The best airline credit card offers (Some with increased welcome bonuses!)

Fasten your seatbelts. We’ve compiled a list of the top credit card offers to consider right now for award flights to help you ring in a new year of travel. If you’re loyal to a particular airline, you can do well by opening an airline credit card that rewards you for your business with a more comfortable travel experience and extra miles for your next award trip. You get perks like free checked bags and priority boarding, along with benefits specific to each card.

Summary

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
  • United℠ Explorer Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best for Beginners

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual fee

$95

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Welcome offer

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.

Why we like it

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of our top credit cards for both beginners and frequent travelers. It comes with a huge welcome bonus, solid ongoing points earning on bonus categories and some great travel perks. The travel perks like delayed baggage and flight insurance will easily cover the already reasonable annual fee of $95. It earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points which is one of the best flexible points currencies: you can transfer to a number of travel partners like Hyatt and United, easily redeem for any type of travel through the Chase portal where you’ll get 25% bonus or even earn straight cash back.

Who is it best for?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is great for just about anyone. It’s large welcome bonus makes it easy to get immediate value and you’ll easily rack up points with its broad bonus categories, earning double points on all travel and dining purchases. Chase points allow for easy redemptions made through the Chase Travel Portal, which allows you to book any sort of travel with no blackout dates, and you’ll get better value from your points compared to other bank’s travel portals.

Credit Score Recommended

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Good to Excellent

660

850

Details

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • 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.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 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.

Pros

  • Valuable sign up bonus
  • Flexible points
  • Unique transfer partners like Hyatt and United
  • Great travel and trip delay insurance

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Ongoing points earning is lower compared to other cards

Reward Rate

  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel.
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

APR

15.99%-22.99% Variable

Credit Needed

Goodto Excellent

Foreign Transaction Fee

$0

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Best for premium benefits

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual fee

$550

Welcome offer

Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Why we like it

The Amex Platinum is a staple in the travel cards landscape with its unmatched travel benefits, for frequent flyers these benefits alone can far exceed the cost of the annual fee. Beyond that, this card has great on-going rewards and the card also comes with a generous welcome bonus of 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first six months of opening your account. You’ll also earn 10x points on eligible purchases made at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined spending during the first six months of card membership. This welcome offer could potentially earn you up to 225,000 points.

Who is it best for?

The Platinum Card is best for frequent travelers that value luxury travel perks: think incredible airport lounge access and Gold elite status with Marriott and Hilton. Cardholders can also cash in on hundreds of dollars of credit for travel expenses all the while earning 5X Membership Rewards Points on flights (booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

Credit Score Recommended

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Good to Excellent

660

850

Details

  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Pros

  • Access to Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Clubs and more
  • Up to $500 in annual credits, plus another up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold elite status and Marriott Gold elite status
  • Long list of travel protections
  • Excellent customer experience

Cons

  • $550 annual fee
  • Earning on travel categories exclusive to airfare and prepaid hotel stays

Reward Rate

  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Credit Needed

Goodto Excellent

Foreign Transaction Fee

None

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Best for United flyers

United℠ Explorer Card

Annual fee

$0 Intro for First Year, then $95

Welcome offer

40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months

Why we like it

This card makes you immune to most Basic Economy fare restrictions. You’ll receive preferred boarding, you can bring a free carry-on bag and you can bring a free checked bag (when paying for your ticket with the card — even award flight taxes and fees qualify). So you can buy the cheapest tickets United sells without being treated like cattle.

Who is it best for?

Anyone who checks a bag with United even a couple times per year will benefit from this card. Plus, if you’ve got a stash of United miles, the card opens up secret award inventory for you — award seats that only cardholders can see!

Credit Score Recommended

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Good to Excellent

660

850

Details

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on 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 Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services

Pros

  • Complimentary checked bags for you and one person on your reservation (when using your card for the reservation)
  • Preferred boarding
  • Increased award availability
  • TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit (worth up to $100)
  • Excellent travel coverage (including primary rental car insurance)
  • (2) one-time United Club lounge passes each year

Cons

  • Mediocre mileage earning rates for spend

Reward Rate

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on United purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services
  • 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

APR

16.49% to 23.49% Variable

Credit Needed

Goodto Excellent

Foreign Transaction Fee

$0

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Best for Occasional Delta Flyers

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Annual fee

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

Welcome offer

Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 4/28/2021.

Why we like it

The card’s main feature is its ability to grant you and up to eight passengers on your reservation free checked bags. Bags cost $30+ each way, so if you and a travel buddy check a bag with Delta on just a single round-trip flight each year, the card is worth keeping.

