Best Airline Credit Cards 2023: Top 10 Picks & Reviews

Kristina Knight-1
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Reviewed by Randolph Vialva, MBA
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Capital One Venture X Rewards

Capital One Venture X Rewards

Best Overall

5.0 stars - votes

Chase Sapphire Credit Card

Sapphire Chase Preferred

Most Affordable

4.0 stars - votes

Chase freedom flex

Chase Freedom Flex

Best Bonuses

4.0 stars - votes
Best Airline Credit Cards

Airline credit cards can help you save money when you are planning a trip, and while traveling. When you use the cards for travel or dining purchases you earn points. This system allows you to earn many points per dollar spent. When used on other eligible purchases, and eligible delivery services, and once earned, you can redeem points to earn significant discounts, on purchases like hotel stays, airline and train tickets, and other travel expenses like airport lounge access, car rentals, and dining purchases. Some rewards will come as a statement credit to your account. These are the best airline reward cards that will let you travel for less.

What Are Airline Credit Cards?

These cards are the best option for those who often fly because they are tied to airline partners. For example, you’ll earn points for eligible American Airlines flights when purchasing tickets with a partner card. A frequent flyer will earn many rewards, including free flights and priority boarding, hotel credit, and other purchases from credit card issuers that can be used on future flights, hotel stays, and even rental cars and other purchases. These rewards from other purchases will make travel much less expensive and allow you to travel more.

Read More: Top 10 Best Travel Credit Cards

Top 10 Best Airline Credit Cards of 2023

Capital One Venture X Rewards

Capital One Venture X Rewards

  • Low annual fee
  • Balance transfers
  • No international transaction fees
  • 2X miles for each purchase
Chase Sapphire Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • High rewards tiers
  • Points transfer 1:1
  • Travel protection included
Chase freedom flex

Chase Freedom Flex

  • 5% cash back for bonus category purchases
  • 5% cash back on travel purchases
  • No annual fee
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
  • Access to priority features
  • In-flight discounts
  • Global Entry/TSA precheck statement credit
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

  • High reward earnings
  • Points transfer options
  • Additional authorized users
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • No checked bag fees
  • Early boarding
  • Companion benefits
The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Significant bonus structure
  • Versatility in booking options
  • Additional streaming/digital content bonuses
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature®

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature®

  • No checked bag fees
  • Up to 6 companion travelers
  • In-flight discounts on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
Bank of America® Travel Rewards

Bank of America® Travel Rewards

  • Variety of Add-on services
  • Toll-free phone consultation
  • Free LLC business formation
  • Easy to use
Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

  • 90-day money-back guarantee
  • Affordable pricing
  • Great customer support
  • Same day filing

Top 10 Best Airline Credit Cards of February 2023

Best Airline Credit Cards (1)

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture X Rewards

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Read Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card Reviews

In addition to Capital One’s best prices, the Capital One Venture Rewards card lands in our top two because of its affordability. Along with typical VentureOne rewards credit card benefits, the program allows you to transfer airline miles to a number of other loyalty programs, purchases unlimited complimentary access, includes some lounge upgrades, and doesn’t have an expiration date for points earned if unspent by the account anniversary.

  • Low annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 2X miles for each purchase
  • Bonus rewards
  • Limited bonuses

Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, the Venture Rewards credit card comes with a $95 fee, one of the lowest on this list, and doesn’t charge international transaction fees, making it very affordable and travel-friendly. There are also annual ultimate rewards like cash back. And, while the card does include many bonuses for users, some of the bonuses – like lounge access – are limited to annual restrictions.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Credit Card

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Read Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Reviews

The Chase Preferred program offers high rewards across a vast spending area, and also allows users to transfer points at a 1:1 rate. Many other programs allow for points transfer but may only transfer a certain percentage or may not include 1:1 transfer rates.

