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What are the Best Airline Miles Credit Cards of 2019?

Find the Best Credit Card for You

What kind of card do you want?

What's your credit score?

After reviewing 200 airline and travel credit cards, our team of analysts came up with a list of the best cards for earning free flights. For most people, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best airline credit card because it offers a mix of industry-leading rewards, with versatility that makes it great for casual users and frequent flyers. Some consumers who are loyal to a particular airline or face specific circumstances will be better served by a more niche card, which is why we also broke down recommendations for other popular consumer categories:

Recommended Card

Best ForCredit NeededAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardOverall Best ChoiceExcellent$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® MilesNo Annual FeeGood/Excellent$0
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American ExpressDeltaExcellent$195
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardSouthwest AirlinesGood/Excellent$99
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®American AirlinesGood/Excellent$99 ($0 first year)
United℠ Explorer CardUnited AirlinesExcellent$95 ($0 first year)
AeroMexico Visa Secured CardBad CreditPoor$25

Recommended Card

Best ForAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardOverall Best Choice$95 ($0 first year)
Discover it® MilesNo Annual Fee$0
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American ExpressDelta$195
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardSouthwest Airlines$99
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®American Airlines$99 ($0 first year)
United℠ Explorer CardUnited Airlines$95 ($0 first year)
AeroMexico Visa Secured CardBad Credit$25

In-Depth Reviews of The Best Airline Credit Cards

Here we'll go over our justifications for why each card would maximize your miles or free flight options depending on the airlines you fly. We've also shared important notes you should be aware of that came from hours evaluating each card for different spending profiles and scenarios.

Best Overall Airline Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is this years' pick for best airline credit card, due to its excellent rewards rate on travel and dining purchases (2.5% vs an industry average of 2%) and fantastic ongoing benefits (travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees). Get this card if you prefer to shop around for the best flights, rather than stay loyal to just one airline.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is also part of the best credit card rewards program, Ultimate Rewards. What makes it so good is that cardholders have the option to either book airline tickets or hotel stays directly through Chase's website or transfer their points at a generous 1:1 ratio to any of the 11 participating airline and hotel programs. The list includes United Airlines, British Airways and Southwest . No other credit card program comes with the same level of versatility and high value. Finally, you can get a best-in-class bonus (50k points) if you spend $4,000 on the card within the first 3 months of account opening.

There is a better luxury version of this card, called the Chase Sapphire Reserve® that we believe is more valuable for frequent flyers. That card comes with a high $450 annual fee and gives users access to premium perks. Benefits like airport lounge access, a $300 annual travel credit and TSA Pre largely offset the card's high annual fee. If you're after the most premium experience, get the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. For everyone else, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best miles credit card.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is this years' pick for best airline credit card, due to its excellent rewards rate on travel and dining purchases (2.5% vs an industry average of 2%) and fantastic ongoing benefits (travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees). Get this card if you prefer to shop around for the best flights, rather than stay loyal to just one airline.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is also part of the best credit card rewards program, Ultimate Rewards. What makes it so good is that cardholders have the option to either book airline tickets or hotel stays directly through Chase's website or transfer their points at a generous 1:1 ratio to any of the 11 participating airline and hotel programs. The list includes United Airlines, British Airways and Southwest . No other credit card program comes with the same level of versatility and high value. Finally, you can get a best-in-class bonus (50k points) if you spend $4,000 on the card within the first 3 months of account opening.

There is a better luxury version of this card, called the Chase Sapphire Reserve® that we believe is more valuable for frequent flyers. That card comes with a high $450 annual fee and gives users access to premium perks. Benefits like airport lounge access, a $300 annual travel credit and TSA Pre largely offset the card's high annual fee. If you're after the most premium experience, get the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. For everyone else, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best miles credit card.

Best No Annual Fee Miles Credit Card

The Discover it® Miles is our top pick for low spenders looking for the best features of an airline card without the yearly fee. Anyone spending less than $12,000 per year on their card should consider this over any other airline credit card. Unless you meet that $12k threshold, you'll end up paying more in fees for an airline cards than you'd get back in rewards. The Discover it® Miles is one of the few cards to provide users with miles without charging annual or FX fees for it. While these aren't traditional airline miles, you can still use them to pay for travel.

Finally, you should know that Discover is also running a great bonus where it will double all the miles you earned at the end of your first year. That effectively boosts this card's rewards rate to an excellent 3% for those first 12 months. With that rewards rate, it beats even some other airline credit cards on our list during that promotional period.