Who is it best for?

The Amex Delta Gold carries a very reasonable annual fee. If you aren’t a frequent Delta traveler, this is a good card to begin with.

Credit Score Recommended

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Good to Excellent

660

850

Details

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 4/28/2021.
  • 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.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn now. Travel when you’re ready. After you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year, you will receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit on your Card to inspire your next travel.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Pros

  • Manageable annual fee
  • Preferred boarding
  • Free checked bags
  • Low minimum spending requirement
  • Amex Offers

Cons

  • Mediocre return rate for everyday spending
  • No wow-factor benefits like you’ll find on most other Delta cards

Reward Rate

  • 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.

APR

15.74%-24.74% Variable

Credit Needed

Goodto Excellent

Foreign Transaction Fee

None

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Best for frequent Delta Flyers

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Annual fee

$250

Welcome offer

Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 4/28/2021.

Why we like it

This card’s got a secret weapon that most airline credit cards don’t have: An annual companion certificate. You can add one passenger to a domestic round-trip flight reservation for just the cost of taxes and fees of no more than $75. Depending on how expensive your flight is, this will likely save hundreds and hundreds of dollars!

Who is it best for?

Both casual and more frequent Delta flyers can get fantastic use from this card. By simply using the annual companion certificate each year, you’re practically guaranteed to save hundreds more than you’ll pay in annual fees.

Credit Score Recommended

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Good to Excellent

660

850

Details

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 4/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card.*Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Pros

  • Highest welcome bonus of all Delta credit cards
  • Free checked bags
  • Annual companion certificate
  • Discounted Delta Sky Club airport lounge access
  • Ability to earn Delta elite status through spend

Cons

  • Higher annual fee
  • Low earnings rate on everyday spending

Reward Rate

  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

APR

15.74%-24.74% Variable

Credit Needed

Goodto Excellent

Foreign Transaction Fee

None

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Best for earning and redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Annual fee

$550

Welcome offer

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

Why we like it

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the premium Chase travel credit card. In addition to earning 3x points on all travel and dining purchases, this card comes with a $300 annual travel credit and other travel and dining perks that quickly make it worth the $550 annual fee. One of our favorite benefits is the 50% point value boost that cardholders get when redeeming through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

Who is it best for?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is best for those who travel relatively frequently. With protection against canceled and delayed flights, access to 1,000+ airport lounges and an up to $100 Global Entry credit, those who travel internationally will enjoy this card. This card also increases the value of Chase Ultimate Rewards by 50% when redeeming through the Chase Travel Portal. This applies to rewards earned with any of their other credit cards, making it the ideal card to double up with a second Chase card with complimentary earning categories.

Credit Score Recommended

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Excellent

780

850

Details

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

Pros

  • Travel credit of up to $300 covering a flexible range of travel related purchases
  •  Airport lounge access through Priority Pass
  • 50% value boost when redeeming points through Chase Travel Portal
  • Long list of travel protection benefits
  • Flexible and transferrable points

Cons

  •  $550 annual fee, and $75 annual fee per authorized user
  • Low value welcome offer compared to other high end travel cards

Reward Rate

  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit.
  • 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

APR

16.99%-23.99% Variable

Credit Needed

Excellent

Foreign Transaction Fee

$0

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Best for Southwest flyers

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Annual fee

$199

Welcome offer

Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Why we like it

This card’s sizable welcome bonus will have you well on your way to qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass, where a friend or relative flies with you for just the taxes and fees. Earn 3 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines purchases, 2 points per dollar on social media advertising, internet and phone services, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Who is it best for?

This card provides a host of benefits to those who fly Southwest Airlines, including 4 upgraded boardings per year, annual Wi-Fi credits and a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee application credit. It also comes in handy for anyone who could benefit from the insurance it offers on travel accidents, lost luggage, baggage delays, and more.

Credit Score Recommended

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Good to Excellent

660

850

Details

  • Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • Inflight WiFi Credits.
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit.
  • Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.

Pros

  • Anniversary points awarded annually
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Additional employee cards are free

Cons

  • Annual fee
  • Narrow range of rewards categories

Reward Rate

  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines‌® purchases.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

APR

15.99% – 22.99% Variable

Credit Needed

Goodto Excellent

Foreign Transaction Fee

$0

Show more

Credit cardBest forAnnual fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardBeginners$95
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressPremium benefits$550 annual fee (see rates & fees)
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®American Airlines flyers$99, waived the first 12 months
United℠ Explorer CardUnited flyers$95 annual fee, waived the first year
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express CardOccasional Delta flyers$99, waived for the first year. See (rates and fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express CardFrequent Delta flyers$250 see (rates and fees)
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit cardAlaska Airlines flyers$75
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points$550
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit CardSouthwest flyers$199

Deep dive into the best credit cards for airline miles

Chase Sapphire Preferred

When you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account. Plus, earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery purchases in the first year of account opening.

Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders get:

  • 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants
  • 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all other purchases

You’ll also get perks like primary car rental insurance and trip delay coverage. Plus, Chase’s new(ish) Pay Yourself Back feature allows you to redeem Chase points towards eligible purchases at a rate of 1.25 cents each.

Read this post for full details!

With all of these benefits, the $95 annual fee is definitely worth it because when you earn the welcome bonus, that’s $600 cash or $750 in travel (with no blackout dates) when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Why it’s the best airline miles card for beginners

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the #1 card we recommend for beginners in the miles-and-points hobby. The sign-up bonus is worth $1,000 in travel when you book through the Chase travel portal and you can get even more value by transferring the points you earn to airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, Southwest and United Airlines.

Plus, the Pay Yourself Back feature gives you a great reason to collect Chase points, even if travel isn’t in your near future. You can collect points for travel later, but know you can easily redeem them at a decent rate if travel doesn’t pick up for a while.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

With The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can earn 75,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening.

You’ll also earn:

  • 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare (booked either directly with the airline or through American Express Travel). Starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel
  • 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar on everything else
  • Terms apply

The 5x Membership Rewards points you’ll earn on flights booked directly with the airlines and on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel is the highest earning rate for flights of any card.

The card has a $550 annual fee, which is not waived (see rates and fees). The Amex Platinum card’s annual fee can easily be worth it as the intro offer is worth $1,080 based on our valuations. And that doesn’t even account for the value of the card’s benefits and perks which are easily worth $100s more.

Why it’s the best for premium benefits

The Amex Platinum is useful for anyone looking to earn a nice stash of Amex Membership Rewards points, especially if you can make the most of the card’s perks, like up to $200 in U.S. Uber credits annually, up to $200 annual airline-fee credit, airline lounge access, and more! For information on lounges at your home airport or favorite airport, take a look at this post on how to find Amex Platinum airport lounges. Enrollment required for select benefits.

You’ll find our full review of the Amex Platinum card here.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®

You can earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening.

In addition to the lucrative sign-up bonus, the American Airlines Business Platinum card also earns 2x American Airlines miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and select business categories (car rental merchants, telecommunications, cable, satellite and at gas stations). And cardholders earn one mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

The card comes with a $99 annual fee, waived the 12 months. And we estimate American Airlines miles value to be worth at least 1.6 cents each, meaning the CitiBusiness AA Platinum card’s welcome bonus is worth $1,040.

Why it’s the best card for American Airlines flyers

If you fly American Airlines with any regularity you’ll want this card for its benefits and perks like priority boarding and your first checked bag free for you and up to four travel companions on the same reservation (free-checked-bag perk applies to domestic American Airlines flights only). This card also gets you access to the AA Reduced Mileage Awards and has no foreign transaction fees.

It’s worth opening to see if it works for your lifestyle — if it doesn’t, no harm done. Read our full review of the CitiBusiness American Airlines Platinum card here.

Just note that you can’t receive a new account bonus on this card if you’ve received a new account bonus on the card in the past 48 months. Read our full guide of Citi American Airlines application rules for more details.

United℠ Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card comes with 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first six months.

The United℠ Explorer Card enhances your travel experience in multiple ways with a variety of benefits and perks, like priority boarding and two one-time United Club lounge passes per cardmember year. Plus, you’ll get up to $100 credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership. 

We value United miles at an average of 1.3 cents per mile, bringing the total value of the Explorer card’s welcome bonus to $845. That said, this doesn’t account for the value you can get from the card’s perks. For example, one of my favorite benefits of the card is that you receive access to more award seats than travelers who don’t have the card. It’s the reason I keep this card year after year. If you’re able to make the most of those, you’ll certainly get even more out of this card.

