Best Airline Credit Cards of August 2021

Our Top Picks for Earning Air Miles or Points

We publish unbiased reviews; our opinions are our own and are not influenced by payments from advertisers. Learn about our independent review process and partners in our advertiser disclosure.

If you fly frequently, you may be looking for the best airline credit cards. When you purchase plane tickets on an airline card, you earn miles or reward points that you can redeem for more flights. Sometimes the best card for flying isn’t even an airline-specific card. 

Our top picks favor cards with good bonuses for new cardholders, easy-to-earn rewards, and outstanding perks. Of course, a card with great rewards for a specific airline is only valuable if you fly with that carrier, so keep that in mind when perusing this list.

Best Airline Credit Cards of August 2021

Best Overall : Chase Sapphire Reserve Card


Our Rating Among Airline Cards
4.7
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 total travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $550
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card:
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card:

This is an all-star travel card, packed with perks, flexibility, and lucrative rewards rates. Yes, there’s a very steep annual fee, but benefits like airport lounge access and an annual travel credit make it more than worthwhile if you’re on the road enough. Plus, Chase has a broad definition of travel purchases, so even parking fees and tolls earn extra points. When it comes time to redeem them, you have plenty of options through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Or, you can transfer your points to partners like United Airlines or World of Hyatt to potentially get even more value.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Earn extra points for travel and dining purchases

  • Many different purchases count as travel spending, which makes earning rewards easier

  • Several valuable ways to use points, including transfers to partner loyalty programs

  • Jam-packed with valuable travel credit and travel insurance benefits

Cons
  • Massive annual fee

  • High ongoing APR

Highlights:
  • Receive 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Get an annual $300 travel credit for eligible purchases charged to your card each anniversary year.
  • Earn 3 points on travel (excluding purchases eligible for the travel credit), restaurants, and dining. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
  • Points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase's Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Transfer points 1:1 to eligible Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partner programs.

Read the full Chase Sapphire Reserve Card review

Best for United Airlines : United Explorer Card


Our Rating Among Airline Cards
4.2
United℠ Explorer Card
Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.49% - 23.49% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, eligible delivery services, on hotel stays, and on United purchases. Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card:
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card:

Frequent United Airlines flyers can easily rack up high-value miles with this superior airline card. You’ll get 2 miles per $1 you spend with United and at restaurants and hotels. And the miles—worth an average 2.19 cents apiece, according to our calculations—are among the most valuable for a domestic airline. Plus, this card has an excellent line-up of travel perks such as airport lounge passes and free checked bags.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Miles are worth more than most other major U.S. airline's, according to our calculations

  • Lots of great travel perks, such as lounge passes and free checked bags

  • Extra miles can be earned on more than just flight purchases

Cons
  • Annual fee is waived the first year, but it’s still a notable cost

Highlights:
  • 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Earn another 10,000 bonus miles by spending a total of $6,000 in the first 6 months.
  • Get 2 United Club one-time passes each anniversary year.
  • Save up to $140 per roundtrip with a free checked bag for you and a travel companion on the same reservation.
  • Get 25% back as a statement credit on inflight United purchases.

Read the full United Explorer Card review

Best With Annual Fee Under $100 : Chase Sapphire Preferred


Our Rating Among Airline Cards
3.9
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Current Offer

Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2X points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card:
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card:

If you can’t stomach a higher annual fee but want to rack up rewards on flights, add this quality travel card to add to your wallet. You’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases, and there’s a very generous new-cardholder bonus, too. Spend $4,000 within three months to earn 100,000 points worth at least $1,250 when redeemed for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. We found you can squeeze even more value out of the rewards by transferring them to a partner travel loyalty program, such as United Mileage Plus or JetBlue TrueBlue. This card also packs a punch when it comes to travel perks despite only charging a $95 annual fee. Frequent flyers will especially appreciate the lost luggage and trip delay, cancellation, and interruption benefits.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Good bonus compared to other travel cards with similar annual fees

  • Option to transfer points to eligible airline and hotel programs, often at a 1-to-1 ratio

  • Points are pretty valuable when redeemed for travel

    Some premium travel insurance benefits

Cons
  • No credits to cover incidental airline fees or other travel-related costs

  • Few everyday purchase categories earn extra points

Highlights:
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards(R). Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards(R). For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022.
  • Transfer points 1:1 to eligible Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partner programs.
  • With Pay Yourself Back(SM), your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.