The Discover it® Miles is our top pick for low spenders looking for the best features of an airline card without the yearly fee. Anyone spending less than $12,000 per year on their card should consider this over any other airline credit card. Unless you meet that $12k threshold, you'll end up paying more in fees for an airline cards than you'd get back in rewards. The Discover it® Miles is one of the few cards to provide users with miles without charging annual or FX fees for it. While these aren't traditional airline miles, you can still use them to pay for travel.

Finally, you should know that Discover is also running a great bonus where it will double all the miles you earned at the end of your first year. That effectively boosts this card's rewards rate to an excellent 3% for those first 12 months. With that rewards rate, it beats even some other airline credit cards on our list during that promotional period.

Best Credit Card for Southwest Airlines

On Chase's Secure Website

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

On Chase's Secure Website
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 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
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions, Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 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
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions, Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
Annual Fee
$99
APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card comes with one of the highest airline mile bonuses we've seen, making it a must-have for frequent Southwest flyers. The card currently offers a 40,000 point bonus for spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening, plus another 20,000 points for spending $12,000 in the first year of account opening. (You can earn either or both.)

This is the third year in a row that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has made it onto our list of 'Best Airline Credit Cards'. While many cards shift their bonuses and features around, the Southwest card has remained a consistently great option throughout the years.

Southwest Airlines offers the best (and most difficult to earn) companion fare benefit of any carrier we've come across, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card can help you earn it. So long as you reach 110,000 miles within one year, you'll earn a companion ticket that you can keep reusing for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned it, plus the following year. That's a potential savings of hundreds per flight.

Companion fares are already rare enough, and airlines that do offer it will limit the use at one flight per year. Southwest is the only carrier to allow users to keep reusing it for multiple months. If you want to learn more, check out our analysis of the Southwest Companion Fare.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card comes with some of the highest airline mile bonuses we've seen, making it a must-have for frequent Southwest flyers. The only other card currently offered by the carrier is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card -- which offers a substantially lower anniversary bonus (3,000 miles vs 6,000). That difference in ongoing bonuses tips the math in favor of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, despite the card having a slightly higher annual fee ($99 vs $69).

This is the third year in a row that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has made it onto our list of 'Best Airline Credit Cards'. While many cards shift their bonuses and features around, the Southwest card has remained a consistently great option throughout the years.

Southwest Airlines offer the best (albeit difficult) companion fare benefit of any carrier we've come across, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card can help you earn it. So long as you reach 110,000 miles within one year, you'll earn a companion ticket that you can keep reusing for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned it, plus the following year. That's a potential savings of hundreds per flight.

Companion fares are already rare enough, and airlines that do offer it will limit the use at one flight per year. Southwest is the only carrier to allow users to keep reusing it for multiple months. If you want to learn more, check out our analysis of the Southwest Companion Fare.

Best American Airlines Card

On Citi's Secure Website

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

On Citi's Secure Website
40,000 AAdvantage® miles after making $2,000 in purchases in first 3 months
  • Earn up to 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles: 40,000 AAdvantage® miles after making $2,000 in purchases in first 3 months and 10,000 after making a total of $6,000 in purchases in first 12 months of account opening*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
  • Earn up to 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles: 40,000 AAdvantage® miles after making $2,000 in purchases in first 3 months and 10,000 after making a total of $6,000 in purchases in first 12 months of account opening*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
Annual Fee
$99, waived for first 12 months*
APR
17.99% - 25.99%* (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

American Airlines offers 5 co-branded cards, and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® stands out as a clear winner out of the bunch. It's the best credit card for earning AA miles and providing in-flight discounts. At the same time, it's reasonably priced -- costing just $99 per year (the annual fee is waived the first year). By contrast, other AA credit cards have annual fees as high as $450, and provide only incremental benefits that will be useful to fewer travelers.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is superior not just among AA cards, but also among many other co-branded airline credit cards. The card offers 2 miles per $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases. Most other airline cards don't give more than 1 mile in most of these categories. The high number of miles you can earn makes it easier to earn more free flights.

American Airlines offers 5 co-branded cards, and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® stands out as a clear winner out of the bunch. It's the best credit card for earning AA miles and providing in-flight discounts. At the same time, it's reasonably priced -- costing just $99 per year (the annual fee is waived the first year). By contrast, other AA credit cards have annual fees as high as $450, and provide only incremental benefits that will be useful to fewer travelers.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is superior not just among AA cards, but also among many other co-branded airline credit cards. The card offers 2 miles per $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases. Most other airline cards don't give more than 1 mile in most of these categories. The high number of miles you can earn makes it easier to earn more free flights.

