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Published: Apr 04, 2024 32 min read
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Best for Premium BenefitsBest for FamiliesBest for International TravelBest for No Annual Fee
Delta SkyMiles<sup>&reg;</sup> Reserve American Express Card Logo
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card Logo
United Explorer Credit Card Logo
United Gateway Credit Card Logo
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit CardUnited℠ Explorer CardUnited Gateway℠ Card
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Rewards Rate

3X miles on Delta purchases

3x points on Southwest purchases, 2x points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners, local transit and commuting, internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming providers

2x miles on United purchases, 2x miles on dining (including eligible delivery services), 2x miles on hotel accommodations purchased directly with the hotel

2x miles on United purchases, 2x miles at gas stations, 2x miles on local transit and commuting, including ride-share services

Travel Insurance

Baggage Insurance Plan, Trip Delay, Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Car Rental Loss and Damage*

Lost Luggage Reimbursement, Baggage Delay

Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Baggage Delay, Lost Luggage Reimbursement, Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Trip Delay Reimbursement

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Trip Cancellation/Interruption

Annual Feeannual_fees

(Click here for rates and fees.)

annual_feesannual_feesannual_fees
Best for Premium Benefits
Delta SkyMiles<sup>®</sup> Reserve American Express Card
Our Partner
Learn More
Rewards Rate

3X miles on Delta purchases

Travel Insurance

Baggage Insurance Plan, Trip Delay, Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Car Rental Loss and Damage*

Annual Fee
annual_fees

(Click here for rates and fees.)

Best for Families
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Our Partner
Learn More
Rewards Rate

3x points on Southwest purchases, 2x points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners, local transit and commuting, internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming providers

Travel Insurance

Lost Luggage Reimbursement, Baggage Delay

Annual Fee
annual_fees
Best for International Travel
United℠ Explorer Card
Our Partner
Learn More
Rewards Rate

2x miles on United purchases, 2x miles on dining (including eligible delivery services), 2x miles on hotel accommodations purchased directly with the hotel

Travel Insurance

Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Baggage Delay, Lost Luggage Reimbursement, Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Trip Delay Reimbursement

Annual Fee
annual_fees
Best for No Annual Fee
United Gateway℠ Card
Our Partner
Learn More
Rewards Rate

2x miles on United purchases, 2x miles at gas stations, 2x miles on local transit and commuting, including ride-share services

Travel Insurance

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Trip Cancellation/Interruption

Annual Fee
annual_fees

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If you frequently fly with the same airline, an airline credit card can help you maximize the miles you earn and provide benefits to enhance your travel experience.

Airlines credit cards can earn between two to five miles (or points) per dollar spent and include benefits such as no foreign transaction fees, free checked bags, annual bonus miles credits and more. They can also help you save money with statement credits and in-flight discounts on food, beverages and Wi-Fi plans.

Read on to check out Money's picks for the best airline credit cards and a guide to how they work.

Our Top Picks for the Best Airline Credit Cards of 2024

Our top picks are listed in alphabetical order.

Best Airline Credit Cards Reviews

Pros
  • Preferred boarding and free checked bag for you and up to four companions
  • 25% savings (as statement credits) on eligible in-flight purchases
  • Variety of insurance coverage
Cons
  • Free checked bag only available for domestic flights
  • Lower rewards rate than other cards with similar annual fees (around $99)
HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee:
$99
Travel Insurance:
Travel Accident Insurance, Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Baggage Delay, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver

Rewards

  • 2x miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1x mile per dollar on other eligible purchases

Why we chose it: The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® features more insurance coverage than many other airline cards, even some with higher annual fees.

The card’s travel coverage includes travel accident insurance, trip cancellation/interruption coverage, baggage delay insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver.

In addition to insurance, the card provides American Airlines loyalists ways to save each anniversary year. Earn a companion certificate (good for one guest, with a value of $99) if you spend $20,000 on purchases during the previous anniversary year and get statement credits of up to $25 on in-flight WiFi purchases. You can also receive 25% back as statement credit for eligible in-flight purchases of food and beverages.

Primary cardmembers, and up to four traveling companions, can check their first bag for free and receive preferred boarding. Note, however, that free checked bags are only for domestic American Airlines flights.

