Updated on Sep 19, 2017

Best Airline Credit Cards for 2017

Our top travel rewards cards offer everything from free flights to free baggage check.
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Fall is just around the corner, and with the cooler weather comes a change in travel. After summer vacation but before holiday gatherings, September is considered the starting point for business travel season. But recently, there’s been a trend in business travel – staying for an extra weekend once the work is done, and inviting friends and family. It’s known as “bleisure” travel (aka business and leisure squished together).

However you travel this time of year, the cards featured on our list of the Best Airline Credit Cards of 2017 can help you finance your trip. Once you’ve found the card that’s right for you, click Apply Now and see how you can mix business with pleasure and travel rewards.

Frequent traveler? Check out The Simple Dollar’s top picks for travel credit cards and hotel credit cards.

Summary

Best airline credit cards for 2017

Our Favorite Airline Credit Cards for 2017

Most flexible travel rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Rewards Summary 2x points for travel and dining
Annual Fee $95 (Waived first year)

Foreign Transaction Fee 0%
Signup bonus 50,000 points
Travel perks No blackout dates or travel restrictions.
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Annual Fee: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

You travel and dine out regularly. For busy professionals, this card just makes sense – especially if you’re already a Chase customer. (Points are transferrable between cards, so you can earn rewards faster!)

How to use it
  • Use this card when you book travel or dine out, both in the States and abroad.
  • Pair with Chase Freedom® (a popular cash back card) to collect points on everyday spending. Then combine your points!
  • Redeem your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program and enjoy a 25% point bonus.
  • Transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points to popular hotel or airline loyalty programs without a penalty.
Consider this

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges a $95 annual fee after your first year. Despite the upfront cost, you should make up the annual fee quickly if you travel often. If you’d prefer a travel card with no annual fee, consider the Discover it® Miles.

Why you'll love it

Easy point transfers. Flexible reward options. An incredible signup bonus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card boasts one of the best rewards programs out there. It’s the perfect fit for frequent travelers who want to rack up rewards—and choose how to spend them.

Start your application now

Best travel rewards for everyday spending

Discover it® Miles
Rewards Summary Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases
Annual Fee $0

Foreign Transaction Fee 0%
Signup bonus N/A
Travel perks Mile-for-mile rewards match ; $30 in-flight Wi-Fi credit
Highlights Provided by Discover Show Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • New! Free Social Security Number alerts, we’ll monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.*
  • Match Mile For Mile: We’ll match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 1.5 Miles per dollar on all purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 14 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 10.99%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 14 months
  • Ongoing APR: 11.99% – 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

You want to earn unlimited miles on everyday purchases without conditions or restrictions. It’s a great fit for anyone looking for flexibility when redeeming travel rewards.

How to use it
  • Buy everything with this card, especially in the first 12 months. You can earn 1.5x miles on every purchase, every day, with no restrictions. The more you spend, the more you’ll get back at the end of the year with Discover’s mile-for-mile match promotion.
  • Pay off any large purchases during the 14 month, 0% intro APR period to avoid interest payments.
  • Monitor your FICO® Credit Score for free online or on your monthly statements.
Consider this

Since the Discover it® Miles isn’t technically an airline card, it doesn’t come with a juicy signup bonus up front. And while the mile-for-mile match at the end of your first year is a huge perk, you won’t be able to cash in on travel rewards upfront. Further, the miles you earn with this card aren’t transferable to airline or hotel loyalty programs, so you can’t pool points with your other accounts. If you’re looking for a card with a great signup bonus and points transfer, check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Why you'll love it

The Discover it® Miles card offers incredible earning potential on the things you buy every day — with no limits and no annual fee. Get this card if you’d rather collect travel rewards in cash (statement credits) than be tied to a specific airline.

