Best Airline Credit Cards of 2018 | Maximize Your Miles

Review the best airline credit cards to earn miles towards upgrades, free flights, baggage discounts, and more.

Mike Brown
Mike Brown
Updated: September 3, 2018

Note from the editor: Our research, news, ratings, and assessments are scrutinized using strict editorial integrity. In full transparency, our company may receive compensation from partners listed on our website. Learn more about how we make money by visiting our advertiser disclosure.

These days, plenty of major businesses and companies provide a credit card branded with their name. They are no different than other credit cards in the sense that annual percentage rates, annual fees, and monthly payments all work the same way. But there is a clear difference in the incentive for these credit cards from the perspectives of both the consumer and the business.

Of course, companies offer these credit cards to improve their business and revenue. For example, travel credit cards often provide some benefits and exclusive access to customers to encourage them to spend money with the brand. On the other hand, these cards can be fairly beneficial from the consumer's perspective. If a customer knows he or she will be spending money with a company, then there is an incentive to sign up for a company-branded card. The main incentive is the credit card’s rewards, which can provide many benefits for continued patronage with one company.

Airlines are no exception to this rule; in fact, airline credit cards offer some of the best benefits on the market. Since frequent airline customers can spend thousands on air travel, it might make sense to look at the best airline credit cards to earn miles and other benefits with that airline company. There are plenty of airlines in the world, so there are plenty of airline credit cards to choose from. Here is a list of the best airline credit cards of 2018.

LendEDU’s 14 Best Airline Credit Cards of 2018

Note: We are not affiliated with any of the following credit card issuers.

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

$0 intro annual fee, $95 after first year 40,000 miles for spending $2,000 within first 3 months

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

  • 40,000 bonus miles for spending at least $2,000 during the first three months with the card
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
  • Get a $100 credit for bag-checking fees for round-trip United Airlines flights, plus priority boarding
  • Two United Club passes awarded annually
Show More
Apply Now

on Chase's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.49% – 24.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0 for first year, then $95 per year

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Consumers can also gain rewards for with the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. In terms of introductory bonuses, the United Explorer Card has more to offer than the United Club Card. United Explorer cardholders receive 40,000 bonus miles for spending at least $2,000 during the first three months with the card.

Explorer cardholders get a $100 credit for bag-checking fees for round-trip United Airlines flights, plus priority boarding. They also receive two United Club passes annually. Cardholders receive two miles for every dollar spent on United Airlines tickets and accrue one mile for every dollar spent on other purchases.

APR & Fees

The annual fee for the Explorer Card is $95, but the first year is free. Fees for balance transfers are $5 or 5%, and cash advance fees cost $10 or 5%. The maximum late and returned payment penalties are $37. Despite all of these potential charges, there is no foreign transaction fee for either card.

For purchases, the variable APR falls between 16.24% and 23.24%. An APR of 25.24% is in place for both cash advances and overdraft advances.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, the Explorer Card is geared toward the frequent United Airlines flyer who’s looking for a return on expenses.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

$0 intro annual fee, $95 after first year ​35,000 bonus miles for $1,000 spent within three months

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

  • Gold cardholders are eligible for just 35,000 bonus miles for spending at least $1,000 during the first three months of opening an account
  • Earn two miles for every dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases and one mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Receive $50 bonus for making a Delta Airlines purchase
  • Get up to a $50 credit on baggage fees for a round-trip itinerary
Show More
Apply Now

on American Express's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.49% - 26.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0 for first year, then $95 per year

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express is a scaled-down version of its platinum counterpart. Gold cardholders are eligible for just 35,000 bonus miles for spending at least $1,000 during the first three months of opening an account, but no MQM points are available like they are to Platinum cardholders.

