Best Airline Credit Cards of October 2021

The best airline credit cards offer a wide variety of benefits and perks. This guide can help you choose the one that most suits your lifestyle and financial needs.
Last updated Aug 17, 2021 | By Ben Walker
Best Airline Credit Cards

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

The best travel credit cards provide plenty of opportunities to earn rewards for discounted trips and vacations. With the best airline credit cards, it’s easy to learn how to fly for free using the points and miles you’ve earned.

If you’re a travel enthusiast and interested in applying for a new card, here are some terrific options from multiple credit card issuers.

The best airline credit cards

In this article

What’s the best airline credit card?

The best airline credit card depends on your situation. Each card has different rewards, features, and benefits, so the best fit for each person will vary. To help figure it out, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you frequently fly a specific airline? You might live near an airport that’s a hub for a specific airline, such as Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, or Southwest Airlines. If this is the case, you might fly that airline more frequently than others, so it likely makes sense to have a card that earns rewards for that airline’s loyalty program. Consider co-branded cards or a card that earns rewards that can be transferred to your airline’s loyalty program.
  • Are you interested in flexible rewards? If you don’t have a preferred airline and like to have flexibility with your flying choices, a general travel rewards card could fit the bill. These cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred, earn rewards that can be transferred to loads of different airline loyalty programs. In addition to travel redemptions, some flexible travel cards offer multiple options for redeeming your rewards, such as a statement credit or cash back to offset your trip costs.
  • Do you want premium travel benefits? Annual travel credits, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement, and airport lounge access. If these types of benefits are important to you, consider a premium travel card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum. They may seem expensive, but their rewards and benefits can be enough to offset the higher annual costs.
  • Do you want to earn travel rewards on everyday spending? If you want to fuel your award travel with daily purchases, consider a card with bonus categories that align with your spending habits. For example, certain cards may earn bonus rewards on eligible delivery service or dining purchases, whereas others reward you for visits to the gas station or grocery store.

Keep in mind that the best airline credit card for someone else may not be the best card for you. Consider your lifestyle and situation and then narrow down the choices based on your unique criteria.

The best airline credit cards of October 2021

Card name Best for Welcome bonus Rewards rate Annual fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred Overall value Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases $95
Chase Sapphire Reserve Chase luxury travel Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else $550
The Platinum Card from American Express Amex luxury travel Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first 6 months) 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases $695 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)
United Quest Card United Airlines travel Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months 3X miles on United purchases (after $125 annual United credit); 2X miles on all other travel, dining, and select streaming services; and 1X miles on all other purchases $250
JetBlue Plus Card JetBlue Airlines travel Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases (and paying the annual fee) in the first 90 days 6X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1X points per $1 spent on all other purchases $99
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card Southwest Airlines travel Earn up to 100,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus 50,000 more bonus points after your spend $12,000 total in the first 12 months 3X points for Southwest purchases; 2X on local transit, commuting, and rideshare, as well as internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; and 1X points on all other purchases $149
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard American Airlines travel Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases; and unlimited 1X miles on all other purchases $99 (waived first year)
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card Delta Air Lines travel Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you send $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 2X miles on qualifying Delta purchases, at restaurants, and at U.S supermarkets; and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases $99 (waived first year) (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Overall value for small business Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else $95
The Business Platinum Card from American Express Amex luxury business travel Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on Amextravel.com, 1.5X points on select business purchases and eligible purchases of $5,000 or more, and 1X points per $1 spent on other purchases $595 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card Southwest Airlines business travel 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months 4X points on Southwest purchases; 3X on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners; 2X on internet, cable, and phone services, as well as social media and search engine advertising; 2X on rideshare; and 1X on everything else $199
Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card Delta Air Lines luxury business travel Earn 80,000 bonus miles, 20,000 MQMs, and a $200 statement credit after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 3X miles for eligible purchases made directly with Delta, 1.5X miles per dollar after spending $150,000 in a calendar year, and 1X miles on all other purchases $550 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for overall travel value

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, cardholders can earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You can also earn 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases.

