The Best Airline Credit Cards — November 2019

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For those who travel regularly, the chance to earn more loyalty miles with an airline rewards credit card can be tempting. Airline cards offering a generous sign-up bonus and more miles per dollar spent on certain purchases can add miles to your account, resulting in free flights or seat upgrades. And if you choose the right card, you can also get sweet travel perks, such as priority boarding and free checked luggage.

Most airline credit cards reward frequent flyers for their loyalty, along with enticing others who might not yet favor any particular airline. Below are our picks for the best credit cards for the top six U.S. airlines.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

Best credit card for United Airlines

United ClubSM Card from Chase Bank

United ClubSM Card from Chase Bank

The information related to United ClubSM Card from Chase Bank has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms Apply.

United ClubSM Card from Chase Bank

Regular Purchase APR
18.24% to 25.24% Variable
Annual fee
$450
Rewards Rate
Earn rewards faster with 1.5 miles per $1 spent on purchases.

What we like about it:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. But don’t get too excited about this offer if you’ve nabbed a bonus from this card before — this offer is not available to either current cardmembers of this credit card, or previous cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.
  • The United ClubSM Card from Chase Bank is the only one that gives you a full membership into the United ClubSM. This means you can visit any United lounge at the airport regardless of what airline you are flying, and some Star Alliance® lounges when you fly on those airlines.
  • Earn rewards faster with 1.5 miles per $1 spent on purchases.
  • You also get great perks when flying aboard United, including Premier Access® travel services and free first and second checked bags — that can easily shave a couple hundred bucks off your cost of flying.

Who is the card best for?

If United is your primary airline and you plan to take more than one international trip every year, the United MileagePlus® Club Card is your best bet. Getting United ClubSM membership from the card is $100 cheaper than buying membership without top tier status. And getting two checked bags on United and some lounge benefits when flying Star Alliance airlines can add up to good long-term value.

Best credit cards for American Airlines

CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

The information related to CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms Apply.

CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Regular Purchase APR
17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Annual fee
$99, waived for first 12 months
Rewards Rate
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations

What we like about it:

  • Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening..
  • In addition to offering a first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines® itineraries and preferred boarding on American Airlines® flights, this is the only American Airlines co-branded offer from Citi that offers bonus points on everyday spending.
  • Earn Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations Terms apply.

Who the card is best for?

If you have a small business and American is your primary airline, this card could earn you the most AAdvantage® miles over time. Earning 2 AAdvantage® miles on telecommunications, car rental merchants, and gas stations are among the most generous categories for airline cards, granting many opportunities to earn bonus miles at the places you spend money weekly.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® from Barclays

The information related to AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® from Barclays has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms Apply.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® from Barclays

Regular Purchase APR
17.74% - 26.74% Variable
Annual fee
$99
Rewards Rate
Earn 2X AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1X AAdvantage® miles on all other purchases.

What we like about it:

  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee.
  • A free checked bag free for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on domestic flights operated by American Airlines.
  • Preferred boarding for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on the reservation for all American Airlines-operated flights.
  • Earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) after spending $25,000 on the card during a calendar year — but only if you signed up for the card after Jan. 1, 2018. You’ll have until Dec. 31, 2019, to earn EQDs — then the benefit goes away permanently.
  • Receive a 25% statement credit on in-flight food and beverages when using the card.

Who the card is best for?

If you are loyal to American Airlines, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is a good fit. With the bonus miles, free checked luggage and the in-flight discount, using this as your primary credit card could yield good value over time if you fly American Airlines regularly.

Best credit cards for Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

What we like about it:

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Every account anniversary date, earn Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™. Buy one ticket and get a second one for just taxes and fees ($99 base fare plus applicable taxes and fees from $22 depending on your flight itinerary) after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening.
  • Alaska Airlines® Mileage Plan™ miles are among the most flexible available since they can be used on more than a dozen different airlines.

Who the card is best for?

