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Best Airline Credit Cards of 2024

Our top picks for airline credit cards

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Best Overall for Flexible Airline Rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Up to 5X Reward Rate

Earn 5X points on travel booked through Chase, 3X points on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services, and 1X points on other purchases.

Annual Fee
$95
Welcome Offer
60,000 points
Regular APR
21.49% to 28.49% variable
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of our favorite cards in existence, striking an impressive balance between robust benefits and a reasonable annual fee. Although its rewards on flights aren’t as generous as some co-branded cards, it offers flexible rewards on travel purchases, including airfare, and non-travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Through this program, you can redeem your rewards for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, and more. Beyond earning rewards, this card offers additional perks like travel insurance, hotel credits, and generous partner benefits. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card would make a spectacular addition to any frequent or semi-frequent traveler’s wallet.

Best for Delta Companion Tickets

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

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Up to 3X Reward Rate

Earn 3X miles on Delta purchases and 3X on purchases made directly with hotels. Earn 2X miles at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets, and earn 1X miles on all other eligible purchases.

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Annual Fee
$350
Welcome Offer
50,000 miles
Regular APR
20.99% to 29.99% variable
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
This card is perfect for the traveler who flies Delta at least yearly and tends to bring a traveling companion with them. It has the tremendous benefit of one free round-trip economy class companion ticket each year, so if you can make use of that benefit, the $350 annual fee easily pays for itself.
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Card Details

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  • Receive a Companion Certificate on Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Receive $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year and get closer to Status with MQD Headstart.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • Earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $20 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card in a calendar year and get a boost toward achieving Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • $120 Resy Credit: With the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Resy Credit, earn up to $10 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases using your enrolled Card.
  • $120 Rideshare Credit: You can earn up to $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers after you pay with your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. Enrollment Required.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®: Receive $100 back for Global Entry or up to $85 back for TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Official Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members and Reserve Card Members.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Terms Apply.
Pros
  • Free checked bag
  • Priority boarding benefit
  • Annual companion certificate
Cons
  • $350 annual fee
  • No Sky Club access
  • Miles you earn are brand-specific
Bottom Line

The $350 annual fee is a bit high, but if you fly Delta with a traveling buddy at least once per year, the annual Companion Pass can easily make up for the fee.

Best for United

United℠ Explorer Card

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Up to 2X Reward Rate

Earn 2X miles on United purchases, as well as on dining at restaurants and hotels you book directly. Earn 1X miles on all other purchases.

Annual Fee
$0 the first year, then $95
Welcome Offer
50,000 miles
Regular APR
21.99% to 28.99% variable
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
The United Explorer Card by Chase stands out as an excellent choice for frequent flyers of United Airlines. In our opinion, this is the best United card for the average traveler. It couples a low annual fee with a solid reward rate and a few valuable perks like a free checked bag and 2 complimentary United Club one-time passes each year. Cardholders can also redeem miles for travel with Star Alliance partners like Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines. We like this card because it offers a nice selection of airline-branded benefits along with the chance to work toward elite status with credit card spending. You’ll also get hundreds of dollars in statement credits and perks. If you fly with United semi-frequently (even 1 or 2 times a year), the benefits can easily make the annual fee worth it.

Best for Premium Flexible Airline Rewards – Capital One

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

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Up to 10X Reward Rate

Earn 10X miles on hotel and rental car purchases made through Capital One Travel, 5X miles on airfare purchased through the portal, and 2X miles per dollar spent on all other purchases.

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Annual Fee
$395
Welcome Offer
75,000 miles
Regular APR
19.99% to 29.99% variable
Recommended Credit
Excellent (740 - 850)
Why we like it
This is Capital One’s highest-tier travel credit card, loaded with benefits like airport lounge access, Priority Pass Select membership, an annual travel credit, and an increased rewards rate for travel booked through Capital One’s portal. It does have a decently high annual fee but its annual travel credit makes up for most of that.
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Card Details

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  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get Capital One’s best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
Pros
  • Miles can be redeemed for travel purchases, transfers to international airlines, and more
  • Can qualify for hundreds of dollars in credits each year
  • Huge welcome offer
Cons
  • $395 annual fee
  • Large spending requirement to earn the welcome bonus
  • Excellent credit required
Bottom Line

With a lower annual fee than some premium cards and extremely valuable benefits, this card can easily be worth the annual fee for the frequent traveler.