  • High rewards tiers
  • Points transfer 1:1
  • Travel protection included
  • Annual fee
  • No introductory APR offer

The benefits to the Preferred program are many, but those bonuses do come with a fee and a high variable interest rate, like an 18.99 25.99 variable that does not include an introductory rate. Users will also need a minimum 700 credit score. 

Chase Freedom Flex

Chase freedom flex

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Read Chase Freedom Flex Reviews

Like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Chase’s Freedom Flex plan has some significant rewards and generous cash-back features which will help you earn airline miles faster and save more money. However, the rewards system is complicated, and to get the most from it, you’ll need to have some kind of tracking feature in place to ensure you make the most of those rewards and bonuses. However, there are plenty of cash-back features, many bonus categories, and an introductory APR that are quite good.

  • 5% cash back for bonus category purchases
  • 5% cash back on travel purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Credit rating requirements
  • Complicated tracking system

Chase lands in our top three because of its generous structure, but keep in mind that with this card you’ll want to track your rewards independently to ensure you use them to the maximum amount possible. The plan is similar to Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Read Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® Review

There is a lot to like about Citi’s AAdvantage program including credit for TSA pre-flight checks, and priority upgrades/access to lounges. They include an 80,000-mile sign-up bonus in the first three months.

  • Access to priority features
  • In-flight discounts
  • Global Entry/TSA precheck statement credit
  • Zero travel protection
  • Limited redemption features
  • Wi-Fi credits not included

For those who fly exclusively with American Airlines, the Citi card is a good option. Rewards include precheck and global entry credits, an 80,000-mile sign-on bonus, and access to clubs and lounges within the airport. However, these bonuses are limited to eligible American Airlines purchases, meaning that points don’t transfer and that you make the most when used on eligible American Airlines purchases. Also, the card doesn’t include travel protection. 

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

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Read Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Reviews

Like a regular card from American Express, the Gold program lands in the top five because of the potential to earn extra rewards at a fast pace. The program includes a welcome bonus of 60,000 points and allows users to transfer points to other partner programs. And, while there is a $250 card annual fee, for users focused on dining and travel options the points will add up quickly.

  • High reward earnings, up to 4x membership rewards points
  • Points transfer options
  • Additional authorized users
  • Cashback
  • No lounge access
  • Limited balance carry options
  • High APR on purchases paid over time

Before signing on to the program, understand that you have to have a minimum credit score of 700 and that there are limitations to the program. These include no lounge benefits and limited options for those who need to carry a balance from month to month. If you’re able to pay off the card on a monthly basis, though, it could be the right card.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

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Read Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Reviews

The Delta version of AmEx’s Platinum card has a lot to offer including 3x points for Delta purchases and direct hotel bookings. They offer a 50,000 bonus within the first six months and a 20,000 annual boost for regular use of the card.

  • Free checked bags
  • Early boarding
  • Companion benefits
  • Delta Sky Club
  • High annual fee
  • Earn points only for specific purchases

Users will get the most out of the Delta program if they use this card nearly exclusively because their annual bonuses require a minimum of $25,000 spent on an annual basis. The card also requires a high credit rating. However, for those looking for a single card with which to make most purchases, this is a good option.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

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Read The Platinum Card® from American Express Reviews

Like most American Express plans, there is a lot to be had from this program including 5x membership rewards points on certain buys, up to 80,000 bonus airline miles or points after you spend a minimum amount, credits for streaming services, a WalMart+ membership bonus, and bonus and annual credits for travel purchases in the first place that can be used for things like baggage fees or lost luggage insurance, and digital fitness bonuses. Users may enjoy uber VIP status. 

  • 5x Membership Rewards points for direct bookings with American Express
  • 5x Membership Rewards points for prepaid hotels books with American Express
  • High fee structure
  • Limiting terms

We think the AmEx plan is one of the best in the premium tier because of the bonus structure and additional credits. However, those bonuses do come with an annual fee of $695 for membership. 