Why this is best for overall travel value: With a low $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you access to the flexible and valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Because your Ultimate Rewards points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase travel portal, the 60,000-point sign-up bonus can go a long way toward flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and more. You'll also receive a $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and an annual 10% points bonus each card anniversary.

Couple that with the rewards you’ll receive from common purchases like dining and travel and you’ll be well on your way to loads of discounted trips. Even better, there are no blackout dates when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and you can always transfer your points to more than a dozen Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, including JetBlue Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for Chase luxury travel

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the big brother to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It earns 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, and you can continue earning with 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else. Both the Preferred and the Reserve offer DoorDash perks so you can enjoy some local food while you travel.

Why this is best for Chase luxury travelers: The $550 annual fee may seem steep, but the Sapphire Reserve’s perks and benefits can be well worth the cost. Each year you receive a $300 annual travel credit and your points are automatically worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

With the flexibility of Chase’s transfer partners, it’s easy to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for the exact flights you want. In addition, you also receive complimentary Priority Pass membership, a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit, and access to both travel insurance and Chase purchase protection.

#1 Premium Travel Credit Card

Intro Offer

50,000 points

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

up to 10X points per dollar

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 10X points on hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2021
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
  • Excellent credit required
Card Details
  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, and hotels and cars booked through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else

The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for Amex luxury travel

The Platinum Card from American Express is a fine contender for one of the best travel credit cards. New cardmembers are eligible for an excellent welcome offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first 6 months). You can also earn 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

Why this is best for Amex luxury travelers: The Amex Platinum has a $695 annual fee, but it also comes packed with amazing benefits. Each year, you’ll receive up to $200 in Uber Cash and up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue statement credits. Select benefits require enrollment.

You’ll also receive free Priority Pass membership and Amex Centurion Lounge access for enhanced airport experiences. Additional benefits include TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, Hilton Honors Gold status, and travel insurance. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

You can also transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to any of the airlines and hotels partnered with American Express. With more than a dozen to choose from, these Amex transfer partners include airlines like British Airways, Emirates, and Virgin Atlantic.

Best Luxury Travel Benefits

Intro Offer

100,000 Membership Rewards points

Annual Fee

$695

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • 10X points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months)
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $200 hotel credit, $240 digital entertainment credit, $200 in Uber Cash, $300 Equinox credit, $200 airline fee credit
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Select benefits require enrollment.
  • $695 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your first 6 months)
  • 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

United Quest Card: Best for United Airlines travel

To fly United with points, consider the United Quest Card. When you use this rewards card, you earn 3X miles on United purchases (after $125 annual United credit); 2X miles on all other travel, dining, and select streaming services; and 1X miles on all other purchases. You can also earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.

Why this is best for United travelers: If United Airlines is your airline of choice, the United Quest Card gives you ample opportunity to earn airline miles and offers enough benefits, including a $125 annual United purchase credit, to easily offset the $250 annual fee.

You’ll receive a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit and 25% back on United in-flight purchases. You also receive your first and second checked bag for free on United flights, for both you and one companion. Priority boarding and complimentary premier upgrades on award tickets are also available.

If you prefer a card with a lower annual fee, the United Explorer Card is also a good option for frequent flyers on United. It offers similar benefits and its annual fee is smaller, at $95 (waived first year).

Free Checked Bags for United Fans

Intro Offer

80,000 bonus miles

Annual Fee

$250

Rewards Rate

up to 3X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 80,000 bonus miles sign-up offer
  • Up to 3X miles on purchases
  • $125 annual United credit
  • First and second bag checked free

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • 3X miles on United purchases (after $125 annual United credit); 2X miles on all other travel, dining, and select streaming services; and 1X miles on all other purchases

JetBlue Plus Card: Best for JetBlue Airlines travel

The JetBlue Plus Card elevates your experience when flying JetBlue. Cardholders can earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases (and paying the annual fee) in the first 90 days. Continue your earning with 6X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1X points per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Why this is best for JetBlue travelers: JetBlue travelers with the JetBlue Plus Card get 5,000 bonus points after each account anniversary, your first checked bag free, and 50% savings on in-flight purchases. That should be more than enough benefits to cover the $99 annual fee, but you also have the opportunity to earn Mosaic benefits by spending $50,000 on your card in a calendar year. Mosaic benefits include two free checked bags, no change or cancel fees, early boarding, and complimentary alcoholic beverages onboard.