While the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® rewards rate is lackluster, the variety of travel benefits it offers make it a worthwhile consideration for frequent flyers of American Airlines.

Pros
  • 25% discount for in-flight purchases
  • First checked bag free for you and up to four companions
  • Priority boarding
  • $125 yearly flight discount
Cons
  • No travel insurance
  • Annual flight discount has a high spending requirement
HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
$99, waived for first year
Travel Insurance
None

Rewards

  • 2x miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1x mile per dollar on other eligible purchases

Why we chose it: The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® allows loyalty program members to earn miles from purchases and loyalty points for every eligible mile earned.

The card offers one free checked bag for you and up to four companions, along with priority boarding and 25% discounts on in-flight purchases. You can also receive a $125 flight discount if you spend $20,000 or more in purchases with your card during the anniversary year.

The card does lack travel insurance options while similarly priced cards ($99 annual fee) provide at least auto rental insurance. Additionally, its reward rates are lower, and the spending requirement for its yearly flight credit is around $10,000 higher than with other cards.

Pros
  • First checked bag free and priority boarding for up to nine people traveling under the same reservation
  • $200 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year (Terms apply)
  • 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app (Terms apply)
Cons
  • Limited travel protection

Terms apply. See here for rates and fees.

HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
annual_fees
Welcome Offer:
bonus_miles_full
Regular APR
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
Intro APR
intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration
Recommended Credit
credit_score_needed
Travel Insurance
Secondary Auto Rental Coverage*

Rewards

  • 2x miles per dollar on purchases made directly with Delta
  • 2x miles per dollar at U.S. supermarkets
  • 2x miles per dollar on dining, including eligible takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 1x mile per dollar on other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Why we chose it: The card_name is excellent for frequent Delta flyers, offering free checked bags and priority boarding for themselves and up to eight companions.

The card also offers plenty of other benefits, including:

  • 15% off flights booked with miles through Delta.com or Delta's app
  • 20% discount (in the form of a statement credit) on eligible in-flight purchases
  • $200 yearly flight credit (after spending $10,000 with your card on eligible purchases)
  • Up to $100 back yearly (in the form of a statement credit) when booking prepaid hotels or vacations through Delta Stays
  • Terms apply

The card is not without its drawbacks. It only includes secondary rental car insurance, while cards with similar fees cover baggage or trip cancellations and its in-flight discount is also around 5% less than similar cards. However, even with its $99 annual fee, the card’s benefits mostly offset it.

Pros
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual companion certificate
  • First checked bag free and priority boarding for up to nine people traveling under the same reservation
Cons
  • High annual fee ($650)
  • Annual companion certificate
  • Secondary auto rental coverage**

Terms apply. Click here for applicable rates and fees.

HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
annual_fees
Welcome Offer
bonus_miles_full
Regular APR
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
Intro APR
intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration
Recommended Credit
credit_score_needed
Travel Insurance
Secondary Car Rental Coverage**, Lost/Damaged/Stolen Baggage, Trip Delay, Trip Cancellation/Interruption*

Rewards

  • 3x miles on purchases made directly with Delta
  • 1x mile on other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Why we chose it: The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers an extensive list of perks that can more than cover the card's $650 annual cost, including access to a wide network of airport lounges and an annual companion certificate. (Terms apply.)

While it has a steep annual fee, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card does offer enough perks to offset the cost, including:

  • Complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club(R) and you can bring up to two guests at a rate of $50 per person per visit when flying Delta. (After February 1, 2025, cardmembers will receive only 15 complimentary visits per year. To earn unlimited visits, you'll need to spend at least $75,000 in eligible purchases between January 1 and December 31, 2024, and each subsequent year)
  • A Companion Certificate on First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card
  • Terms apply

Another hugely valuable benefit is that the card's annual companion certificate is transferable, so the cardholder doesn't have to be on the flight reservation. (Terms apply.)

Other perks include travel insurance, first checked bag free and priority boarding for up to nine people traveling under the same reservation. If you use your card to pay for the application fees, you can receive a $100 statement credit every four years after applying for Global Entry or a statement credit of up to $85 every four and half years after applying for a 5-year TSA PreCheck® membership. There's also a 20% discount (as a statement credit) on eligible in-flight purchases and 15% off on award tickets (tickets booked with points or miles) reserved through Delta.com or the Delta app.

