Note from the editor: Citi Premier® Card is no longer available to new applicants 

The days of needing status to access airline perks are long gone.

If you’re equipped with the right airline credit card, you can access benefits that make the entire air travel experience that bit more luxurious. Whether it’s priority boarding, discounts on in-flight purchases or access to airport lounges, there are a host of travel rewards credit cards that come with such perks.

Moreover, a solid airline credit card will earn you airline miles on everyday spending, putting you closer to free award travel.

So, what are the best credit cards for airline miles? Let’s take a look.

Best Airline Miles Credit Cards for 2024

Here’s an overview of the best credit cards for airline miles.

CardAnnual FeeBest For
Aeroplan®Credit Card$95Frequent flyers with Air Canada
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card$95Simple earnings on everyday purchases and a wide variety of transfer partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card$95Well-rounded travel rewards card with a valuable rewards currency
Chase Sapphire Reserve®$550Luxury travel perks with a valuable rewards currency
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card$395Premium travel benefits and valuable rewards currency for a moderate annual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express$695 (see rates & fees)Luxury travel perks and valuable rewards currency
Alaska Airlines Visa® Signature Credit Card$95Frequent flyers on Alaska Airlines
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card$0Simple everyday earnings structure and valuable rewards currency without an annual fee
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®$595Frequent flyers on American Airlines
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card$0 in the first year, then $150 (see rates & fees)Frequent flyers on Delta Air Lines
Citi Premier® Card$95Competitive earnings on everyday purchases redeemable for air travel
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card$149Frequent flyers on Southwest Airlines
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card$95Flexible business air travel redemptions
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card$550 (see rates & fees)Frequent business flyers on Delta Air Lines
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express$695 (see rates & fees)Luxury business travel perks and a valuable rewards currency
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card$199Frequent business flyers on Southwest Airlines
UnitedSM Business Card$0 in the first year, then $99Frequent business flyers on United Airlines
United ClubSM Infinite Card$525Frequent flyers on United Airlines
Air Canada Business Class

Aeroplan® Credit Card

The Aeroplan® Credit Card offers unparalleled mile redemption flexibility with a range of perks for Air Canada passengers.

With the Aeroplan Credit Card, you’ll earn Aeroplan points. Air Canada belongs to the Star Alliance. Additionally, the carrier has a range of non-alliance partner airlines. This means that you can earn and redeem miles with more than 50 partner airlines, giving you massive flexibility when traveling.

On top of this, you can transfer the following rewards currencies to your Aeroplan account at a 1:1 ratio:

  • American Express Membership Rewards points
  • Bilt Rewards points
  • Capital One Miles
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points

The card enables you to earn miles on everyday spending and is free of foreign transaction fees, making it great for usage abroad. You’ll also enjoy a statement credit of up to $100 every four years for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or Nexus application fees.

Similarly, the card offers you perks, such as a free first checked bag for you and up to eight passengers on the same reservation when flying with Air Canada. You’ll also be eligible for spending-based rewards, such as Aeroplan 25K status as well as point boosts.

For an annual fee of $95, the Aeroplan Credit Card will get you the following benefits.

Pros

  • 3X points on grocery store purchases
  • 3X points on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3X points on direct purchases with Air Canada
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • 500-point boost for every $2,000 charged to your card in a calendar month (up to 1,500 points per month)
  • Complimentary Aeroplan 25K status in the year you open the card plus the following calendar year. If you charge $15,000 per calendar year to your card after this period, you’ll retain your 25K status. And if you charge $50,000 per calendar year to your card, you’ll upgrade to 35K status.
  • First checked bag of up to 50 pounds flies for free for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation (on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge or under the Air Canada Express brand).
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Statement credit of up to $100 every four years for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or Nexus application fees
  • 10% transfer bonus after transferring 50,000 or more Ultimate Rewards points in a single transaction from an eligible Chase credit card to your Aeroplan account (maximum Aeroplan point boost of 25,000 points per calendar year)

Cons

  • 25K status will be lost if you don’t meet the minimum-spending threshold.
earn points and miles with everyday purchases

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers simple earnings on travel and everyday purchases with great opportunities for travel redemptions.

Capital One Miles can be transferred to a total of 18 hotel and airline partners, giving you a variety of options for mile redemptions.

The card offers a statement credit of $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees every four years. It’s free of foreign transaction fees, and you receive Hertz Five Star® status for car rentals.*

For an annual fee of $95, this card offers excellent value without restricting you to a single airline.

Pros

  • 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked via Capital One Travel
  • 2X miles on all other purchases
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit every four years
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles can be transferred to 18 hotel and airline transfer partners.
  • Hertz Five Star® status

Cons

  • Capital One doesn’t have any U.S. airlines as transfer partners
  • Certain transfer partners don’t use 1:1 ratios
travel rewards card with a valuable rewards currency

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a well-rounded travel rewards card for earning a valuable rewards currency.

Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to 14 airline and hotel partners, all at 1:1 transfer ratios. If you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll receive 25% more value.

You can earn points on a wide variety of bonus spending categories, allowing you to quickly rack up rewards.

With an annual fee of $95, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a solid choice for valuable rewards that go far.

Pros

  • Transfer points to 14 airline and hotel transfer partners at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards are eligible for a $50 statement credit every account anniversary year.
  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (excluding hotel purchases qualifying for the $50 annual hotel credit)
  • 2X points on all other travel purchases
  • 3X points on dining, including eligible takeout, delivery services and dining out
  • 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs)
  • 3X points on select streaming services
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • 25% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • A bonus point boost equal to 10% of your total purchases made the previous year, each account anniversary year
  • Up to $200 value in partner benefits with Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Peloton

Cons

  • Lack of travel-related perks, such as TSA PreCheck or Global Entry statement credits

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a premium travel rewards card that offers luxury perks and valuable point redemption potential.

You’ll be able to transfer your Ultimate Rewards to 14 airline and hotel partners at 1:1 transfer ratios. Your points will receive 50% more value when you redeem them for travel through Chase Travel℠.

You’ll receive complimentary Priority Pass Select membership in addition to access to the Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club for you and up to two guests. You’ll also enjoy $100 in statement credits for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus membership application fees as well as a $300 annual statement credit for travel purchases.

With $1,200 worth of partner benefits and a valuable rewards currency, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is well worth its annual fee of $550.

Pros

  • $300 annual statement credit for travel purchases
  • 10X points on car rentals and hotels (excluding The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection) when purchased through Chase (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 10X points on Chase Dining purchases with Ultimate Rewards
  • 5X points on flights when purchased through Chase Travel℠ (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 3X points on dining at restaurants, including eligible takeout, delivery services and dining out
  • 3X points on all other travel purchases (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership as well as access to Chase Sapphire Lounges by The Club with free entry for up to two guests
  • Up to $100 in statement credits for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus membership application fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfers with up to 14 airline and hotel loyalty programs

Cons

  • High annual fee
Moraine lake, Canada

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers luxury travel benefits with a range of airline and hotel transfer partners.

Capital One Miles can be transferred to up to 18 hotel and airline transfer partners, giving you flexibility when booking travel and redeeming your miles.

You’ll enjoy complimentary Capital One, Plaza Premium Group and Priority Pass Select lounge access for yourself and up to two guests. You’ll also receive complimentary Hertz President’s Circle® status**, a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years, a $300 statement credit for travel purchases made through Capital One Travel and 10,000 anniversary miles.

With this range of perks, you can easily offset the annual fee of $395.

Pros

  • 10X miles on car rentals and hotels booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Complimentary access to Capital One, Plaza Premium Group and Priority Pass Select lounges for you and up to two guests
  • Complimentary Hertz President’s Circle® status
  • $300 statement credit for travel purchases made through Capital One Travel
  • 10,000 bonus miles (equivalent to $100 worth of travel redemptions) every account anniversary year
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Transfer miles to 18 hotel and airline transfer partners.

Cons

  • Not all transfers are at 1:1 ratios.
  • Transfer partners exclude U.S. airlines.
  • $300 travel statement credit can be used for purchases through Capital One Travel only.
Premium travel benefits and valuable rewards currency for a moderate annual fee

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express offers premium travel perks and a strong rewards currency.

American Express Membership Rewards can be transferred to more than 20 hotel and airline transfer partners, often at ratios of 1:1. All airline alliances are covered, with access to high-value airline rewards programs, such as Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles, British Airways Executive Club, Air France-KLM Flying Blue and many more.

You’ll receive luxury travel benefits, such as access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection, including more than 1,400 lounges worldwide. You’ll also receive a statement credit of up to $189 per year toward CLEAR® Plus membership, as well as a $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck application fee (when applying through a TSA official enrollment provider) when charged to your American Express Card. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.

While the annual fee of $695 (see rates & fees) isn’t cheap, you can offset it by at least double its value.

Pros

  • 5X points on eligible flights booked with American Express Travel or directly with the airline (on up to $500,000 in charges per calendar year)
  • 5X points on eligible prepaid hotel reservations when booked with Amex Travel
  • Complimentary premium status for a range of car rental companies (enrollment required)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, with 1,400+ lounges across 140 countries (including Airspace Lounge, The Centurion Lounge, Delta Sky Club, Escape Lounges, Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounges, Plaza Premium and Priority Pass Select)
  • Access to the American Express International Airline Program
  • Digital entertainment credit of up to $240, issued in $20 monthly statement credits for eligible purchases on Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock and the New York Times (enrollment required)
  • Up to $200 hotel credit on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection (a minimum two-night stay is required) bookings through American Express Travel
  • Equinox credit of up to $300, issued as statement credits
  • Up to $189 per year in statement credits toward a CLEAR Plus membership
  • Airline incidental fee credit of up to $200, issued as statement credits
  • Up to $200 Uber Cash, issued in increments of $15 per month with a bonus $20 in December
  • Either a $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck application fee (when applying through a TSA official enrollment provider) when charged to your American Express Card. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Access to the Fine Hotels and Resort Collection for bookings made through American Express Travel
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and Hilton Honors Gold status (enrollment required)

Cons

  • Few bonus spending categories

Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card

The Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card offers transferrable miles, a lucrative companion certificate and specific perks for frequent flyers with Alaska Airlines.

