrative rewards and perks available for frequent flyers. Annual fees can also make airline credit cards some of the most expensive rewards cards to have in your wallet. So, if you choose a card that matches your spending style, your rewards should outweigh the cost of the fee.

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