Start your application now

Best travel perks

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Rewards Summary 2x miles for Delta purchases Terms apply
Annual Fee $95 (Waived first year)

Foreign Transaction Fee 0%
Signup bonus 30,000 miles
Travel perks Starwood Crossover Rewards, priority boarding, and more
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Rewards Details: Earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $95 See Details
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.74% - 25.74% Variable See Rates & Fees
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

You often travel with Delta. Frequent Delta fliers will find it easy to make up the $95 annual fee with baggage fee savings alone. Plus, you’ll get great perks including in-flight discounts, free bag check, and priority boarding.

How to use it
  • Use this card to buy Delta airfare and to take advantage of promotional point purchases from partners.
  • Pair this card with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express to pool your points.
  • Enjoy free bag check, priority boarding, seat upgrades, and other in-flight perks when you fly with Delta.
Consider this

After your first year, you’ll be charged a $95 annual fee (fairly standard for airline and travel cards). If you aren’t a frequent traveler or you don’t live near a Delta hub, you might have trouble justifying the annual fee. The Discover it® Miles may be a better option if you want reward flexibility without an annual fee.

Why you'll love it

The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is made to benefit frequent travelers. Between the lucrative Starwood Hotels Crossover Rewards program and travel perks like free checked baggage, you’ll save big while traveling in style.

Start your application now

Great signup bonus

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Rewards Summary 2x points for Southwest® and Rapid Rewards® purchases
Annual Fee $69

Foreign Transaction Fee 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.
Signup bonus 60,000 points
Travel perks No blackout dates, seat restrictions or change fees
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • 3,000 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 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
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 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.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Annual Fee: $69
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

You travel in the U.S. often and prefer to fly Southwest. This card is also a great option if you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. These two cards work well together since you can transfer rewards points 1:1.

How to use it
  • Book all your Southwest airfare on this card to rack up points.
  • Pair this card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account to earn free flights faster.
  • For a limited time, spend $2,000 on purchases in your first three months to earn 60,000 bonus points.
Consider this

Unlike many other airline cards, the $69 annual is not waived for the first year. Also, watch out for foreign transaction fees abroad. If you’re looking for an airline card without foreign transaction fees, check out the JetBlue Card.

Why you'll love it

It’s tough to beat a 60,000-point signup bonus after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open (limited time offer). But with double points on select travel expenses and an annual anniversary bonus, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card keeps the rewards coming, even after the first three months.

Start your application now

Fewest fees

JetBlue Card
Rewards Summary 3x points for JetBlue purchases; 2x points on dining and groceries
Annual Fee $0

Foreign Transaction Fee $0
Signup bonus 5,000 points
Travel perks No blackout dates ; 50% off in-flight purchases
Highlights Provided by Barclaycard Show Highlights
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights. Points required for an Award Flight will vary based on the published base fare at the time of booking
  • Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don't expire
  • Earn and share points together with Family Pooling
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food on JetBlue-operated flights
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip technology & $0 Fraud Liability protection
  • Issuer: Barclaycard
  • Rewards Details: Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: The greater of $5 or 3% of the transfer
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0% introductory APR
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: First 12 billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to account within 45 days of account opening
  • Ongoing APR: 12.99%, 20.99% or 25.99% variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

You love JetBlue, you fly often, and you want to avoid fees. With no annual fee or foreign transaction fee, this is a great option for anyone looking to cash in on frequent travel – both domestic and international.

How to use it
  • Book all your JetBlue airfare on this card for 3x points.
  • Meet the spending requirement in the first 3 months to collect your signup bonus.
Consider this

Considering a balance transfer? Be careful—you’ll be charged a $5 fee or 3% of each balance transfer amount. Before transferring, confirm that your interest savings will be higher than the expected charge. Remember that your 0% introductory APR will increase after the first 12 billing cycles. It’s best to pay your balance in full every month anyway, but be extra diligent to avoid interest charges after your first year.

Why you'll love it

The JetBlue Card is one of the few airline credit cards that doesn’t charge an annual fee. If you fly JetBlue often, there’s no reason not to get this card. You’ll earn triple points for booking and double points for everyday shopping —and you can use the card free of charge overseas.

