7 Best Airline Credit Cards of December 2021

7 Best Airline Credit Cards of December 2021

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is one of the best airlines cards, because it lets you earn valuable SkyMiles at a quick rate, plus you get great airline benefits like free baggage.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Citi is an advertising partner.

Top credit cards for airline miles 2021

Best for Delta Airlines

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. On American Express' Secure Website

Best for Southwest Airlines

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

On Chase's Secure Website

Best for United Airlines

United℠ Explorer Card

On Chase's Secure Website

Selecting a credit card based on your expenses and travel needs is essential to maximizing the airline miles credit card you choose. Each airline offers one or more credit cards that offer ways to earn points and miles with their respective loyalty program. Some cards even offer exclusive perks, such as statement credits, free checked bags and early boarding. The best airline card for you depends on where your loyalty lies and if you’ll travel enough to use the benefits provided by the card.

Best airline credit card for Delta Airlines

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. On American Express' Secure Website

40,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.

15.74%-24.74% Variable

660 - 850

  • Earn 40,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • $100 Delta Flight Credit: After you spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, receive a Credit to use toward future travel.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.

Our thoughts on this card

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is the best credit card for airline miles through the Delta SkyMiles program, as it offers multiple spending categories — including restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and Delta purchases — for a modest annual fee. Cardholders Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.

In addition to a solid rewards program, you'll get to board sooner, since the card gets you Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding. This can help ensure you have overhead space for your carry-ons, even on crowded flights. If you'd like to check your bag instead, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card card also allows you to check your first bag for free on Delta flights.

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here

What to watch out for

This card previously gave discounted entrance into Delta Sky Clubs. However, once the portfolio of Delta credit cards was refreshed, that benefit has now been removed. If you’re an avid traveler looking to relax in Delta Sky Clubs between flights, only the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (which comes with a hefty $550 annual fee) includes Delta Sky Club and American Express Centurion Lounge access.

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please click here.

How useful are Delta SkyMiles?

Delta SkyMiles offer a solid value when redeemed for flights, making it one of the best miles credit cards. We estimate each mile to be worth 1.3 cents, but of course, the actual value you receive will depend on your specific itinerary. You’ll get the best value for SkyMiles when booking domestic travel and business class on international flights. We’ve put together a comprehensive overview on how to get the best value out of Delta SkyMiles.

Where you can use Delta SkyMiles

Delta is part of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which consists of more than a dozen airlines to which you can transfer miles. The sheer number of airlines in this alliance makes Delta SkyMiles a highly dynamic airline rewards currency:

  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Eastern
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia Airlines
  • Tarom
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines

Note, unlike typical credit cards, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.


Best airline credit card for Southwest Airlines

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

On Chase's Secure Website

Our best points offer ever! Earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

$99

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

720 - 850

  • Our best points offer ever! Earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.
  • Now enjoy more benefits and more ways to earn.
  • 6,000 anniversary points each year.
  • NEW! Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • NEW! Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • NEW! Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming.
  • NEW! 2 EarlyBird Check-In® each year.
  • All points earned count towards Companion Pass®.

Our thoughts on this card

Of the three Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards offered, we found that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is the best credit card for airline miles among them, based on sign-up bonus, annual fee and anniversary points.

Having a Southwest credit card helps you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, a prized benefit in the airline credit card world. With the pass, you can choose a travel partner to get free tickets (less taxes and fees) on all of your itineraries for a full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earn the pass. You’ll have to earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards miles in one year, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s sign-up bonus can get you one step closer to that pass.

Beyond the boost toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass®, the best airline credit card should offer some extra annual perks, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card does. For example, you’ll earn 6,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary. While those points may not get you a free roundtrip flight, they can certainly help you close the gap. The points you earn with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card can be utilized for flights, hotel stays and gift cards, among other things.