Read the full Chase Sapphire Preferred review

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


Our Rating Among Airline Cards
3.4
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
Current Offer

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 24.99% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $99
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases. Plus 1 mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card:
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card:

The Platinum Select offers the best long-term value for American Airlines enthusiasts. You’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines flights. Even better, the miles are some of the most valuable among the major airline rewards programs, according to our calculations. The bonus alone—earned if you spend $2,500 within your first three months with the card—is worth $1,130. In addition, you and four companions on your reservation will receive your first checked bag free.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Lets you earn extra miles on gas and restaurant purchases

  • Miles are worth more than any other domestic airline’s, according to The Balance’s research

  • Excellent bonus with a more reasonable spending requirement than competitor deals

  • Free checked bag benefit can easily make up for annual fee cost

Cons
  • Few extra travel benefits, unlike other airline cards

Highlights:
  • Get 50,000 miles after making $2,500 in purchases during the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines credit if you make at least $20,000 in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fee.
  • Get a free checked bag on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and four companions on your reservation.

Read the full Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard review

Best for Delta Air Lines : Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card


Our Rating Among Airline Cards
3.5
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Card
Current Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion(R) Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.74% - 24.74% variable
Annual Fee $250
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets, and 1X on other purchases. Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost(R). Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus MQMs to help you reach Medallion Status.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card:
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card:

When it comes to Delta cards, this one brings serious value, even with its $250 annual fee. You’ll earn 3 miles per $1 spent with Delta and on direct hotel bookings, as well as 2 miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. Additional benefits include an annual companion ticket for a main cabin domestic flight (just pay taxes and fees), a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, and a free first checked bag for you and up to eight travelers on your reservation.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Generous rewards rate on Delta flights

  • Ways to earn extra miles on everyday expenses, not just Delta flights

  • Perks such as free checked bags and a Global Entry/TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement

Cons
  • Annual fee is higher than most other mid-level airline cards

  • Fee to enter Delta Sky Club lounges makes for a relatively stingy airport lounge perk

Highlights:
  • 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 MQMs after spending $2,000 within the first three months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • As a benefit of Card Membership, you can check your first bag free on Delta flights booked with your Card. You can save up to $60 on a round-trip Delta flight per person. For a family of four that's a potential savings of up to $240 per round-trip flight.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry–on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ with enrollment

Read the full Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card review

Best With No Annual Fee : Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card


Our Rating Among Airline Cards
3.1
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Current Offer

Earn 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.49% - 25.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Months
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card:
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card:

You don’t need to pay a hefty annual fee to start earning miles in a program that offers plenty of flexibility. You’ll earn 1.25 miles for every $1 you spend. You can transfer your miles to 15 airline and hotel partners, or redeemed for a cent apiece as a statement credit against travel expenses or by booking trips through the card’s rewards center. As an added bonus, this card does not charge a foreign transaction fee, unlike some competitors without an annual fee.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Simple and predictable rewards

  • Rare option (for a no-annual-fee card) to transfer miles to eligible airline and hotel partner programs

  • Flexible redemption options

  • Travel insurance not common with a no-annual-fee card

Cons
  • Low rewards-earning rate

  • Limited number of travel partners, especially U.S. airlines

Highlights:
  • 1.25X miles on all purchases. Earn unlimited miles with no caps.
  • Earn 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Use miles as a statement credit against any airline or hotel booking with no blackout dates. Or, transfer miles to eligible travel loyalty programs.
  • Enjoy an introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 months.

Read the full Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review

Best for Southwest Airlines : Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card


Our Rating Among Airline Cards
2.6
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Current Offer

Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining purchases at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, in the first year.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $149
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest(R) purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card:
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card:

Besides rewards points on travel, Southwest fans will get several valuable perks with this card: four upgraded boarding positions per year, travel accident and lost luggage insurance, and a $75 annual credit toward Southwest purchases, to start. Best of all: If you travel enough, you’ll recoup the cost of the annual fee just with the travel credit and the 7,500 points you’ll get on your anniversary each year.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Nice array of travel perks such as bonus points after your cardmember anniversary and seat upgrades

  • Yearly reimbursement for travel spending recoups half of the annual fee cost

  • Earn rewards that will help you reach A-List status faster, which comes with extra perks and points per flight

Cons
  • No extra points on everyday, non-travel purchases

Highlights:
  • Earn Companion Pass(R) through 2/28/2022 plus 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Get 7,500 bonus points each year after you pay our annual fee.
  • Get $75 worth of Southwest travel credits every year you're a cardholder.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fee.
  • With Companion Pass(R), every time you fly, your friend can too.