You can earn MileagePlanTM miles on Alaska’s 30 worldwide partner airlines, 26 of which also allow redeeming miles.

One of the best aspects of the Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card is the potential for earning the Alaska Airlines $99 Companion Fare (plus taxes and fees from $23). You’ll receive the Companion Fare every time you charge at least $6,000 in purchases to your card in the prior anniversary year. This Companion Fare can be used for lucrative sweet-spots, such as flights to Hawaii during peak season.

The card also offers perks when you fly with Alaska Airlines, such as a free first checked bag for you and up to six companions on the same reservation. Additionally, you’ll get a $100 discount on an annual Alaska Lounge+ Membership as well as a 20% discount on in-flight purchases.

For an annual fee of $95, this card offers significant value.

Pros

  • $99 Companion Fare (plus taxes and fees from $23) every account anniversary when you charge at least $6,000 in purchases to your card within the prior anniversary year
  • 3X miles on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases
  • 2X miles on eligible gas, EV charging station, cable, streaming services and local transit purchases
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Priority boarding
  • First checked bag free for you and up to six companions on the same reservation
  • 20% back on Alaska Airlines in-flight purchases
  • $100 discount on an annual Alaska Lounge+ Membership
  • 10% rewards bonus on all miles earned from card purchases when you have an eligible Bank of America® account
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • The Companion Fare still costs $122.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers simple rewards and a range of transfer partners, all for a $0 annual fee.

You’ll earn a flat 1.25X miles on every purchase, as well as 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. There’s no transaction fees, so your spending and mile-earning can continue while abroad.

You can transfer your miles to Capital One’s 18 hotel and airline transfer partners, giving you flexibility when redeeming for travel.

Pros

  • 1.25X miles on every purchase
  • 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • No major U.S. airlines included in the transfer partner list
  • Limited in the way of luxury perks or partners benefits
Frequent flyers on American Airlines

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® offers luxury perks and flexible airline mile redemptions.

You can earn miles on all American Airlines, Oneworld alliance member and partner flights, totalling more than 25 airlines. You can also redeem your miles with up to 20 partner airlines.

The card comes with complimentary Admirals Club membership, a perk with a value of $850, immediately offsetting the annual fee of $595. You’ll enjoy additional perks, such as priority check-in, screening and boarding when flying with American Airlines. You and up to eight companions on the same reservation will also enjoy a free first checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights.

You’ll also be eligible for a statement credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years.

Overall, this card offers unparalleled value for frequent flyers on American Airlines.

Pros

  • 10X miles on eligible car rentals booked through aa.com/cars
  • 10X miles on eligible hotels booked through aa.com/hotels
  • 4X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases (if you charge $150,000 to your card within a calendar year, you’ll earn 5X miles on eligible purchases with American Airlines for the remainder of the year)
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • 10,000 Loyalty Points after reaching 50,000 Loyalty Points in a status qualification year. You can earn a second 10,000-point bonus after reaching 90,000 Loyalty Points in the same status qualification year.
  • Priority check-in, screening and boarding when flying with American Airlines
  • Complimentary Admirals Club membership
  • Statement credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years
  • First checked bag flies free for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation on domestic American Airlines flights
  • 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights
  • Earn a $1 statement credit per $1 spent on eligible Avis and Budget car rental purchases (up to $120 every calendar year).
  • Earn a $10 Lyft credit after taking three eligible rides in a calendar month (for a total of up to $120 in Lyft credits annually).
  • Statement credits of up to $10 per monthly billing statement on eligible Grubhub purchases (for a total of up to $120 every 12 billing statements).
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Bonus spending categories are limited to expenditure with American Airlines.
Frequent flyers on Delta Air Lines

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a solid choice for frequent flyers of Delta Air Lines.

You can earn and redeem your Delta SkyMiles on up to 20 partner airlines, giving you a wide range of choice when booking award travel.

You’ll enjoy perks like a free first checked bag on all Delta flights, 20% back on in-flight purchases (issued as a statement credit) and a $100 flight credit for Delta flights when you charge $10,000 to your card in a calendar year.

For an annual fee of $0 in the first year, then $150 (see rates & fees), this card offers great value for frequent flyers on Delta.