Start your application now

Our favorite airline credit cards: summed up

Research the best airline credit cards

Below is a directory with the most popular airline miles credit cards available today. The directory is updated on a weekly basis to reflect any new changes, to add new cards, and to remove expired cards. The airline credit cards directory is a component of the rewards credit cards directory. This custom directory highlights the most important features for each airline card.

Airline credit card directory

In order to rank and value each of these airline cards, certain features were analyzed based on overall importance to the prospective cardholder. The most heavily weighted features of an airline card are Signup Bonus, Rewards Rate, and Perks.

Sort, filter, or search for what matters most to find the best airline credit card for you.

Sort By
Card Name
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Rewards Tier Level
Common Filters
Good Signup Bonus
Great Ongoing Rewards
Great Perks
No Annual Fee
Search
Credit Card
Annual Fee
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Credit Card
Annual Fee
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
$75
Poor
* (?)
Poor
* (?)

Rating Methodology

After studying every airline credit card, I made the decision early on that the best airline miles credit cards wouldn’t be based solely on the amount of rewards you can earn. While rewards are still the most important factor, the perks and benefits from airline credit cards should not be overlooked.

Sign-up bonuses, travel benefits, companion fares, and the actual airlines are all important to judging the quality of the card. You’re not getting an airline card for low interest rates — you’re getting it for miles and benefits — so APRs shouldn’t matter as much.

Signup bonus

Signup Bonus is the amount of extra points the card offers to a new cardmember. Airlines tend to offer high Signup Bonuses, many of which range between 25,000 and 50,000 points. Depending on how you use airline points, that means that a 40,000 point bonus translates to at least $400 with that airline or its partners. In many cases, it can be significantly more.

Signup Bonus carries a high importance rating because the bonus can knock off a chunk of money on an upcoming flight.

Don’t wait until the last minute to act on a Signup Bonus, however. There are usually certain spending requirements you need to fulfill before you actually earn the points and can use them. It is common for credit card issuers to require you to spend $3,000 in the first three months you have the card before the Signup Bonus kicks in.

Rewards rate

The next high importance feature is Rewards Rate, which is the actual rate at which your purchases on the card earn you airline points. It is common to see an airline card earn 2% in points for travel-related spending with that airline or its partners. Airline cards also usually have a base rate. This base rate is typically 1% and applies to all other purchases you make with that card.

If you travel often, but are not loyal to one airline, you can get a higher Rewards Rate in more spending categories by picking up one of the best travel credit cards. The main difference is that the best travel cards generally give you better rewards in more categories, and offer you more flexibility for redeeming points with different airline carriers.

Benefits

Benefits refers to other perks or programs that make the airline card stand out. Many airline cards offer priority check-in, free checked bags, seat upgrades, or lounge access. With the state of travel these days, the extra Benefits you receive as an airline credit card holder will be the deciding factor when Rewards Rate or Signup Bonus features are similar between comparable cards. This is why Benefits carries a high importance rating.

Lounges

Anyone who’s shoved their way through an airport can tell you that relaxation is a serious business. That’s why many airline credit cards offer exclusive lounge access as a major perk of membership.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express members gain access to the Delta SkyClub™ at a discount. You’ll be able to access elite lounges at a reduced rate – only $29 (normally $59) per visit. And Delta has club locations across the globe, from Los Angeles, to Singapore, to Sydney. You’ll have access to complimentary Wi-Fi and a fully stocked office for between-flight meetings, or if you’re just looking to relax, each location also offers fully stocked bars and satellite TVs.

Redemption options

For airline credit cards, Redemption Options can dramatically impact how much flexibility you have for where you redeem points on travel. Airline credit card points are always redeemable for flights or other perks with the specific airline. Traditionally, this has been your only option. However, airlines have developed their own partner networks, and in many cases you can “transfer” your points from one airline to another within the same network. For instance American Airlines miles can be exchanged for British Airways Avios through the oneworld network.

The result is that you are not as constrained in your airline options. The largest airline networks are oneworld and Star Alliance. Other airlines create their own partner networks and join forces with hotels and rental car companies to try and give the customer more options for redeeming points.