What to watch out for

Southwest mostly offers domestic flights, so if you're dreaming of international travel, then it may make more sense to pick a different card. An airline miles credit card is only as good as the travel options provided by the airline and any partners associated with it — that said, it should be noted that Southwest is an excellent airline carrier offering very competitive mile redemption rates for domestic flights.

Southwest Airlines expanded service to Hawaii

In March 2019, Southwest Airlines launched service to Hawaii. This destination has been a long time coming for Southwest Airlines and gives its customers access to one of the most enviable vacation destinations. And if you earn the Southwest Companion Pass®, flying to Hawaii on Southwest Airlines may be one of the most affordable ways to travel there with a friend or family member.

Where you can use Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Unfortunately, Southwest Rapid Rewards can’t be transferred to other airlines, but Southwest offers the option to redeem your rewards directly for international flights via the More Rewards functionality on Southwest's site.

The More Rewards section is a shopping portal for Southwest Rapid Rewards members to use their points on a variety of purchases. You can buy gift cards, electronics, jewelry and a myriad of other items — and among those items are travel-related purchases like flights.

When you search for a flight, you will see a list of airlines flying where Southwest does not, along with the flight price in Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Unfortunately, in many cases, the redemption value is very low. To ensure you are getting the best value for Southwest points, stick to using Rapid Rewards points on Southwest flights.

You'll have to be sure to shop around to confirm you’re getting a decent redemption value for your Rapid Rewards.


Best airline credit card for United Airlines

United℠ Explorer Card

On Chase's Secure Website

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

$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

16.49% to 23.49% Variable

660 - 850

  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services

Our thoughts on this card

The United℠ Explorer Card allows cardholders to Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. The rewards for these categories are very typical across co-branded airline credit cards.

However, the card’s best feature is the Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee voucher for up to $100. Typically, cards that offer this feature will charge annual fees above $450 — unlike those cards, however, the United℠ Explorer Card's annual fee is $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 every year after.

Where you can use your United Airlines Miles

The best miles credit card should offer flexible redemption options, and United Airlines miles are fairly useful. You can redeem them for flights with United and other Star Alliance members. The Star Alliance network offers more than 1,000 destinations across dozens of airline partners:

  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Airways
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • SWISS
  • TAP Portugal
  • THAI
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines


Best airline credit card for American Airlines

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Card not available

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

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

Our thoughts on this card

Of the five American Airlines co-branded credit cards, we believe the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is the best credit card for airline miles with American Airlines, offering a strong rewards earning structure. You Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases.

On top of a strong rewards structure, the card offers one of the best sign-up bonuses available. If utilized correctly, the miles you earn in the first year could be enough for an international round-trip flight.

What to watch out for

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® charges an annual fee of $99, waived for first 12 months. If you plan to spend more than $20,000 on the card every year, you’ll earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount for reaching that spend amount, which would offset the card’s annual fee.

How useful are American Airlines miles?

From a value perspective, we believe that the value of American Airlines miles is on the low side, as we estimate that each AAdvantage mile is worth around 1 cent. Of course, the actual value you’ll get from each mile will be highly dependent on several factors, but you can use this figure as a benchmark.

We’ve also found it's a bit harder to maximize the value of American Airlines miles when compared to other airline currencies. While cardholders may find incredible redemption values, they'll need to maintain a measure of flexibility. If you're OK with this, then the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is a good choice for an airline miles credit card.

Where you can use your American Airlines miles

You can redeem AAdvantage miles with any oneworld airline alliance member. We’ve also compiled a thorough guide on the best ways to redeem American Airlines AAdvantage miles. Currently, there are 14 airlines that make up the oneworld alliance:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines
  • Sri Lankan Airlines
  • Fiji Airways

The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Other strong airline credit cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's Secure Website

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

$95

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

720 - 850

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, 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.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

Our thoughts on this card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best credit cards for the best credit card for airline miles that are flexible due to its rewards program. Cardholders earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases. Unlike some of the cards listed above, the travel category is not restricted to a specific airline, meaning booking flights with United, Delta, American or Southwest will earn you 2 points per dollar spent.