Pros

  • 2X miles on dining at restaurants, including eligible takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 2X miles on groceries at U.S. supermarkets
  • 2X miles on Delta purchases
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • 15% off when using miles for Delta award flights
  • First free checked bag on all Delta flights
  • $100 flight credit for Delta flights when you charge $10,000 to your card in a calendar year
  • 20% back on in-flight Delta purchases, issued as a statement credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • No lounge access perks

Citi Premier® Card

For an annual fee of $95, the Citi Premier Card offers competitive earnings on everyday purchases and a valuable rewards currency.

You’ll earn a solid 3X points on purchases at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, hotels and on air travel. There aren’t any foreign transaction fees, so you can spend and earn points freely abroad.

You can transfer your Citi ThankYou Points to up to 18 hotel and airline transfer partners, many of which use a 1:1 transfer ratio. Partners like Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Avianca LifeMiles, Emirates Skywards and Air France-KLM Flying Blue make Citi points especially lucrative for redemptions.

Pros

  • 10X points on hotels and rental cars booked through the Citi Travel portal (offer ends June 30, 2024)
  • 3X points on purchases at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, hotels and on air travel
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • $100 off a hotel stay worth $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com, every calendar year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Transfer points to 17 airline and hotel partners.

Cons

  • Limited range of perks
  • JetBlue is the only U.S. airline among Citi’s transfer partners.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

For frequent flyers with Southwest Airlines, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers significant value for a moderate annual fee of $149. With this card, you can earn Southwest Rapid Rewards on a range of everyday purchases.

You’ll receive 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQP) toward A-List status for every $5,000 spent in purchases annually as well as an annual boost of 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points. You’ll also enjoy 25% back on in-flight Southwest purchases, a $75 annual statement credit for Southwest travel purchases and four Upgraded Boardings per year (subject to availability).

If you earn the card’s welcome bonus, you’ll also be closer to earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.

The only drawback to the card is the lack of airline partners, given that Southwest doesn’t belong to any alliance. For this reason, the card makes sense only for Southwest frequent flyers.

Pros

  • 3X points on Southwest purchases, including flights, in-flight purchases and Southwest gift cards
  • 2X points on internet, cable, phone service and select streaming service purchases
  • 2X points on local transit and commuting purchases, including passenger trains, buses, rideshare, taxis, tolls, parking lots and garages
  • 2X points on Rapid Rewards car rental and hotel partner purchases
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year (subject to availability)
  • 25% back on in-flight Southwest purchases, issued as a statement credit
  • 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQP) toward A-List status for every $5,000 spent in purchases annually
    Boost of 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points per year
  • $75 annual statement credit for Southwest travel purchases

Cons

  • No partner airlines to earn and redeem miles with
  • No airport lounge access perks

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is perfect for flexible air travel redemptions.

You’ll earn 3X points on the first $150,000 spent on shipping purchases, advertising purchases made through social media sites and search engines, internet, cable and phone services, and travel purchases (1X point thereafter).

You can transfer your hard-earned Ultimate Rewards to up to 14 airline and hotel transfer partners at 1:1 ratios. This gives you a wide range of options when it comes to booking award travel.

For an annual fee of $95, the Ink Business Preferred is the perfect business card for keeping you flexible while earning a valuable rewards currency.

Pros

  • 3X points on the first $150,000 spent on shipping purchases, advertising purchases made through social media sites and search engines, internet, cable and phone services, and travel purchases (1X point thereafter)
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • 25% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Transfer points to 14 hotel and airline partners at 1:1 ratios.
  • Free employee cards

Cons

  • Lack of luxury travel perks, such as airport lounge access

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

For frequent flyers of Delta Air Lines, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers luxury perks and redemption flexibility.

Delta SkyMiles can be earned and redeemed on up to 20 partner airlines, giving you a wide range of choices when booking air travel.

You’ll receive complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club®, as well as two one-time use guest passes per year.***

You’ll also receive 20% back on in-flight Delta purchases, issued as a statement credit, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding and a first class, Delta Comfort+® or main cabin round-trip companion certificate every year you renew your Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card for domestic, Caribbean and Central America flights.****

While the annual fee of $650 (see rates & fees) isn’t small, you can more than offset the fee in return value.

** Effective Feb. 1, 2025: Access will be restricted to 15 complimentary visits per year for Delta SkyMiles Reserve card members. Unlimited access will be granted to those who charge $75,000 or more in purchases to their card the previous calendar year.

*** $80 in taxes and fees for round-trip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) and no more than $250 for round-trip international flights is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions will also apply.