Best for Southwest

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

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Up to 3X Reward Rate

Earn 3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, 2 points per dollar on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental purchases, 2 points per dollar on local transit, internet, cable, and more, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Annual Fee
$149
Welcome Offer
50,000 points
Regular APR
21.49% to 28.49% variable
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
Southwest’s highest-fee consumer card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers decently more value than other Southwest cards. The $75 Southwest travel credit each year can make up for over half the annual fee by itself. Then if you add the 4 upgraded boardings per year and a high-value anniversary bonus, its perks can easily make up for the $149 annual fee. On top of that, you can earn 1,500 tier-qualifying points (TQPs) for every $5,000 spent in purchases annually, boosting you toward elite status. You’ll also get 10,000 Companion Pass® qualifying points every year just for being a card member. If you’re a Southwest loyalist, look no further than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

Best for Simple Travel Rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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Up to 5X Reward Rate

Earn 5X miles per dollar on hotel stays or rental cars booked through Capital One’s portal and 2X miles on all other purchases.

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Annual Fee
$95
Welcome Offer
75,000 miles
Regular APR
19.99% to 29.99% variable
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
Some travel rewards cards can have complicated categories, making it difficult to take full advantage of their benefits. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card keeps things simple by offering flexible, flat-rate rewards. It may not have as high of an earning potential on flights as some co-branded cards do, but its rewards rate on all purchases makes it easy to still earn miles.
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Card Details

More Card Info

  • Miles won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
Pros
  • Travel insurance protections incuded
  • Earn flexible rewards for travel
  • Reasonable $95 annual fee
Cons
  • Requires good or excellent credit
  • No everyday spending bonus categories
  • High APR
Bottom Line

The massive sign-up offer and generous, flexible rewards make this card a great option for casual travelers.

Best for United Club Access

United Club℠ Infinite Card

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Up to 4X Reward Rate

Earn 4X miles per dollar spent on United purchases, earn 2X miles per dollar on other travel and dining purchases and earn 1X miles on all other purchases.

Annual Fee
$525
Welcome Offer
80,000 miles
Regular APR
21.99% to 28.99% variable
Recommended Credit
Excellent (740 - 850)
Why we like it
For United super-loyalists, the United Club℠ Infinite Card has the potential to be extremely valuable. Although it does have a hefty annual fee, it comes with complimentary United Club access, a perk worth over $650 per year alone. Beyond that, it continues to shine with 2 free checked bags, discounted in-flight purchases, and more. If you’re not loyal to United, your money is probably better spent elsewhere, but if this is your primary airline of choice, the lounge access itself can justify the annual fee. Couple that with travel insurance, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, a generous reward earning rate, and more, and this card is a solid option. For United Airlines flyers who prioritize luxury, look no further.

Best for Simple Airline Rewards

Mastercard® Black Card™

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1X Reward Rate

Earn 1X points per dollar spent. Points are worth 2 cents each for airfare redemptions and 1.5 cents each for cash back.

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Annual Fee
$495
Welcome Offer
N/A
Regular APR
21.24%, 25.43%, or 28.24% variable
Recommended Credit
Excellent (740 - 850)
Why we like it
We love how the Mastercard Black Card offers simple and flexible rewards. It may not have the highest rewards-earning value, but the points you earn can be redeemed for 2 cents per point for airline redemption or 1.5 cents per point for cash back, a higher redemption rate than many premium travel cards. On top of that, it’s a card that’s sure to make a statement, as it’s made from sleek black metal and weighs in at 22 grams.
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Card Details