Pros
  • 25% discount on all in-flight purchases
  • Annual $100 flight voucher
  • No foreign transaction fee
Cons
  • No travel insurance or free checked bags
HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
$79, waived for first year
Travel Insurance:
None

Rewards

  • 3x points per dollar on eligible Spirit purchases
  • 2x points per dollar on eligible dining and grocery store purchases
  • 1x point per dollar on other eligible purchases

Why we chose it: With its $0 introductory annual fee and yearly $100 flight voucher, the Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® is a low-cost alternative for Spirit frequent flyers.

The Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® has a $79 annual fee, which is waived during the first year. It provides a $100 flight voucher each anniversary after you make at least $5,000 in purchases, priority Zone 2 boarding and a 25% discount on all in-flight purchases.

Do note, however, that the card doesn't include travel insurance or free checked bags and its reward rates are lower than those offered by other budget airlines.

All information about Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by Money.com.

Pros
  • Annual $100 flight voucher
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Each dollar spent earns a qualifying mile toward Elite status
Cons
  • Doesn’t include free checked bags
  • No travel insurance
HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
$89
Travel Insurance
None

Rewards

  • 5x miles on eligible flyfrontier.com purchases
  • 3x miles on eligible restaurants
  • 1x mile on other eligible purchases

Why we chose it: Among cards from ultra-low-cost carriers, the FRONTIER Airlines World Mastercard® stands out by offering a high reward rate and counting every dollar you spend toward elite status.

The card’s bonus rates could help you gain elite status quickly since the card counts every dollar spent as a mile toward the program. You'll reach Frontier's first elite level after spending $20,000 on your card — or after 25 flights (round trips count as two) in a year. This level includes advance seat assignment, free carry-on bag and priority boarding (although the card already provides the last one).

The card has an $89 annual, but you'll be awarded a yearly $100 flight voucher after spending at least $2,500 that makes up for it. However, note that the voucher expires six months after it’s issued and can only be used for airfare, not for bag fees, seat assignment or change fees.

While the FRONTIER Airlines World Mastercard® has a great reward rate and simplifies earning elite status, it doesn't offer as many benefits as similarly priced cards from legacy airlines. Even after reaching the first elite status tier, you still don't get free checked bags or statement credits. However, this card can be a good fit if you don't mind having fewer cardholder perks in exchange for saving money on ticket prices.

All information about the FRONTIER Airlines World Mastercard® has been collected independently by Money.com.

Pros
  • 5,000 bonus points yearly
  • Free checked bags for up to four travelers
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases of food and drinks
Cons
  • No travel protection
HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
$99
Travel Insurance
None

Rewards

  • 6x points per dollar on eligible JetBlue purchases
  • 2x points per dollar at restaurants and eligible grocery stores
  • 1x point per dollar on other eligible purchases

Why we chose it: The JetBlue Plus Card offers excellent benefits like free checked bags, yearly bonus points and more. It also makes earning elite status with the airline faster and easier, which unlocks even more perks to enhance your travel experience.

One of the card's best features is that it can help you unlock elite perks faster by counting your everyday spending as qualifying points. Other airlines, on the other hand, only count money spent on flights and require you to spend around $5,000 or more in a year on airfare to reach the first level of their Mosaic loyalty program.

To reach the first Mosaic level, you would typically need to spend $50,000 on your card. However, every $100 spent on JetBlue airfare, vacation packages and other qualifying purchases counts more and can be combined with what you spent on your card. For example, if you spend $2,000 on flights, you would need to spend $30,000 on your card instead of $50,000 to reach Mosaic status.

In addition, the card includes a free first-checked bag for you and up to three companions as well as 50% off eligible in-flight food and drink purchases, one of the highest discounts of this type we’ve seen.

You get 5,000 bonus points yearly and an annual $100 statement credit if you book a JetBlue Vacations package of $100. You'll also receive a 10% point rebate each time you book a flight using accumulated points.

Jetblue is well-known for having the most legroom in economy. The airline also offers complimentary Wi-Fi and live TV, which often cost extra or aren't available in coach on other airlines. These amenities make the airline one of the most comfortable ones in the U.S. market.