Pros

  • 3X miles on direct purchases with Delta
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Free first checked bag on Delta flights
  • 15% discount when booking award travel with Delta
  • Complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club® plus two one-time use guest passes per year
  • 20% back on in-flight Delta purchases, issued as a statement credit
  • Main Cabin 1 priority boarding
  • Receive a first class, Delta Comfort+® or main cabin round-trip companion certificate every year you renew your Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card for domestic, Caribbean or Central America flights
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • A $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck application fee (when applying through a TSA official enrollment provider) when charged to your American Express Card. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.

Cons

  • Direct purchases with Delta is the only bonus spending category

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers a range of business statement credits in addition to a strong transferable points currency.

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards to more than 20 hotel and airline transfer partners, often at ratios of 1:1. Amex has partners in every airline alliance as well as points that can be transferred to valuable airline loyalty programs.

You’ll receive luxury travel benefits, such as access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection, including more than 1,400 lounges worldwide and a statement credit of up to $200 for airline incidental fees.

You’ll also receive a statement credit of up to $189 per year toward CLEAR Plus membership as well as a $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck application fee (when applying through a TSA official enrollment provider) when charged to your American Express Card. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.

With extra benefits such as Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (enrollment required) and Hilton Honors Gold status (enrollment required), offsetting the annual fee of $695 (see rates & fees) is more than possible.

Pros

  • 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com
  • 1.5X points on eligible purchases in business categories, as well as on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • Up to $400 statement credit for Dell Technologies purchases, issued in semi-annual $200 statement credits (enrollment required)
  • Up to $360 statement credit for purchases with Indeed, issued in $90 quarterly credits (enrollment required)
  • Up to $150 statement credit on select business purchases from Adobe Creative Solutions (enrollment required)
  • Up to $120 statement credit on U.S. wireless phone purchases, issued in $10 monthly increments (enrollment required)
  • Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection (1,400+ lounges, enrollment required)
  • Up to $200 airline incidental fee credit
  • $189 CLEAR Plus membership fee credit
  • 35% points rebate after you use the Pay With Points feature for all or part of a flight booked through Amex Travel
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck application fee.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (enrollment required)
  • Hilton Honors Gold status (enrollment required)
  • Benefits with the Fine Hotels + Resorts program

Cons

  • High annual fee
  • Lack of bonus spending categories
Frequent business flyers on Southwest Airlines

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

If you fly frequently for business on Southwest, the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card can offer you significant value and rewards.

With an annual fee of $199, you’ll be able to earn Rapid Rewards on a wide variety of business bonus spending categories. For every $5,000 you spend on the card, you’ll receive 1,500 TQPs toward A-List status.

You’ll get a $100 statement credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus application fee every four years. You’ll also enjoy up to four Upgraded Boardings every year (subject to availability).

Pros

  • 4X points on Southwest purchases, including flights, in-flight purchases and Southwest gift cards
  • 3X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 2X points on social media and search engine advertising purchases
  • 2X points on internet, cable and phone service purchases
  • 2X points on local transit and commuting purchases, including buses, taxis, tolls, rideshare, passenger trains, and parking lots and garages
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year (subject to availability)
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus application fee every four years
  • 1,500 TQPs toward A-List status for every $5,000 spent in purchases annually
  • A boost of 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points every year
  • Fee reimbursement credit of up to $500 per year for fees associated with Rapid Rewards point transfers to other Rapid Rewards members
  • 9,000 points every account anniversary year
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Valuable for frequent flyers of Southwest only

United℠ Business Card

For frequent business flyers with United Airlines, the UnitedSM Business Card is a great choice for United perks and flexible redemption options.

With your card you can earn miles on a wide range of business and everyday purchases. For every $500 you spend on purchases with you card, you’ll earn 25 PQP, up to 10,000 PQP per calendar year. These can be applied toward your Premier status qualification, up to the Premier 1K® level.

You’ll also enjoy valuable perks, such as two United ClubSM one-time passes each year, priority boarding, 25% back on United in-flight and United Club premium drink purchases, and a free first checked bag for up to two travelers on the same reservation.

For an annual fee of $99 ($0 in the first year), this card is a great starter option for frequent United flyers.

Pros

  • 2X miles on United purchases, including tickets, in-flight food, beverages, Economy Plus®, Wi-Fi and other United charges
  • 2X miles on dining, including eligible delivery services
  • 2X miles at gas stations and office supply stores as well as on local transit and commuting purchases
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Free first checked bag on United flights
  • A $100 United travel credit when you make seven qualifying flight purchases within an anniversary year (United flight travel-related purchases include seat upgrades, Economy Plus®, in-flight food, beverages, Wi-Fi, baggage service charges or other United fees)
  • 5,000 anniversary bonus miles when you hold both the United Business Card and a personal United credit card
  • For every $500 you spend on purchases with you card, you’ll earn 25 PQP, up to 10,000 PQP per calendar year that can be applied towards your Premier status qualification, up to the Premier 1K® level
  • Two United ClubSM one-time passes each year
  • 25% back on United in-flight and United Club premium drink purchases issued as a statement credit
  • Priority boarding for United flights
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Special benefits when staying at the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

Cons

  • United Club access is limited.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

The United ClubSM Infinite Card is perfect for frequent flyers on United flights. You can earn and redeem United MileagePlus miles on more than 35 airlines worldwide. This gives you excellent flexibility when booking air travel.