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  • Global Entry & TSA PreCheck Application Credit: Up to a $100 application fee credit for the cost of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
  • Priority Pass™ Select Airport Lounge Access: Enjoy Priority Pass™ Select with complimentary access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide with no guest or lounge limits. Includes credits at select airport restaurants for cardholder and one guest.
  • $100 Annual Airline Credit: Up to $100 in statement credits toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more. Just pay for airline purchases with your Mastercard Black Card and we will automatically apply the credit to your account. That’s it. No need to activate or designate an airline. The credit amount is available in full at the start of the calendar year.
  • 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge®: Make requests the way you want by phone, email, SMS and chat in the app. Connect directly with a real agent and receive 24/7 assistance for tasks big and small. Requests do not require a purchase, incur no charge for making them, and do not involve department transfers.
  • Exclusive Luxury Card Travel® benefits: Average value of $500 per stay (e.g., resort credits, room upgrades, free wifi, breakfast for two and more) at over 3,000 properties.
  • Travel protection benefits like trip cancellation and interruption, auto rental car collision waiver, travel accident and baggage delay.
  • Cell phone protection for eligible claims of up to $1,000 each year.
  • Enjoy additional World Elite Mastercard® benefits.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
Pros
  • Great redemption rate on airfare
  • Airport lounge access
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
Cons
  • High annual fee of $495
  • Low reward earning rate
Bottom Line

This card offers a variety of travel perks and a solid airfare redemption rate but has a high annual fee that may be difficult for some people to justify.

Best for Casual Delta Flyers

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

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Up to 2X Reward Rate

Earn 2X miles on restaurant purchases (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.), 2X miles at U.S. supermarkets and on Delta purchases, and 1X miles on all other purchases.

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Annual Fee
$0 the first year, then $150
Welcome Offer
40,000 miles
Regular APR
20.99% to 29.99% variable
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
For the semi-frequent Delta flyer, getting the Delta Skymiles Gold card is an easy decision to make. It offers rewards on both Delta purchases and everyday spending, making it easy to accumulate miles. Its reasonable annual fee makes it a less daunting commitment than some other cards, particularly for those who travel infrequently.
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Card Details

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  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • $200 Delta Flight Credit: After you spend $10,000 in purchases in a year, you can receive a $200 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel.
  • You can check your first bag free on Delta flights, saving up to $60 on a round-trip Delta flight per person. For a family of four that’s a potential savings of up to $240 per round-trip flight.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • $100 Delta Stays Credit: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Members can earn up to $100 back annually on eligible prepaid Delta Stays bookings on delta.com.
  • Take up to $50 off the cost of your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem with Pay with Miles when you book on delta.com.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit on eligible Delta in-flight purchases after using your Card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • With Send & Split®, you can send money and split your Card purchases with any other Venmo or PayPal user, directly from the Amex App. Enroll today.
  • Terms Apply.
Pros
  • Ability to earn a Delta Flight Credit
  • Generous welcome offer
  • Free checked bag
Cons
  • Comparatively high annual fee after the first year
  • Requires good to excellent credit
  • No Sky Club access
Bottom Line

The perks this card delivers can easily make up for the annual fee but may not be worth it if you aren’t a Delta enthusiast.

Best Premium Delta Card

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card®

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Up to 3X Reward Rate

Earn 3X miles per dollar on Delta purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

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Annual Fee
$650
Welcome Offer
60,000 miles
Regular APR
20.99% to 29.99% variable
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a top-tier Delta card loaded with premium perks. While its annual fee may be too steep for the average spender to justify, loyal Delta flyers will find it packed with valuable high-end benefits.
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Card Details

