Compare the Best Airline Credit Cards of 2020
|Card||Travel Rewards Rate||Annual Fee||Welcome Offer||Extra Travel Perks|
|Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card||Earn 2x miles with Delta, 2x miles at restaurants worldwide, 1x mile for everything else. Terms Apply.||$0 (See Rates & Fees)||10,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.||
|United℠ Explorer Card||Earn 2x miles per $1 spent with United and eligible restaurants and hotels; earn 1x mile for everything else||$0 Intro for First Year, then $95||60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.||
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||Earn 2x miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, 1x mile on everything else. Terms Apply.||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (See Rates & Fees)||Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.||
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Earn 2x points per dollar spent on travel, 2x on restaurants, 1x point per dollar for everything else||$95||Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 during the first three months of account activation||
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card||2x points per dollar spent on Southwest and travel partners, 1x point per dollar on everything else||$149||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.||
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card||2x points per dollar spent on Southwest and travel partners, 1x point per dollar on everything else||$69||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.||
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card||2x points per dollar spent on Southwest and travel partners, 1x point per dollar on everything else||$99||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.||
Before you immediately jump in and sign up for an airline credit card, it’s essential to understand what you’re applying for and which option makes the most sense for your lifestyle. Keep reading to understand some of the nuances of airline credit cards and how to optimize your spending.
What are airline credit cards and how do they work?
There are many types of travelers who can benefit from an airline credit card. Whether you’re traveling for work or wanting to save for your next vacation, an airline credit card could serve as a solution.
To gain miles, you simply use your airline credit card on your eligible purchases and redeem them through a specific airline or travel partners.
What is a mile worth on a credit card?
A mile’s worth depends on the credit card and what you redeem it for. On many cards, for example, a mile can be worth more when you redeem it with an airline.
How to compare different airline credit cards
Picking the right airline card can seem overwhelming, especially since there are dozens of options to pick from. Here are 5 factors you should consider when choosing an airline credit card.
- Annual fees: If you don’t want to pay anything, there are plenty of cards that offer no annual fees or waive it during your first year. However, airline credit cards with luxury perks typically charge a high annual fee.
- APR: Because of their extra rewards, airline credit cards may have a higher APR than other kinds of credit cards.
- Sign up bonus: Generous welcome bonuses mean you get your travel rewards faster.
- Rewards rate: Look for a card with a high rewards rate on travel expenses.
- Perks: Want priority boarding? Pick which travel perks are important to you and look out for those when comparing cards.
How do I earn airline miles?
You can use your airline credit card to spend with the airline directly, with travel partners or on other eligible purchases as outlined in the card’s terms and conditions. Who has the best airline credit card?
The best airline credit card for you depends on your lifestyle, budget and travel habits. For example, a family will need an airline credit card that has a different rewards structure versus a card that’s idea lfor a luxury traveler.
How many miles does it take to get a free flight?
Cardholders can expect to use between 4,000-12,000 miles each way for a cabin seat on domestic flights. If you enjoy traveling further away, you might need to pay closer to 50,000 miles each way. And remember, you still have to pay taxes and any airline fees for your “free” flight.
Most popular airline rewards programs
Delta SkyMiles allows frequent flyers to earn miles, check a bag for free and enjoy priority boarding. Each tier offers perks and the miles never expire.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Southwest Rapid Rewards offers no blackout dates, unlimited reward seats and points that never expire. The top levels of this program include A-List, A-List Preferred and the elusive Southwest Companion Pass.
Miles earned under the United MileagePlus program can be used with United Airlines and tons of other travel partners. Members can redeem points for hotels, car rentals, cruises, shopping, experiences and gift cards, among other perks.
Can you transfer miles between airlines?
Most airlines are part of airline alliances like SkyTeam, Oneworld and Star Alliance. American Airlines is part of Oneworld, while Delta is a member of SkyTeam and United is a Star Alliance carrier. You can book travel using your rewards across multiple airlines, as long as they’re in the same alliance. For example,
How to get the Southwest Companion Pass
Although you have to pay taxes and fees, the Southwest Companion Pass can be a worthwhile travel perk to obtain. To get the Companion Pass, you’ll need to fly 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights or earn 110,000 points in a calendar year. If you don’t always fly Southwest, you can still build up miles using Southwest’s travel partners.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Capital One Venture
Trying to decide between the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Cards? The two cards are issued by different banks, but surprisingly have similar perks. Here’s a breakdown:
|Card||Welcome offer||Minimum spending requirement||Rewards rate||Number of transfer partners||Foreign transaction fees||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®||$4,000||2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.||13||$0||$95|
Do airline credit cards have foreign transaction fees?
Some lenders charge foreign transaction fees that typically cost around 3% per purchase. While that number seems low, that fee can quickly add up if you’re using it abroad frequently. If you only travel domestically, this fee is irrelevant. If you’re a world traveler, it’s crucial to find a card without a foreign transaction fee.
How to maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel
If you end up choosing the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can redeem your rewards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards site. You can use your points to book free stays at over 5,000 IGH Hotels & Resorts worldwide.
And if you don’t have enough points to cover the cost of your next trip, you can use a combination of accumulated points and your credit card if you book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards.Chase’s transfer partners include:
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- World of Hyatt
- Marriott Rewards
- IHG Rewards Club
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- JetBlue True Blue
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- British Airways Avios
- Iberia Plus
- Singapore Airlines
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Airlines MileagePlus
What credit score do I need for an airline credit card?
You’ll need good to excellent credit for most airline credit cards. The perks you can accrue and earn with these cards are subject to your financial habits. If you carry a big balance month to month, those interest payments can quickly add up. In general, credit cards with bigger perks and rewards tend to have a higher interest rate.
5 tips on making the most of your airline credit card
To make the most of your airline credit card, you’ll need to have a good handle on your card’s rewards structure. Most importantly, you should focus on earning your card’s introductory welcome bonus, especially if you need to balance out the cost of an annual fee.
- Use your card for regular purchases: The rewards rate for non-travel categories is typically lower than it would be for flights, hotels and car rentals, but it still adds up.
- Check your rewards categories: If you opt for a card with rotating bonus categories, make sure you activate them to maximize your earning potential.
- Pay attention to your locale: If you want to choose a co-branded airline card, pick one that makes sense for your location. It’s not useful to own a Delta co-branded credit card if that airline doesn’t fly out of the airport closest to you.
- Consider long-term loyalty over cheap discounts: You can sometimes find good discounts on travel websites, perhaps cheaper than what you can find through your airline and travel partners. However, you should always weigh those savings against what you’d earn in miles for the same flight with your airline credit card.
- Be a smart traveler: You’re not going to get the most significant savings if you try to redeem your miles on a busy travel day. Instead, aim to redeem your miles on routes that aren’t as busy during unpopular flight times.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, please click here