Mega Points for JetBlue Flyers

JetBlue Plus Card

JetBlue Plus Card

JetBlue Plus Card

Intro Offer

70,000 points

Annual Fee

$99

Rewards Rate

up to 6X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 6X points on JetBlue purchases
  • 0% intro APR for 12 billing cycles on balance transfers
  • $100 annual statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • No travel insurance perks
Card Details
  • Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases (and paying the annual fee) in the first 90 days
  • 6X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1X points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro balance transfer 0% offer: 0% for 12 billing cycles on transfers that post within 45 days of account opening then 15.99% to 24.99% (variable)

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Best for Southwest Airlines travel

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is a top choice for travelers flying Southwest with points. Earn up to 100,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus 50,000 more bonus points after your spend $12,000 total in the first 12 months and earn 3X points for Southwest purchases; 2X on local transit, commuting, and rideshare, as well as internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; and 1X points on all other purchases.

Why this is best for Southwest travelers: With your Southwest Priority Credit Card, receive a $75 annual Southwest travel credit and 7,500 anniversary points each year. In addition, you get four upgraded bookings every year and 20% back on in-flight purchases.

This card can also help you get Southwest A-List status quicker or earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to bring a designated guest along for free on Southwest flights. All of these benefits come at the reasonable cost of $149 a year.

Double points on Southwest Airlines flights

Intro Offer

50,000 points

Annual Fee

$149

Rewards Rate

up to 3X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn up to 100,000 bonus points
  • Earn 3X points on Southwest purchases
  • 7,500 points every year on Cardmember anniversary
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • 4 upgraded boardings per year when available

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn up to 100,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus 50,000 more bonus points after your spend $12,000 total in the first 12 months
  • 3X points for Southwest purchases; 2X on local transit, commuting, and rideshare, as well as internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; and 1X points on all other purchases

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: Best for American Airlines travel

The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard offers high-quality benefits for frequent American Airlines customers. Cardholders can earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months. For rewards, you’ll earn 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases; and unlimited 1X miles on all other purchases.

Why this is best for American Airlines travelers: American Airlines travelers with this card can take advantage of benefits like getting your first checked bag free, preferred boarding, and 25% savings on food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights. With only a $99 (waived first year) annual fee, these benefits can easily provide enough value if you’re a frequent flyer on American.

Free checked bags & more

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Intro Offer

50,000 miles

Annual Fee

$99

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 50,000 bonus mile sign-up offer
  • 2X miles at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases
  • First checked bag free

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee after first year
  • Best for frequent American Airlines travelers
Card Details
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases; and unlimited 1X miles on all other purchases

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card: Best for Delta Air Lines travel

The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card offers top perks for travelers who prefer to fly Delta and earn lots of rewards. Cardholders can earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. You can also earn 2X miles on qualifying Delta purchases, at restaurants, and at U.S supermarkets; and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. The Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex has a $99 (waived first year) annual fee, terms apply.

Why this is best for Delta Air Lines travelers: Delta fliers can get a lot of value from this card’s benefits. Your first checked bag is free on Delta flights and you get $100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in a calendar year. You also receive priority boarding, 20% savings on in-flight purchases, and car rental insurance. If you’re traveling abroad, don’t worry about extra costs on purchases because the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex has no foreign transaction fees.

Great Welcome Offer and Continuing Rewards

Intro Offer

70,000 bonus miles

Annual Fee

$99

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles on purchases with Delta, at restaurants, and at U.S. supermarkets
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights
  • Annual fee is waived your first year
  • $99 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Best for frequent Delta travelers
Card Details
  • Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you send $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles on qualifying Delta purchases, at restaurants, and at U.S supermarkets; and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for overall business travel value

For business travelers, the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card provides incredibly valuable rewards and benefits. Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months of card membership, plus earn 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else.