More Card Info

  • Enjoy complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club® and bring up to two guests or immediate family members at a rate of $50 per person per visit when flying Delta. Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 15 Visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of Visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the Card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter.
  • Receive four Delta Sky Club® One-Time Guest Passes each year when you fly together on Delta. After that, you may bring up to two guests at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge when you book a Delta flight with your Reserve Card.
  • Receive $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year and get closer to Status with MQD Headstart.
  • Earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $10 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card in a calendar year and get a boost toward achieving elevated Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • Receive a Companion Certificate on First Class, Delta Comfort+®, or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • $240 Resy Credit: With the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Resy Credit, earn up to $20 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases using your enrolled Card.
  • $120 Rideshare Credit: You can earn up to $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers after you pay with your Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Enrollment Required.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • With your Card receive upgrade priority over other Medallion Members within the same Medallion level and fare class. Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Terms Apply.
Pros
  • Complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs & Amex Centurion Lounges
  • Annual Companion Certificate, good for one ticket in the same class you’re in
  • Very generous welcome offer
Cons
  • High annual fee ($650)
  • Low rewards rate on non-Delta spending categories
  • Requires good to excellent credit
Bottom Line

The $650 annual fee on this card is a lot to digest but for the luxury traveler who is loyal to Delta when flying, it holds plenty of value.

Best for Air Canada

Aeroplan® Credit Card

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Up to 3X Reward Rate

Earn 3X points per dollar spent at grocery stores, at restaurants, and on purchases made with Air Canada, and earn 1X points on all other eligible purchases.

Annual Fee
$95
Welcome Offer
60,000 points
Regular APR
21.74% to 28.74% variable
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
The Aeroplan® Card by Chase is a great card to consider, especially if you tend to fly with Air Canada. This card not only offers generous points on Air Canada purchases but extends its rewards earning to everyday spending, making it easy to accumulate points. These points can be redeemed on 45 different airlines like United, ANA, Lufthansa, and more. Although there is a $95 annual fee to have this card, its high-value perks make it easily justifiable. Cardholders can enjoy priority boarding, free checked bags, and much more. Whether you travel often or occasionally, the Aeroplan® Card could make a valuable addition to your wallet.

Best for Premium Flexible Airline Rewards – American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

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Up to 5X Reward Rate

Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 per calendar year), 5X points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, and 1X points on other purchases.

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Annual Fee
$695
Welcome Offer
80,000 points
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Recommended Credit
Good/Excellent (670 - 850)
Why we like it
The American Express Platinum card, although a bit on the pricey side with a $695 annual fee, boasts a multitude of premium travel perks like exclusive airport lounge access and travel-related statement credits. If you’re a luxury traveler who knows how to make the most of a credit card’s offerings, this card can reward you well.
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Card Details

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  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership (subject to auto-renewal) with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card®. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Up Benefits are excluded.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only. Terms Apply.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $300 back in statement credits per calendar year on an Equinox membership, or an Equinox club membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required. Visit https://platinum.equinox.com/ to enroll.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR Plus at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Platinum Card®. Learn more.
  • $100 Global Entry Credit: Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® (through a TSA official enrollment provider) application fee, when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $300 SoulCycle At-Home Bike Credit: Get a $300 statement credit for the purchase of a SoulCycle at-home bike with your Platinum Card®. An Equinox+ subscription is required to purchase a SoulCycle at-home bike and access SoulCycle content. Must charge full price of bike in one transaction. Shipping available in the contiguous U.S. only. Enrollment Required.
  • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.
  • Terms Apply.
Pros
  • Excellent rewards rate for travel purchases
  • Qualify for $1,500+ in statement credits
  • Very generous welcome offer
Cons
  • High annual fee of $695
  • Many statement credit offers are too specific and hard to use
  • Non-travel-perks aren’t spectacular
Bottom Line

This is quite a spectacular card with incredibly valuable benefits, but the annual fee is objectively very high.

Best for Premium Flexible Airline Rewards – Chase

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Up to 10X Reward Rate

Earn 10X points on hotels and car rentals through the Chase portal, 10X points on Chase Dining purchases, 5X points on flights booked through Chase, 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points on all non-bonus spending.