Alaska Airlines Signature® Credit Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature®

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Read Alaska Airlines Signature® Credit Card Reviews

Alaska’s plan has some of the best companion features available for Alaska Airlines flights. For up to six companions, there are free checked bags, at account opening, the holder earns 3X miles for each $1 purchase made with Alaska Air and a dollar-to-point match for every non-Alaska Airlines flight booked. 

  • Free checked bags with the same reservation
  • Up to 6 companion travelers
  • In-flight discounts
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee

For loyal Alaska Airlines travelers, there is much to like about this program including a checked bag free and generous discounts for in-flight purchases. However, for those who will need non-Alaska flights, rewards will accumulate much slower.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards

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Read Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Reviews

The biggest selling point to the BoA program is that the consumer gets a more than 1:1 per dollar match. The minimum match is 1.5 for every $1, which means points and rewards will accumulate faster, making it easier to save on big travel-related purchases in the first place.

  • 1.5:1 matching program
  • Points do not expire on the priority credit card account anniversary
  • Cashback
  • Car rentals booked through BoA
  • Minimum 3% fee for balance transfers
  • Online only offer

Like other cards, the BoA card doesn’t have an annual fee, however, after the initial zero interest period, the new interest rate will be variable between 16.99% and 26.99%; this high-interest rate may make using the card and paying it off harder for some users. However, contactless card options and a 25,000 bonus after the first three months, also bonus categories, no blackout dates, and the ability to use the card where you want may make up for the high interest.

Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

Apply Now

Read Discover it® Miles Reviews

For those traveling primarily within the United States, the Discover It program has much to offer including a 1:1 or 1.5:1 match program for rewards and dollars spent. The program is not airline-specific which means miles can be earned across a spectrum of travel partners.

  • No expiration on rewards
  • 1.5X match program
  • Budget-friendly
  • No luxury perks
  • Low international acceptance

Despite its wide local acceptance, there is not as much acceptance of the Discover card in international locations, and because rewards can be earned across a variety of national partners, there are not as many luxury perks like lounge access. However, for budget-minded shoppers, this card will be a good fit.

Airline Miles: What Is It and How Does It Work?

This type of card helps you save more by earning rewards for making regular purchases and payments. Most are co-branded according to airline partners such as Southwest Airlines. Some rewards include free in-flight food, complimentary seat upgrades, and priority boarding. Using these cards, the consumer earns points, sometimes called miles, for every dollar that they spend. The downside to an airline credit card is that there are usually annual fees in addition to higher interest rates that can quickly make a balance balloon up and your credit score fall down.

What Makes a Good Airline Credit Card?

Fees

All airline cards have fees, but a good airline card loyalty program like Southwest Rapid Rewards priority will balance the account opening and fees and interest rate to keep their customers happy. The annual fee can range from $50 per year to more than $500 per year, so read all of the rules for the cards you’re interested in before making a decision. 

Annual Fee

Fees are charges from the company related to being part of the reward program, including Southwest Airlines. While these cards allow you to earn miles per dollar spent, the company makes money by charging a fee for the use of the card.

Rewards

When choosing a card, you should weigh the annual fee against the rewards earned per purchase. Some preferred rewards member cards will make the reward even with the amount spent – 1 mile for every $1, for example. Others will make the reward only a percentage of what was spent. 

Earning Rate

The earning rate of a reward airline card is the number of points and miles that are earned compared to the amount of money spent to earn each point or reward. It is sometimes called a point or miles per dollar rate. If it is a 1:1 split, you earn the same number of points per dollar spent. If it is a 2:1 or more split, then you earn fewer points per 1 spent

A Sign-up Bonus

Some reward cards will offer a one-time, sign-up bonus of 1,000 points or more. This is an incentive to help you earn that first reward trip, hotel stay, or free car rental, and is a good way to show the customer how the card can make money for them over time.

Free or Discounted Airline Travel

With airline rewards cards you earn free or discounted airline rewards for each of the travel or dining purchases made, even if you haven’t gone on a trip. Cards can be used at many restaurants and gas stations, as well as other stores, and with each purchase, the cardholder earns rewards points. When enough points have accumulated, the cardholder can redeem points for offers like discounts on a hotel room, free car rental, and discounted train, or bus airline tickets. 

