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Airline Credit Cards

The best airline credit cards provide at least a couple of miles in exchange for every dollar you spend, redeemable for free flights, hotel stays, car rentals and various other perks. There are two distinct types of airline miles credit cards listed here (some of which are from CardHub sponsors): those that are tied to a specific air carrier and those offering generic miles, which can be redeemed for any flight on any airline. Though the former may offer more lucrative rewards, they require you to book your flights directly with the affiliated airline in order to maximize your…show more

    Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card


    capital one ventureone
    • 0% Purchases until March 2016
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 11.9% - 21.9% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate 1.25 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 20,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent, Good
    • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel
    • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
    • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime.
    • Travel when you want—no blackout dates.
    • Miles don't expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

    Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®


    barclaycard arrival world mastercard credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers 12 months3% Transfer Fee
    • Regular Rate 14.99% or 18.99%
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $89 after
    • Rewards Rate 2 miles/$1
    • Rewards Bonus 40,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that’s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit.
    • Earn 2X miles on all purchases - Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
    • Get 10% miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem for travel statement credits
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

    Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card


    capital one venture
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 12.9% - 22.9% (V)
    • Annual Fee $0 for 1st yr, $59 after
    • Rewards Rate 2 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 40,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent, Good
    • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel.
    • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
    • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime.
    • Travel when you want—no blackout dates.
    • Miles don't expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

    United MileagePlus® Explorer Card


    united credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 15.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $95 after
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 30,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Start with 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
    • Check your first bag for free – save up to $100 per roundtrip
    • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with two one-time-use passes every year
    • Earn double miles on United ticket purchases, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
    • Your miles don’t expire as long as you’re a Cardmember, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn
    • Use your miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight
    • See All Reviews & Details About The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

    Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express


    gold delta skymiles
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 15.24% - 19.24% (V)
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $95 after
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 30,000 miles +$50 statement credit
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months.
    • Earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
    • Earn 2 miles on Delta purchases. 1 mile for each dollar you spend on other eligible 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 in sooner with Priority Boarding
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

    Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®


    aadvantage credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 13.99% - 21.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee $95, waived for first 12 months*
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 50,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent, Good
    • For a limited time, earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
    • Your first eligible checked bag is free*
    • Group 1 boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases*
    • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
    • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

    British Airways Visa Signature® Card


    british airways credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 15.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $95 after
    • Rewards Rate 1.25 - 2.5 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 50,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent, Good
    • You will get 50,000 bonus Avios after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
    • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
    • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 2.5 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1.25 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Smart Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.
    • See All Reviews & Details About The British Airways Visa Signature® Card

    Frontier Airlines Credit Card with No Annual Fee


    frontier credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers 15 months3% Transfer Fee
    • Regular Rate 15.99% - 24.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate 0.5 - 1 mile / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 10,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent, Good
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    Credit Score
    Excellent Credit 721 – 850
    Good Credit 661 – 720
    Fair Credit 620 – 660
    Bad Credit 300 – 619
    Limited Credit Less than 3 years
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    Ask our Experts

    Expert’s Answers

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

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOWhile frequent flyers will certainly benefit more from a miles credit card than others, as long as you travel at least once a year, you can extract significant value from such a card. This is especially true given the attractive initial rewards bonuses that many airline rewards credit cards now offer, which often equate to one or more free flights. However, no matter how attractive these initial bonuses are, if commercial travel isn’t your cup of tea, you will inevitably redeem miles for non-travel goods of services and would therefore have been better off applying for a points or cash back credit card from the get go.

    What to look for when evaluating airline rewards programs:

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOIt’s often difficult to evaluate airline credit cards because you not only have the typical credit card concerns to worry about (e.g. credit standing, fee structure, etc.), but you must also tackle issues unique to airline rewards programs (e.g. whether there’s an airline affiliation, relative differences in value between miles in each program, etc.). Credit card disclosures are by no means short either, so to make things easier on yourself not only use Card Hub’s credit card comparison tool (we’re obviously biased in this regard), but also be on the lookout for the following key pieces of information:
    1. Airline Affiliation: Some airline cards offer generic miles that can be redeemed for flights on any airline. Others are tied to particular airlines and provide miles usable only for flights with affiliated carriers. The former are good for both the infrequent traveler and those who travel a lot, but on different airlines. The latter are only good for brand-loyal frequent flyers.
    2. Initial Rewards Bonus: The initial bonus that you can earn during the first few months of card use is an extremely important consideration. The reason for that is bonus miles on certain cards may even exceed the number of miles attainable from a full year of card use.
    3. Earning Rate: You need to figure out how quickly you’ll be accruing miles, as this dictates how lucrative each card you consider will be. Just be aware of cards that require you to sign up on a quarterly basis in order to be eligible for the highest rewards earning rates.
    4. Earning Tiers: Airline miles credit cards sometimes distribute miles at a particular rate up to a designated spending threshold, at which time the rewards earning rate changes. Depending on your spending habits, this could significantly alter the net earning rate a given card provides.
    5. Expiration: If your airline miles will expire at some point, you clearly need to know about it. When present, expiration is typically linked to either account inactivity or the amount of time elapsed since miles were earned.
    6. Redemption Policy: You must know the number of miles it takes to get free flights and other perks because this will clue you in to how much these miles are actually worth and how long it will take for you to see tangible benefits. In addition, you need to figure out whether any redemption limitations, such as blackout dates or limited seat availability, apply in order to make sure that the miles you earn can actually be put to use.
    7. Status Miles: For frequent flyers choosing between multiple airline miles cards tied to the same airline or deciding which airline to cast their allegiances with, the inclusion of status miles and the rate at which they can be earned is key.