Read the full Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card review

Best For Travelers Who Prefer Cash Back : HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard®


Our Rating Among Airline Cards
2.5
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard®
Current Offer

Earn an Introductory 3% Cash Back on all purchases in the first 12 months from Account opening, up to the first $10,000 in purchases. 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn an introductory 3% cash back on $10,000 in purchases made during the first 12 months of account opening. 1.5% cash back thereafter.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Months
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card:
  • Pros & Cons:
  • Highlights:
Why We Chose This Card:

Earning cash back that you can put toward flights is easy with this no-annual-fee card. You'll get unlimited 1.5% back on every purchase, so there are no bonus categories or earning limits to keep track of. The unusual welcome bonus essentially doubles your earnings on the first $10,000 spent after opening the card, too. It doesn't come with some of the travel perks that are easy to find on an airline-branded card, but there are a couple of nice insurance benefits, and no foreign transaction fee if you use it while traveling outside the U.S.

Pros & Cons:
Pros
  • Superb bonus that doubles the already-solid rewards earning rate on eligible purchases during the first year

  • 0% APR deals give you a full year to pay off purchases and balance transfers

  • Includes cellphone insurance coverage, which is uncommon

Cons
  • No short-term new cardholder bonus for those seeking a quick stash of cash back

  • Above-average balance transfer fee can chip away at the cost savings of moving large balances to this card

Highlights:
  • 1.5% Unlimited Cash Back – on all purchases after the intro period
  • No Annual Fee
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Read the full HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® review

Compare the Best Airline Credit Cards

Credit Card Category Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Best Overall  $550
United Explorer Card Best for United Airlines $0 for the first year, then $95
Chase Sapphire Preferred Best With Annual Fee Under $100 $95
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard Best for American Airlines $0 for the first year, then $99
Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card Best for Delta Air Lines $250
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card Best With No Annual Fee $0
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card Best for Southwest Airlines $149
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard Best for Travelers Who Prefer Cash Back $0

FAQs

What Is an Airline Credit Card & How Does it Work?

Airline cards are co-branded with a major airline, such as Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, or American Airlines. They let you earn frequent flyer miles or points on every dollar you spend on the card, with extra miles given for purchases made through that particular airline. Some general travel cards also highly reward airline ticket purchases and offer robust travel reward redemption options, so we considered them for this list, too.

Miles or points can be redeemed for flights, seat upgrades, and even other travel expenses, like hotel stays. Most airline cards also offer high-value bonuses to new cardholders who spend a certain amount within a few months of opening their account. The best cards award bonuses large enough to book a round-trip plane ticket. 

Many airline cards also offer extra airline and travel benefits, like free checked bags, early boarding privileges, and discounts on in-flight purchases. Premium cards may include lounge access and various types of travel insurance. 

Do You Need an Airline Credit Card?

Pros
  • Easy way to earn frequent flyer miles

  • Valuable bonuses for new cardholders

  • Airline privileges (e.g., early boarding or free checked bags)

  • Travel insurance perks

  • Travel discounts or statement credits offered with select cards

Cons
  • Limited flexibility with airline-branded cards

  • Good or excellent credit required

  • High APRs

  • Complex airline reward program rules

  • Annual fees on the most valuable cards

How Should You Compare Airline Cards?

Pay attention to these card details to select the best airline card for you

New cardholder bonus: Use our mile valuations (below) to determine which card offers more value right off the bat. Multiply the number of miles in the bonus by the per-mile value (i.e., 1.3 cents-per-mile value x 50,000 bonus miles = $650 value). Also, based on your normal monthly spend, does one card have a more attainable spending requirement than another?

Annual fee: Benefits can offset annual fees (typically between $95 and $450), but If you don’t care about extra airline or travel perks, don’t open a card with an annual fee. 

Airline flight options: If you’re considering a co-branded airline card, but aren’t near a major airline hub city (like Atlanta for Delta or Denver for United), how often can you fly the airline, based on desired departure and arrival locations? For general travel cards, can you easily redeem (or transfer) the points for flights on a variety of airlines? 

Extra rewards: If you don’t already have a good everyday rewards card, consider an airline card that will earn miles on non-travel purchases, like groceries and gas. In some cases, a general travel card may offer more flexible rewards earning options. 

Additional benefits: An airline card will be more valuable if you use the benefits it provides, like free checked bags, TSA Precheck/Global Entry application fee reimbursement, or free airport lounge access. 

Given those considerations, here’s another look at the cards we think are best for a variety of air travelers:

What Are Airline Miles Worth?