Best Credit Card for Delta Air Lines

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in purchases within your first 3 months.
  • 70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $3,000 in three months
  • Get 2 miles for every dollar you spend on Delta purchases
  • Get 1 mile for any other type of purchase
  • Get your first bag checked for free
  • Pay an annual fee of $195
  • 70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $3,000 in three months
  • Get 2 miles for every dollar you spend on Delta purchases
  • Get 1 mile for any other type of purchase
  • Get your first bag checked for free
  • Pay an annual fee of $195
Annual Fee
$195
APR
17.49% - 26.49% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is one of the best SkyMiles-affiliated credit cards because it offers a lot of perks for a reasonable annual fee. The annual companion certificate easily makes up for the $195 annual fee on the card and, depending on how you use it, you can squeeze out hundreds of dollars worth of free flights each year on this perk alone. While there are other credit cards that come with a similar feature, companion passes found on other cards typically require you to cover part of the cost of the ticket.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express also uniquely helps you earn status faster, as the card earns bonus miles and Medallion Qualification Miles. You'll get two miles for every dollar spent on Delta purchases and one mile for every dollar spent elsewhere. Waiting at the airport becomes more comfortable with perks like priority boarding and free checked bags. If you're someone who flies first class frequently and really values a status upgrade, then you may want to consider the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express. Just be aware that the card packs a $450 annual fee.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is one of the best SkyMiles-affiliated credit cards because it offers a lot of perks for a reasonable annual fee. The annual companion certificate easily makes up for the $195 annual fee on the card and, depending on how you use it, you can squeeze out hundreds of dollars worth of free flights each year on this perk alone. While there are other credit cards that come with a similar feature, companion passes found on other cards typically require you to cover part of the cost of the ticket.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express also uniquely helps you earn status faster, as the card earns bonus miles and Medallion Qualification Miles. You'll get two miles for every dollar spent on Delta purchases and one mile for every dollar spent elsewhere. Waiting at the airport becomes more comfortable with perks like priority boarding and free checked bags. If you're someone who flies first class frequently and really values a status upgrade, then you may want to consider the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express. Just be aware that the card packs a $450 annual fee.

Best United Airlines Credit Card

On Chase's Secure Website

United℠ Explorer Card

On Chase's Secure Website
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Limited time offer! Earn up to 65,000 Bonus Miles.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Limited time offer! Earn up to 65,000 Bonus Miles.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for First Year, then $95
APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit

Out of the three United credit cards available, the United℠ Explorer Card hits a sweet spot that makes it best for most United travelers. It's not nearly as expensive as the United MileagePlus® Club Card ($95 vs $450 annual fee), though it still comes equipped with a rich set of features.

We favor the United℠ Explorer Card over the United MileagePlus® Club Card because the incremental half a mile more you earn with the latter is not worth its extra $355 in annual fees for the average United flyer. Our analysts calculate you'd have to spend over $50,000 annually in order to justify the yearly difference between the two.

It's worth noting that the United℠ Explorer Card currently offers an above-average welcome of 40,000 bonus miles with midline spending requirement. To be eligible, you'll have to spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, when most cards require anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 in the first quarter. That's enough to cover a round trip economy class ticket from New York to Los Angeles.

For a limited time, the card is also offering the ability to earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after spending a total of $10,000 on purchases within 6 months of opening an account.

Out of the three United credit cards available, the United℠ Explorer Card hits a sweet spot that makes it best for most United travelers. It's not nearly as expensive as the United MileagePlus® Club Card ($95 vs $450 annual fee), though it still comes equipped with a rich set of features.

We favor the United℠ Explorer Card over the United MileagePlus® Club Card because the incremental half a mile more you earn with the latter is not worth its extra $355 in annual fees for the average United flyer. Our analysts calculate you'd have to spend over $50,000 annually in order to justify the yearly difference between the two.

It's worth noting that the United℠ Explorer Card currently offers an above-average welcome of 40,000 bonus miles with midline spending requirement. To be eligible, you'll have to spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, when most cards require anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 in the first quarter. That's enough to cover a round trip economy class ticket from New York to Los Angeles.

For a limited time, the card is also offering the ability to earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after spending a total of $10,000 on purchases within 6 months of opening an account.