Even if you don’t live in a city served by Alaska Airlines, this card is good for flexible rewards across carriers. Use your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan awards to more than 900 destinations around the world on Alaska Airlines and 17 global carriers including American Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Japan Airlines, Qantas and Singapore Airlines. This card’s combination of a lower annual fee and award availability across multiple airlines makes it a good option for those who might not have considered Alaska Airlines previously.

The information related to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Best credit card for JetBlue

JetBlue Card

JetBlue Card from Barclays

The information related to JetBlue Card from Barclays has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms Apply.

JetBlue Card from Barclays

Regular Purchase APR
17.74% - 26.74% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants & grocery stores, 1X points on all other purchases.

What we like about it:

  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • 3X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants & grocery stores, 1X points on all other purchases.
  • 50% discount on in-flight cocktail and food purchases.
  • Earn 3 TrueBlue points per dollar spent at Amazon.com when you shop onboard your JetBlue flight using Fly-Fi® and the card.
  • Pool points together as a family, which means all miles earned by your household can go toward JetBlue award flights faster.

Who the card is best for

If you travel regularly on JetBlue, this card, with its $0 annual fee is a good option because it helps you earn real miles towards discounted travel. If you are just entering the world of airline miles and live near a JetBlue airport, the JetBlue Card is a great beginner option. With a $0 annual fee and 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, this card can help you earn real miles towards discounted travel. This card is also great for those who use JetBlue as a secondary airline. Because there is a $0 annual fee, you won’t have to worry about justifying rewards by holding this card.

Best credit card for Delta

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card From American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card From American Express

Annual fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Rewards Rate
2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable

What we like about it:

  • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • This card also offers a generous checked luggage fee waiver for cardholders: The fee waiver is available to those traveling on the same reservation as the primary card member, with a maximum of nine waivers per reservation.
  • 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • The card also offers priority boarding for cardholders.

Who the card is best for?

If you fly Delta regularly with a family or business colleagues, this is the best card you can hold that balances the annual fee with good benefits. The checked luggage fee waiver covers more companions on the same itinerary than any other card, while the priority boarding allows you to get access to overhead bin space before other flyers. Plus, you can try out the card without a large financial commitment, since there’s a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

But if Delta is the only airline you fly, you may consider getting a credit card with a higher annual fee that offers more benefits and opportunities to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles.

Best credit card for Southwest Airlines

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

The information related to Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms Apply.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Regular Purchase APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual fee
$149
Rewards Rate
2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Credit required
excellent-credit
Excellent

What we like about it:

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • The chance to earn 1,500 tier qualifying points that help you earn A-List elite status every time you spend $10,000 on the card.
  • Annual $75 statement credit
  • 7,500 bonus points every card anniversary
  • 20% statement credit when you use the card for in-flight drinks, messaging, movies and Wi-Fi.
  • Four passes for upgraded boarding every year.

Who the card is best for

For loyal Southwest Airlines customers who want a co-branded airline credit card that comes with the best perks, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, unveiled in July 2018, is a popular one to consider. You’ve got to love a card that helps you earn elite status. While anyone flying on this airline gets two free checked bags, this card gives you four priority boarding passes a year, along with an in-flight credit every time you use the card to pay for drinks and Wi-Fi.

There’s also the chance to earn Southwest’s popular Companion Pass. Once you fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, you can bring a companion — for free — on every one of your flights for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earned the pass.

Best credit union airline card

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from American Airlines CU

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from American Airlines CU

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Airlines Credit Union’s secure website

Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card from American Airlines CU

Regular Purchase APR
10.75% - 16.49% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn one Connection Point for every dollar spent on signature based purchases!

What we like about it:

  • Earn one Connection Point for every dollar spent on signature based purchases!
  • Redeem the card’s Connection Points for gift cards, travel on any airline, hotels, rental cars, cruises and brand–name merchandise.
  • If you also have an American Airlines Credit Union Visa debit card, you’ll also earn Connection Points when making purchases on it.
  • There are no foreign transaction fees.

Who the card is best for:

You must be a professional in the air transportation industry or related to someone who is in order to become a member of the AACU. That includes those who work for the Transportation Security Administration, the FAA, cargo carriers, air courier services, airport baggage handling, commercial airport janitorial, aircraft cleaning, maintenance, servicing, and repair services, airport runway maintenance services and on-board airline food services.