The card earns miles on a wide variety of everyday purchases. For every $500 you spend on purchases with you card, you’ll earn 25 PQP, up to 10,000 PQP per calendar year.

You’ll enjoy perks such as a free first and second checked bag for you and one companion, complimentary United Club membership (worth up to $650) and complimentary Avis President’s Club® membership, among many other luxury perks.

For a $525 annual fee, the card offers significant value for frequent United flyers, with a range of luxury perks.

Pros

  • Complimentary United Club membership
  • 4X miles on purchases with United (including tickets, Economy Plus®, in-flight food, beverages and Wi-Fi)
  • 2X miles on all other travel purchases
  • 2X miles on dining, including eligible delivery services
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Free first and second checked bags for you and up to one travel companion
  • Statement credit of up to $100 for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus application fee
  • For every $500 you spend on purchases with you card, you’ll earn 25 PQP, up to 10,000 PQP per calendar year
  • 25% back as a statement credit on in-flight food, beverage and Wi-Fi purchases on United-operated flights as well as on Club premium drinks
  • Complimentary Platinum Elite status with IHG One Rewards (enrollment required), in addition to a statement credit of up to $75 per calendar year as reimbursement for IHG® Hotels and Resorts purchases (offer until Dec. 31, 2024)
  • Complimentary Avis President’s Club® membership (enrollment required)
  • Access to benefits when booking The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • High annual fee
Aerial panoramic view of Cancun beach and city hotel zone in Mexico. Caribbean coast landscape of Mexican resort with beach Playa Caracol and Kukulcan road. Riviera Maya in Quintana roo region on Yucatan Peninsula

What Is an Airline Credit Card?

An airline credit card is any card with which you can earn miles within an airline’s loyalty program.

Often, these cards are co-branded with the airline and card issuer. For example, the British Airways Visa Signature® card is co-branded with British Airways and Chase.

A co-branded airline credit card will earn you miles only with the specific airline’s loyalty program. That being said, you can still earn miles when flying on airlines within the same alliance as well as with participating partner airlines.

The best airline cards typically offer perks such as priority boarding, a free first checked bag, annual bonus mile boosts and elevated earning rates on direct purchases with the airline.

Other airline credit cards are general purpose travel rewards credit cards. Some of the best travel cards let you redeem points for award flights with multiple loyalty programs, including airlines and hotels.

These cards don’t offer airline perks like free bags but come with the advantage of flexible rewards. As your card doesn’t belong to a specific airline, you can typically transfer your points to a wide range of airlines with whom your card issuer has a transfer partner relationship.

What Are Airline Miles and How Do They Work?

Airline miles are a rewards currency earned on certain qualifying activities. Typically, you’ll earn airline miles either by flying with the airline or through spending with your co-branded airline credit card.

Airline miles earned with an airline credit card will be deposited directly into your airline loyalty account. If you have a general purpose travel rewards credit card, you’ll first need to transfer your rewards points to the specific partner airline you wish to use.

Depending on the card issuer and airline, points may or may not be transferred at a 1:1 ratio (i.e. 1 point for 1 airline mile). Similarly, some airline loyalty programs require a minimum number of points per transfer.

Airline miles can be redeemed for a variety of airline purchases. These include redemptions for flights, class or seat upgrades, and in-flight purchases.

Most typically, airline miles are redeemed for flights. These are known as award flights. Most airlines have a limited number of award seats available per flight, which makes early booking crucial. Likewise, certain airline rewards programs have blackout dates, which are specific periods of time in which you aren’t able to redeem your airline miles for award travel. Blackout dates typically fall around periods of high demand, such as popular holidays.

When it comes to airline mile redemptions for flight purchases, airline rewards programs tend to use either an award chart system or a dynamic pricing system.

An award chart system uses fixed redemption rates for specific flight routes. The redemption rates are calculated based on the number of miles flown, the region your destination belongs to and the season of travel (peak, off-peak or standard). Award charts offer predictability and the potential for sweet-spot redemptions.

In contrast, a dynamic pricing system bases the award flight cost in airline miles on the actual cash cost of the same airfare. That means fluctuations in airfare prices can cause changes in the number of miles required for award flights.

To get the best value out of flight redemptions, you’ll want to redeem your miles for a higher value per mile whenever possible.

For example, if an airfare costs 10,000 miles or $100, you’d get a redemption value of 1 cent per mile if you paid using miles ($100 / 10,000 miles = $0.01). If the same airfare had an equivalent cash value of $200, then you’d be getting 2 cents per mile, which increases the value of your miles.

