Best Airline Credit Cards

Airline credit cards allow you to earn discounted flights, upgrades and other perks. They’re especially useful for frequent flyers because they allow you to make the most of your spending. Many of the best airline credit cards have an annual fee, so be sure a card makes sense for your spending habits before you sign up.

CardCritics, GOBankingRates’ resident credit card experts, identified the best airline credit cards by compiling and extensively analyzing data on all of the major credit cards available, then rating them on a 5-star rating system. The comparison factors include annual fees, APRs, sign-up bonuses, ongoing rewards, accessibility, redemption options and more. These factors were then weighted by importance to focus on key features that are most important in each specific category.

3X miles on delta and hotel purchases

Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express

5

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Why we like it

The Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card is a strong option that offers a variety of ways to earn rewards, with its top rewards tier offering 3X miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Additionally, you’ll earn 2X miles at restaurants, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. It also offers valuable benefits for Delta travelers, such as priority boarding, an annual domestic main cabin round-trip companion certificate and your first bag checked for free, helping to offset the $250 annual fee. For the welcome bonus, you can earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months (offer ends Nov. 9, 2022).

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$250

Welcome Bonus

Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 6 months.

Balance Transfer APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

3X miles on Delta purchases made directly with Delta and at hotels made directly with hotels, 2X miles on dining and groceries, and 1X on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Excellent rewards, especially on Delta purchases
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Welcome bonus

Annual domestic main cabin round-trip companion certificate

Special rewards if you make $25,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, up to two times

There’s a $250 annual fee

Key Features

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • First checked bag free

Upgraded boardings and anniversary points

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority

4.7

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority

Why we like it

The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card is the highest tier offered by Chase/Southwest. It also carries the highest annual fee at $149, but its features more than make up for that for Southwest Flyers. For the sign-up bonus, you can earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You’ll earn three points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and 2X points on purchases with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, local transit and commuting, internet, cable, phone services and select streaming. You also get four upgraded boardings per year (when available), a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 7,500 anniversary points each year and 25% back on inflight purchases. Plus there are no foreign transaction fees.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$149

Welcome Bonus

Earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Balance Transfer APR

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

Earn 3 points for each $1 spent on Southwest purchases. Earn 2 points for $1 spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental purchases, plus local transit, commuting, internet, cable, phone services and select streaming. Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on everyday purchases.

Benefits

  • Excellent rewards rates, especially if you book through Southwest
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Four upgraded boardings per year, when available

$75 annual Southwest travel credit

7,500 anniversary points each year

There’s a $149 annual fee

Key Features

  • 25% back on inflight purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Solid benefits with great sign-up bonus

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority

4.7

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier

Why we like it

The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card occupies the middle tier of the three-tier Chase/Southwest card structure. It offers solid benefits for a modest annual fee for the occasional Southwest flyer. For a sign-up bonus, you can earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, which helps offset the $99 annual fee. You’ll earn 3X rewards on Southwest purchases and 2X points on purchases with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, local transit and commuting, internet, cable, phone services and select streaming. You also get 6,000 anniversary points each year, 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 you spend, two EarlyBird Check-Ins each year and 25% back on inflight purchases. Plus there are no foreign transaction fees.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$99

Welcome Bonus

Earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Balance Transfer APR

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

Earn 3 points for each $1 spent on Southwest purchases. Earn 2 points for $1 spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental purchases, plus local transit, commuting, internet, cable, phone services and select streaming. Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on everyday purchases.

Benefits

  • Excellent rewards rates, especially if you book through Southwest
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

6,000 anniversary points each year

1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 you spend, with no limit

No foreign transaction fee

There’s a $99 annual fee

Key Features

  • 25% back on inflight purchases
  • Your points don’t expire

Stacked with travel features

Chase

Chase United Quest

4.8

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Chase

Why we like it

The Chase United Quest Card has a generous sign-up bonus and offers a significant amount of travel-related benefits. For frequent United flyers, this card is stacked with features and is worth the $250 annual fee. As a sign-up bonus, you can earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You also get a $125 annual United purchase credit, two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits, plus free checked bags. For rewards, you can earn 3X miles on United purchases and 2X miles on all other travel.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$250

Welcome Bonus

Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

Balance Transfer APR

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

3X miles on United Airlines purchases. 2X miles per $1 spent on all other travel, dining and streaming services. 1X mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Strong rewards, especially on United purchases
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Welcome bonus

$125 annual United purchase credit

Two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits

There’s a $250 annual fee

Key Features

  • Free first and second checked bags
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Sign-up bonus and no foreign transaction fees

Chase

Chase United Gateway

4.7

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Chase

Why we like it

The Chase United Gateway Card doesn’t have an annual fee, offers a sign-up bonus and doesn’t charge for foreign transaction fees, making it great for those fee-adverse users. The card is an especially good fit for those who frequently fly with United. As a sign-up bonus, you can earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. For rewards, you earn 2X miles on United purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting. Plus, you get 25% back on United inflight and Club premium drink purchases and no foreign transaction fees. You earn 1X mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months, then

