Best Airline Credit Cards of May 2024

Complete list of Editors' Picks: Best airline credit cards

Please confirm details on the issuer's website before applying.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our choice: Flexible redemption + huge card opening gift:

For a reasonable annual fee, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Earn extra rewards (up to 5x) on travel, dining, select streaming services, and select online grocery shopping. The value of your points increases by 25% when you redeem them for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer your points to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. The sign-up bonus is also generous. Read our review.

Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card

Our pick: Delta Air Lines

this Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card Extra rewards can be spent not only on Delta flights, but also at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets around the world, making it a rare airline card perfect for everyday spending. Best-in-class checked bag benefits (the first bag is free for you and up to eight other bags in your reservation), priority boarding, and the opportunity to earn flight points every year, make this card a great choice for Delta loyalists Value for money. Read our review.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Our pick: American Airlines

this Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® If you fly frequently, American Airlines offers substantial value. Enjoy extra rewards at gas stations and restaurants, cool sign-up bonuses, checked bag discounts, priority boarding, and more. Plus, earn points towards elite status with every purchase you make with the card. Read our review.

United℠Discover Card

Our pick: United Airlines + Best Domestic Airline Cards

this United℠Discover Card Not only can you earn extra rewards on United purchases, but you can also earn extra rewards on restaurants and qualifying hotel stays. The perks are excellent for a basic airline card—free checked bags, priority boarding, lounge passes, and more. Read our review.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Our pick: Southwest Airlines

Southwest’s most expensive card is also its best.this Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card It doesn't offer richer rewards or a significantly better sign-up bonus than the carrier's low-fee cards, but it comes with annual travel points, a generous anniversary bonus, and other perks to justify (and offset) its annual Reasonability of fees. Read our review.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Our pick: Alaska Airlines

If you're a loyal Alaska Airlines flyer, or you travel the West Coast often enough, you might be one of them, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card Almost a must. The annual companion fare benefit alone more than makes up for the reasonable annual fee. Read our review.

JetBlue Plus Card

Because JetBlue has a relatively limited footprint, it's not for everyone.However, if you do fly with an airline, take a closer look JetBlue Plus Card. This card gives you high-value miles (and lots of them), as well as checked bag benefits, a generous anniversary bonus, and other perks. Read our review.

Loyalty World Mastercard®

Our Pick: Loyal Vacation Traveler

Allegiant Air caters to the budget-conscious vacation traveler. If you frequently book vacation packages in places like Orlando, Las Vegas, and Southern California, this card might be a good fit. Like the airlines, though, this card is also plain. Read our review.

American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®

Our pick: No annual fee airline card

For occasional but loyal American Airlines fliers, no annual fee American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® It’s a cost-effective way to earn not only miles but points toward elite frequent flyer status. Read our review.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Our picks: Premium airline card

Every airline has a premium card that gives you access to airport lounges, but Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card You also get access to American Express' Centurion Lounge when you fly Delta, which comes with an annual companion certificate, even in first class. Read our review.

Aeroplan® Credit Card

Our pick: International Air Card

Excellent reward rates, generous bonus opportunities, increased elite status, and tons of other benefits make Aeroplan® Credit Card Worth a look for those who frequent Canada and/or travel on the Star Alliance network. Read our review.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

Our pick: Airline cards for small businesses

If you travel frequently, you'll love using airport lounges Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, which includes Delta’s own Sky Club and American Express’ Centurion Lounge when flying Delta. Annual companion certificates (nice even in first class) and checked bag benefits also add considerable value. Terms apply. Learn more and apply.


Other resources

How much are airline miles worth?

You can earn frequent flyer program miles every time you use your airline credit card, but the value of those miles depends on the airline and how you redeem them.

To better understand the value of miles, NerdWallet looked at the cash prices and award redemption values ​​of hundreds of flights. Our results and the value of points in hotel programs:

Keep in mind that airline prices are based on economy class tickets and do not include premium class redemptions. Please see our Valuations page for enterprise-level valuations and details about our methodology.

Our valuations are different from many others you may find.That's because we watched Average A Mile's Value is based on a reasonable fare search that anyone can perform rather than maximize Value only achieved by travel rewards experts.