Rewards categories

Rewards Categories are the spending categories in which your credit card earns greater than 1%. Rewards Categories carry a low importance rating for airline cards and are not factored in to our ratings as much. The main reason is that when airlines issue credit cards, they usually issue higher rewards for travel booked on their airline and a 1% base rate for all other purchases. In contrast, some of the best travel credit cards have enhanced rewards in spending categories like dining or hotels, which helps you capitalize on other spending to rack up rewards you can use for travel.

Two of the best travel cards offer different Rewards Categories. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2x miles on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® platforms and 2% for dining out. That card earns 1% on all other purchases. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers 2X miles on all purchases. Both of these cards are talked about in more detail in my colleague’s post on the best travel credit cards.

JetBlue Card members automatically gain access to the TrueBlue program, earning at least 6 points per eligible dollar when they book on jetblue.com, and an online marketplace including JetBlue partners such as Amazon.com, Lyft, and Winc. Cardholders can earn 3 TrueBlue points for every eligible $1 spent on Amazon, and can earn a 2,500 TrueBlue points bonus when they become a Winc member!

APR

The APR on airline cards also carry low importance. I never recommend signing up for a credit card if you plan on carrying a balance, as you should pay off your balance each month. If you plan to carry a balance on a credit card, look for low APR cards or a balance transfer card to avoid interest during the grace period. Interest charges destroy the value of any points you may accumulate, so it never makes sense to have any type of rewards card if you plan to carry a balance.

Airline/travel credit cards: how they stack up on strategy

Which card (or card combination) offers the best deal overall? Here’s a look at some pros and cons and potential strategies for maximizing your travel rewards:

Rewards rates

An airline card affiliated with a particular carrier may reserve its most generous rewards rate for purchases made directly from that airline. You might see a return of 2-3 points (or miles) for every dollar spent on airline tickets, while the rates for other purchases are commonly 1 point per $1. Other cards are sometimes more generous with rates for everyday purchases.

What about cards that aren’t affiliated with specific airline brands but still offer rewards points for travel purchases? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one example, offering 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1X point on all other purchases.

Here’s a recap of the rewards rates for purchases offered by our top five airline credit cards:

Card Rewards rates
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • 2X points on travel and dining
  • 1X points on other purchases
Discover it® Miles
  • 1.5X Miles on all purchases
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • 2X miles on Delta purchases
  • 1X miles on other purchases
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • 2X points on Southwest® purchases
  • 2X points on Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1X points on other purchases
JetBlue Card
  • 3X points on JetBlue purchases
  • 2X points on dining and groceries
  • 1X points on other purchases

As you can see, not all airline cards have one-dimensional rewards programs. As for which type of card offers your ideal rewards rate, a great deal depends on your spending habits and goals.

Annual fees

Looking at the five cards profiled on this page, you see a bit of variation on annual fees:

If an annual fee (or lack of one) is your central concern in choosing a credit card, remember that many cards have generous rewards programs that can offset the cost of the fee. A lot depends on how frequently you plan to use the card and earn rewards.

Signup bonuses

For a quick comparison of signup bonuses, here’s a similar rundown of our top cards:

Some signup bonuses are more generous than others, and some easier to obtain than others. One way to approach a large bonus with a correspondingly large spending requirement could be to put a long-awaited big purchase on the card early on. This strategy is most advisable when the card also has a 0% introductory APR so you can avoid interest while paying off that big-ticket item.

Here’s one thing to note about the Discover it® Miles: Although the card doesn’t have a signup bonus like the others on this list, it does offer to automatically match all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a cardholder.

As with any type of credit card, it’s best to think about the value of the signup bonus and whether your spending habits make it easily attainable.

Secondary perks

As you might expect, benefits such as free checked luggage and priority boarding are often central to airline/travel cards and not offered by more general rewards cards. (For travelers who want to stay connected while conserving their wireless data, travel perks for the Discover it® Miles include a $30 in-flight Wi-Fi credit.)

In search of a killer combo

On its own, an airline card on its own might not offer the most potential to earn rewards or the most benefits.