What to watch out for

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a $95 annual fee that's not waived in the first year.

Chase transfer partners

When you use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points for your purchases. With Chase Ultimate Rewards, cardholders can book airline tickets and hotel stays directly through Chase’s website or transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to 14 loyalty program travel partners. We outline all current transfer partners below:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates
  • Flying Blue Air France KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt


Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's Secure Website

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel

$95

15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)

660 - 850

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get our best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees

Our thoughts on this card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card also offers an excellent rewards structure. When you use the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you will earn 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. This makes it the best credit card for airline miles if you like flat-rate rewards, which are helpful if you don’t enjoy tracking purchase categories or juggling multiple travel rewards credit cards.

What to watch out for

It's worth noting that the card's list of transfer partners isn't as robust as what’s offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. However, Capital One has been adding to its list of transfer partners and recently added several partners with 1:1 transfer ratios, making it a stronger option for collecting and transferring miles. If you enjoy analyzing airline awards charts and maximizing the value of your points or miles, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a good way to go.

Capital One transfer partners

The miles you earn with this card are transferable to a list of travel rewards programs listed below:

  • Accor Live Limitless (2:1)
  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (1:1)
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue (1:1)
  • Avianca Lifemiles (1:1)
  • British Airways Avios (1:1)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (1:1)
  • Choice Privileges (1:1) Available later in 2021
  • Emirates Skywards (1:1)
  • Etihad Airways Guest (1:1)
  • Eva Air Infinity MileageLands (2:1.5)
  • Finnair Plus (1:1)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (1:1)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (1:1)
  • TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go (1:1)
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (1:1)
  • Wyndham Rewards (1:1)


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Card not available

Discover it® Miles

Our thoughts on this card

The Discover it® Miles is our top pick for affordable airline credit cards. If you are a low spender looking for spending rewards and some travel benefits, this is the best credit card for airline miles since it earns the same high rewards rate on every purchase.

The Discover it® Miles also has a great welcome bonus. Discover will match ALL the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 miles, you earn an additional 35,000 miles to match it. With each mile worth 1 cent, that’s $700 towards travel. The more you earn, the more you will receive with the match. That boosts this card’s rewards rate to an excellent 3% for the first 12 months. During the promotional period, the Discover it Miles card bests some of the airline credit cards on our list.

What to watch out for

The Discover it® Miles lacks some of the features of other cards on this list. For example, the miles earned on the Discover it® Miles can’t be transferred to airline loyalty programs, but you can use miles as a statement credit toward travel purchases. As such, this is an ideal card for the casual, budget-conscious traveler.

Compare airline credit cards


Welcome Offer
Credit Score Needed
Annual Fee
Best for Delta Air Lines: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
40,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.660-850$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99. (See rates and fees)
Apply Now
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. On American Express' Secure Website
Best for Southwest Airlines: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Our best points offer ever! Earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.750-850$99
Apply Now
On Chase's Secure Website
Best for United Airlines: United℠ Explorer Card
United℠ Explorer Card
Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.640-850$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Apply Now
On Chase's Secure Website
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What's an airline credit card?

An airline credit card rewards cardholders with points or miles for purchases made with the card, which can then be redeemed for free flights or for airline or other travel-related purchases, such as seat upgrades or rental cars.

Airlines cards can also come with benefits specific to traveling, such as:

  • Priority boarding
  • Fee-free baggage checking
  • Airport lounge access
  • Companion passes

It pays off to own an airline credit card. Even when flying on economy, you'll have access to benefits that will help you save money or make your travel experience better.

— Stella Shon, ValuePenguin's travel expert

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It's not all that uncommon for airline miles credit cards to have a sign-up bonus of tens of thousands of points, which could be enough to get you a round-trip ticket to a desired destination.

