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Best Airline Credit Cards June 2024

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Updated May 1, 2024

Getting a credit card from your favorite airline can help you save money on flights, earn rewards toward future travel, and receive benefits every time you fly. There are numerous travel credit cards available, but the best co-branded airline credit cards offer benefits worth far more than any annual fees you may pay. We’ve chosen a best card for each airline. For some airlines, we've included additional co-branded cards that offer particular value.

Also, learn when maybe an airline card isn’t the best option for your travel needs. Or when it makes sense to combine it with a more general rewards card. The best rewards credit cards earn airline miles, flexible points, and valuable benefits.

Best airline credit cards: Summary

  • Best for Air Canada: card_name
  • Best for British Airways: card_name
  • Best for Delta Air Lines: card_name
  • Best for Southwest Airlines: card_name
  • Best for United Airlines: card_name
  • Best for Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature®
  • Best for American Airlines: AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Why we recommend these airline credit cards

We reviewed numerous banks, credit unions, and other card issuers to select the best airline credit cards for a variety of consumers and small-business owners. These credit cards earn valuable rewards and include generous benefits for your next vacation.

Best for Air Canada: card_name

card_name

Aeroplan® Credit Card

Aeroplan® Credit Card

Credit score needed
credit_score_needed
Annual fees
annual_fees
Bonus rewards full
bonus_miles_full
Aeroplan is one of the best loyalty programs for international travel because Air Canada doesn't charge fuel surcharges when booking international flights with its partner airlines. This benefit can save hundreds of dollars compared to booking award flights on other airlines.

The card_name. earns 3x points on groceries, dining, and Air Canada flights, plus 1x points everywhere else. It also earns 500 bonus points (up to 1,500 points per month) for every $2,000 you spend. Aeroplan points are a favorite among seasoned travelers booking international flights, because they often avoid fuel surcharges that some partner airlines add when booking award flights.

New cardholders can also receive several benefits and bonuses based on their spending. You'll bonus_miles_full. The card also includes Aeroplan 25K elite status for the remainder of the current year and all of the next. You can keep this elite status going by spending $15,000 each calendar year. Travelers can level up their elite status one tier and enjoy additional perks while flying when they spend $50,000 in a calendar year.

Aeroplan is one of the best loyalty programs for international travel because Air Canada doesn't charge fuel surcharges when booking international flights with its partner airlines. This benefit can save hundreds of dollars compared to booking award flights on other airlines.

Best for British Airways: card_name

card_name

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Credit score needed
credit_score_needed
Annual fees
annual_fees
Bonus rewards full
bonus_miles_full
Save 10% on British Airways flights when paying with your credit card and using the exclusive cardholder promo code. Get up to $600 in statement credits when booking award flights to London. Earn a Travel Together companion ticket based on your annual spending. Even if you don't plan on flying British Airways, you can redeem its points for award flights on American Airlines and other partners within the U.S. and abroad.

For travelers wanting to earn airline miles, the card_name is made for you. It earns three Avios on every dollar spent on British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia, two Avios per dollar at hotels, and one Avios per dollar everywhere else. Additionally, new customers bonus_miles_full.

The card also includes several promos to save money on travel. Save 10% on British Airways flights when paying with your credit card and using the exclusive cardholder promo code. Get up to $600 in statement credits when booking award flights to London. Earn a Travel Together companion ticket based on your annual spending. Even if you don't plan on flying British Airways, you can redeem its points for award flights on American Airlines and other partners within the U.S. and abroad.

Best for Delta Air Lines: card_name

card_name

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Credit score needed
credit_score_needed
Annual fees
annual_fees
Bonus rewards full
bonus_miles_full

One of the best American Express credit cards is the card_name. It offers exclusive benefits when traveling on Delta Air Lines, including the first checked bag free, 15% off award bookings, priority boarding, and a 20% discount on inflight purchases. Plus, you can earn a $100 Delta flight credit when you spend $10,000 on your card in a calendar year.

card_name earns 2x miles on Delta purchases, at U.S. restaurants and supermarkets, and 1x miles everywhere else. When you open a new card, you can earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within the first six months. It has no foreign transaction fees, so it's the perfect companion on international travel. The card_name also includes baggage protection and secondary rental car insurance.

Best for Southwest Airlines: card_name

card_name

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Credit score needed
credit_score_needed
Annual fees
annual_fees
Bonus rewards full
bonus_miles_full
All points earned with the card_name count toward the Southwest Companion Pass, and cardholders receive a boost of 10,000 points toward earning the pass. You can also earn 1,500 TQPs toward A-List status for every $10,000 you spend each year.

If you love flying Southwest Airlines, the card_name is the best credit card for you. While it has a annual_fees annual fee, its benefits offer the best value of any Southwest credit card. These benefits include a $75 Southwest annual travel credit, four Upgraded Boardings, 7,500 bonus points every card anniversary, and 25% off inflight purchases. The card earns 3x points on Southwest purchases; 2x on Rapid Rewards partner purchases, local transit, select streaming services and internet, and cable and phone services; and 1x points on everything else.