Alternatives include an airline card/hotel card combo, but that strategy will likely be most effective if you already belong to both cards’ respective loyalty programs. For business travelers, a business credit card that offers travel rewards could match up well with an airline card.

To earn points more efficiently, you could combine an airline card with a second card that rewards you for everyday purchases at a higher points rate. Travelers who don’t mind some added strategizing could use the Chase Freedom® to earn 5X points on rotating quarterly categories, use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to earn points on travel and dining, then combine points from both cards through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for a 25% points bonus.

Which card should I get?

For frequent air travelers, a good airline credit card might be as indispensable as a neck pillow. Just remember that what makes a card right for one consumer might make it wrong for another. Consider how much you regularly spend on travel expenses and how you prefer to use your rewards, along with how much effort you’re willing to put into the pursuit of points.

Global partners: Maximizing international travel

To make their credit cards even more enticing, many U.S.-based airlines have developed vast international networks. Cardmembers can connect with global airlines to transfer or earn miles, and membership can grant access to lounges located all around the world. If you’re an airline credit card holder and you’re planning a trip overseas, consider your card’s international network. Your flight might just be the best part of your trip.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards® network includes direct partnership with international luxury clubs, including the British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air’s SKYPASS, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. Miles are directly transferrable, at a 1:1 ratio, so cardmembers with plenty of miles to go around can travel in style all around the globe.

Members of the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express have access to a multi-tiered network of global Delta partners. With certain partners, SkyMiles® members can earn at least an equal number of miles as they would in the U.S. with every purchase. That means you’ll be able to earn 2X points whether you’re booking with Delta Airlines or Air France, and even 3X points when booking with Virgin Atlantic.

If you think the usual tourist destinations could use a little extra oomph, JetBlue Card holders can use Mastercard’s® Priceless Cities® to add even more to your trip. There’s seven locations in the U.S. alone, and even more in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Visitors to Stockholm can earn VIP status at Way Out West, Sweden’s most popular music festival, while those touring Montreal gain complimentary entrance to the observation deck at Au Sommet Place Ville Marie as part of their walking tour.

To and from for less: airline hubs

All major airlines have a global reach, but knowing exactly where their hubs are can be a defining factor in choosing the best card for you. Major hubs mean larger volumes of flights, more destination options and fewer connections, but they also give cardholders another opportunity to maximize their benefits, even at lower costs. Cardmembers have more opportunities to book directly through the airline itself and for cheaper, making rewards even more profitable.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express members can earn a $50 statement credit if they make a Delta purchase with their new card within three months of membership, and JetBlue Card members can earn at least 6X points per eligible dollar when they book on JetBlue.com.

Members of a flexible rewards program that isn’t airline-based, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Discover it® Miles card shouldn’t be as concerned about specific airline hubs. More direct flights means your miles go further (no pun intended).

No matter your airline credit card, it’s still important to know which airports are major hubs for which airlines. Here’s a few quick links to the hubs of the major airlines:

Note: Southwest Airlines does not utilize a hub or major airports system, but you can follow the link the see the airline’s 10 busiest airports.

Many of the best airline credit cards have travel partners, giving you more flexibility in how you redeem or transfer points, book flights and earn rewards.

The table below lists some of the leading travel partners associated with The Simple Dollar’s top airline cards. To check complete listings, go to the cards’ individual websites.

In case you missed it: Make monthly payments with UpLift

Let’s face it: Vacations are expensive. And if the hefty price tag is keeping you from taking a well-deserved rest, you might want to take a look at UpLift.

A digital marketing startup formed last year by the co-founders of SideStep, inventors of metasearch travel, UpLift is dedicated to reinventing the way we pay for travel. With their Pay Monthly program, customers can choose to receive a short-duration, small personal whole loan to cover their flight expenses. The average loan size is around $1,200, and customers will pay it back over an average period of 12 months. Loans are made with low interest rates (as of July 2017, rates start at 9.01% APR), and there are no hidden fees.