Annual Fee

$0

Welcome Bonus

Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

Balance Transfer APR

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

2X miles on United purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting. 1X mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Solid rewards, especially on United purchases
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Welcome bonus

No annual fee

Intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months

Missing some travel perks

Key Features

  • 25% back on United inflight and Club premium drink purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Double miles on dining and hotels

Chase

Chase United Explorer

4.7

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Chase

Why we like it

The Chase United Explorer Card carries many of the same benefits of the more expensive cards in the same Chase United family, although to a slightly lesser degree, with a modest $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year. For the sign-up bonus, you can earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You also get two United Club passes per year, 25% off in-flight purchases and a $100 statement credit every four years on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and United Premier Access services. United Airlines purchases will earn you 2X miles per dollar spent and you will also earn double miles on dining and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$95

Welcome Bonus

Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Balance Transfer APR

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

2 miles per $1 spent on United Airlines purchases, dining, and hotel stays. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Carries many of the same benefits of the more expensive cards in the same Chase United family
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Welcome bonus

Bonus points categories

First checked bag free

There’s a $95 annual fee after the first year

Key Features

  • Up to $100 as a statement credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS every 4 years
  • Two United Club passes per year

Annual fee waived first year

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus

4.7

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus

Why we like it

The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card offers some modest benefits for a relatively low annual fee for the occasional Southwest flyer. For a sign-up bonus, you can earn 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Although this card comes with a $95 annual fee, it is waived for the first year. You will also get 3,000 points every year on your Cardmember anniversary, two Early Bird check-ins per year, and 25% back on inflight purchases with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card. Southwest Airlines purchases will earn you 2 points per dollar spent and you’ll also earn 2 points per dollar on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$69

Welcome Bonus

Earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Balance Transfer APR

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

Earn 2 points for each dollar spent on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, local transit, commuting, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1 point for each dollar spent on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Many features for a low-fee card
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Welcome bonus

3,000 points every year on your Cardmember anniversary

Two Early Bird check-ins per year

There’s a $69 annual fee

Key Features

  • 25% back on inflight purchases
  • Your points don’t expire

Huge rewards for United travelers

Chase

4.7

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Chase

Why we like it

The Chase United Club Infinite Card is squarely targeted at heavy United travelers, who can reap huge rewards in terms of miles and perks, more than making up for the $525 annual fee. As a sign-up bonus, you can earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The card also gives you membership to the United Club, two free checked bags, 25% off in-flight purchases and a $100 statement credit every four years on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and United Premier Access services. You can earn rewards faster with category bonuses including 4X miles on United purchases and 2X miles on all other travel purchases and dining, plus 1X on everything else.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$0

Welcome Bonus

Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Balance Transfer APR

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

Earn rewards faster with 4x miles on United purchases. 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel purchases and dining including eligible delivery services. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Strong rewards, especially on United purchases
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Welcome bonus

United Club membership

High rewards on United purchases

There’s a $525 annual fee

Key Features

  • Free first and second bags checked
  • Up to $100 as a statement credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS every 4 years

$99 companion certificate

Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

4.7

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Why we like it

The Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has a relatively unique blend of features that seem more valuable than the $99 annual fee, particularly if you fly on American Airlines. Features include a $99 annual Companion Certificate if you spend $20,000 on the card and your account remains open for 45 days past your anniversary, first checked bag free on American Airlines, priority boarding on AA, 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers, no foreign transaction fees, 25% off inflight purchases, $25 annual onboard Wi-Fi credit and 2X AAdvantage miles on all American Airlines purchases. You will also qualify for a welcome offer of 50,000 miles after making your first purchase and paying the annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$99

Welcome Bonus

Earn 50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days.

Balance Transfer APR

0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months, then

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

Earn 2X AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Unique blend of features with a fairly low annual fee
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Welcome bonus

Intro APR for the first 15 months

First checked bag free

There’s a $99 annual fee

Key Features

  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Up to $25 back as statement credits on inflight Wi-Fi purchases

$100 flight credit and free checked bag

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express

4.6

/5

Score

GET STARTED

Why we like it

The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card is a good option for those who like to fly Delta but don’t want to fork over hundreds of dollars in annual fees for a more feature-rich card. The card has a $99 annual fee that’s waived for the first year. As a welcome bonus, you can earn 65,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months (offer ends Nov. 9, 2022). On all Delta purchases, you will earn 2 miles per dollar and you’ll also earn 2X miles on restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets. Other features include a $100 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel, first checked bag free and an extra discount for every 5,000 miles you redeem when you book online with Delta.

Read the full review

Purchase APR

Annual Fee

$99

Welcome Bonus

Earn 65,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 6 months.

Balance Transfer APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent/Good
670-850*

Rewards

2X miles on Delta purchases made directly with Delta, on hotel purchases made directly with hotels, dining and groceries. 1X on all other purchases.

Benefits

  • Solid features with a modest fee
  • Generous welcome offer

Pros & Cons

Welcome bonus

Good Delta perks

Extra discount when you buy flights with miles

There’s a $99 annual fee after the first year

Key Features

  • $100 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel
  • First checked bag free
Newsletter background image

Check Out Our Free Newsletters!

Every day, get fresh ideas on how to save and make money and achieve your financial goals.