Average mile value data can help you gauge whether or not an airline card bonus (or flight) is actually a good deal. 

Our point valuations may be more realistic for you than other website valuations.
There’s more than one way to use airline miles to save on air travel, so we included more than one type of flight in our value calculations. Our average per-mile value data includes one-way economy and first-class (or the equivalent classifications) ticket prices for domestic and international flights from 18 airlines. The flights follow popular routes for each airline, with departures one to five months out to account for trip planners and last minute flight shoppers. We do not factor in fuel surcharges when determining value.

Here's our analysis of average airline-mile value for major U.S. carriers:

  • United Airlines (MileagePlus): 2.19 cents
  • American Airlines (AAdvantage): 2.26 cents
  • Delta Air Lines (SkyMiles): 1.54 cents
  • Southwest (Rapid Rewards): 1.45 cents
  • JetBlue (TrueBlue): 1.43 cents
  • Alaska Airlines (Mileage Plan): 0.85 cents

Can You Transfer Miles?

Most airline frequent flier programs don’t permit transfers between one another, even if the airlines are in the same alliance. There are numerous international airline alliances, but the biggest ones with major U.S. airlines are: Star Alliance (United), OneWorld (American Airlines), and SkyTeam (Delta). 

However, within these groups, you can typically earn miles by flying one airline and redeem them for flights on another. For example, Delta SkyMiles may be used for flights on Air France and Virgin Atlantic in the SkyTeam alliance. 

Note

Points earning and redemption levels on partner airlines may vary, depending on the partner. 

How Can You Maximize Airline Card Rewards?

Each rewards program has its own rules, but to maximize airline card rewards overall, follow these tips: 

  1. Don’t make reservations through a third-party agent or website. Book all flights directly with the airline or rewards portal.
  2. Airline miles are usually most valuable when used to book flights or other travel reservations. You may see options to redeem rewards for merchandise or gift cards, but they are often a worse value. 
  3. Watch for loyalty program opportunities to earn extra miles or score discounted flight tickets.
  4. Pair with another card that earns rewards on everyday expenses if the airline card lacks earning options.
  5. Book travel companions on your reservation so they can enjoy many of the airline benefits you do.
  6. Connect your frequent-flyer account to your card to access all loyalty perks.

Important

Should You Get a No-Annual-Fee Airline Card?

Most airline cards charge annual fees, but people who travel just a few times each year can easily recoup that cost. For example, most airlines charge $30 for a checked bag, each way. If a card offers one free checked bag each way, but charges a $95 annual fee, it only takes two round trips to make up the fee cost. No-annual-fee airline cards usually lack valuable benefits, like free checked bags, and come with low-value bonuses for new cardholders.

If you prefer a card with no annual fee, we recommend a cash-back credit card with no annual fee, instead.

Methodology

We collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances. We do this because it's our mission to give you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews.

Our reviews are always impartial. No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive.

About This List

We reviewed more than 50 airline-specific and general travel rewards credit cards to find the very best airline cards, and these cards made the cut.

What We Score

Cards with big bonuses, flexible rewards programs, valuable miles, and better benefits receive better scores. Airline cards with low miles value, few perks, and limited transfer options receive lower scores accordingly. For more information about how The Balance evaluates credit cards, see our full credit card review methodology

Compare the Best Airline Credit Cards

Looking to compare credit airline credit cards? Here are the top 50 of more than 300 cards that we considered when compiling our best airline credit card list. 

Our annual rewards value is calculated using Bureau of Labor Statistics and other source data to estimate how much the average consumer would earn each year as a cardholder. The annual fee is deducted from the rewards estimate, and any ongoing reimbursement credits a card may offer are added in. A card with low rewards-earning rates may receive a negative value after the annual fee is deducted. 