UpLift’s Pay Monthly program applies to more than just airfare. Travelers can use Pay Monthly from everything from flights, vacation packages, hotels, cruises, and other travel expenses. Members of participating rewards programs can earn even more points.

Earlier this year, JetBlue announced a brand-new partnership with UpLift, empowering their customers to make vacation more affordable, while enjoying all the benefits of TrueBlue membership – that means 6X points per eligible dollar booked through JetBlue Vacations, Family Pooling, and JetBlue’s Best Price Guarantee.

JetBlue travelers don’t get to have all the fun. If you happen to fly Southwest, you can also choose the Pay Monthly option with UpLift and make monthly payments with your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. You’ll still be able to earn 2X points for Southwest airfare, and spend those points on other travel expenses. (And, since Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can transfer rewards points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio, Pay Monthly works for them, too.)

In case you missed it: Jet Blue & Gladly

The folks at JetBlue have been busy reinventing customer service, and that’s great news if you’re a JetBlue Card holder.

Recently, JetBlue made an investment in social media-driven customer service startup Gladly. An omnichannel communication service, Gladly treats customer “like people, not case numbers”, communicating with customers via text, email, chat, social media, and over the phone.

Customers can even hop between multiple communications channels. You’ll be able to start a conversation with a Gladly representative over the phone, and continue via text when you get into work. It’s all part of the same conversation.

The deal isn’t exclusive to TrueBlue members, but as of this time it is exclusive to JetBlue airlines. JetBlue plans to implement Gladly’s dynamic new system over the next year, so if you’re looking to join a new rewards program, and you want a more human touch to your customer service, the JetBlue Card might be the perfect choice for you.

Airline cards and travel partners

Card Participating airlines and programs include:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Discover it® Miles Any airline (via travel statement credit)
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • Aeroflot
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • ExpressJet™
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines (MEA)
  • SkyWest
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card Southwest
JetBlue Card
  • Icelandair
  • Emirates
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetSuiteX
  • Silver Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways

Pro-tip: Maximize rewards through partnerships

Airline cards shouldn’t just sit in your wallet, waiting for your next vacation to see the light of day. There’s a wide variety of ways for members to earn bonus points throughout the year, and airlines are constantly adding more opportunities.

When airlines enter into partnerships with new industries, rewards members reap huge benefits. Everyday costs, like groceries and gas, can already translate into considerable rewards and trim the cost of your dream vacation. With rewards programs becoming more competitive, airlines are starting to seek out innovative partnerships designed to attract new members and make it easier than ever for existing members to collect rewards.

Earlier this year, Delta partnered with ridesharing service Lyft to offer SkyMiles members an opportunity to earn miles for every Lyft ride. Here’s how it works:

  • One mile per dollar spent on all rides, with unlimited mileage earning potential and no expiration dates.
  • Limited time launch bonus of two bonus miles for a total of three miles per $1 spent on Lyft ride(s) to or from any airport.
  • New rider $20 credit broken down into $10 Lyft ride credits. (Only available if you complete your first and second Lyft rides within 60 days of linking your Lyft and SkyMiles accounts.)
  • All Lyft rides are eligible to earn miles including Lyft Line, Classic, Plus, and Premier.

Members won’t have to do anything extra to earn miles – just use your Lyft account and begin earning miles immediately!

And for those with the , there’s even more good news! Delta and Airbnb have teamed up to offer members a chance to earn miles on any Airbnb booking worldwide.

Here’s what those benefits include:

  • 1 mile per dollar spent on qualifying stays.
  • Up to 1,000 bonus miles and a $25 Airbnb coupon code toward a qualifying first stay for new Airbnb guests
  • Up to 25,000 bonus miles for new Airbnb hosts.

All members have to do to earn miles is book with Airbnb directly through delta.com/Airbnb. That’s access to over 190 countries, with more than 2.5 million unique booking options!

Southwest Rapid Rewards® members can earn double the rewards and exclusive savings when they shop seasonal sales through the Rapid Rewards store. Through September 18th, members can save $150 on select Dell computers, while earning 2X points per dollar spent. Other current trending stores include Apple (1X points per dollar), as well as Groupon, Macy’s, and Kohl’s (all 2X points per dollar). Southwest has a rotating selection of “featured offers”, and if you spend enough on qualified purchases, you could also earn big bonus points.