Why this is best for overall business travel value: Small business owners who travel frequently can use the Ink Business Preferred to quickly rack up rewards on common business expenses. Because Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase, the 100,000-point sign-up bonus and other points you earn can help cover upcoming travel costs. You can redeem your points for flights in the Chase travel portal or transfer them to one of the many Chase hotel or airline partners. The high-value rewards and benefits of this card should easily outweigh the $95 annual cost.

Hot Sign-up Bonus

Intro Offer

100,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 100,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 3X points on travel and common business spending categories
  • Flexible redemption options
  • Additional employee cards at no extra cost

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • No intro 0% APR promotion offered
  • Limited business-specific benefits
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else

The Business Platinum Card from American Express: Best for luxury business travel

For luxury business travelers, The Business Platinum Card from American Express has you covered. Cardmembers can earn 120,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months. In addition, you can earn 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on Amextravel.com, 1.5X points on select business purchases and eligible purchases of $5,000 or more, and 1X points per $1 spent on other purchases.

Why this is best for luxury business travelers: The $595 annual fee (terms apply) seems steep, but the Amex Business Platinum has the benefits to warrant the cost. Receive up to $200 annual Dell statement credit, $200 annual airline fee credit, Priority Pass and Centurion Lounge access, and TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement. And once you arrive at your destination, take advantage of your complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and Hilton Honors Gold statuses. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

Easily one of the best benefits, though, is that if you use your Membership Rewards to pay for all or part of an eligible airline fare, you get 35% of those points back. This works on up to 500,000 points per calendar year.

Premium Business Rewards

Intro Offer

120,000 Membership Rewards points

Annual Fee

$595

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 120,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months (then 14.24% to 22.24% APR after that)
  • 5X points on qualifying flight and hotel purchases
  • 1.5X points on select business purchases and eligible purchases of $5,000 or more
  • Up to $200 statement credit per year for airline incidental fees
  • $595 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
  • Requires good to excellent credit
Card Details
  • Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on Amextravel.com, 1.5X points on select business purchases and eligible purchases of $5,000 or more, and 1X points per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Intro purchase 0% offer: 0% for 12 months then 14.24% to 22.24% (variable)
  • Terms apply

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Best for Southwest Airlines business travel

For Southwest business travelers, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card is a fantastic option. 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Also, earn 4X points on Southwest purchases; 3X on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners; 2X on internet, cable, and phone services, as well as social media and search engine advertising; 2X on rideshare; and 1X on everything else.

Why this is best for Southwest business travelers: The amount of Southwest points you can earn with this card is staggering, so the $199 annual fee isn’t too concerning. If you’re a small business owner who frequently flies Southwest, there’s no better option.

In addition to earning rewards, you also get four upgraded bookings per year, free TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, in-flight Wi-Fi credits, and 9,000 anniversary points each year. Plus, you can use this card to get A-List status or a Southwest Companion Pass.

Special Perks for Business Owners

Intro Offer

80,000 points

Annual Fee

$199

Rewards Rate

up to 4X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 80,000 bonus point sign-up offer
  • 4X points on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • Inflight Wi-Fi credits
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Not as useful if you don't frequently fly Southwest
  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • 4X points on Southwest purchases; 3X on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners; 2X on internet, cable, and phone services, as well as social media and search engine advertising; 2X on rideshare; and 1X on everything else

Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card: Best for Delta Air Lines business travel

If you often find yourself on Delta flights, consider using the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card. With this card, you can earn 80,000 bonus miles (plus 20,000 MQMs and a $200 statement credit) after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. Additionally, you can earn 3X miles for eligible purchases made directly with Delta, 1.5X miles per dollar after spending $150,000 in a calendar year, and 1X miles on all other purchases.

Why this is best for Delta business travelers: Delta flies all over the world, so it’s an ideal airline for business travelers heading to different destinations. With the Delta Reserve Business Amex, you’ll receive access to Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. You’ll also receive your first checked bag free, complimentary upgrades, priority boarding, annual companion certificates, travel and baggage insurance, and TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit. If you often travel for business on Delta Air Lines, that should be more than enough benefits to make up for the $550 annual fee (terms apply).