Why it’s the best card for United Airlines flyers

The United℠ Explorer Card has so many meaningful benefits that it would make sense for almost anyone. Here’s our full review. If you take two round-trip flights per year with checked bags, you’ll save money by keeping this card. And the lounge passes are valuable, too. Plus, if you use up to $100 credit to pay for Global Entry, you’ll come out ahead of the $95 annual fee right from the start.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

With the Delta SkyMiles Gold card, you can earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 4/28/2021. You’ll also earn:

  • 2x miles per $1 spent with Delta on eligible purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets
  • 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else
  • Terms Apply

If you use your card on certain inflight purchases, you’ll receive a credit of 20% off the original purchase price on your Amex statement within six to eight weeks after the transaction is posted to your account. In addition, you’ll get complimentary priority boarding for the cardmember and up to eight additional people flying on the same itinerary, making the benefits of the card especially useful for frequent Delta flyers. Plus, you’ll get up to a $100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000+ on the card in a calendar year.

With the Delta SkyMiles Gold, the primary cardholder and up to eight others traveling on the same reservation (on a Delta flight) will enjoy one free checked bag. With baggage fees starting at $30 per bag, this could add up to some serious savings.

Why it’s the best card for occasional Delta Airlines flyers

With an annual fee of $99 (see rates and fees) that’s waived for the first year (see rates and fees) and a welcome bonus potentially worth hundreds of dollars, the Delta SkyMiles Gold is definitely worth considering. Here’s our review.

70,000 Delta miles are worth $875 according to our valuation that pegs them at an average of 1.25 cents per point. Plus, with the primary cardholder and up to eight others traveling on the same reservation enjoying one free checked bag each, you’re looking at some serious savings. 

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

With the Delta Platinum Amex card, you can earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 4/28/2021. Cardholders will also earn:

  • 3x Delta miles per dollar spent with Delta on eligible purchases, including flights booked on Delta.com, Sky Club membership or passes, Delta Vacations packages, upgrades and inflight purchases
  • 3x Delta miles per dollar on purchases made directly with hotels
  • 2x Delta miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets
  • 1 Delta mile per dollar spent on everything else
  • Terms Apply

This card comes with a number of valuable perks, including the fact that you and up to eight passengers on your reservation can board your flight when Zone 1 Priority Boarding is called. And that, you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation (on a Delta flight) will get your first checked bag for free.

Why it’s the best card for frequent Delta Airlines flyers

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is a great option for folks who value Delta miles and Delta elite status. This card’s intro bonus is worth an average of $500 in flights, according to our rewards valuations, and add that to the value of the card’s other perks, like free checked bags, and you could be looking at $1,000s in savings. For frequent Delta flyers, this card is well worth the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). Be sure to check out our Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card review.

Plus, upon renewal of the card each year, Delta SkyMiles Platinum cardholders are granted a companion certificate. With it, travelers can add a friend to their domestic Delta reservation for only the price of taxes and fees. The companion certificate covers one round-trip companion ticket in coach, which is sure to save you at least a few hundred dollars. 

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

With the Alaska Airlines credit card, you can earn 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.

At an average value of 2 cents a piece, 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles are worth at least $800. For only a $75 annual fee (waived the first year for a limited time), cardholders will absolutely come out ahead.

The card also earns:

  • 3 miles per dollar on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases

Why it’s the best card for Alaska Airlines flyers

Along with the great sign-up bonus, the card comes with an Alaska Airlines companion fare after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. With this companion fare, a friend can fly with you for $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees (from $22)). This can save you hundreds of dollars on airfare.

Plus, the Alaska Airlines credit card benefits include a free checked bag for you and up to six passengers on your reservation – a savings of $30 per person in baggage fees each way (a great perk if you don’t have Alaska Airlines elite status), which can  really add up if you fly with any regularity.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

When you sign up for Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.  

  • 3 Chase points per dollar on travel and dining
  • 1 Chase point per dollar on everything else

The Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits include the ability to earn 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 10x points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and dining worldwide and one Chase point on all other purchases.

The best perk for this card is the annual $300 in travel credits, which are automatically earned whenever you make a qualified purchase, including airfare, hotels, rental cars and more. You also get an application fee credit (worth up to $100) for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years. The card also includes a Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you and up to two guests access to 1,200+ airport lounges. Enrollment required for select benefits.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fee is $550, in turn this card more than makes up for it between its annual $300 in travel credits and the welcome bonus is worth $1,020 using an average redemption value for Chase Ultimate Rewards. And it could be worth a lot more if you were to transfer the rewards you earn to one of Chase’s valuable transfer partners — another fantastic reason that many of us on the MMS team hold this card.