Annual Fee
$550
Welcome Offer
60,000 points
Regular APR
22.49% to 29.49% variable
Recommended Credit
Excellent (740 - 850)
Why we like it
The Chase Sapphire Reserve stands as a premium credit card, delivering an exceptional array of benefits for frequent travelers. It offers an impressive reward rate on travel, with up to 10X points on eligible purchases (Note: You won’t start earning points until the $300 annual travel statement credit is fully spent. The first $300 spent on travel each year will automatically go towards the statement credit). It also boasts a $300 yearly travel credit that can help justify the bulk of the annual fee. Outside of that, cardholders can take advantage of complimentary airport lounge access, great travel insurance perks, valuable partner benefits, and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit. If you’re looking for a card with a huge travel rewards rate and generous travel perks, and you don’t mind paying a substantial annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card may fit the bill.

Comparing the best airline credit cards

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Best for Premium Flexible Airline Rewards – Chase
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Best airline credit cards of 2024: Editorial reviews

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Our Top Pick
Flexible Airline Cards: Best Overall
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is our favorite general travel rewards credit card. It’s the perfect combination of having a reasonable annual fee while still offering generous rewards on travel (including flights) booked through the Chase travel portal. It offers rewards on non-travel purchases, and it has extra perks like Chase Sapphire travel insurance benefits to top it off. It also has a huge welcome offer, which is never a bad thing, if you ask us.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

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Airline-Specific Cards: Best for Delta Companion Tickets
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card has a higher annual fee than the Delta Gold card but it also has a few more valuable benefits. The most rewarding perk is the annual companion certificate, valid for a main cabin ticket on a domestic Delta flight. That alone can make up for the modest $350 annual fee.

United℠ Explorer Card

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Airline-Specific Cards: Best for United
The United℠ Explorer Card offers tremendous value for a low annual fee ($0 the first year, then $95/year), making it a must if you casually fly with United. It comes with a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application credit, two one-time United Club passes, free checked bags, priority boarding, and more. Especially for a starter card, it’s packed with benefits. 

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

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Flexible Airline Cards: Best for Premium Flexible Airline Rewards – Capital One
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card has a slightly lower annual fee ($395) than some other premium travel cards, while still offering many valuable perks. Cardholders get complimentary Capital One airport lounge access, annual travel credits, a Priority Pass Select membership, and high rewards-earning potential on eligible purchases (like 5X miles on airfare purchased through the Capital One travel portal).

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit card review

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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Flexible Airline Cards: Best for Simple Travel Rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card wins, hands down, for simple travel rewards. It may not have the highest rewards earning rate on flights but it offers 2X miles on all purchases, making it easy to earn on everyday purchases. The miles you earn can also be redeemed in a variety of ways, rather than just on flights. It also has a reasonable $95 annual fee so it won’t break the bank if you don’t travel a lot.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

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Airline-Specific Cards: Best for United Club Access
If premium airport lounges are your goal, the United Club℠ Infinite Card may be just what you’re looking for. It does boast a hefty $525 annual fee but it also comes with a United Club℠ membership, which is up to a $650 value each year by itself. Additionally, your first and second checked bags are free, you get a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, 25% off in-flight purchases, and more. If you’re a dedicated United Airlines traveler, this card is incredibly valuable.

Mastercard® Black Card™

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Flexible Airline Cards: Best for Simple Airline Rewards
The Mastercard® Black Card™ from Luxury Card offers a combination of flat-rate rewards, decent perks, and premium service. It does have a hefty $495 annual fee but it comes with a few valuable benefits like Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credits, a flexible annual $100 airline credit, and complimentary Priority Pass lounge access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide for you and your guests, no matter your airline or ticket class. Although its 1 point per dollar reward earning rate isn’t as high as some other premium travel cards, its redemption rate is solid; each point is worth 2 cents when redeemed toward airfare or 1.5 cents when redeemed for cash back.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

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Airline-Specific Cards: Best for Casual Delta Flyers
For the casual Delta flyer, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a solid option. With 2X miles on Delta flights and in everyday categories, it’s easy to earn rewards on this card. Additionally, it provides priority boarding and a free checked bag for you and up to 8 other traveling companions. For a card with a low $150 annual fee after the first year, it’s chock-full of high-value perks.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card®

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Airline-Specific Cards: Best Premium Delta Card
For the Delta loyalist, it doesn’t get better than the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. It has a hefty annual fee of $650 but has a multitude of valuable benefits that may make it worth it for the frequent traveler. Like the Platinum Delta card, the Reserve gives you a free annual companion certificate, but even better, this one can be used toward business class or first class (depending on what class your ticket is). On top of that, this card gets you into Delta Sky Clubs (worth $545 annually) and access to Amex Centurion lounges when flying Delta. If you’re able to take advantage of these benefits, this card can be well worth it.

