Best Airline Credit Cards

When you combine the cost of flight tickets, baggage fees, Wi-Fi and in-flight food and drinks, you might feel yourself tearing up a little bit. But flying doesn’t have to break your budget. Leveraging a great airline credit card can help you earn rewards and cut down on extra fees. They also come with perks that enhance the flight experience.

Our team has compiled the list below of the best airline credit cards.

Best airline credit card for flexible redemption options: Venture Rewards from Capital One

Why it’s the best

Venture Rewards from Capital One rewards you with flexible miles that you can use on several different airlines. Thanks to Capital One’s 15 airline transfer partners, you can shop around for the best deals before you make an airline decision.

Earning Venture Miles is easy as well, with no special rewards categories to keep track of. You’ll earn 2x points for every dollar you spend on all of your purchases. If you don’t like the idea of being tied down to a specific airline when you travel, Venture Rewards is a great option for you.

Bonus points:

  • Great sign up bonus: You can earn 50,000 bonus miles just by spending $3,000 on your card in the first three months after opening your account. 
  • No annual fee the first year: Test out the card, earn the sign up bonus and decide if it’s the right card for you. You won’t pay the $95 annual fee until after your first cardmember anniversary. 
  • Statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck: Tired of waiting in the long regular security line every time you fly? Venture Rewards will give you a statement credit to cover the fee of either Global Entry or TSA Precheck so you can take advantage of expedited customs and security screening.    

Best airline credit card for Delta frequent flyers: Delta Skymiles® Platinum American Express Card

Why it’s the best

If Delta is your go-to airline, the Delta Skymiles® Platinum American Express Card provides a fantastic balance between perks and the annual fee. You’ll be able to check your first bag for free on all of your flights, enjoy priority boarding and have access to Delta Skyclub for only $39 each visit when you pay with your card. Also, after your first cardmember anniversary, you’ll receive a companion certificate good for a free round-trip domestic flight for one person to tag along on your next excursion.

Bonus points:

  • Status Boost™: The Platinum Skymiles card helps you move a little bit closer to Delta’s Medallion Status by earning 10,000 Medallion Qualified Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 on purchases with your Platinum card. You can earn the bonus up to two times each year.
  • Global Entry and TSA Precheck: American Express will reimburse your application fee with a statement credit for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck, up to $100. 

Best airline credit card for no annual fee: United TravelBank Card

Why it’s the best

While the rewards aren’t as spectacular as some of United’s other credit cards, the TravelBank card is a perfect option for people who love flying United and want to earn rewards without being bogged down by fees. This cash back card lets you purchase tickets directly through United, and you can even combine your cash back rewards with another form of payment so you don’t have to wait to buy your next ticket.

The TravelBank card comes with a $150 TravelBank cash bonus when you spend $1,000 with the card in the first three months. It earns 2% back on tickets purchased directly through United and 1.5% back on all other purchases. 

Bonus points

  • 25% savings on inflight purchases: When you use your United TravelBank card to buy food, drinks and Wi-Fi access on United-operated flights, you’ll receive 25% of the purchase price back as a statement credit.
  • No foreign transaction fees: You can take the TravelBank card with you on international trips as well knowing you won’t be charged extra fees for using it outside of the United States.

Best airline credit card for lounge access: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why it’s the best

The Platinum Card® from American Express is the crème de la crème of airline rewards cards. While it boasts a hefty annual fee of $550, it offers incredible perks that make it worth every penny if you enjoy flying in style and comfort. One of the card’s most exciting perks is access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world — including the exclusive Centurion Lounges and lounges operated by an American Express partner like Delta Sky Club® and Priority Pass™ Select lounges.

Bonus points:

  • Airline fee statement credit: Each year, American Express will reimburse you up to $200 for incidental fees charged by an airline of your choosing.
  • Uber credit: The Platinum Card rewards you with $15 in Uber Cash every month to use around the United States. December’s bonus is bumped up to $20 for the holiday hustle. 
  • Transfer your Membership Rewards: American Express has 19 airline partners, allowing you to transfer the rewards you earn with the Platinum Card to different airlines each time you fly. 

Best airline credit card for newbies: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Why it’s the best

If you’re new to earning traveling with points, you can’t go wrong with Southwest Airlines and its Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority credit card. This airline rewards credit card is a great first step in earning Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass, a perk that lets you bring a companion for free (only pay fees) each time you buy a ticket on a Southwest flight. You’ll also be able to check your first two bags for free. If you fly mostly within the United States and want an easy credit card to get started earning airline rewards points, this card is perfect for you.

Bonus points:

  • Anniversary bonus points: Every year after your cardmember anniversary, you’ll earn 7,500 bonus points.
  • Annual travel credit: Chase will credit your account up to $75 each year to cover purchases made through Southwest for priority boarding or inflight purchases.
  • Free upgraded boarding: Each year, you’ll be reimbursed for the cost of up to four upgraded boarding passes.

Best airline credit card for international flights: United Explorer Card

Why it’s the best

Make your next international trip better with the United Explorer card. This airline rewards credit card features no foreign transaction fees, making it perfect to keep in your wallet no matter where your travels take you. The Explorer card is also packed with perks including a fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck so you can get through airport security on your way out of the country and customs on your way home with less hassle. With an annual fee of only $95 that is waived for the first year, this card’s value is well worth the cost if you let United take you around the world.

Bonus points:

  • Free first checked back: You can save up to $120 round trip with the Explorer card.
  • Priority boarding: Get your seat and put your carry on bag away without fighting the rush of every other passenger.
  • United Club access: Each year you’ll receive two one-time passes for the United Club, United’s exclusive airport lounges.

Trevor Wallis

Contributing Writer

Trevor Wallis is a St. Louis-based personal finance writer who teaches people how to achieve freedom through good money practices. He’s written for The Simple Dollar, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Rewards Credit Cards and Online Loans. When he isn’t writing, he’s roasting specialty coffee and planning new ways to use credit card rewards to explore the world with his wife and newborn son.