Do you travel often? Whether it’s for business or pleasure, are you enjoying your trips as much as you could be? What about the price tag? Are you missing out on deals and discounts that could save money or get you more for your buck?
Can you answer any of these questions with, “Yes”?
Then, airline credit cards to the rescue!
Best Pick For: Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
The Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card is one of the more popular airline cards thanks to the yearly Companion Fare, which can completely offset the annual fee and make this card basically free to use.
In fact, as long as you avoid interest and other fees, you’re effectively getting paid to use this card if you always take advantage of the Companion Fare.
- Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card
Best Pick For: Delta Air Lines
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is expensive, but it comes with quite a few valuable benefits. You get complimentary Delta Sky Club access and two free one-time Sky Club guest passes (guests are $39 after that), plus complimentary access to Centurion Lounges (where guests will cost $50).
Other perks include an annual Companion Certificate and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee statement credit.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
Best Pick For: Frontier Airlines
Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®
The Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® is one of the less expensive cards on this list, but it offers miles at a relatively high rate and has a good signup bonus, too. Frontier miles usually aren’t valued very highly, however, typically coming in around 1 cent each.
Take note that your Frontier miles will expire unless there is some activity in your Frontier Miles account at least once every six months. Any purchase will qualify as account activity, so you can just buy a pack of gum to keep your miles active.
Best Pick For: Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines® Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard®
The Hawaiian Airlines® Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard® is your only consumer card option for flying Hawaiian Airlines.
The spending rewards are about average for an airline card, but it has a valuable annual companion discount that can completely offset the annual fee.
- Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Business Mastercard®
Best Pick For: JetBlue
JetBlue Plus Card
The JetBlue Plus Card is one of three rewards cards available through JetBlue. It offers more points than your average airline card, along with an excellent discount rate on in-flight purchases. You also get your first checked bag free on JetBlue flights, for you and up to three traveling companions.
- JetBlue Card
- JetBlue Business Card
Best Pick For: Southwest Airlines
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the newest entry in Southwest’s line of credit cards, offering an annual flight credit to help offset the annual fee of $149. You also get a 20% discount on in-flight purchases on Southwest flights.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
Best Pick For: United Airlines
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Compared to the other United co-branded credit cards available, the United Club℠ Infinite Card is expensive, but it comes with several perks to help make your time spent at airports and hotels more enjoyable. It comes with complimentary membership to the United Club airport lounge, which includes free access for you and two guests.
- United℠ Explorer Card
- United Gateway℠ Card
- United℠ Business Card
Best Pick For: Various Airlines
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Maybe you don’t have a favorite airline, or you tend to take whatever flight will work best for you. If that’s the case, a general travel rewards card will probably be more useful than a co-branded airline card.
General travel cards can be used to earn points anywhere, no matter which airline you’re taking. And they provide points for other travel purchases as well, like hotels, car rentals, and taxis.
The Platinum Card® from American Express is a great example, with a 5X point category for airlines and some great transfer partners.
Airline and hotel transfer partners give you a way to move your points to your favorite loyalty programs, where they’ll often be worth more. So, if you’re planning a trip and you’ve got a bunch of points ready and waiting, you can transfer them to the airline you’re booking and look for a great redemption value.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- American Express® Gold Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Other Airline Credit Cards
- Allegiant Air: Allegiant World Mastercard®
- British Airways: British Airways Visa Signature® Card
- Cathay Pacific: Cathay Pacific Visa® Card
- Korean Air: SKYPASS Visa Signature® Credit Card
- LATAM Airlines: LATAM Airlines Mastercard
- Lufthansa: Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®
- Spirit Airlines: Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard®
How Do Airline Credit Cards Work?
Airline credit cards provide miles or points for the purchases you make. You can usually book flights with those rewards, shopping around until you find a good deal.
Some cards are designed to be used with various airlines – they provide rewards no matter what airline you’re booking. And you can typically transfer those rewards to a selection of airline partners, where you can use them as you see fit.
Other cards are co-branded with specific airlines. You’ll find cards dedicated to flying United, Southwest, American Airlines, Delta, and more.
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What’s the Best Airline Credit Card?
There are a handful of top-notch airline cards. The right one for you will depend on your favorite airline:
- Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
- JetBlue Plus Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
- United Club℠ Infinite Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (for various airlines)
How Much Are Airline Miles Worth?
The value of airline miles will vary depending on how you use them.
Say you have 10,000 miles, and you use them to book a flight worth $200 – that would mean your miles are worth 2 cents each. $200 divided by 10,000 miles equals $0.02 per mile.
Different airlines, routes, and fare classes may all lead to different values for miles. The same is true for certain times of year, and how far in advance you book.
Whether you’re flying with United, Southwest, Delta, or any other airline, it can pay to look for a good deal. It’s often wise to wait until you can get a high value per mile; until then, pay with your air miles credit card and keep stacking those rewards.