Once approved, you’re eligible to apply for the card. If you’re looking for a card where you can use your points for multiple airlines instead of just one single airline, this card could be great for you. However, you can earn better rewards if you opt for an airline credit card tied to a single airline, such as American, as those typically offer better rewards and more travel-related perks.

Learn More

To find the best airline credit cards, we looked at several different features. First, we looked at which cards had specific airline partnerships, not just perks for specific airlines. From there, we narrowed down our picks to focus on non-premium cards, so this article could be more accessible. Finally, we looked for which cards had the best rewards programs, balancing it against annual fees and the APRs on balances.

As a secondary measure, we looked at all the other perks that come with a card, including free checked bags, no foreign transaction fees, and rental car and trip insurances. These benefits can help to offset the annual fee, or provide you even more value than a more stripped-down card.

Although earning airline miles sounds great for free travel, there are situations that can prevent you from flying. With all credit cards, you should watch out for these downsides:

  • Points devaluation: Miles aren’t a good long-term investment, because their value is constantly subject to change. If you aren’t planning to use your miles regularly, you could be better served with a cash-back credit card.
  • Hidden fees: Even when using credit card miles, hidden fees for redeeming miles, cancelling trips, or transferring miles to other people can cut your overall value quickly. Be sure to understand all the fees you may face before you decide if a card is right for you.
  • Blackout dates and reward restrictions: Airlines often place restrictions on the number of seats available on flights, while some dates are completely closed off for awards and companion passes. Unless you can use your airline miles on the dates you want, an airline credit card may not be your best option.
  • Partner carrier rules: Although you can book flights with miles on partner airlines, their prices are often higher and come with more restrictions on dates and routes. Before you commit to one airline program, be sure you understand how to use miles for partner flights — both the number required and special rules for using them.

Extra perks are all well and good, and airline credit cards can be rewarding for many frequent flyers, but they aren’t the best choice for everyone.

If you are thinking about applying, ask these four questions first:

  1. Am I loyal to one airline?
    If you primarily fly one airline and want to maximize your miles towards free flights, an airline credit card could make sense. If not, consider a card that earns bank points or cash back instead.
  2. Do I want miles specifically for flying?
    If your goal is to fly more often for a lower price, airline credit cards can help you achieve that plan by earning miles for your everyday spending. Most miles can’t be used for anything outside flying, however, so it’s important to carefully consider how many miles you need for a flight.
  3. Are frequent flyer perks right for me?
    Most credit cards offer a number of airport bonuses, including priority boarding, checked luggage fee waivers and lounge passes. If you find value in checking luggage for free or stopping at a lounge for a beverage, then an airline credit card is the right choice for your spending.
  4. Will I get the value of the credit card annual fee in return every year?
    Many airline credit cards come with annual fees. If your airline rewards (from perks and free flights) add up to more than the annual fee, then you’re getting a good value from your credit cards.

MagnifyMoney has plenty of options to help you find the right credit card for you. If you want to compare airline credit cards on your own, consider the following:

  • Point values: Not all miles are equal in value. It’s important to understand how many miles you need to take a flight, and if an airline credit card will help you get there.
  • Foreign transaction fees: While most airline credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees, many charge fees of 3%. If you plan on traveling abroad, a card with no foreign transaction fees is a must.
  • Free checked bags: Although most cards come with one free checked bag for cardholders, high-end cards may allow two free checked luggage pieces. Additionally, the number of available pieces varies between cards and airlines, with some offering up to nine people on the same itinerary.
  • Extra benefits: Annual free lounge passes and priority boarding are two of the luxuries offered to most airline credit card holders. In turn, these perks can help you justify the value of credit cards.
  • Point flexibility: Although you often can’t use miles for hotel rooms or rental cars, some programs allow more flexibility than others. If you want to use your miles for other rewards, be sure to understand how much those values would cost.

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Benét J. Wilson
Benét J. Wilson |

Benét J. Wilson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Benét J. at [email protected]

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