Aeroplan® Credit Card

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Airline-Specific Cards: Best for Air Canada
The Aeroplan® Credit Card is ideal for the Air Canada loyalist, but it’s great for United flyers too, since points earned on this card can be used toward Air Canada, United, and Star Alliance flights. It also offers a free checked bag for you and up to 8 companion travelers, automatic Aeroplan 25K elite status for the first year and change, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credits, travel insurance benefits, and more. It’s also nice that this card only has a $95 annual fee, a generous welcome offer, and it earns points on everyday purchases in addition to flights.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

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Flexible Airline Cards: Best for Premium Flexible Airline Rewards – American Express
Although the $695 annual fee makes us briefly shudder each time we think about it, The Platinum Card® from American Express has plenty of value to make it worth it. It has a high earning potential on flights and hotels, up to almost $2,000 worth of statement credits available to cardholders each year, airport lounge access, and additional travel benefits like TSA Precheck or CLEAR Plus credits and Amex travel insurance to top it off. If you plan out how to use all (or most) of the benefits this card offers, it’s well worth the steep fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Flexible Airline Cards: Best for Premium Flexible Airline Rewards – Chase
Don’t let the $550 price tag catch you too off guard with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, as it has plenty of value to justify it. This card comes with a $300 annual travel credit, a high rewards earning potential on travel purchases, airport lounge access, and travel insurance perks. If you travel frequently enough to take advantage of the benefits this card offers, it can be a worthwhile investment.

What is an airline credit card?

An airline card is a credit card that lets you earn and redeem rewards toward flights and other airline-specific perks. Sometimes these cards are general travel credit cards and sometimes they are co-branded with a certain airline, like Southwest Rapid Rewards cards, United Airlines cards, or Delta Air Lines cards. Typically when talking about an “airline credit card,” co-branded cards are referred to.

Airline cards vs general travel credit cards

Airline cards

These cards are co-branded with specific airlines, meaning it’s affiliated with that airline to earn miles and perks with their frequent flyer loyalty program. These cards are great for people who remain loyal to a particular carrier. Many of these cards come with benefits such as airport lounge access, upgraded seating on flights, free companion tickets, discounted in-flight purchases, and more.

General travel credit cards

These cards offer more flexibility for travelers who fly with different airlines. Cardholders can earn points for making travel purchases and then redeem those points with hotels or airlines of their choice. These cards can offer high-value benefits like airport lounge access or annual statement credits.

What are airline miles?

Airline miles, also known as frequent flyer miles, are a type of reward that can be earned by making purchases with an airline or by using a co-branded airline card. These miles can then be redeemed for free or discounted flights, upgraded seating, and more, depending on the loyalty program.

Redeeming airline miles

The process for redeeming your airline miles can vary between loyalty programs and different rewards. Generally speaking, airline miles can be redeemed via the program’s website, often using third-party portals. You also may be able to call the airline directly to redeem miles over the phone or may be able to redeem them at an airport ticket counter.

Although it varies by airline loyalty program, miles can often be redeemed for:

How much are airline miles worth?

The majority of airline miles are now worth between 1.3 and 1.5 cents. It is important to keep in mind that the actual value of your airline miles will depend on how the airline miles are used.

The chart below shows the estimated value of miles, when redeeming toward economy fare, with a few popular airlines.

Loyalty program Estimated value of 1 mile Approximate value of 20K miles
Air Canada Aeroplan 1.4 cents $280
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles 1.2 cents $240
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards 1.5 cents $300
United Airlines MileagePlus 1.2 cents $240

Do airline miles expire?