In addition to the intro deal on the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, cardholders receive $50 for making a Delta Airlines purchase. Gold cardholders can also get up to a $50 credit on baggage fees for a round-trip itinerary. As for rewards, Gold Delta SkyMiles cardholders earn two miles for every dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases and one mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

APR & Fees

When it comes to fees, Gold account members get the first year with no annual fee but will spend $95 every year after. The Gold card carries a $5 or 3% fee for balance transfers and cash advances, but no foreign transaction fee. You’ll pay up to $37 for a late or returned payment.

The APR for purchases and balance transfers is between 17.49% and 26.49%, depending on the cardholder’s creditworthiness. Meanwhile, the cash advance APR is 26.99% and the penalty APR is 29.99%. These rates are variable and will fluctuate with the market rate.

Bottom Line

The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card might make sense for you if you’re a frequent Delta Airlines customer but you don’t need the level of rewards and commitment that come with the Platinum card.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

$0 intro annual fee, $99 after first year 60,000 miles for spending at least $3,000 within the first three months

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

  • 60,000 miles for spending at least $3,000 within the first three months
  • Take advantage of a preferred boarding for most American Airlines flights and a $100 flight discount after at least $20,000 spent during the year
  • Get your first checked bag fee waived for American Airlines flights in the United States
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, gas stations, and eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on other purcases
Show More
Apply Now

on Citi's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.74% – 25.74% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$99

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is a co-branded airline card designed for frequent travelers who prefer flying on American Airlines. Cardmembers earn two miles for every dollar spent on the card for restaurants, gas stations, and American Airlines purchases and one mile for all other purchases with the card.

The airline credit card also offers the first checked bag fee waived for American Airlines flights in the United States, preferred boarding for most American Airlines flights, and a $100 flight discount after at least $20,000 spent during the year. Cardmembers also receive a 25% discount on food and beverages purchased during American Airlines flights when the card is used. New cardmembers can take advantage of the rewards potential by spending at least $3,000 in the first three months, earning 60,000 reward miles after doing so.

APR & Fees

Cardmembers with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard pay an annual fee of $99, although this is waived for the first year of card membership. However, there are no foreign transaction fees with the card. The purchase APR ranges between 17.74% and 25.74%, depending on the cardholder’s creditworthiness. The APR for cash advances is 26.99%. These rates are variable.

Bottom Line

Additionally, using the credit card for purchasing American Airlines flights, dining out, and gas station purchases offers the most miles without any caps on earnings. This card is best suited for credit card users who prefer to fly American Airlines and who spend enough to justify the annual fee charged after the first year.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

​​$99 annual fee ​40,000 points for spending $1,000 within first 3 months

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

  • Introductory bonus deal of 40,000 points when you make at least $1,000 of purchases during the first three months
  • Cardholders can earn 6,000 additional points every year for simply keeping the account open
  • Earn unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on SouthWest Airline purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • Bag check fee is waived for the first and second bags when traveling with Southwest
  • Cardholders don’t have to worry about blackout dates or seating
Show More
Apply Now

on Chase's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.49% – 24.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

​​$99

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Chase has increased its reach by offering credit card products in partnership with Southwest Airlines, a popular North American airline. Southwest Airlines flyers would do well to look into the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier CreditCard from Chase Bank. This airline credit card kicks off with a staggering introductory bonus deal of 40,000 points. Cardholders can expect this bonus when they make at least $1,000 of purchases during the first three months with the credit card. On top of this bonus intro deal, cardholders can earn 6,000 additional points every year for simply keeping the account open.

When making purchases at Southwest Airlines, Rapid Rewards cardholders earn two points for every dollar spent. When making regular purchases elsewhere, only one point is accrued for every dollar spent. There are no limits to this point system, so cardholders can build rewards to no end. Having this credit card comes with a few other benefits in addition to the rewards program. For starters, the bag check fee is waived for the first and second bags when traveling with Southwest. Additionally, cardholders don’t have to worry about blackout dates or seating.