Best Alaska Airlines Card

On Bank of America's Secure Website

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

On Bank of America's Secure Website
  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
Annual Fee
$75
APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
Good

Out of the 22 co-brand airline cards we studied, none performed as well as the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card. This was the most rewarding frequent flyer card across most of the metrics we surveyed. It has a high everyday rewards rate (1.8% compared to industry-standard 1%), provides an annual companion fare worth hundreds of dollars, and free checked bag benefits on Alaska Air flights (for up to 6 passengers).

Alaska Airlines also has a wide range of international airline partners, increasing the utility of the miles you earn. You can use Alaska miles to book flights with Aer Lingus, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Korean Air and more. On top of that, Alaska recently purchased Virgin America further expanding the number of airports it can service.

Even if you don’t fly with Alaska Airlines frequently, this card is worth getting exclusively for the aforementioned companion fare. This is an extremely valuable and rare airline card benefit. For $99 (plus taxes and fees) you can book a second Alaska Air ticket at no additional cost.

Take, for example, a flight from New York City to Los Angeles. Such a flight ordinarily costs $450 dollars per ticket. If you use a companion fare, your friend, significant other or family member can fly with you for next to nothing.

Out of the 22 co-brand airline cards we studied, none performed as well as the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card. This was the most rewarding frequent flyer card across most of the metrics we surveyed. It has a high everyday rewards rate (1.8% compared to industry-standard 1%), provides an annual companion fare worth hundreds of dollars, and free checked bag benefits on Alaska Air flights (for up to 6 passengers).

Alaska Airlines also has a wide range of international airline partners, increasing the utility of the miles you earn. You can use Alaska miles to book flights with Aer Lingus, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Korean Air and more. On top of that, Alaska recently purchased Virgin America further expanding the number of airports it can service.

Even if you don’t fly with Alaska Airlines frequently, this card is worth getting exclusively for the aforementioned companion fare. This is an extremely valuable and rare airline card benefit. For $99 (plus taxes and fees) you can book a second Alaska Air ticket at no additional cost.

Take, for example, a flight from New York City to Los Angeles. Such a flight ordinarily costs $450 dollars per ticket. If you use a companion fare, your friend, significant other or family member can fly with you for next to nothing.

Best Airline Credit Card for Bad Credit

On US Bank's Secure Website

AeroMexico Visa Secured Card

On US Bank's Secure Website
3,500 First Use Bonus Miles plus Complimentary Companion Certificate
  • Double miles on gas and groceries
  • One mile per $1 spent on eligible net purchases
  • 3,500 first use bonus miles plus Complimentary Companion Certificate
  • $99 Companion Certificate with renewal
  • Complimentary Baggage
  • Double miles on gas and groceries
  • One mile per $1 spent on eligible net purchases
  • 3,500 first use bonus miles plus Complimentary Companion Certificate
  • $99 Companion Certificate with renewal
  • Complimentary Baggage
Annual Fee
$25
APR
24.74%
Credit Needed
Poor

The AeroMexico Visa Secured Card is available to people with less-than-stellar credit histories, and offers a decent set of airline benefits at the same time. If you have bad credit there aren't many airline credit cards you can qualify for, so this card is a rare gem. The AeroMexico Visa Secured Card provides its users with the types of perks usually reserved for cards open to people with good credit, like a competitive 2% rewards rate on Aeromexico airfare purchases, free checked bags and an annual $99 companion certificate -- all for a relatively low annual fee of $25.

While Aeromexico predominantly flies around North and South America, it's part of the SkyTeam airline alliance. That means you can use all the miles you earn to book flights on 20 different airlines, including Delta, KLM and Air France.

The AeroMexico Visa Secured Card is available to people with less-than-stellar credit histories, and offers a decent set of airline benefits at the same time. If you have bad credit there aren't many airline credit cards you can qualify for, so this card is a rare gem. The AeroMexico Visa Secured Card provides its users with the types of perks usually reserved for cards open to people with good credit, like a competitive 2% rewards rate on Aeromexico airfare purchases, free checked bags and an annual $99 companion certificate -- all for a relatively low annual fee of $25.

While Aeromexico predominantly flies around North and South America, it's part of the SkyTeam airline alliance. That means you can use all the miles you earn to book flights on 20 different airlines, including Delta, KLM and Air France.

Compare Airline Credit Cards

If you're looking for a specific airline credit card that we may not have mentioned in our top list, we've created a handy tool that lets you compare airline credit cards. Take a look at how rewards with each card performs specifically for you by inputting your expenses.

