As consumers, we always want to make the most of our dollars. Especially if we are charging items to a credit card, where interest is involved. I know many people who charge their bills every month to a credit card for the rewards. But some rewards are better than others. Following is a summary of the best airline credit cards on the market, and how they will benefit you. The best airline credit card will be different for everyone, depending on the benefit you are looking for. Most are looking for points toward travel, but sometimes the other benefits that come with the points are what make the decision. Continue reading for the benefits each airline credit card has to offer.
United Airlines offers three personal credit cards that will earn mileage toward flights. They also have business ones,but for the purpose of this review, we are going to focus solely on individual cards. They offer Explorer MileagePlus, Club Mileage Plus, and Travel Bank cards, and all are through Chase Bank.
While United Airlines has a “welcome” offer for the Explorer MileagePlus card, the card that offers the most bang for your buck would be the United Club Card. There are some similarities with the benefits between the three cards, such as earning bonus miles or cash back on purchases, there are some differences. The main one is that the Club card has an annual fee of $450.00 while the other two do not.
The highlights of Explorer MileagePlus are:
- 40,000 points with $2000.00 purchase within the first three months of account being opened
- Two points per dollar spent (only at United, restaurants, and hotel stays made through the hotel website)
- One point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Two United Club passes upon opening an account and every year anniversary thereafter
- Discount on inflight purchases and TSA precheck
- Priority boarding
- Free checked bag (1st bag only)
- No annual or foreign fees…and no blackout dates
From United Airlines, this is the best airline credit card. It offers many perks without an annual fee. However, if you are willing to pay the annual fee, the Club Card is definitely worth checking out.
Delta Airlines offers four different credit cards through American Express. They have the Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards. Once again, they are all subject to credit approval. They are launching even more rewards for their cards after January 31, 2020. Choosing the best airline reward card from Delta was not easy. They are all very similar, the only one without an annual fee is the Blue Card. All four cards offer points per dollar spent, the option to pay for flights in miles and money, and discounts on in-flight purchases.
Out of the three with annual fees, the one with the best rewards would be the Platinum Card. It offers:
- Three points for every dollar spent on hotel stays and Delta purchases
- Two points for every dollar spent at supermarkets and restaurants
- One point for every dollar on other purchases
- Ten thousand bonus points through Status Boost Program for every $25,000.00 spent
- First checked bag free
- Priority Boarding
- Sky Club access with fee
- Annual fee $195.00 ($250.00 after January 30, 2020)
Delta’s Gold Card offers decent rewards, with a lower annual fee of $95.00. While Delta has a luxury card that offers more rewards with the Reserve card, it comes with an annual fee tag of $450.00, and offers fewer opportunities to double or triple your mileage points, and a higher spending to receive the Status Boost points.
American Airlines is different from the other airlines. They offer two personal credit cards through Citibank, the AAdvantage MileUp Card and the AAdvantage Platinum Card. However, they also offer four other cards that through Barclays. They are the Red, Silver, Blue, and Aviator cards. Depending on which company you choose, if you decide that the American Airlines is the best credit card for you, the AAdvantage Platinum Card offers:
- 50,000 bonus points with purchase of $2,500.00 within first three months of opening the account
- Two points for every dollar spent at supermarkets, gas stations, American Airlines
- One point for all other purchases
- Preferred boarding
- First checked bag free for up to four passengers (Domestic flights only)
- Discount on inflight purchases
- $125 toward flight after $20,000.00 in spending
- Annual fee of $99.00 (waived the first year)
The only Barclays card that does not have an annual fee would be the Aviator Card, but the rewards with this card are very minimal at two points per dollar spent at American Airlines and one point per $2.00 spent on all other purchases, along with discounts on inflight purchases of food and drink. The other three cards, Red, Blue, and Silver, come with annual fees, but they also give more rewards for your dollar. The Barclays Aviator Red offers:
- Two points per for all American Airline purchases
- One point per dollar for all other purchases
- Inflight discounts on food and drink
- Cash back up to $25.00 for inflight Wifi
- Flight Cents so you can round to the nearest dollar for more miles
- Free checked bag up to four people
- Preferred boarding up to four people
- Companion certificate for $99.00 for one guest every anniversary
While the cards offered through Citibank are decent, the cards offered through Barclays have much more in the way of rewards for customers. Their website has all of the credit cards listed, but it did not seem as user friendly as the other airlines. American Airlines credit cards are decent, and for someone who is looking for basic perks and is not an avid traveler, they will do the trick.
Southwest Airlines was a surprise with three credit card offerings through Chase. They have the Plus, Priority, and Premier. All three cards have an annual fee, offer 40,000 bonus points within three months if you spent $1,000.00, free checked bags, and offer anniversary points. The card that stands out with the best airline rewards for your money is the Priority Card:
- 7,500 anniversary points
- Two points for every dollar spent at Southwest Airlines, hotels, and car rental partners
- One point for every other purchase
- 1,500 bonus points for every $10,000.00 spent
- $75.00 annual travel credit
- Four upgraded boardings per year
- Redeem points on cruises, international travel, and more
- Discount inflight purchases
- No change fees
- No blackout dates
- Annual fee $149.00
The Priority Card for Southwest Airlines offers the most airline rewards for the fee. The Plus Card has an annual fee of $69.00 but does not allow the upgraded boarding, 1,500 bonus points, inflight purchases, or travel credit, and comes with only 3,000 anniversary points. The Premier Card has 6,000 anniversary points for an annual fee of $99.00, and only offers double points on Southwest Airlines purchases.
CHOOSING THE BEST AIRLINE CREDIT CARD
There are many options for airline credit cards on the market, and each offers a variety of rewards. American Airlines does not offer as many cards, or perks as United Airlines or Delta Airlines or even Southwest Airlines.While the rewards an airline credit card has to offer are important, it is also important to consider the travel options available to you. For instance, if American Airlines offers the cheapest fares and more flight options, it would make sense to apply for one of the American Airline credit cards. Also, know what kind of traveling you intend to do–do you travel for fun, for work? Are you an avid traveler or someone who only travels once a year?–and apply for the credit card that best suits your purpose.
Greta Gunselman is a personal finance freelance writer. Proud owner of a BA in English, she spends her time talking about finance over on Twitter (@thisgirlswalle1) and post-military life at lifeafterthemilitary.blog. If you’d like more information about Greta’s writing, please contact her through her website, thisgirlswallet.com.