Airline Rewards Credit Cards
Card Name Annual Fee Rewards Annual Rewards Value Estimate
Chase Sapphire Reserve $550 Earn 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $602
The Platinum Card from American Express $695 5X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. $322
United Explorer Card $0 for the first year, then $95 Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. $622
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card $400 Earn 3X points for every $1 on eligible net travel purchases and mobile wallet spending. $370
Citi Prestige $495 Earn 5 points per dollar at airlines, travel agencies, and restaurants, 3 points per dollar at hotels and cruise lines, and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. $407
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card $450 Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy(TM) program. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases. $601
United Club Infinite Card $525 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on dining at restaurants and all other travel, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases. $383
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450 Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on other purchases. $146
Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card $550 Earn 3 miles per $1 spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile per $1 on other eligible purchases. -$39
Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card $250 Earn 3 miles per dollar spent directly with Delta, 2 miles per dollar at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases. $338
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card $95 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. $377
Citi  AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard $0 for the first year, then $99 Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases. Plus 1 mile for every $1 spent on other purchases. $639
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card $0 for the first year, then $95 Earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase. $462
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard credit card $395 3 points on travel, 2 points on dining, and 1 point on all other purchases. $177
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard $99 Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1X miles for every dollar spent on all other purchases. $497
American Express Green Card $150 Earn 3 points per $1 spent on eligible travel and at restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. $452
Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card $95 Earn unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. $418
HSBC Premier World Mastercard credit card $0 first year, then up-to $95 depending on banking relationship 2 points on travel and 1 point on all other purchases $310
British Airways Visa Signature Card $95 Earn 5 Avios for every $1 spent British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia flight purchases within the first 12 months from account opening, thereafter earn 3 Avios. Earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on hotel accommodations within the first 12 months from account opening, thereafter earn 2 Avios. Earn 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases. $593
World of Hyatt Credit Card $95 Earn 4X points for Hyatt stays, 2x for eligible transit, restaurants, gym memberships, and airfare purchased directly from the airline. 1x on other purchases. $597
American Express Gold Card $250 Earn 4 points per $1 spent at restaurants and at US supermarkets (up-to $25,000 per year). 3 points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. 1 point per $1 on other eligible purchases. $558
U.S. Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express Card $85 3 points per dollar at restaurants, 2 points per dollar at airlines and gas stations, 1 point per dollar on everyday spend. $553
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card $95 Earn 6X points for every $1 spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2X points everywhere else. $579
JetBlue Plus Card $99 Earn 6X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1X points on all other purchases. $503
Citi Premier $95 Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations, 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $312
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card $0 Earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase. $312
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card $149 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $323
Mastercard Black Card $495 Earn 1 point per dollar on all purchases. -$127
Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card $0 Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, transit, for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals, as well as popular streaming services. Earn 1X points on other purchases. $421
Delta SkyMiles Gold Card $0 for the first year, then $99 Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta, at restaurants, and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn one mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases. $441
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card $450 14 points per $1 for eligible Hilton purchases. 7 points per $1 on eligible flight, car rental, and U.S. restaurant purchases. 3 points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. $544
Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card $0 Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere. $364
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard $0 intro annual fee the first year, then $99 Earn 3x miles on eligible Hawaiian Airlines purchases. 2x miles on gas, dining and grocery store purchases. 1x miles on all other purchases. $465
Iberia Visa Signature Card $95 Earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on Iberia, British Airways, and on Aer Lingus flight purchases, 2 Avios for every $1 spent on hotel accommodations, and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases. $509
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card $0 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. $364
Aer Lingus Visa Signature card $95 Earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on Iberia, British Airways, and on Aer Lingus flight purchases, 2 Avios for every $1 spent on hotel accommodations, and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases. $509
Chase Freedom Unlimited $0 Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on restaurants and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on everything else. $364
Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard $79 Earn 3 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per $1 spent with Amtrak, 2 points on other qualifying travel purchases,1 point spent on all other purchases. $600
Discover it Miles $0 Earn unlimited 1.5 miles for every dollar spent. $364
USAA Rewards Visa Signature Card $0 Get 2X points on dining and gas, and 1X points for every dollar spent on other purchases. $309
Avianca Vuela Visa Card $149 Earn 3 LifeMiles per $1 spent on Avianca purchases , 2 per $1 spent at gas stations and grocery stores, and 1 per $1 spent on all other purchases $579
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card $0 Earn 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, streaming services and groceries, and 1% on all other purchases. $357
Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card $95 Earn 3 points per $1 at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year. Earn 2 points at US gas stations, and 1 point on other purchases. $328
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard $0 Earn an Introductory 3% Cash Back on $10,000 in purchases made during the first 12 months of account opening. 1.5% cash back thereafter. $364
Amex EveryDay Credit Card $0 Earn 2 points per $1 at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year. Earn 1 point per $1 for other eligible purchases. $173
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card $0 Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases. $396
Mastercard Gold Card $995 Earn one point for every dollar you spend. -$527
PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card $0 Earn 1.5% Cash Back on all purchases made with your card, and 2% Total Cash Back for PenFed Honors Advantage Members. $364
American Express Cash Magnet Card $0 1.5% cash back on your purchases. $364