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Assumptions based on $1,430 monthly spend
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{"cardCategory":"rewards","cardIds":"257,1095,256,203,199,1012,213,204,198,196,202,1044,166","initialResultsLimit":14,"endpoint":"https:\/\/creditcards.valuepenguin.com\/api\/creditcards\/models\/rewards","onCurrent":"true"}

We collected a series of questions that users frequently have when getting a new credit card. If you don't see your question answered here, send us an e-mail at [email protected] and someone from our team will get back to you.

What credit card gives the best flight points?

Our research shows that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has the best rewards program for earning flight points and miles. Out of all the credit card rewards programs, Chase Ultimate Rewards provides the best transfer options — you can move your miles at 1:1 to any of the 9 airline partners including Southwest, United and Singapore Airlines.

Which airline has the best frequent flyer program?

For most travelers, the Alaska Airlines rewards program will provide the best value. Its miles are worth, on average, $0.018 which is a lot higher than competitors like Delta or American Airlines. Alaska also has a decent assortment of domestic and international destinations, especially now that it has acquired Virgin America.

Are airline credit cards worth it?

Airline credit cards are worth it for people who travel at least 2 to 3 times per year. Most of the top-tier miles cards charge an annual fee. However, if you're able to pay for one ticket with miles and points that's a net savings of hundreds of dollars.

Which airline credit card is the easiest to get approved for?

Unfortunately, most airline credit cards require good or excellent credit. If you have a low credit score (below 650), we recommend applying for one of the U.S. Bank secured credit cards, like Aeromexico. If you have a FICO score above 720 and a solid credit history, you shouldn't have trouble getting approved for the cards we recommend above.

What is the 5/24 rule for credit cards?

Chase may automatically decline if you have opened five or more personal credit cards (across all banks) in the last 24 months. This is generally referred to as the "5/24 Rule". The rule is not official and has not been announced by Chase. Instead, everything we know about it comes from multiple user reports. Keep in mind that this is just one factor in a credit decision — you may be declined for a credit card if you don't meet the minimum credit score, credit history or income requirements. These are the cards which are reportedly subject to the 5/24 rule:

  • Chase Freedom
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Ink Business Cash Credit Card
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase Slate
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
  • Starbucks Rewards Visa Card
  • United MileagePlus Club Card
  • United MileagePlus Club Business Card
  • United MileagePlus Explorer Card
  • United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

Our team went through 65 airline credit cards, and 135 general travel cards to arrive at our seven recommendations above. We arrived at our sample by collecting credit card details from America's 10 largest credit card issuers, including Citibank, Chase, Capital One and Discover. We also considered recommendations left for us by users, as well as those frequently appearing on other review sites. We then proceeded to cut through our exhaustive list, based on rigorous criteria established by our team. This was done by determining a minimum set of requirements that a good airline card ought to fulfill, like having no foreign transaction fees or a high rewards rate. We detail the criteria below.

Finally, to truly study airline credit cards we needed to have a deep understanding of each card's frequent flyer program. That's why our team also looked into factors like how easy it is to redeem miles, their value, award seat availability, the prevalence of blackout dates, and transferability. That last factor was scored based on an airline's partnerships and alliances, which allow users to book free flights across more than just one frequent flyer program.

The Selection Criteria

Rewards rate greater than 3% Our first step was to eliminate any credit card that provided consumers less than a 3% return on travel or airfare purchases. Cardholders that typically get approved for airline credit cards have good-to-excellent credit scores, and in this subcategory of rewards cards that '3%' mark is what we consider the cream of the crop. The only exception to this rule are no-annual-fee cards. For these, consumers should expect to get at least 1.5%-2% back on their purchases.

Loyalty bonuses We gave strong preference to co-branded cards that provide cardholders with extra incentives, like priority boarding, free checked bag benefits or in-flight meals. If you're going to subscribe to a particular airline's credit card, you should expect something extra for that loyalty, beyond the standard elevated rewards rate (which you could get from a regular rewards credit card).

No foreign transaction fees A top-notch airline credit card shouldn't charge any foreign transaction fees. It's standard for most cards to impose a 3% fee anytime you use them outside of the United States. However, cards that are geared towards travel should waive such fees.

