The Best Airline Credit Cards

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by parag
Last Updated: June 21st, 2016
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KEYWORDS:#credit cards #tips #rewards #cash back
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Travel is at the top of the wish list for many of us but it can be expensive. There are ways around expensive hotels, like hostels and couch surfing but you still have to get where you want to go and that often means buying an airline ticket which is the most expensive part of travel.

But there is a way to fly cheaply and even for free! Choosing the right airline credit card can score you free flights, free checked bags, free lounge access, and priority boarding. We read the fine print for you and uncovered the best airline credit cards. 

 

Discover it Miles

This is not an airline branded credit card but the way it works allows you to redeem miles on any airline so we’ve included it for those who want a more flexible option.

Sign Up Bonus: You will receive 20,000 miles when you are approved for this card. At the end of your first year as a card member, Discover will match your miles earned so you could have 40,000 miles in your account! 

Earning Miles: You earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on everything, no categories to keep track of and no limit on how many miles you can earn. The miles are redeemed as credit statements so you can use them to pay for any travel expense; they aren’t tied to a certain airline or hotel chain. 

Rewards: Discover will reimburse you for up to $30 in on-line Wi-Fi charges each year. Discover also provides a free FICO score each month so you can monitor your credit score.

Fees: This card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee which is an important feature in a travel rewards card if you travel internationally. There is a 0% introductory APR for purchases during the first 12 months of opening the card. After the introductory period, the APR is a variable 11.24-23.24%.

Credit Score: You need a score of “Good” or “Excellent” to be approved for this card, a score above 700.

 

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Sign Up Bonus: You will receive 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months of opening the account. 

Earning Miles: You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases made directly with Delta (so not through a third party like Expedia or Hot Wire). You earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. 

Rewards: The first checked bag is free for you and up to three other people travelling under your reservation. The card provides Priority Boarding and a reduced fee to use Delta Sky Club lounges. 

Fees: This card has an annual fee of $95 but that is waived the first year. There is no foreign transaction fee. There is a variable APR of 15.49%-19.49%.

Credit Score: You need a score of “Excellent” to be approved for this card, a score above 800.

 

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard

Sign Up Bonus: You will receive 30,000 miles after spending just $1,000 in the first three months of opening the account. 

Earning Miles: You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases made with American Airlines. You earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Each calendar year, you will receive a 10% bonus equal to the miles you redeemed that year up to 10,000 miles. 

Rewards: The first checked bag is free for you and up to three other people travelling under your reservation. The card provides Priority Boarding and a 25% discount on all food and drink purchases made in flight. 

Fees: This card has an annual fee of $95 but that is waived the first year. There is no foreign transaction fee. There is a variable APR of 14.24%-22.24%

Credit Score: You need a score of “Good” to be approved for this card, a score above 700.

 

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Sign Up Bonus: You will receive 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months of opening the account. 

Earning Miles: You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases made with Southwest Airlines and their hotel and rental car company partners which include Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, Marriott, Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Hertz among others. 

You earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Each year on the anniversary of your membership, you will receive a 6,000 bonus miles. 

Rewards: Your bags fly free on Southwest. Your miles don’t expire as long as the account remains open and there are no blackout dates when booking air travel.

Fees: This card has an annual fee of $99. There is no foreign transaction fee. There is a variable APR of 16.24%-23.24%.

Credit Score: You need a score of “Excellent” to be approved for this card, a score above 800.

 

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card 

Sign Up Bonus: You will receive 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months of opening the account. 

Earning Miles: You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases made directly with United Airlines and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. 

Rewards: Your first checked bag is free. You get Priority boarding and two one-time use passes per year to the United Club, the private airport lounge.  Your miles don’t expire as long as the account remains open and there are no blackout dates when booking air travel.

Fees: This card has an annual fee of $95 and that is waived the first year. There is no foreign transaction fee. There is a variable APR of 16.24%-23.24%.

Credit Score: You need a score of “Good” to be approved for this card, a score above 700.

 

The JetBlue Card

We don’t know what took JetBlue so long to introduce an awards card but the wait is over!

Sign Up Bonus: You will receive 10,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening the account. 

Earning Miles: JetBlue is one of the best cards to earn miles with! You receive 3 miles per $1 spent on JetBlue purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases. 

Rewards: You get a 50% discount on in-flight purchases of drinks and food.  Your miles don’t expire as long as the account remains open and there are no blackout dates when booking air travel.

Fees: This card has no annual fee and there is no foreign transaction fee. There is a variable APR of 12.24%, 20.24%, and 25.24%. There is an introductory 0% APR rate for balance transfers made within the first 45 days of opening the account so if you have a balance on another card that you are paying interest charges on, this is a great card to apply for.

Credit Score: You need a score of “Good” to be approved for this card, a score above 700.

 

British Airways Visa Signature Card 

Sign Up Bonus: You will receive 50,000 bonus Avios (what British Airway calls their miles) after spending $2,000 in the first three months of opening the account. If you spend $15,000 in the first year, you will receive another 25,000 Avios, for a possible total of 75,000 in just one year!

Earning Miles:  ou earn 3 Avios for all British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Rewards: If you spend $30,000 in a year, you will receive a Travel Together Ticket which allows a travel partner to fly with you for free! The ticket is good for two years. 

Fees: This card has an annual fee of $95 and there is no foreign transaction fee. There is a variable APR of 16.24%-23.24%. 

Credit Score: You need a score of “Good” to be approved for this card, a score above 700.

 

So What’s the Verdict?

If most of your travel is domestic, the JetBlue card is the best choice. The sign up bonus isn’t huge but this card is the easiest to earn miles with because it’s the only one that has a double points category that isn’t tied to purchases made with an airline. The card is also offering a period of 0% APR on balance transfers so that can help you kill some credit card debt that you’ve had hanging around. 

If most of your travel is international (lucky you!), the British Airways card is the best choice. They have a great sign up bonus and the chance to earn additional bonus miles after meeting the yearly spend requirement. The card also offers a travel pass which gives your travel partner a free flight once a year. You can turn one of those business trips into a vacation!

Happy travels!

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