All information about the JetBlue Plus Card has been collected independently by Money.com.

Pros
  • 7,500 bonus points annually
  • $75 yearly statement credit
  • 25% back on inflight purchases
Cons
  • Priority boarding limited to four flights per year
HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
annual_fees
Sign-up bonus
bonus_miles_full
Regular APR
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
Intro APR
intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration
Recommended Credit
credit_score_needed
Travel Insurance
Lost Luggage Reimbursement, Baggage Delay

Rewards

  • 3x points per dollar on Southwest purchases
  • 2x points per dollar on hotel and car rentals with Rapid Rewards® partners
  • 2x points per dollar on local transit and commuting (including rideshare services)
  • 2x points per dollar on internet, cable, phone and select streaming services
  • 1x point per dollar on other eligible purchases

Why we chose it: Southwest's affordable fares and generous baggage policy — two free checked bags plus a free carry-on per person — already make the airline an ideal option for families. However, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (Member FDIC) can help you get even more benefits.

Southwest® points, called Rapid Rewards®, never expire. There are also no seat restrictions or blackout dates (periods where points are unavailable), so once you earn points, you can redeem them whenever you like.

While the card has a $149 annual fee, it features two benefits that can offset its cost. The card includes a yearly $75 statement credit that you can use to cover Southwest purchases, including flight tickets and pet carrier fees.You'll also receive 7,500 bonus points annually. You'll also receive 7,500 points each account anniversary year.

In addition, you'll receive 25% back on in-flight purchases, including select drinks and Wi-Fi plans, and four Upgraded Boarding passes per year. These passes, which cost $30 or more per flight, let you enter the plane with the first group of passengers, provided there's space available. Because Southwest doesn't offer assigned seating — it sorts people into groups instead — this benefit can help you get the seats you really want.

Southwest® Airlines flies to over a hundred destinations throughout the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Aside from its excellent baggage policy, the airline also lets you change or cancel your trip without incurring any fees.

Pros
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck®, Global Entry or NEXUS
  • Two United Club℠ one-time passes per year
Cons
  • Only two people per reservation get a free checked bag
HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
annual_fees
Sign-up bonus
bonus_miles_full
Regular APR
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
Intro APR
intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration
Recommended Credit
credit_score_needed
Travel Insurance
Primary Auto Rental Coverage, Baggage Delay, Lost Luggage Reimbursement, Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Trip Delay

Rewards

  • 7x miles. on United flights
  • 4x miles on hotle stays booked through United Hotels
  • 2x miles per dollar on purchases from United
  • United fees
  • 2x miles per dollar on dining, including eligible delivery services
  • 2x miles per dollar on hotel stays purchased directly with the hotel
  • 1x mile per dollar on other eligible purchases

Why we chose it: The United℠ Explorer Card gives cardholders access to valuable benefits that make its low annual fee worthwhile, and it earns miles that can get you flights to more than a hundred international destinations.

The miles you accumulate can be used for flights on United Airlines or its partners, including Avianca, Lufthansa and Air Canada. You can also redeem miles for seat upgrades, inflight Wi-Fi passes and more — although United miles are usually more valuable when used for flight bookings.

The United℠ Explorer Card’s $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Once it kicks in, however, the card’s benefits are enough to make up for it. The card includes one free checked bag for the cardholder and a companion, which usually costs around $30 per person each way. It also provides priority boarding for you and your companions and two one-time passes to the United Club each year (valued at around $100 or more).

The card offers 25% back as a statement credit on in-flight purchases like food, beverages and Wi-Fi. Additionally, you'll get another statement credit of up to $100 every four years to cover the cost of TSA PreCheck®, Global Entry or NEXUS.

Pros
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Offers 25% back on United® inflight purchases
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
Cons
  • No free checked bag or priority boarding
HIGHLIGHTS
Annual fee
annual_fees
Sign-up bonus
bonus_miles_full
Regular APR
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
Intro APR
intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration
Recommended Credit
credit_score_needed
Travel Insurance
Auto Rental Coverage, Trip Cancellation/Interruption

Rewards

  • 7x miles per dollar on United flights
  • 2x miles per dollar on other purchases from United
  • 2x miles per dollar at gas stations.
  • 2x miles per dollar on mass transit and commuting, including ride-share services, taxis, trains and tolls
  • 1x mile per dollar on other eligible purchases

Why we chose it: The United Gateway℠ Card is a solid no-annual-fee card that offers valuable perks, such as travel insurance and popular bonus categories.