Companion fares Out of all the perks you'll find on airline credit cards, companion fares are often the most valuable — easily worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, each year. That's why we gave strong preference to any credit card that awarded such a benefit. Companion fares are similar to a "buy-one-get-one-free" promotion with minimal costs. They're fantastic for people that travel with two or more people, like couples of families.

Transferability and Airline Alliances. We value airline cards that allow users to do more than just one thing with their points. Most good credit card and airline rewards programs should provide users with the ability to use their miles with no less than 5 other airline programs. The best airline cards should also provide the ability to use your miles in other ways, like cash back, without incurring much—if any—penalty. These added options increase the utility of your card, and allow you to cash out your points/miles even if you don't plan to take a trip with one particular airline.

That's why for our list, we also gave preference to credit cards whose airlines belong to one of the 3 major airline alliances — Skyteam, Oneworld and Star Alliance. These alliances allow you to book airfare with 20, 13 and 27 different carriers, respectively.

Top Rated Miles Cards that Did Not Make the Cut

In our search for the leading airline credit cards, we had to cut some otherwise great credit cards. In the five years we've been researching credit cards, the rewards market has never been as competitive as it is today. While these are all excellent cards for earning miles, they had one or two flaws or restrictions that stopped us from recommending them.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This is the best luxury credit card on the market, and offers fantastic rewards. However, most people looking for a top-notch airline credit card might not value all the extra bells and whistles that come with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (like the airport lounges). That's why we still recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card over the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card: This is another high-value airline credit card, though heavy fuel surcharges on airfare make it a tough recommendation. Many frequent flyers are frustrated by the fact that they have to pay hundreds of dollars in added fees when they book their "free" award tickets. This recently lead to a lawsuit, which resulted in a settlement. While the card itself is fantastic, the mileage program surrounding it kept it off our list.

JetBlue Plus Card: JetBlue offers a solid credit card for their customers, with perks like a 10% rebate on all redeemed TrueBlue points and free checked bag benefits. This is also one of the few cards to provide a way to earn elite status with the affiliated airline. You can earn JetBlue Mosaic elite status when you spend $50,000 on the card per year (a tall order for most). Ultimately, the card isn't as good when we compare it to another domestic airline offers like Southwest. The latter provides better ongoing bonuses (6,000 miles every year) that can help cardholders earn more free flights. The JetBlue Airlines credit card doesn't have the same long-term value.

Anyone who carries a balance month-to-month should apply for a low-interest credit card, instead of an airline one. Otherwise, we calculate that you'll end up paying significantly more in interest charges than you'll get back in value through miles. For example, while the best airline credit cards can give you as much as a 5% return on your spending, you'll have to pay about 15% in interest to carry a balance.

Also, individuals with a credit score below 680 won't get approved for most of airline credit cards (outside of the ones we've specifically said are good for individuals with bad credit). Most cards affiliated with an airline carrier unfortunately require you to have an excellent credit score.

We also recommend that you don't bother applying for an airline credit card if you spend less than $1,000 per month on your card. If that describes you, we strongly recommend you look into getting a no annual fee credit card instead. Some no fee cards come with fantastic travel perks, so you can still use them to pay for things like airline tickets. While they won't be as valuable as co-branded or generic travel cards, a no fee card provides the best net rewards for individuals spending less than $1,000. Otherwise, you’ll be paying a hefty fee each year but unable to earn enough rewards to make it worthwhile.

Assuming you pass the above-mentioned criteria, most consumers will be best off with a generic travel rewards credit card. We recommend this option for most people because it provides you with a combination of extremely good value and versatility, and lets you use your rewards towards airlines and more. Say, for example, you sign up for a travel card and decide one year that you won't take any long-distance vacations. You can still use a travel card to pay for things like car rentals, hotel stays or even just cash back. A credit card tied to a specific airline will only be useful if you fly frequently with that airline.

Those of you who find themselves always traveling with the same carrier multiple times per year should look into a credit card specifically tied to that airline. While co-branded cards are restrictive, they also tend to provide the highest value. If you always travel with the same airline anyway, that restrictiveness we mention won't matter to you anyway. We don't recommend co-branded cards for casual travelers who shop around for the cheapest price across multiple airlines rather than by airline. However, if you're a diehard American Airlines customer, or live in a hub that AA dominates, then an AA credit card would suit you best.

Robert Harrow

Robert is the head of the Credit Card vertical at ValuePenguin and has been covering the card industry since 2014. His work has been featured in Reuters, Marketwatch, the New York Times and more.

Comments and Questions

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Info about the following cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, and Amazon Business American Express Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).