As a general rule, if you’re receiving a redemption value less than 1 cent per mile, it may be better to book the airfare with cash and save your miles for a more lucrative redemption.

You can also redeem your airline miles for non-flight purchases. For example, you can use them to cover the cost of partner hotel stays as well as rental car costs. That being said, these types of redemptions typically offer less value for your hard-earned airline miles compared to using them for flight redemptions.

Airline Credit Cards Pros and Cons

As briefly mentioned, there’s a difference between co-branded airline credit cards and general travel rewards credit cards.

Co-branded airline credit cards are affiliated with one airline. This means that the perks and bonus categories will be specific to that airline, more so than you’ll find on any travel rewards credit card.

With a co-branded airline credit card, you can expect the following benefits:

  • Priority boarding
  • Companion tickets
  • First checked bag free
  • Bonus point boosts
  • Status perks
  • Discounts on in-flight purchases
  • Bonus category earnings on direct purchases with the airline

However, keep in mind that these benefits are limited to the specific airline. Likewise, when it comes to redeeming your rewards, you’ll be able to redeem them through that specific airline’s loyalty program. This means there’s less flexibility when it comes to redemptions.

For these reasons, co-branded airline credit cards are best suited to frequent flyers of a specific airline.

In contrast, a general travel rewards credit card typically earns points on travel expenditure as well as allows you to redeem your points toward travel purchases. With a travel rewards credit card, you’ll be able to transfer your points, often at 1:1 ratios, to a wide range of airline (as well as hotel) transfer partners.

General purpose travel rewards credit cards can be an excellent choice if your main goal is saving on air travel, regardless of the airline.

Whether you choose a co-branded airline credit card or a general rewards travel card, you’ll need to ensure you can offset its annual fee through frequent usage and maxing out its perks.

business class cabin

How to Choose a Credit Card for Airline Miles

Choosing a credit card for airline miles begins with assessing both your travel and spending habits. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I fly often with just one or two airlines?
  • Do I fly with a range of airlines?
  • What spending category accounts for most of my everyday expenses?

By determining your travel habits, you’ll be able to make the most important decision: co-branded airline credit card vs. travel rewards credit card.

Keep in mind that if you fly often with just one or two carriers, it can definitely make sense to apply for a co-branded airline credit card.

However, if your travel tends to be based on the best airfare you can find, regardless of the airline, then a general travel rewards credit card will likely be your best bet.

After deciding on the type of airline credit card you want, turn to your typical spending habits. As with all credit cards, the more everyday expenses you can charge to your card, the quicker you’ll accumulate rewards. So if dining purchases account for a large part of your spending, selecting a card that earns airline miles on dining will give you greater success.

Likewise, you should select a card with a welcome offer that you can meet through organic spending. Welcome offers are one of the most lucrative parts of credit cards. However, you shouldn’t overspend to try to earn them, as this will negate the benefits. Rather, you want to select an airline credit card with a welcome offer that you can earn realistically through your current spending habits.

Once you’ve narrowed down your card selection based on these factors, you can analyze the perks offered. This is where you need to have a clear picture of your travel habits and goals in mind. The more you can use credit card perks, the more value you’ll squeeze out of the card. For this reason, if you select a card with perks you’ll use often, annual fees become less relevant as long as you extract a value equal to or greater than what you pay in fees.

For example, if you never buy in-flight snacks or beverages, a card that offers statement credits toward in-flight purchases is not going to offer you much value.

However, if you typically always fly with at least one checked bag and a companion who also checks bags, a first checked bag flies free perk is going to be of massive value for you. The more you use the benefit, the more value you’ll squeeze out of the card.

Overall, the best airline credit card is the one that aligns best with your spending habits and travel goals.

The Best Airline Rewards Programs

Here’s an overview of some of the most popular airline rewards programs in the U.S.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan rewards program offers some great opportunities for West Coast travelers. Alaska is part of the Oneworld alliance. It also has a range of other partners you can earn and redeem miles on.

Alaska miles don’t have an expiration date. However, your account will be closed after 24 months of inactivity. That means you’ll need to either earn or redeem Alaska miles at least once every 24 months to prevent losing your miles.

While Alaska doesn’t have any blackout dates for mile redemptions, its partner airlines may apply their own rules.

Alaska uses an award chart system that offers great potential for sweet-spot redemptions. Miles are calculated based on distance covered, starting at 5,000 airline miles required for economy airfares covering less than 700 miles traveled.

American AAdvantage

American Airlines is part of the Oneworld alliance with many other partners that offer earning and redemption opportunities. Despite having few co-branded credit cards on offer, the American AAdvantage rewards program offers great value.

American Airlines expire after 24 months of inactivity. Likewise, there are no blackout dates when it comes to redeeming with American Airlines, although partner airlines may have their own rules.