New cardholders can bonus_miles_full. All points earned with the card count toward the Southwest Companion Pass, and cardholders receive a boost of 10,000 points toward earning the pass. You can also earn 1,500 TQPs toward A-List status for every $10,000 you spend each year.

Best for United Airlines: card_name

card_name

United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

Credit score needed
credit_score_needed
Annual fees
annual_fees
Bonus rewards full
bonus_miles_full
It includes numerous benefits when flying United, including the first checked bag free for you and a companion, priority boarding, and a 25% discount on United Club and inflight purchases. Cardholders also receive two passes for complimentary entry to the United Club each year and complimentary upgrades on award tickets.

The best airline credit card for United Airlines is the card_name. It includes numerous benefits when flying United, including the first checked bag free for you and a companion, priority boarding, and a 25% discount on United Club and inflight purchases. Cardholders also receive two passes for complimentary entry to the United Club each year and complimentary upgrades on award tickets.

You'll earn 2x miles on United purchases, dining, and hotel reservations booked directly. All other purchases earn 1x miles. New cardholders can bonus_miles_full. The card_name also includes complimentary travel and purchase protections; up to $100 reimbursement every four years for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, and NEXUS application fees; and a one-year DoorDash DashPass membership for free.

Best for Alaska Airlines: Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature®

Bank of America

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature®

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature®

Credit score needed
Good to excellent
Annual fees
$95
Bonus rewards full
60,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ after you make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card from Bank of America is the best airline credit card for Alaska Airlines. This card's benefits include a free checked bag for the cardholder and up to six travel companions, priority boarding, and a 20% discount on inflight purchases. It also includes the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare each card anniversary when you spend $6,000 each year.

Cardholders earn 3x miles on Alaska Airlines purchases and 2x miles on gas, electric-vehicle charging, cable, streaming services, and local transit. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1x miles. When you have an eligible Bank of America bank account, you'll earn a 10% rewards bonus on the miles earned. New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles and a Companion Fare when making $3,000 in purchases during the first 90 days.

Best for American Airlines: Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Barclays

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Credit score needed
Good to excellent
Annual fees
$99
Bonus rewards full
60,000 miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days

For travelers who prefer American Airlines, the Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® is the best choice. It earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases and 1x everywhere else. It includes the first checked bag free for you and up to four companions, preferred boarding, and 25% off inflight purchases when flying American Airlines. You'll also receive up to $25 in statement credits each year on inflight WiFi purchases on American Airlines flights. Additionally, you'll get a Companion Certificate each anniversary year when you spend $20,000 and renew your credit card.

New cardholders can earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles after their first purchase if they pay the annual fee within the first 90 days. Additionally, the card includes a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers for 15 months. While there is a $99 annual fee, the card waives foreign transaction fees on international purchases.

Best co-branded airline credit cards compared: Summary

Best forWelcome pointsAnnual feesCredit score needed
Air Canada
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
British Airways
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
Delta Airlines
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
Southwest Airlines
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
United Airlines
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
Alaska Airlines
60,000 bonus
$95
Good to excellent
American Airlines
60,000 miles
$99
Good to excellent

More credit cards for maximizing airline rewards

CardBest forWelcome pointsAnnual feesCredit score needed
card_name
Beginners
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
card_name
Luxury benefits
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
card_name
Business
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
card_name
Perks
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
card_name
0% APR
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
card_name
Free flights
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed
card_name
Dining
bonus_miles
annual_fees
credit_score_needed

Methodology

When selecting the best airline credit cards, we focused on those that offered the highest value for each type of customer on our list. The criteria included the following factors:

  • Welcome bonus.
  • Earning power.
  • Annual fees.
  • Airline specific benefits.
  • Generic travel benefits.
  • Airport lounge access.
  • Intro APR offers.
  • Standard purchase APR.

For each type of customer we weighed the factors identified above to find the best rewards credit card. While these travel credit cards are the best according to our criteria, other cards may be a better fit based on your individual circumstances.

Who should get an airline credit card?

Co-branded airline credit cards are an excellent choice for anyone planning to travel within the next two years. Travelers can typically book flights up to 11 months before their departure date. This gives you a year to earn the welcome bonus and additional rewards through everyday purchases before booking your trip.

But airline cards aren’t best for everyone. For people who aren't planning to travel right away, credit cards that earn flexible rewards are a better option. Their rewards can be used to book travel, but they can also be redeemed for cash, statement credits, gift cards, and more. This flexibility allows you to redeem rewards based on what's most important to you at that time.

If you have poor credit, consider working on building up your credit score before applying for an airline credit card. Make all of your payments on time, pay down your balances, and avoid unnecessary credit inquiries. Consider signing up for services such as Experian Boost to receive credit for on-time payments to creditors that traditionally aren't included in your credit history. Over time these positive credit behaviors will boost your credit score, so you can apply for one of the best travel credit cards.