Types of airline credit cards

There are two types of airline credit cards:

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The best credit card for airline miles depends on your flight habits—do you stay loyal to one airline, or would a card with flexible miles be preferable? If a bank credit card interests you, two of the best credit card rewards programs are American Express and Chase, because their points can be transferred to a wide variety of partners. Capital One also has cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card that earn points that can be transferred to specific travel partners.

How to choose an airline credit card

Choosing the best airline credit card can seem overwhelming with the amount of options available. To find the card or cards that are right for you, it’s best to establish an end goal and work backward from it.

Your end goal can be summarized by answering this question:

  1. Where do you fly from?
  2. Where do you want to fly to?
  3. Is your airport an airline hub?
  4. Do you often check luggage?
  5. Do you want lounge access?

Based on these questions, you can find an airline that works best for you.

For example:

If you are based in Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC) and fly to the east coast regularly, a Delta SkyMiles credit card might work well, as Salt Lake City is a hub for Delta.


If your dream is to fly international on Emirates, it could be best to get a card with the ability to transfer points directly to Emirates, such as the American Express® Gold Card.


In addition, consider the features of the card such as sign-up bonuses and annual fees. And don't overlook the value of benefits like baggage fee waivers and airport lounge access, which can easily justify a card's annual fee. With all of these factors considered, you may be able to find one or more credit card options that work for your travel needs.

Miles value: 1.0 cents

Hubs:

  • Charlotte (CLT)
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • New York (JFK)
  • New York (LGA)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Washington, D.C. (DCA)

Miles value: 1.3 cents

Hubs:

  • Amsterdam (AMS)
  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Cincinnati (LUK)
  • Detroit (DTW)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • London (LHR)
  • Minneapolis (MSP)
  • New York (JFK)
  • New York (LGA)
  • Paris (CDG)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Tokyo (NRT)

Miles value: 1.5 cents

Hubs:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Baltimore (BWI)
  • Chicago (MDW)
  • Dallas (DAL)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Houston (HOU)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Oakland (OAK)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Phoenix (PHX)

Miles value: 1.2 cents

Hubs:

  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Guam (GUM)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD)

How to choose the best airline credit card for international travel

In addition, consider the features of the card such as sign-up bonuses and annual fees when picking the best credit card for airline miles. And don't overlook the value of benefits like baggage fee waivers and airport lounge access, which can easily justify a card's annual fee. With all of these factors considered, you may be able to find one or more credit card options that work for your travel needs. For our full list of best airline credit cards for international travel, click here.

How to use an airline credit card

  1. Pick a card with purchase categories that matches your spending.
  2. Maximize earnings by rotating cards with different categories.
  3. See which card benefits will go unused.

Since purchase categories, like dining and travel, are rewarded differently depending on the card, make sure you pick one that matches your expenses. You can also maximize your miles earnings by rotating cards with different earning categories. For instance, you could use the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card for all your Delta, U.S. supermarket and restaurant purchases, and use the Discover it® Miles to earn 1.5 miles per $1 on the rest of your purchases.

Also, list out the benefits you have with a particular airline card. Premium credit cards with large annual fees offer a long list of benefits — such as status boosters, checked bag fee waivers, lounge access and statements credits for enrolling in TSA PreCheck/Global Entry — that can easily go unused. Paying a high annual fee without utilizing the benefits can be a waste, so if you don't travel often, look for airline credit cards with no annual fee or a low annual fee.

If a premium card is the best credit card option for you, keep track of how often you use the benefits.

Best airline credit cards with no annual fee

If you're an infrequent traveler, you may want to opt for an airline credit card with no annual fee instead. Although there are fewer benefits offered, you won't have to worry about paying a membership fee each year. You'll still have access to earning and redeeming airline miles. We've outlined the best airline credit cards with no annual fee below.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
United Gateway℠ Card
Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account openingEarn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
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On Citibank's Secure Website
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See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. On American Express' Secure Website
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On Chase's Secure Website

Survey: 32% of Americans plan to fly again in 2020

As the COVID-19 crisis has changed the way many consumers travel, a recent ValuePenguin survey found that 47% of travel credit card holders are collecting more travel rewards in 2021. 57% of Americans said they have a trip planned for 2021, and 16% have booked a trip upon the announcement of the first vaccine doses. As travel is looking much more optimistic for the rest of the year, now's the perfect time to apply for that airline credit card to lock in that stash of miles for your next trip.