Therefore, you should use these values ​​as a basis for your own exchanges. If you can redeem your points and miles for the listed value, you're doing great. Of course, it would be better if you could get better value for your miles.

How to choose an airline credit card

The first step in choosing an airline credit card is to determine if an airline card is right for you, especially compared to general travel credit cards with rewards not tied to a specific airline. An airline card may be a good choice if you fly the same airline frequently and often enough that the benefits you get from the card justify the annual fee.

The more flights you fly with a particular airline, the better your ability to rack up enough miles for free flights or seat upgrades and use those rewards toward the flights you want. Checked bags are an important consideration because most major airline cards include a checked bag fee reduction, which is great value and can quickly make up for the annual fee.

If you mostly fly with an airline, choose that airline's card. If you frequently fly with several airlines, you might even consider purchasing a card from two airlines. The main difference when choosing a major airline credit card is whether you have access to airport lounges. If you think the lounge access is worth it, get a premium card, but be prepared for a hefty annual fee. Note that lower-tier airline cards with no annual fee may not include free checked bags.

Should you consider an airline card with no annual fee?

All three major domestic airlines offer credit cards with no annual fee:

  • American: American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®.

  • delta: Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card.

  • Unity: United Gateway℠ Card.

No annual fee airline cards are best for people who don’t travel often But still want to earn airline miles – those who get a psychological boost from being “closer to their trip” with every purchase. NerdWallet doesn't recommend no-annual-fee airline cards for frequent flyers because, while they can earn miles (often at rates comparable to annual-fee cards) and sometimes get you discounts on in-flight food and entertainment, they lack the most affordable airline fares Valuable benefits of the card:

  • Annual fee airline cards often include free checked baggage Provided to you and at least one other person on your booking. The standard bag fee is now $30, and that's a savings of $120 per trip, more than making up for the usual $95 annual fee. Generally speaking, no-annual-fee cards don’t include free baggage.

  • Annual fee airline cards usually give you boarding priority. Some airlines call it “priority boarding,” others call it “priority boarding.” This usually means you can board after a passenger with elite frequent flyer status but before anyone else. A no-annual-fee card doesn’t give you a head start on boarding.

  • Annual fee airline cards offer richer bonuses. New cardholder bonus offers on charge cards are often hundreds of dollars more than on no-annual-fee cards.

For hardcore travelers, top-tier cards with annual fees in the $450 range offer all of the above, plus VIP service, access to airline airport lounges and other luxury perks.

If you fly the same airline a few times a year and check bags regularly, it's easier to save more money with an annual-fee card than with a no-annual-fee card. But if you're adamantly opposed to paying an annual fee anyway, consider skipping airline cards altogether. Consider a no-annual-fee, general-purpose travel credit card with rewards that can be used on any airline (or any other travel expense), or get a great cash-back credit card to save cash rewards for your next trip.

How to get the most out of your airline credit card

Be sure to link your airline card to your frequent flyer account – this is how some airlines determine whether you qualify for free checked bags. With some airlines, notably United and JetBlue, you must pay for your ticket with an airline card to qualify for free checked bags.

Many airline cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees, making them a good option to use when traveling abroad. Because airline cards often give you accelerated rewards on airline purchases (often 2 miles or more per $1 spent), you can use the card to pay for airfare, in-flight purchases, and other airline-related expenses. More generally, optimize your card by not only understanding all of its features, but also the details of the frequent flyer program it's linked to.

Other cards to consider

In addition to airline cards, travel enthusiasts have a variety of options, especially general travel credit cards. These cards offer travel rewards without tying you to a single airline. Their rewards typically apply to a variety of travel-related expenses. Regular travel cards tend to be simpler than airline-specific credit cards. So if you fly with multiple airlines or don't fly that much, a regular travel card might be a better choice than an airline card.

Finally, if you fly different airlines but prefer a specific hotel chain, or you just prefer free nights to free flights, consider a hotel credit card.

View rates and fees Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Cardplease see this page. View rates and fees Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Cardplease see this page. View rates and fees Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Cardplease see this page.

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