Airline miles can expire with certain loyalty programs, but many won’t if you keep your account active with semi-frequent purchases or redemptions.

These are the expiration policies of the same loyalty programs listed above:

Loyalty program Expiration policy
Air Canada Aeroplan Miles expire after 18 months of no activity
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles No expiration
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards No expiration
United Airlines MileagePlus No expiration

Pros and cons of airline credit cards

Although airline credit cards can make a valuable addition to some wallets, they also come with drawbacks.

Benefits of airline credit cards
  • Perks like free checked bags, elite status, and priority boarding
  • Earn airline miles with a specific airline loyalty program
  • Higher-end cards may have premium travel benefits like insurance protections and airport lounge access
Drawbacks of airline credit cards
  • Limited earning & redemption options
  • Many airline cards have an annual fee
  • Most airline credit cards are for people with good or excellent credit

How to choose an airline credit card

Picking the best credit card for airline miles can be difficult since there are so many to choose from.

However, you can narrow down your options by thinking through the following issues.

1

Consider which airlines you fly the most

The best credit card for flights for you is one that lets you earn rewards and enjoy perks along the way. That’s why your first course of action involves figuring out which airlines you like the most, or which offer flights and itineraries that make sense for your travel goals.

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2

Decide which cardholder perks you can benefit from

Look for cards that offer frequent flyer benefits you can use, whether that includes a free checked bag, priority boarding, or statement credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. Also think about if you want a card with airport lounge access.

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3

Think about whether you want airline-specific miles or flexible rewards

Where co-branded airline cards offer miles that work within a specific program, others offer non-airline points or miles that can be used in multiple ways. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you should decide how many options you want when using your rewards.

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4

Determine how much you are willing to pay in annual fees

Airline credit cards with the most perks tend to charge annual fees of $250 or more. Likewise, you can find airline cards with no annual fee if that’s a priority.

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Watch out for other fees

In addition to looking for annual fees, search for cards that don’t have other hidden transaction fees. For example, watch out for foreign transaction fees charged on purchases made abroad.

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Our top picks for airline credit cards

Advertiser Disclosure

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
LEARN MORE Rates & Fees / Terms Apply on Bankrate's secure site
Key Information
Earn 3X miles on Delta purchases and 3X on purchases made directly with hotels. Earn 2X miles at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets, and earn 1X miles on all other eligible purchases. This card has a $350 annual fee.
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United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card
LEARN MORE on Bankrate's secure site
Key Information
Earn 2X miles on United purchases, as well as on dining at restaurants and hotels you book directly. Earn 1X miles on all other purchases. $95 annual fee waived the first year.
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Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
LEARN MORE on Bankrate's secure site
Key Information
Earn 10X miles on hotel and rental car purchases made through Capital One Travel, 5X miles on airfare purchased through the portal, and 2X miles per dollar spent on all other purchases. This card has a $395 annual fee.
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How to make the most of your airline credit card

How we selected our top airline credit cards

To find the best airline credit cards available today, we looked for options that offer tremendous value in exchange for their annual fees. Benefits we looked for include excellent earning rates, generous limited-time offers, frequent flyer benefits, the potential to earn miles toward elite airline status, and travel insurance.

Are airline cards worth it? 

An airline credit card can be worth it if you use its benefits enough to outweigh the annual fee. For travelers who frequently fly with the same carrier, a co-branded card can be tremendously valuable. On the other hand, for travelers who don’t fly very often or aren’t loyal to a particular brand, a general travel credit card with flexible rewards may fit better into their lifestyle.

Other credit card options

If you decide that an airline credit card isn’t the best option to fit into your lifestyle, these are some alternatives:

Best airline credit cards FAQ

What is the best airline credit card?

Some of our favorite airline credit cards are the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card for Southwest Airlines, the United℠ Explorer Card for United Airlines, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card for Delta Air Lines, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for flexible airline rewards. However, the best airline credit card varies from person to person, depending on the rewards and perks they want the most. 