Why it’s the best card for earning and redeeming Chase points

Having the Chase Sapphire Reserve increases the value of all the Chase points you earn from any Ultimate Rewards earning card. Plus, when you use your points through the Chase travel portal or through Pay Yourself Back, your points are worth 1.5 cents each. That’s at least 0.25 cents higher than any other card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

The Chase Southwest Performance Business Card comes with 80,000 Southwest points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

That’s worth at least $1,200 in Southwest flights. And you’ll also get perks like four upgraded boardings each year (between A1 and A15), 9,000 anniversary points (worth $135 in flights), and a statement credit of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.

All that for a $199 annual fee!

Based on our valuations, cardholders can get at least $1,200 in value from the welcome offer. And if you account for all of the perks that come with the card you can easily receive $1,750+ in value from this card for the first year. Factor in the fact that you’ll learn the Companion Pass too, and you’ll effectively double the value of your points! 

Why it’s the best card for Southwest Airlines flyers

If you fly Southwest with any regularity this card is a no-brainer. That’s because after meeting minimum spending on this card, you’ll have at least 125,000 qualifying points — exactly enough to earn the Companion Pass!

Plus, using Southwest points is incredibly easy. There’s no Southwest award chart; instead, if there’s a seat for sale, you can book it with points. The price of an award flight is tied to the cost of a paid ticket, so if there’s a Southwest fare sale, you’ll need fewer points.

The Southwest Performance Business card’s annual fee is outweighed by the perks like Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit (worth up to $100) and 1,500 tier-qualifying points after every $10,000 in purchases (on up to $100,000 in purchases every cardmember year).

You’ll find our Southwest Performance Business credit card review here. And for an in-depth look at this card’s perks, check out our benefits guide here. 

How we chose the best airline credit cards

Credit card introductory bonuses are the fastest way to earn big travel rewards without spending a lot of money. Here are the factors we consider:

Bonus offer

Credit card companies offer card bonuses to lure new customers because that’s how they make money — from customers using their cards. And hey, this strategy works! One of the most efficient ways of earning travel rewards is to earn lucrative welcome bonuses from the top cards for travel. So the value of such bonuses is always a factor when deciding which cards are the best cards.

Minimum spending requirement

To earn an introductory bonus on most credit cards, you must spend a certain amount on your new card within a certain timeframe. The best offers have reasonable spending requirements or offer a huge reward if the minimum spending requirements are larger. Again, this is always something to consider when deciding between cards.

Ongoing bonus opportunities

We prefer airline credit cards that offer ongoing earnings, even after you earn the initial big welcome bonus. That’s because a card that offers ongoing bonus opportunities will be worth keeping year after year.

Benefits

Airline credit cards that offer no foreign transaction fees and expanded award availability are some of our favorites. Regardless of what the benefit is, card perks add to the overall value of a card. So they should be considered when comparing various airline cards.

How do airline credit cards work?

General rewards cards and many of the most popular credit cards for travel aren’t connected with a specific airline. You’ll earn cash-back or rewards you can use for travel, but you likely won’t get airline-specific perks.

In comparison, airline credit cards (or co-branded cards) are tied to a specific airline and their frequent flyer program. With a co-branded airline card, you can earn bonus miles for each dollar you spend and oftentimes have access to airline-specific benefits like priority boarding and free checked bags.

When it comes to earning and redeeming the rewards you earn with an airline credit card, each rewards program is different. The value of the miles or points you earn from an airline rewards program will vary, depending on the airline and how you decide to redeem them. In general, though, the more you spend, the more you’ll earn. And that can translate into more free travel.

Airlines credit cards FAQ

How to use an airline credit card

You use an airline credit card just like you would any other credit card. It’s as simple as that.

As always, we recommend paying your credit card off in full every month. That’s because any interest you accrue will negate the value of any rewards you may have earned.

Are airline credit cards worth it?

As with most aspects of the miles and points hobby, you’ll have to do the math to see what makes the most sense for your particular situation. If you only fly Delta once in a blue moon, for example, it probably doesn’t make sense to get a Delta card. But if you fly the airline even just three times a year, having a Delta card that offers a free checked bag can be well worth it. It really comes down to your spending and travel habits.

Is an airline credit card right for you?

If you’re a frequent flyer and regularly travel with a particular airline, it probably makes sense to get an airline credit card. Not only will you earn bonus miles on the airfare you purchase, but you’ll also have access to card perks like free checked bags and priority boarding — which will save you time and money.

Whether or not an airline card makes sense for you depends on how often you fly and if you’ll be able to take advantage of an airline card’s benefits and perks.

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets email newsletter.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Delta SkyMiles Gold card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum card, click here.

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