Which best describes your travel credit card usage following the news of the vaccine?

Air travelers want to feel safe, as evidenced by the 57% of respondents who think vaccines should be required for passengers. Read more about our travel survey findings

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Below are some of the most common questions our readers have when applying for a new credit card. Check back often, as we're continually adding and updating our FAQs.

FAQs about credit cards for airline miles

What credit card gives the best flight points?

Our research shows that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 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 a 1:1 ratio to any of the 10+ airline partners including Southwest, United and Singapore Airlines. In addition, your points are worth even more when you book travel through the Chase travel portal. If you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your points are worth 1.25 cents per point.

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 an average of 1.5 cents, which is a lot higher than competitors like Delta or American Airlines. Additionally, Alaska Airlines recently joined the oneworld airline alliance. This means that Alaska Airlines miles can be used on many different airlines.

Are airline credit cards worth it?

Airline credit cards are worth it for people who travel at least two to three times per year. Most of the top-tier airline miles cards charge an annual fee. However, if you’re able to pay for one ticket with points, that’s potentially hundreds of dollars saved. Additionally, if you want to earn miles faster for free flights, you should sign up for an airline credit card. You'll earn rewards on everyday purchases, such as dining or restaurant purchases, as well as an elevated earnings rate on airline-affiliated purchases. It's also worth noting that you do not need an airline credit card to earn miles through a frequent flyer program, as they're free to sign up for.

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 a credit building credit card. If you have a FICO score above 720 and a solid credit history, you shouldn't have trouble getting approved for the cards we recommended above.

What is the 5/24 rule for credit cards?

Chase may automatically decline your credit card application if you’ve opened five or more personal credit cards (across all banks) in the last 24 months, which 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.

What is the difference between airline and travel credit cards?

Airline credit cards are affiliated with one airline, offering loyalty benefits through its respective frequent flyer program. If you're loyal to one airline, it's advantageous to open an airline credit card. General travel credit cards allow you to earn points on all travel purchases and allow you to book any travel. If you tend to book on multiple airlines, it's a better idea to open a general travel credit card.

Which is the best credit card for airline points?

The best airline card for you depends on your location and travel preferences. For example, if you live near an airport dominated by a single airline (like Charlotte, N.C., with American Airlines), then you'll be best served by a co-branded credit card. On the other hand, those with more choice among airlines may prefer a general travel card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

How do I earn miles with an airline credit card?

Owning an airline credit card helps you earn airline miles faster than those without an airline card. You'll not only earn bonus miles on airline purchases, but your credit card may offer the chance to earn miles on other bonus categories.

Do I have to be a frequent flyer to have an airline credit card?

Airlines will offer a range of credit cards for all types of flyers. If you only fly a few times per year, you can opt for a starter no-annual-fee airline card. On the other hand, if you're loyal to one airline, you can find better benefits with airline credit cards with annual fees.

What is the easiest airline credit card to get?

Almost all airline credit cards require that you have good to excellent credit. However, some of the no-fee co-branded airline credit cards have less stringent application requirements. There are many online forums you can use to check the credit profiles of people who have been approved for a specific card.

Recap of the best airline credit cards of December 2021

Methodology

To make choosing the right card easier, we've looked at credit cards reviewed on ValuePenguin as well as cards on major issuer sites to compile a list of the best rewards credit cards available right now. Our recommendations are based on the additional value you can earn with the cards — including the rewards value, cost of ownership and value of benefits such as travel and purchase protections, lounge membership and airline companion passes. Our choices are not influenced by our advertisers. Learn more on how we calculate rewards.

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please click here.

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, please click here.

The information related to Discover it® Miles has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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 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).