APR & Fees

There are several fees to keep in mind that are fairly standard for credit cards. There is an annual membership fee of $99. Balance transfer transactions are charged a fee of either $5 or 5% of the transaction. Additionally, cash advances are charged either $10 or 5%. The max late or returned payment penalty is up to $37. Take note that there is no foreign transaction fee with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. The annual percentage rates for regular purchases and balance transfers vary between 17.49% and 24.49%. The cash advance and overdraft advance APR is 26.49%.

Bottom Line

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card offers a pretty decent introductory bonus and standard mile rewards for making transactions. It can be a good choice if you’re a recurring Southwest Airlines client.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

$195 annual fee 35,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 within three months

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

  • Earn up to 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) for spending at least $1,000 within the first three months of opening an account
  • Get a $100 credit for simply making a purchase at Delta Airlines
  • Platinum cardholders are eligible for up to a $50 credit on baggage fees round-trip
  • Platinum members also save 20% on in-flight purchases, and they receive a round-trip ticket for a companion every calendar year
  • When Platinum cardholders spend at least $25,000 in a calendar year, they receive 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles; this benefit is doubled for spending $50,000 in a calendar year
Show More
Apply Now

on American Express's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.49% - 26.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$195

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

In conjunction with Delta Airlines, American Express offers two desirable airline credit cards that provide ample travel benefits to lucky cardholders. Either of these two credit cards is ideal for the frequent Delta Airlines customer, but the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card offers bigger rewards compared to its Gold counterpart. Platinum members can earn up to 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) for spending at least $1,000 within the first three months of opening an account. MQMs are part of an exclusive rewards program for Platinum members.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card offers benefits that reward initial purchases as well as routine spending with these airline credit cards. Aside from priority boarding, Platinum members can look forward to some positive benefits. Platinum Delta SkyMiles cardholders can get a $100 credit for simply making a purchase at Delta Airlines. When flying with luggage on a Delta flight, Platinum cardholders are eligible for up to a $50 credit on baggage fees round-trip. When Platinum cardholders spend at least $25,000 in a calendar year, they receive 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles; this benefit is doubled for spending $50,000 in a calendar year. Platinum members also save 20% on in-flight purchases, and they receive a round-trip ticket for a companion every calendar year. Platinum cardholders can earn two miles for every dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases. For all other purchases, they’ll earn one mile per dollar.

APR & Fees

Platinum cardholders can expect to fork over $195 annually, plus $5 or 3% for balance transfers and cash advances. Late or returned payments warrant a maximum $37 fee. It has no foreign transaction fee, which can be a big perk for world travelers.

The purchase APR is variable and falls within a range of 17.49% to 26.49%, which is the same for balance transfers. The cash advance APR is 26.99%, while the penalty APR is 29.99%.

Bottom Line

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card can be a solid option for anyone who plans on consistently flying with Delta Airlines. There are extensive perks to go along with a standard cash-back (or bonus miles) rate that can help make travel more manageable. In a way, that is one of the best perks of an airline credit card.

United MileagePlus Club Card

United MileagePlus Club Card

$450 annual fee Annual United Club membership

United MileagePlus Club Card

  • Access to exclusive United Club and partner lounges while you wait for your flight through a United Club membership (a yearly $550 value)
  • Cardholders receive a $100 credit for their first purchase
  • Get priority boarding on United flights and can benefit from a $100 credit toward baggage fees that is valid for round-trip flights with United Airlines
  • Earn two miles for every dollar spent on United Airlines tickets and 1.5 miles for every dollar spent elsewhere
Show More
Apply Now

on Chase's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.49% – 24.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$450

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

United Airlines paired with Chase Bank to offer credit card products to its devoted fliers. Consumers looking to earn rewards with United can decide between two premier airline credit cards offered by Chase – one of which is the United MileagePlus Club Card.