Cardholders get access to a variety of benefits and perks, such as the Chase Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection, a network of more than a thousand establishments. When you book a stay through the program, you can get complimentary daily breakfast, room upgrades, late checkouts and more, when available.

Not many no-annual-fee credit cards include travel insurance. The United Gateway℠ Card, on the other hand, provides coverage for trip cancellation or interruption, and reimburses you up to $1,500 per person ($6,000 per trip) for non-refundable tickets if your trip gets canceled or cut short by covered events, like sickness or injury.

The card also offers auto rental coverage, which can save you money by letting you skip the rental company's collision insurance. However, the coverage is secondary, which means that if you have personal car insurance, you will have to file a claim with your primary insurer first, with the card covering remaining deductibles.

While the United Gateway℠ Card does offer more benefits when compared to other credit cards without an annual fee, do note that it doesn’t offer priority boarding or free checked bags, which are typically included with airline credit cards that have yearly fees of around $95 or more.

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Best Airline Credit Cards Guide

If you travel often, an airline credit card can help you snag free flights and get complimentary perks such as free checked bags and priority boarding.

While not as flexible as the best travel credit cards, which can be used to earn rewards on multiple airlines, these cards do offer some benefits, especially if you tend to favor a particular carrier or are willing to stick with one airline to get elite status perks.

Read to learn how airline credit cards work and how to get the most value from them.

What is an airline credit card?

Airline credit cards are designed for people who fly with the same airline often, offering significant rewards on flight bookings with that carrier. You also get miles (or points) through everyday spending. Like general credit cards, airline cards earn at least one mile for every dollar spent. However, most cards feature bonus rates for popular spending categories like gas, dining or grocery stores.

Besides helping cardmembers rack up miles faster, airline credit cards usually include additional perks such as free checked luggage, in-flight discounts and priority boarding. Some may also provide comprehensive travel insurance and airport lounge access.

How do airline credit cards work?

Airline credit cards are issued by a bank or lender and co-branded with a specific airline. Every time you use your card, you earn miles or points with that airline’s frequent flyer program (sometimes called loyalty program) which you can typically redeem for flights, seat upgrades, rental cars, hotels or vacation packages.

If you’re already signed up for an airline’s loyalty program, provide your frequent flyer or membership number when applying for an airline credit card to maximize your rewards-earning potential. If you don’t have a loyalty program membership, you will automatically be enrolled and given a number after you’re approved for the card.

Note that airlines reward loyalty program members even if they don't have an airline credit card. Most carriers offer around five miles for every dollar you spend on their flights, but the reward rate increases if you spend a lot and reach the program's top tiers.

Reward rates might vary between cards and issuers, but all airline credit cards offer the highest bonus rate for direct purchases with the carrier. Most cards offer at least 2x points or miles for goods and services from the airline, but some can earn 4x or more. Cards usually also have bonus rates for other spending categories, such as restaurants or supermarkets.

What are the benefits of an airline credit card?

The benefits of airline credit cards vary, and cards with higher annual fees typically feature the most.. Whether the card is from a legacy or budget airline also determines perks. For example, an airline might provide free live TV, while another doesn't have screens on board.

No-annual-fee cards usually offer two miles per dollar on purchases with the carrier and have one or two additional bonus spending categories, like gas or restaurants. They also typically provide a discount of around 20% on in-flight food and beverages, but that's about the extent of the benefits.

Cards with annual fees of around $95 tend to have the same benefits as those without fees, but include additional ones like free first-checked bags and priority boarding. Some also give statement credits to cover the cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck, airport screening programs that can help travelers move through airport security faster.

Then there are the premium airline credit cards, which can cost up to $600 or more per year and feature luxury perks that are most valuable for people who travel very frequently. These will provide free access to airport lounges, annual bonus points and multiple statement credits and offer the highest reward rate on purchases, along with every other benefit provided by lower-priced cards.