    What’s the difference between airline miles and airline status miles?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOAs is the case with hotel credit cards, airline rewards cards offer two types of miles: those redeemable for free flights, upgrades, etc. and those that allow you to climb the loyalty status ladder. All credit cards with airline miles offer the former; however, only those affiliated with a particular airline offer the latter. Garnering airline status miles should not be a priority unless you fly often and exclusively with a given airline, as you may have to pay a higher annual fee to get an airline card offering them.

    Which airline has the most rewarding credit card?

    By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorThere is no overall “best airline credit card,” as how rewarding each airline credit card is depends on the individual and how he or she uses it. In other words, the best airline credit card is whichever meshes best with your lifestyle. After all, a credit card offering 15 miles per dollar spent on a certain airline might seem good, but it wouldn’t have much practical value if you never fly with that carrier. This also means that the best airline credit card for many people is actually none at all. In fact, you shouldn’t make rewards of any kind a priority unless you pay your monthly credit card bills in full AND have good or excellent credit.

    Airline credit cards vs. Cash back credit cards

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOThough they don’t have the branding, cash back credit cards can actually be the best airline credit cards. While this might seem confusing at first, cash back rewards obviously cannot be devalued and can be redeemed for anything, unlike airline miles. This is especially important for people who don’t fly or use their credit cards very often. Just think: If you aren't a heavy credit card spender, it might take you a couple of years to get enough miles for a free flight. By that time, your interests, financial situation, or even the airline’s rewards program may have changed, making those miles much less useful than when you first started accumulating them. In this scenario, wouldn't you be better off using cash back to subsidize travel expenses once a month or every year, rather than waiting two years to see any benefit?

    Should I have more than one rewards credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEONo matter how good a particular airline credit card is, there are going to be other rewards cards out there that are better in certain areas, and adding a couple of them to your rewards card arsenal can help you strategically maximize the free money you get. More specifically, rewards credit cards can benefit you in two ways: 1) Initial Bonuses: Free flights, gift cards, or cash for opening a new card or spending a certain amount within the first few months; 2) Ongoing Use: According to the Island Approach, you should have 2-3 rewards credit cards that complement each other and mirror your biggest expense categories. For example, if you are using the Delta Airline Miles Credit Card for most of your purchases, you may be able to find a cash back card that offers 5% cash back on gas stations and department stores and will therefore save you more money on these specific types of purchases than the Delta Card.

    Community Discussion

    Ask a question or help others find the best airline credit cards by sharing some tips.