The United Club card gives cardholders a $100 credit for their first purchase. The real attraction is the United Club membership, a yearly $550 value, which gives access to exclusive United Club and partner lounges while you wait for your flight. Cardholders get priority boarding on United flights and can benefit from a $100 credit toward baggage fees that is valid for round-trip flights with United Airlines. They are also eligible for platinum status in the Hyatt Gold Passport program. Cardholders will earn two miles for every dollar spent on United Airlines tickets and 1.5 miles for every dollar spent elsewhere.

APR & Fees

The annual fee for the Club card is $450, but if you were planning on getting the United Club membership anyway, you might find the fee to be worth it. Balance transfers are charged either $5 or 5%, while cash advances are charged either $10 or 5% – whichever is higher. The maximum late and returned payment penalties are $37. There is no foreign transaction fee.

In terms of APR, the rate is variable and falls between 16.24% and 23.24% for purchases. An APR of 25.24% is in place for both cash advances and overdraft advances.

Bottom Line

The United MileagePlus Club Card is all about VIP access to the United Airlines club and lounge. If you’re a big United traveler and plan on spending quite a bit of airport time in the lounge, this card might make sense for you.

British Airways Visa Signature Card

British Airways Visa Signature Card

$95 annual fee 50,000 Avios for spending $3,000 within first three months

British Airways Visa Signature Card

  • Sign up bonus of 50,000 Avios when you spend at least $3,000 during the first three months of opening an account
  • Earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after spending $10,000 on purchases within the first year
  • Plus 25,000 more bonus Avios after spending $20,000 total on purchases within the first year
  • Earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on British Airways purchases
  • Earn 1 Avios per $1 spent on regular purchases
Show More
Apply Now

on Chase's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.49% – 24.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$95

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Chase Bank takes yet another spot on this list by providing this credit card branded with an airline. The partner airline is international this time; British Airways offers points for transatlantic and domestic European flights. Those who find themselves regularly crossing the Atlantic or flying in Europe should look into the British Airways Visa Signature Card from Chase Bank.

When British Airways Visa Signature Card holders spend at least $3,000 during the first three months of opening an account, they earn 50,000 Avios to their account. An Avios is the base unit for the rewards program with British Airways. These points are redeemable towards flight discounts and other cash rewards. Cardholders can then earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after spending $10,000 on purchases within the first year, plus 25,000 more bonus Avios after spending $20,000 total on purchases within the first year. In total, if you spend at least $33,000 in the first year, you can earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios. Purchases made with British Airways are eligible for a points-back rate of three Avios per dollar spent. When making other purchases anywhere else, only one Avios is awarded per dollar spent. There is no limit to these points, so cardholders can save them so long as the account is active.

A few other nice benefits come with the British Airways Visa Signature Card; for instance, there are several travel and purchase protection perks as well as bonus deals. If a cardholder spends over $30,000 with the Visa Signature Card, then they are awarded with a travel together ticket from British Airways. With this reward, you can double the value of an Avios redemption. When you redeem a seat for a flight, you can use this ticket to get another seat for a companion in the same cabin.

APR & Fees

Since this airline credit card is offered by Chase, there are several common and standard fees to adhere to. Cardholders need to pay $95 every year in order to maintain an account with British Airways and Chase. Balance transfers are charged either $5 or 5% of the transaction; additionally, the cash advance fee is either $10 or 5% of the transaction. There is no foreign transaction fee since this card often crosses international borders. The maximum penalty fee for late payments is $37. Annual percentage rates for regular purchases and balance transfers fall within a range of 17.49% to 24.49%. An APR of 26.49% applies to cash advances. All of these rates are variable and based on the prime market rate.

Bottom Line

The British Airways Visa Signature Card comes with decent benefits that might only be worth it to the British Airways customer. The card happens to have a slightly better reward point rate than other cards for transactions. Overall, it is a good card when being compared to its main competitors.