Maximizing an Airline Credit Card

You will earn the most rewards and credits from an airline card if you’re loyal to that line, so it is important to know where your favorite airline flies and how you can best accumulate miles. For example in the United States, Delta, United Airlines, and American all fly around the globe, but to get the best rewards you need to know their international partners so that you can keep earning rewards even if you have to transfer to a partner flight. 

Final Thoughts

Airline cards are like the airline’s frequent flyer program and are a good way to earn rewards for things you would purchase anyway. These rewards can then be turned into discounts for vacations, discretionary spending, and other things you would typically purchase. The key is to understand how points accumulate, how much you have to spend on an annual basis, and how much the annual fees are attached to the card. Another thing to watch is whether each card purchase must be paid off within a certain amount of time for the rewards to be added to your account opening. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an airline reward card?

For a frequent flyer, an airline reward card helps you earn discounts and other freebies for using the card on specific purchases. These purchases result in earning points per 1 spent or miles per dollar spent and can be redeemed for free things within a certain amount of time.

How do I earn points for travel?

With an airline credit card, you earn rewards points with all eligible purchases. In many cases, this is a 1:1 match meaning that your points per dollar or miles per dollar are the same as the total spent: 100 miles for $100 dollars.

Are points transferable between programs?

In most cases, no, points are not transferable. If you switch from a card issuer-specific program, like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit, and go with a network agreement between a card issuer, a qualifying airline, hotels, and rental cars, some points may be transferable as long as the credit issuer is the same. This, however, is not always the case, so if you are thinking of changing make sure you know all of the rules.

How long are points good?

This depends on the program, but in most cases, the card issuer will want your points to be redeemed within a year from the purchase date. Some cards will say that all miles expire if there is no activity on the card within a certain time frame, but other programs have no expiration on points earned.

How do I know if an APR is good?

These accounts can quickly become a money pit because of high-interest rates. A card’s Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, is the annualized percentage that is charged to your account opening on purchases made. The charge will appear as a separate line on your statement and is added monthly until the purchase amount is paid off. The APR can add quite a bit of extra money to any purchase so it is better to pay off purchases quickly rather than allow the APR to continue to accumulate. Typically any APR over 10% is considered high and any APR under 10% is considered a good, or low, rate.

Is this a loyalty program?

Yes, but instead of your purchases only counting at a specific store, including grocery stores, an airline credit card’s loyalty is to the type of purchase: gas, dining, hotel stays, and other travel expenses. Even hotel loyalty programs’ access only counts for that hotel, but an airline credit card earns rewards across all travel expenses. Be sure to understand all terms before account opening.

What fees can I expect?

This will depend on the card agreement, but most will charge an annual percentage rate as interest and will have an annual fee to be part of the rewards tier. The card may also have a foreign transaction fee that would count on any purchases made outside of your country of residence.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristina Knight-1
Kristina Knight, Journalist , BA
Content Writer & Editor
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Kristina Knight is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience writing on varied topics. Kristina’s focus for the past 10 years has been the small business, online marketing, and banking sectors, however, she keeps things interesting by writing about her experiences as an adoptive mom, parenting, and education issues. Kristina’s work has appeared with BizReport.com, NBC News, Soaps.com, DisasterNewsNetwork, and many more publications.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

He is an organized and creative thinking sales management professional with experience in outside and inside sales in various markets. Working as freelancer in the Greater Boston Market, he moved to St. Louis and became an Account Executive, then a Sales Manager managing and coaching 12 sales reps covering a nationwide territory. He has developed his team with a combination of consultative selling and value before price coaching mindset which has won him a President’s Cup and many other financially rewarding awards at RICOH. His most recent role as a Continuous Improvement Manager provided insight into the importance of delivering a quality product in alignment with the value and reputation of his organization. It further enhances the aspect of selling on value as opposed to price.

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