     
    Mar 25, 2015
    By:
    I use my Southwest Airlines card for EVERYTHING and it really pays off. It allows me to go to Las Vegas, which I would not be able to do otherwise. And the free baggage policy helps, too! I have gotten more than a dozen free flights and love this card.
    Mar 22, 2015
    By:
    I used my US Airways card when I traveled and it helped save on my bags (I did not have to pay for my first bag). I also liked to use it because it is like getting double miles, one for traveling and one for buying it.
    Feb 17, 2015
    By:
    Airline credit cards definitely have perks but only if you travel enough for them to make a difference. I personally always search for the cheapest deals so I “airline shop” and go with whatever offers me the best deal but I only travel about four times a year tops whereas my Father travels literally every single week. In his case, he is very loyal to a specific airline because it ends up saving him a lot of money to use an airline card. His card gives him frequent flier points on all of his purchases; I know he has gotten a LOT of points and usage and free flights from constantly using his Gold Delta Skymiles card. With how often he travels, he racks up a LOT of points which can then be used for free upgrades and free flights. Its worth it if you travel enough!
    Feb 14, 2015
    By:
    I have two miles cards that I use - The Spirit Airlines card is amazing - I was able to get free flights for 6 people from Detroit to Orlando, with no questions asked. The problem with Spirit is that you have to be able to travel on their off-peak days. We had to fly on a Tuesday to get the flights. I also have an American Express card with Delta miles. It is good too - the plus side is that availability is not an issue, but you need a lot more miles in order to be able to travel with the card in general. It's also great to travel with because both cards allow you to board first, and the Delta card allows you to have free bags.
    Oct 12, 2014
    By:
    I have the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from American Express. I often fly through Delta so using this card has allowed me to redeem a few free flights.
    Oct 6, 2014
    By:
    Airline credit cards can be useful to a traveler only if that traveler has an airline that they always use. It would not help someone that uses a website like kayak to just use the cheapest airfare. I use a United one, but they usually have higher prices so I normally don’t plan to fly them.
    Sep 27, 2014
    By:
    In my experience Airline credit cards were very useful for us to travel anywhere, but it depends also on the card provider too, my experience is good while I was travelling from Chicago to Europe I used my credit card mostly for what I like to buy during my trip. . Hotels, restaurants, and elsewhere I used my credit card, no hustle during that time.
    Sep 13, 2014
    By:
    I fly about once a year and honestly most cards are just not worth it. Instead I use cash back cards like that give you 1 percent straight cash back and 5 percent in revolving categories. I've tried two airline cards: Southwest which has an annual feel. After the annual fee, I don't think that I really got a bargain. I also tried Spirit Airlines card which had the fee waived the first year and a bonus. When I tried to use the bonus points it wasn't all that easy and the price after the points wasn't that much cheaper than the cheapest flight I found on hotwire. My conclusion is that I'm better off with a card that gives straight cash back and finding a cheap flight.
    Sep 4, 2014
    By:
    I've had the American Express Platinum Delta Skymiles card for over 10 years and if you travel alot it really comes in handy. I love the fact that you get priority boarding, so there is no waiting or pushing or shoving to get on the plane. The baggage insurance is also a big plus as it came in handy when I went on a trip to the Caribbean. The airline somehow ended up losing my luggage, but I was quickly reimbursed and was able to replace all that was lost. It is a good card to have as it has a lot of perks for travellers.
    Jan 9, 2015
    Photo of Terrance M.
    Yes, I've had the same experience with American Express as well. Their customer service is very good, they step up if you have any problems on your trip. I lost my card once in Hawaii, and the next day I got a replacement at my hotel!
    Sep 1, 2014
    By:
    I use the United Mileage Plus Visa card whenever I travel. I often use United when flying so the bonus miles that I get with this card is really convenient. I even got one free flight to Las Vegas because I earned enough points.
    Nov 25, 2014
    Photo of Manda S.
    I also use this card and I think it's a great card to have. While I have not earned a free flight yet, I'm close to it. The bonus miles are definitely a plus.

    That's exciting that you got a free flight to Vegas, I'd love to get one to there as well!
    Aug 27, 2014
    By:
    I absolutely think that airline credit cards are worth it, especially for the avid traveler. The rewards are great, and if you find one that does not let the points expire, even better. It is always great when you are able to travel for less money. Sometimes, the perks are worth it too, such as free car rental, extra luggage, foreign fees, upgrades, or purchase protection. Overall, airline credit cards are a nice thing if you find the right one.
    Aug 6, 2014
    By:
    Traveling with a miles card is definitely worth it, every time. I always make sure to use my Capital One card when I travel overseas to rack up the miles because I often travel at least a few times a year. Having no annual fee is also really helpful for a young person like me just starting out with credit cards as well. I remember using my Capital One last year when I took a trip to Japan, and the amount of miles I was able to get from just the one way trip alone was pretty good. Not to mention your miles don't expire, which is really good for you even if you travel somewhat infrequently. Low APR is nice for me too, and I think overall it's a great card for those of us who are just starting out with credit cards in general.
    Aug 2, 2014
    By:
    I used my American Express Green Card to travel to Europe last winter and it actually helped me a lot because my luggage got lost in Rotterdam and the trip protection that comes default with the card helped me to recover the value of them. Not only that but I collected Amex points on it for the travel that I could transfer to other airline travel rewards programs too. Win-win-win!
    Jul 22, 2014
    By:
    Airline credit cards can be really useful for a frequent traveler. As a man who takes many business trips, im aware that some credit cards although they may give you rewards for airfare and hotel stays can be burdensome. The low intro rates creep up, the rewards are too site specific and the keeping track of them can take a good chunk of your free time away. Luckily i have run into a couple of cards that give great rewards, have and hold reasonable rates and allow me to make money off my travelling when you factor in my job's reimbursement programs. Depending on which card and your credit score you should be able to find a useful and cost effective airline credit card. I mean airline credit cards can be useful to anyone if the rates are reasonable becauseyou never know when you just might want to get away.
    Jul 18, 2014
    By:
    Even though I am not necessarily a frequent traveler, I decided to try the Capital One Venture Rewards Card back in 2012 when some close friends and I went on a cruise. Weeks before we even left for the first one, we had pretty much confirmed there would be more cruises to come, possibly one every year, since they aren’t too expensive in the just of things. I knew Capital One was the brand I wanted to go with since I do have one another credit card, which happens to be a Capital One Platinum card. This card is pretty decent, nothing special, but they do follow through with their rewards. I have always been content as a Capital One customer. The guys and I have gone on 2 cruises now, both times we fly, and I did use my Venture card both times.
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