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

$89 annual fee 50,000 miles for spending $3,000 during first 3 months

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard

  • Introductory bonus deal of 50,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first three months with the card
  • On top of this, an annual 5,000-mile bonus is given to cardholders for spending $10,000 before each account anniversary
  • Earn ​2 miles per $1 spent on Hawaiian Airline purchases
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • The first bag check fee is waived when making a ticket purchase with the card
Show More
Apply Now

on Barclays's secure website

Intro APR

0% APR on balance transfers for first 15 months

Regular APR

17.49% - 26.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$89

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Barclays Bank enters the mix with the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard, which is provided for customers who frequently fly with Hawaiian Airlines. This airline credit card appeals to anyone who flies frequently in the Pacific Ocean region, and it offers some decent benefits on top of that.

Cardholders of the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard can earn their introductory bonus deal more easily than many other competitors. By spending $3,000 in the first three months with the card, cardholders gain 50,000 bonus miles to their account. These miles are redeemable for credit statements as well as flights. On top of this, an annual 5,000-mile bonus is given to cardholders for spending $10,000 before each account anniversary.

Two miles are awarded for every dollar spent with Hawaiian Airlines, and just one mile is given for every dollar spent elsewhere. Keep in mind that these miles are completely transferable between accounts with the ShareMiles program. If necessary, a cardholder can transfer his or her miles to a friend’s account for any reason with no limitations. Plenty of other benefits and rewards are tacked on to the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard. The first bag check fee is waived when making a ticket purchase with the card. Cardholders receive a one-time half-off discount when purchasing a ticket for a companion with the World Elite Mastercard. On top of this, a $100 credit towards a companion’s ticket is awarded every year.

APR & Fees

Like many of these airline credit cards, the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard comes with several fees to keep in mind. Every year, cardholders are required to put up $89 in order to keep hold of the credit card. All balance transfers are charged a fee of $5 or 3% of the transaction, and all cash advances are charged either $10 or 5% of the transaction amount. All payments made in a foreign country do not warrant any sort of foreign transaction fee. Late payment penalty fees run up to $37. All regular purchases come with an APR that ranges from 17.49% to 26.49% This same range is used for balance transfers, but the first 15 months comes with a 0% APR introductory period. Cash advances get slammed with a 26.74% APR every time.

Bottom Line

Hawaiian Airlines and Barclays Bank offer a solid deal when it comes to airline credit cards. The World Elite Mastercard comes with several benefits that are not offered elsewhere, such as the ShareMiles program. Additionally, there are good opportunities to get discounts when traveling with companions, which gives this airline credit card a good reputation.

JetBlue Plus Card

JetBlue Plus Card

$99 annual fee 40,000 points for spending $1,000 within 90 days

JetBlue Plus Card

  • Introductory bonus of 40,000 bonus points for spending only $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening an account
  • Whenever flying with JetBlue, all in-flight purchases are 50% off, and the first bag check is free of charge
  • Earn 6 points per $1 spent for JetBlue purchases
  • Earn 2 points per $1 for restaurant/gas station purchases and 1 point per $1 on regular purchases
  • Recurring annual bonus of 5,000 points awarded at each account anniversary
Show More
Apply Now

on Barclays's secure website

Intro APR

0% APR on balance transfers for first year

Regular APR

17.49% - 26.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$99

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Barclays Bank offers a credit card through a partnership deal with JetBlue Airways, an airline company that offers flights out of the U.S. domestically and internationally. This credit card, the JetBlue Plus Card, offers unique benefits that are only available to habitual JetBlue customers who are in need of rewards.

The JetBlue Plus Card offers 40,000 bonus points for spending only $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening an account. In addition to this intro deal, there is a recurring annual bonus of 5,000 points awarded at each account anniversary. These points are redeemable for flight discounts and other cash prizes. Additionally, whenever these points are redeemed, the cardholder receives 10% of the points back to his or her account. JetBlue offers some of the best mile rates on spending compared to other common airline credit cards. Purchases made with JetBlue Airways directly receive six points per dollar spent. Purchases made at restaurants and grocery stores earn two points per dollar spent. All other purchases receive one point per dollar spent.