Main cabin redemptions for flights within the contiguous 48 U.S. states (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) and Canada start from 7,500 AAdvantage miles.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta Air Lines is part of the SkyTeam alliance, allowing you to earn and redeem miles across a range of airlines.

Delta SkyMiles don’t expire, no matter the activity on your account. There are also no blackout dates when it comes to redeeming your miles, but you’re likely to see high redemption rates on peak travel dates.

Delta has moved away from an award chart system and introduced a dynamic pricing system, which makes it harder to score those sweet-spot redemptions. However, with a range of co-branded airline credit cards, you can easily rack up thousands of Delta miles through everyday spending.

JetBlue TrueBlue

The JetBlue TrueBlue rewards program offers some excellent redemption options for flights within the Americas.

While JetBlue isn’t part of any major airline alliance, it still has seven partners with which you can earn miles. You can also redeem JetBlue miles for flights with Hawaiian Airlines and Qatar Airways.

JetBlue miles don’t expire, and there are no blackout dates when redeeming award travel (excluding Blue Basic fares).

JetBlue doesn’t use award charts and instead uses a dynamic pricing model.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest is one of the largest carriers operating in the United States and has a customer-friendly airline rewards program. With Southwest, you also have the ability to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.

There are no blackout dates when it comes to redeeming Rapid Rewards points, and they never expire as long as your account remains open.

Southwest uses dynamic pricing, meaning that the points are worth roughly the same, but you can still get a fair redemption value. Redeeming your miles for flights to the Caribbean and Central America is a great way of doing this.

Southwest isn’t part of any alliance nor does it have any partners. While you can buy tickets for other airlines through its shopping portal (for a poor redemption value), you can’t transfer your miles to any other airline rewards program.

United MileagePlus

United Airlines belongs to the Star alliance and has partnerships with more than 35 airlines. This opens up many opportunities for earning and redeeming miles on flights across the world.

There are no blackout dates, and miles never expire.

United uses dynamic pricing for its own award flights. You can redeem your miles for Saver awards or Everyday awards. Saver awards are lower-cost seats with limited availability while Everyday awards are higher-cost seats with greater availability.

Southwest Companion Pass

How to Maximize the Benefits of an Airline Credit Card

As with the best credit cards, maximizing the benefits of an airline credit card is no different. It all comes down to selecting a card with perks and benefits that you’ll use the most. By choosing a card based on this criteria, offsetting any annual fees will be far easier.

To maximize the benefits of your card, you need to take advantage of every perk offered by your airline credit card. If there are statement credits to be had on certain purchases, ensure you receive them. If you have complimentary visits to airport lounges, make the most of them and enjoy some pre-flight comfort.

You should also try to use your airline credit card for everyday purchases. Many co-branded airline cards as well as travel rewards credit cards offer bonus category spending on a range of everyday purchases. By charging daily expenses to your card, you’ll accelerate the number of points and miles you earn, allowing for greater airfare redemptions.

Likewise, when you charge everyday purchases on your airline credit card, it’ll be easier to meet minimum-spending thresholds. That could help you get a companion certificate, such as Southwest’s sought-after Companion Pass. It could also earn you airline status qualifying points, unlocking premium benefits with a specific airline.

Lastly, make sure you understand the sweet spots of your airline’s loyalty program, so you can get the greatest value out of your mile redemptions.

FAQs

What is the easiest airline credit card to get?

Generally speaking, the more perks a card offers, the higher its annual fee will be. And the higher the annual fee is, the better your credit score needs to be. Assuming your credit score is slightly on the lower end, you’ll have a better chance going for cards with no or low annual fees.

What are the best airline credit cards with no annual fee?

Here are some of the best credit cards for earning airline miles without any annual fees:

  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
  • United GatewaySM Card
  • JetBlue Card
  • American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp®
  • Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card (see rates & fees)

How many miles do you need for a free flight?

The number of miles you need for a free flight varies depending on the airline, distance flown, region and class. Airlines tend to offer award seats for basic economy short-haul fares starting at 5,000 to 10,000 airline miles per direction.

Are air miles credit cards worth it?

If you fly at least semi-frequently with one or two carriers, a co-branded airline credit card is definitely worth it. Alternatively, if you fly with different airlines, a general travel rewards credit card would be better suited to you. Overall, credit cards are always worth it as long as the value you receive offsets the cost of the annual fee.

Ready for Takeoff?

Air travel can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you’re not charging your everyday flight expenses to an airline credit card, you’re choosing to pay more every time you fly. By using an airline credit card to cover your everyday spending, you’ll accelerate mile earning rates, getting you free award travel far quicker.

The best credit cards for earning airline miles are the ones best suited to your travel and spending habits with perks you’ll actually use.

Once you’ve decided on a co-branded airline credit card vs. a travel rewards credit card, stay tuned with 10xTravel for more tips and tricks to maximizing your hard-earned miles.

(*) (**) “Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through Dec. 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.”