Triple miles on Delta purchases

Intro Offer

80,000 bonus miles (plus 20,000 MQMs and a $200 statement credit)

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

up to 3X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles, 20,000 MQMs, and a $200 statement credit after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • 3X miles on eligible Delta purchases
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club and Centurion Lounge access
  • $550 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles, 20,000 MQMs, and a $200 statement credit after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 3X miles for eligible purchases made directly with Delta, 1.5X miles per dollar after spending $150,000 in a calendar year, and 1X miles on all other purchases
  • Terms apply

How do airline credit cards work?

Airline credit cards function similarly to any rewards credit card, except the rewards are typically tied directly to a specific airline and its frequent flyer program. As you make purchases with your airline credit card, you’ll earn travel rewards in the form of points or miles. Once you earn enough rewards, you can redeem them for award flights.

Many airline credit cards offer big sign-up bonuses, which is the perfect way to get enough points or miles for free flights soon after being approved for your card. Then, it’s up to you to continue using the card to earn rewards on purchases. Typically these cards will earn you more on travel purchases. In addition, spending with your airline credit card can also help you reach elite status with the airline’s loyalty program.

Cards like the JetBlue Plus Card or the United Quest Card are tied to major airlines and using them can help you reach elite status benefits quicker. This provides an alternative method to simply taking dozens of flights a year to earn elite status. Elite statuses are beneficial because of the benefits they provide, which may include free checked bags, priority boarding, increased points earning, or free in-flight Wi-Fi.

Unfortunately, some miles you earn with airline credit cards will expire if you don’t have any qualifying mileage activity on your account for a while. Also, having rewards tied to a specific airline may not always help your travel plans, especially if the airline doesn’t fly where you need to go. This is the reason why general travel cards have become so popular.

With a general travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum, your points aren’t tied to any particular airline. You can transfer your points to a number of Chase or Amex (depending on which card you have) travel partners. Because of this flexibility, general travel cards are often considered the best airline credit cards. These cards also won’t charge you a foreign transaction fee, so you won’t have to worry about unnecessary expenses while you’re traveling the world. However, these cards typically require that you have a good or excellent credit score to get approved.

How to pick an airline credit card

Picking the right airline credit card for you depends on many different factors that should be taken into consideration. The best airline credit card will be different for each individual situation.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you compare credit cards:

  • Are you loyal to a particular airline? If you’re loyal to a specific airline, it makes sense to get a credit card with that airline. For example, if you fly United a lot, the United Quest Card could be an ideal match. The simple benefit of free checked bags for you and a companion provides heaps of value if you fly frequently. If you’re likely to fly many different airlines, a general travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred makes more sense. With this card, your redemption options are pretty much endless because points can be redeemed for flights on a variety of airlines. Compared to a brand-specific airline card, this allows you to be a lot more flexible with your points.
  • Where do you want to travel? Your travel destinations are pivotal to which airline credit card you should pick. If you want to fly to Europe, it wouldn’t make the most sense to get a Southwest credit card because Southwest doesn’t fly to Europe. Check to see where an airline flies and whether it aligns with what you’re looking for. Remember to check which airlines fly out of your home airport as well.
  • What are your spending habits? Sign-up bonuses are great on airline credit cards, but you don’t want to rely on those initial points forever to earn yourself award flights. Check the card details to see how rewards are earned. Specifically, look at the categories where you can earn bonus rewards and if those categories align with your normal spending patterns. For instance, if you want to earn extra rewards from grocery purchases with your airline credit card, the JetBlue Plus Card offers 2X points on restaurants and grocery stores. This can help you earn travel rewards while you spend money on everyday expenses.
  • What travel perks will you use? Travel benefits and perks can be very beneficial, but only if you’re using them. If you can’t get value from them, there’s not much point in having a specific card. With this in mind, look at the benefits each airline credit card offers and see which you would utilize. A common and highly useful benefit on many cards is getting a free checked bag when flying. If you can avoid baggage fees because of a credit card benefit, you’ve already received a lot of value.

What about no-annual-fee airline credit cards?