For example, some cardholders want to earn the same miles-for-miles rewards rate on everything they buy, whereas others want to earn bonus miles in select categories. Some consumers are also willing to pay a higher annual fee for flight-related benefits like free checked bags and airport lounge access.

What is the best miles credit card?

The best miles credit card depends on the airline you fly with most often. For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card earns 3X points on Southwest purchases, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card earns 3X miles on Delta flights, and the Capital One Venture X Rewards card earns 5X miles per dollar on any flights booked through Capital One Travel. Even still, you have to compare other benefits and features, the annual fee, and the regular APR to choose the best miles card.

Do airline miles expire?

Some airline miles never expire, such as Delta SkyMiles. Other types of miles can expire after anywhere from 12 to 24 months of inactivity.

If you’re worried about your miles disappearing, you should keep track of expiration dates and make sure you’re always earning or redeeming your rewards. A co-branded airline credit card is a great tool for keeping airline miles alive since each mile you earn restarts the clock toward the expiration date.

How do I get a free flight?

Earning a free flight is easy with airline cards, although the number of miles you’ll need can vary based on the card issuer and frequent flyer program. Generally speaking, all you have to do to earn a free flight is use your credit card for enough purchases or fly with an airline enough so you earn miles through travel instead. Also, note that you’ll have to fork over airline miles plus any government-imposed taxes and fees required.

Do all airline credit cards have annual fees?

Many airline cards charge an annual fee, but not all of them do. We suggest comparing card options to find ones that have an annual fee you’re comfortable with.

Examples of no-fee cards with travel-related rewards include the Capital One VentureOne and the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card.

How do I use credit card points for airline tickets?

Options for using your points or miles can depend on the program they belong in. For example, airline miles can typically be used through the frequent flyer program to book airline tickets. However, flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards can either be transferred to airline programs or used to book flights directly through the Chase credit card portal.

How do flexible points work?

There are some types of points you can only use for airfare, yet other types of points can be used in more than one way. For example, rewards earned with the Platinum Card from American Express can be used to book airfare through American Express, or for point transfers to frequent flyer programs.

When you sign up for the Platinum Card, you will earn points once you start using your card for purchases. However, you don’t have to decide how you want to use your American Express card points until you’re ready.

Do I have to be a frequent flyer to have an airline card?

You don’t have to be a frequent flyer to sign up for an airline credit card. In fact, you don’t have to fly at all to get one of these cards.

To qualify for an airline credit card, you mostly need good or excellent credit and a job or another steady source of income.

How do I earn elite status?

Elite status requirements vary from program to program. Typically, you can earn elite status through flying with an airline, credit card spending, or both.

Do I qualify for an airline card?

Most airline-specific credit cards require good or excellent credit to qualify, but there are various travel credit cards for students or those with little to no credit history that you can get even if you have a bad credit score.

Holly D. Johnson
Holly D. Johnson Finance Expert

Holly D. Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who covers topics like insurance, investing, credit and family finance. As a leading voice in the travel and loyalty space, Johnson has traveled with her family to more than 50 countries over the last decade.

The author has also written extensively on the power of household budgeting, and she even co-authored a book on the topic. Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love was originally published in 2017, and it teaches families how to use zero-sum budgeting to reach their financial goals. She is also the co-owner and founder of the family finance and travel website, ClubThrifty.com.

Johnson’s 10+ years of writing have focused on helping families make important financial decisions at each stage of their lives. The author also applies the financial principles she teaches to her own life, and she is currently on track to retire in her late 40’s with her partner. She currently lives in Central Indiana with her husband and children, and she is a regular contributor for Bankrate, CNN, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report Travel and many other notable publications.

* Opinions expressed here are those of the LA Times Compare Cards Team and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser or entities included within this content. See our editorial policy for more details.

All products or services are presented in this content without warranty. The information, including card details such as rates and fees, is accurate at the time of publish. Please visit each bank's website directly for the most current information.

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