How to choose the best airline credit card

Before getting an airline credit card, consider whether you typically fly with a single airline or prefer to shop around for the best deals. If you're not loyal to an airline, you might be better off with a general travel credit card, which earns rewards for all travel purchases without tying you to one company. However, if you consistently fly with the same carrier, an airline credit card can help you get the most out of your travel experience.

Credit card perks are similar among major carriers, typically including priority boarding and free checked bags. However, it’s important to read the fine print as a card might extend its benefit to you and one companion while another extends that benefit to up to nine, for example.

Assess the value of a card's perks, especially if it has an annual fee. For example, a card can have a $250 yearly cost but offer up to $100 yearly in statement credits to cover the cost of flights, seat upgrades or more. This essentially brings down the card's price to $150 per year. And if the card also provides free checked bags, that can save you around $60 per person on a round trip.

For those who aren't loyal to an airline but are considering it, evaluate airline partners and flight routes before applying for a card. A card may have an attractive introductory offer and benefits, but the airline, or its partners, might not provide service to the airports or countries you’d like to fly to.

How to maximize the value of your airline credit card

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your airline credit card:

  • Use your card to make everyday purchases, especially on its bonus spending categories. You'll earn miles or points for every dollar you spend.
  • Include your frequent flier number in your flight reservation; this way, you'll earn the highest amount of miles. You'll get around five miles or more from the airline's frequent-flier program and about two or more from the credit card.
  • Using your frequent flier number also guarantees you receive the card's travel benefits, like waived bag fees.
  • Carefully examine your card's sign-up bonus. Most cards normally grant you bonus miles after you spend a certain amount on your card during a set amount of time, like the first three months of membership.
  • Some cards feature yearly reward points and statement credits each account anniversary if you hit a spending target.
  • Check if you can add authorized users and if their spending counts towards earned miles. However, be careful about who you authorize since you're responsible for paying for all purchases they make.

How much is an airline mile worth

Airline miles can have variable rates depending on the airline, fare class, season and distance. To calculate how much value you can get from your miles, divide a booking's dollar cost by what it's worth in miles.

For example, if a flight costs $200 or 16,000 miles, each mile will have a value of around 1.25 cents for that booking. If the same flight costs $100, the miles would be worth closer to 0.90 cents.

How to redeem your airline credit card rewards

To redeem most airline card miles, you need to log in to your airline's frequent flier program through its website. For example, if your card is from American, you need to access your American Airlines AAdvantage account.

Once you log in, you can search for available flights, seat upgrades, hotel bookings, online shopping options and gift cards. However, note that miles typically have the highest value when redeemed for flights.

How to book a flight using rewards

To redeem miles for flights, enter your origin, destination, and flight dates and check the box that says you'd like to book (or pay) using miles. You'll get a list or calendar showing available flights and their cost in miles, and you'll also have the option of seeing cash prices. Select your preferred booking, and when the checkout process begins, make sure to choose miles as your form of payment.

Some airlines have deal finders for award flights, those booked with miles. These search tools show the best deals available for the least amount of miles. However, flights might not always be available from your preferred airport.

How to redeem rewards for other travel-related expenses

You can usually use your miles for seat upgrades, even after a flight has been booked. To request an upgrade, access your existing reservation and you'll find an option to use miles to buy up to a premium seat.

Airlines might also allow you to reserve rental cars or hotel stay directly through their website using miles. If available, placing a reservation is similar to booking a flight. Use the airline's search tool to find your preferred booking and choose to pay with miles during checkout.

How to redeem rewards for non-travel related expenses

Some airlines have shopping portals where you can buy gift cards or items from various retailers. You can use your card to complete transactions (and earn miles), a combination of cash and miles or only miles. Shopping through these portals is similar to other online retailers, where you add an item to the cart, head to the checkout and select how you'd like to pay.

However, note that this redemption option often gives the least value for your miles. For example, a pair of headphones could have a markup of 80,000 miles through an airline's shopping portal. If each mile had a one-cent per-dollar value, the headphones would cost you around $800.

Airline credit cards vs. Travel credit cards

Airline and travel credit cards feature convenient benefits for frequent flyers. Still, one is better suited for those loyal to a particular airline, while the other has broader redemption categories.