Some airlines, including JetBlue and American Airlines, offer no-annual-fee credit cards. This can be helpful if you want to avoid an extra cost with your card, but the benefits on these no-annual-fee cards are typically lacking. Don’t expect big sign-up bonuses, airport lounge access, or free checked baggage.

Still, these cards could be a good fit if you simply want to earn travel rewards with specific airlines without the stress of an annual fee. The JetBlue Card has a $0 annual fee and earns 3X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1X points per $1 spent on all other purchases. So whatever you purchase with this card will earn points for future JetBlue travel redemptions. Aside from earning rewards, the most notable benefit on the JetBlue Card is 50% in-flight savings on cocktails and food purchases.

The benefits are slim on no-annual-fee airline credit cards, but these cards can be helpful if you’re on a budget. There’s no annual cost, so it’s easy to focus on earning rewards from your purchases. However, if you want more perks, a luxury travel card with an annual fee would be a better fit. If you fly at least a few times a year, the benefit of getting a checked bag for free could by itself offset an annual fee.

How we chose the best airline credit cards

To choose the best airline credit cards, we searched through all the available travel cards from top card issuers. We wanted a good mix of card issuers to choose from, but also a wide range of cards for different purposes. This allowed us to choose cards co-branded with many different airlines that provide a variety of rewards and benefits.

If a card didn’t provide multiple useful benefits, it wasn’t included in our list. This is why you won’t see any no-annual-fee credit cards because they typically don’t have many high-value benefits. Many of the cards on the list provide generous sign-up bonuses, free checked bags, anniversary points, airport lounge access, travel credit, or more.

With these benefits, it may seem like every card would have a high annual fee, but there are multiple cards with lower annual fees. These, in particular, could prove most valuable for some travelers. Their benefits can comfortably cancel out the annual cost if you travel frequently and earn enough rewards.

FAQs about airline credit cards

Is an airline credit card worth it?

An airline credit card is worth it if it aligns with your spending habits and financial goals. Many airline credit cards provide a lot of value with their benefits and earning potential, but it’s essential to see whether a card would be a good fit for you. See if you can easily earn rewards on a card with how you normally make purchases. Also, make sure the airline rewards are useful for where you want to travel. If everything lines up, an airline credit card could be well worth it for future travel opportunities.

How many miles do you need to get a free flight?

There is no universal answer for how many points you need for a free flight, as it depends on what points or miles you’re using and how they’re being redeemed. It also depends on your travel destination, the dates you’re flying, and what kind of ticket class you want. For example, a round-trip first-class ticket from New York City to Tokyo will undoubtedly cost more than a one-way economy ticket from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Each airline also has a different award pricing system. This means the number of points or miles needed for an award flight will likely be different from one airline to the next. For example, an economy award flight on American Airlines across most of the U.S. could cost 7,500 miles. However, a similar flight on Alaska Airlines might cost only 5,000 miles.

Can you transfer miles between airlines?

You cannot typically transfer airline miles between different airline loyalty programs, but many airlines do allow you to redeem their points or miles with partner airlines. For example, one partner of Alaska Airlines is Cathay Pacific. That means you can use your Alaska Airlines miles to book award flights with Cathay Pacific if you call the Alaska Airlines reservations line. Check an airline’s website to see the additional airlines they partner with and whether you can use your points or miles to book flights with them.

Do airline credit cards get you into airport lounges?

Many airline credit cards provide premium benefits that can enhance your travel experiences. With cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Platinum Card from American Express, you receive complimentary airport lounge access. The Sapphire Reserve provides free Priority Pass membership, and the Amex Platinum provides both Priority Pass and Amex Centurion Lounge access.


Bottom line

Airline credit cards are helpful for frequent travelers who want to fly for free or cheap, avoid checked baggage fees, or simply save money on in-flight purchases. They can also elevate your airport experience with airport lounge access or priority boarding at the gate.

If you’re interested in a new airline credit card, be sure to look over our list of the best ones available. Read over the benefits of each card to see which one would be the best fit for your lifestyle and travel needs.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

Ben Walker Ben Walker is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially-sound decisions. For nearly a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.