TSD strategies: Using airline cards for ‘bleisure’ travel

Over the past few years, business travelers have begun to add extra days to the beginning or end of work-related trips. It’s a new trend known as bleisure travel – mixing business trips with leisure excursions to take some of the stress out of an otherwise hectic trip.

Earlier this year, Expedia found that 43% of business trips were considered bleisure trips, and that often leisure days either equaled or exceeded business days. The longer the business trip, the more likely travelers were to extend them into bleisure travel. If you’re a frequent business traveler with an exciting destination on the horizon, and you have the time (and the permission) to extend your trip by a handful of days, we can help. We’ve got a couple of industry tips perfect for blending professional travel with leisure travel while maximizing rewards.

Know your card’s strengths in advance

Often, bleisure travel is spur of the moment. Decisions are made according to the destination and cost of the trip. That impulsiveness can work against rewards programs, making travelers book with fewer rewards than expected, and foot most of the cost as a result.

Research the credit card and rewards program of your choice as early as possible. Learn about your card’s rewards rate, annual fees, signup bonuses, and any travel partnerships with airlines, hotels or car rental agencies they might have. Airline credit cards are equally useful for both domestic and international travel, but there’s usually one area where they shine.

Knowing exactly what your card offers as soon as possible means you’ll be able to utilize it to its fullest when you make that spur of the moment travel decision. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card holders can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio at a number of airline or hotel partners, and the card has a $0 foreign transaction fee. If you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, you’ll earn a 25% point bonus. So, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be a useful option if you’re looking to spend your leisure time staying at a hotel, whether stateside or abroad.

Earlier this year, Delta and Airbnb announced a partnership to give SkyMiles® members 1 mile per dollar spent on Airbnb properties. Delta has also partnered with Lyft to offer cardholders 1 mile per dollar spent on all rides. So, if you’re mobile-friendly, and you want to travel like a local, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express could be your best bet.

Know your company’s travel policies

Bleisure travel is still a gray area when it comes to company travel policy, and it varies from company to company. Some firms allow employees to determine which airline they want to fly and which hotel they want to stay in. It’s also not unheard of for clients to foot the bill for a few extra days of travel to ensure you’re well rested when the time comes to work.

In most cases, be aware that your organization will expect you to handle all costs associated with personal time off, including transport, lodging, and recreation. And while it’s not unusual for family and friends to join their loved ones during a bleisure trip once their work is done, travel rewards can help ensure that you don’t have to pay full price for the leisure half of your bleisure trip.

Be sure to ask about your company’s travel policies, including reimbursement, transportation, and any hotels or airlines your organization might already have an existing relationship with. Most important, ask about policy regarding points, and whether you can either pay for a trip with your own card (before reimbursement), or transfer points from a business credit card.

If you have access to a business credit card, such as The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, ask if you can utilize travel benefits, or even combine them with an airline credit card of your own.

Let’s say your organization has assigned you a Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. You’re currently able to earn 2X points for purchases at SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels, with 1 Starpoint® for all other purchases. If you sign up for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, you’ll be able to receive 2X miles for Delta purchases, and 1X miles for all other purchases.

And if you plan on using Uber, linking your professional SPG® account to an Uber account means you’ll earn 1 Starpoint® per every $2 U.S. spent with Uber at home, and 2 Starpoints per every $1 U.S. spent while abroad. If your company’s travel policy allows you to utilize rewards for personal events, you’ll be able to use Starpoints® gained from lodging costs or SkyMiles® gained from airfare, and put them toward American Express Membership Experiences. You’ll be able to pay for concerts, Broadway shows, or sporting events with American Express Rewards.

Learning about your company’s travel policies is a crucial step in developing your bleisure strategy. You’ll be able to learn what your company will (and won’t) pay for and how to maximize rewards by working with your hotel, airline, and personal credit card provider.

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