How to choose the best airline credit card for your needs

Finding the best airline credit card for your travel style and spending habits can be a challenge. There are dozens of travel credit cards to choose from with varying annual fees, rewards, benefits, and other features. Here are a few factors to focus on that can help you narrow down your selection.

  • Airline miles vs. flexible points. Think about the type of rewards you want to earn. Airline miles can generally be redeemed only on the airline that issues them (or its alliance partners, if any). Flexible points give cardholders multiple redemption options, including booking travel, transferring to airline or hotel partners, cash back, statement credits, gift cards, online shopping, and more.
  • Welcome bonus. When you first sign up for a credit card, you may have the opportunity to earn a welcome bonus based on your spending within a set time frame. A typical offer is 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within three months. However, offers vary for each card, and some require much larger spending amounts to earn the bonus.
  • Bonus categories. To maximize the rewards earned on everyday purchases, choose a travel credit card that earns extra rewards on the categories in which you spend the most. Common categories include travel, dining, gas, and groceries.
  • Airline benefits. The best airline credit cards include perks that you'll use when flying that airline. For example, you may get free checked bags, priority boarding, or in-flight discounts.
  • Travel protections. Even the best plans can go wrong, and travel protections cover you when that happens. Protections include trip cancellation, interruption, and delay; lost and damaged baggage; and rental car insurance.
  • Airport lounge access. Spending time in the airport lounge before or after your flight gives you access to complimentary food, drink, and WiFi in a comfortable setting. Some lounges include hot showers, massages, and other amenities.
  • Annual fees. Many travel credit cards charge an annual fee to cover their benefits. Before paying a fee, make sure that you'll get enough value from the card’s earning power, welcome bonus, and perks to justify the cost.

Alternatives to the best co-branded airline credit cards

Airline credit cards offer numerous benefits, including many specific to that airline, and are ideal for travelers loyal to one airline. However, they aren't the best choice when you're focused on finding the best deal, routing, or departure time.

Getting a cash back card or flexible points card allows you to book flights with any airline without worrying about blackout dates. Booking a flight with cash or flexible points can also be cheaper than getting awards for flights on certain routes or travel dates.

How to choose between an airline credit card and a general rewards card

Deciding between an airline credit card and a general rewards card that includes travel benefits can be a challenge. If you are loyal to one airline, getting one of the airline's co-branded credit cards is generally the best choice. Most of these cards include free checked bags, priority boarding and inflight discounts. Some offer accelerated elite status based on your annual spending.

For travelers who don’t regularly travel on just one airline, a general travel-benefits rewards card is usually the best option. Their flexible rewards allow you to book flights with any airline, so you can find the best price, departure time or route. Plus, you don't have to worry about blackout dates or learning how to maximize a rewards program. These reward points can typically also be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, online shopping and more. Many also partner with airlines and hotels to transfer points when you want to take advantage of their loyalty programs.

Some travelers choose the best of both worlds. They get an airline credit card for benefits with their favorite airline and use a general travel-rewards card when other airlines offer better flight choices.

TIME Stamp: Earn free flights with airline credit cards

With so many different airline credit cards from which to choose, it can be a challenge to know which one is most advantageous for your situation. The best airline credit cards earn bonus rewards on flights and your top spending categories. They also offer exclusive benefits at the airport and valuable protections to keep you safe at no extra charge. In some cases, you can earn a companion pass, elite status, and other perks based on your annual spending.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What are the pros and cons of airline credit cards?

The best airline credit cards offer a generous welcome bonus, earn miles on everyday purchases, and include numerous perks that cover the annual fee. These perks may include free checked bags, priority boarding, lounge access, and accelerated elite status. The downside of airline specific credit cards is that the rewards and perks are only good for that airline (and possibly its alliance partners).

How do you apply for an airline credit card?

Applying for an airline credit card is simple and often takes just a few minutes. The best approach is to choose a co-branded credit card for the airline you fly the most. If you don't have a favorite airline, a card with flexible rewards may be a better choice. Once you've chosen a card, click “apply” and enter your personal information, including your Social Security number, income, and monthly housing payment. Most banks offer instant application decisions, so you'll know whether you were approved or declined.

How much are airline miles worth?

The value of airline miles varies from one airline to another, with average values usually ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 cents per mile. The value you receive depends on how you use them. The highest value redemptions are typically for international business or first class flights or during peak travel periods.

How do you maximize your airline credit cards?

To get the most value from your rewards credit cards, use them for every purchase to earn valuable miles toward future travel. Learn about the card's benefits to save money and improve your travel experience. Determine if you can earn or maintain elite status based on your purchases to receive additional benefits.

What are popular airline rewards programs?

The most popular airline rewards programs are from major domestic airlines, such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. However, many travelers find value in smaller domestic airlines, such as JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, and Frontier Airlines. Foreign airlines also offer tremendous value if you're traveling internationally, and they may have more-advantageous award charts than domestic loyalty programs.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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