Here are a few key differences between these two types of credit cards:

Airline credit cards

Travel credit cards

Airline cards offer the most bonus points for purchases with a particular airline.

Earn high rewards for travel purchases with different airlines, hotels, cruise lines and more.

Earn the highest amount of points or miles by using your card to book flights with your card airline.

Bonus rates for travel are typically only available for purchases made through the card issuer's travel portal.

You can usually redeem your points or miles for flights with the airline and its partners. You can also use them for seat upgrades.

Points or miles can be redeemed for travel purchases, cash back, statement credits, gift cards and more.

They mostly include airline-specific benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding and in-flight discounts.

They often provide statement credits or annual bonus points that can be redeemed with various carries and hotels, plus travel insurance.

These cards are best for those who fly regularly with only one airline.

These cards are ideal if you’re constantly searching for the best deal and don’t mind switching airlines.

Are airline credit cards worth it?

Airline credit cards are worth getting if you're a frequent flier who constantly travels with the same airline and can take advantage of the card's benefits, like free checked bags and priority boarding. Airline credit cards are also worth considering to take advantage of the miles they offer in addition to the ones granted by airline loyalty programs.

For example, you get five miles for every dollar spent on flights if you're a basic MileagePlus member, which is United Airlines' loyalty program. However, if you have the United℠ Explorer Card, you'll earn two extra miles on top of those five, totaling 7x miles on flights.

Nonetheless, if you’re not a loyalist and you usually switch between carriers, a card tied to a single airline may not offer enough value.

Best Airline Credit Cards FAQs

Can I use an airline credit card for any airline?

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You can use an airline card with other carriers, but you won't earn the same amount of bonus miles. These cards give users 2x miles or more for direct purchases with their co-branded airline. If you use the card to purchase a ticket on another airline, you'll likely only earn 1x miles per dollar. You also won't get to make use of the card's benefits, which are only valid with the card's airline.

How do I earn rewards with my airline credit card?

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Airline credit cards earn rewards just like all cards do. You simply have to use your cards to make purchases, and you'll get at least one mile per dollar spent. If you make purchases that are eligible for your card's bonus rates, you'll earn 2x miles or more per dollar. Popular spending categories airline cards offer include dining, gas and grocery stores.

Are there any fees associated with airline credit cards?

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Airline credit cards can have similar fees to other types of credit cards. Many cards don't charge an annual fee, but some can cost up to $600 per year. They also charge fees for late payments, balance transfers, cash advances and more. While most personal credit cards charge foreign transaction fees, airline cards usually don't, which makes them useful while traveling.

How We Chose the Best Airline Credit Cards

We compared dozens of airline credit cards based on their rewards, benefits, fees and travel coverage.

  • Rewards. We evaluated the reward programs of each card and considered how their spending categories can help you earn the most airline rewards.
  • Extra benefits. We chose cards with benefits that can enhance your travel experience, such as waived bag fees, priority boarding and travel insurance. We also preferred cards that offer yearly bonus points that can be used for free flights or discounted upgrades.
  • Fees and intro offers. When cards offered similar rewards and benefits, we compared their welcome bonuses, intro APRs, interest rates, balance transfer fees and more.
  • Airline service and reputation. We took into account the travel destinations of each airline and its partners. We also researched their overall customer satisfaction, although it's important to highlight the pandemic led to staff shortages that impacted customer satisfaction across the board.

Summary of Money’s Best Airline Credit Cards of 2024

To see rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please visit this link. Terms apply.

* Insurance disclosures for American Express Cards on this page:

Trip Delay Insurance: Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.

Global Assist Hotline: Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Card Members are responsible for the costs charged by third-party service providers.

Extended Warranty, Purchase Protection, Baggage Insurance Plan: Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.

Car Rental Loss & Damage Insurance: Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.

**Insurance disclosure for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance can provide coverage up to $50,000 for theft of or damage to most rental vehicles when you use your eligible Card to reserve and pay for the entire eligible vehicle rental and decline the collision damage waiver or similar option offered by the Commercial Car Rental Company. This product provides secondary coverage and does not include liability coverage. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered. Geographic restrictions apply. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.