When a cardholder purchases a Getaways vacation package, he or she is eligible for a $100 cash back credit. Whenever flying with JetBlue, all in-flight purchases are 50% off, and the first bag check is free of charge. TrueBlue Mosaic is available for a year when a cardholder spends at least $50,000 in a year.

APR & Fees

Just like any other credit card, there are several fees to consider when looking at the JetBlue Plus Card. An annual fee of $99 is required. All balance transfers come with a $5 or 3% transaction fee; additionally, cash advance transactions come with a fee of either $10 or 5% of the transaction. There is no fee associated with foreign transactions. Penalty fees for late and returned payments max out at $37. Regular purchase annual percentage rates run between 17.49% and 26.49%, which is also applicable for balance transfers after a 0% introductory period for one year. An APR of 26.74% is applied to cash advances.

Bottom Line

Overall, the JetBlue Plus Card offers a comparably good deal in terms of benefits and fees. For less than $100, cardholders can get premier benefits for business with JetBlue Airways. The frequent JetBlue customer would definitely do well getting a JetBlue Plus Card.

Asiana Visa Signature Credit Card

Asiana Visa Signature Credit Card

$99 annual fee 30,000 miles for spending $3,000 within first 90 days

Asiana Visa Signature Credit Card

  • The introductory bonus offer involves 30,000 Asiana miles for spending at least $3,000 during the first 90 days with the credit card
  • Cardholders are awarded two Asiana lounge passes annually; these give access to an exclusive lounge for Asiana customers
  • Earn 3 miles per $1 spent with Asiana
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on restaurants/groceries and 1 mile per $1 spent on regular purchases
  • 10,000 bonus miles are awarded each year for simply holding onto the card
  • $100 rebate on Asiana Airline ticket purchases is available every year
Show More
Apply Now

on Bank of America's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

16.49% – 24.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$99

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Asiana Airlines is based in South Korea, and it teamed up with Bank of America to reward its returning customers for their patronage by creating the Asiana Visa Signature Credit Card, which is among the top credit cards in the airline credit card industry. The Asiana Visa Signature Credit Card comes with solid bonus rewards, and many of them recur annually as opposed to an introductory deal.

The introductory bonus offer involves 30,000 Asiana miles, essentially points, for spending at least $3,000 during the first 90 days with the credit card. These points are redeemable for cash back value as well as airline tickets with Asiana. On top of this, every year there are renewed benefits to look forward to. Ten thousand bonus miles are awarded each year for simply holding onto the card. On top of this, a $100 rebate on Asiana Airline ticket purchases is available every year. To top it all off, cardholders are awarded two Asiana lounge passes annually; these give access to an exclusive lounge for Asiana customers. Several standard reward benefits are applicable towards purchases made by cardholders. When spending on Asiana Airline purchases, cardholders earn three miles for every dollar spent. When making a purchase at a gas station or grocery store, two miles are awarded for each dollar spent in the transaction. Finally, one mile is accrued for every dollar spent on regular, day-to-day purchases.

APR & Fees

The Asiana Visa Signature Credit Card comes with a $99 fee that must be paid each year. Several transaction fees are applicable. Balance transfers and cash advances cost either $10 or 3% of the transaction. The maximum late fee is $38. Despite these fees, there is no foreign transaction fee with this credit card since it is used internationally. Multiple transaction types are also accompanied by an annual percentage rate (APR). Regular purchases and balance transfers could have an APR between 16.49% and 24.49%. Cash advances are a bit costlier; for instance, the APR for these transactions is 26.49%. The penalty APR is 29.99%.

Bottom Line

Like any of the cards on this list, this credit card is most worth it to consistent customers of Asiana Airlines. In terms of actual benefits, the Asiana Visa Signature Card is slightly above average since it offers annual perks such as lounge access and ticket rebates.

Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card

Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card

​​$90 annual fee 15,000 miles for spending $25,000 annually

Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card

  • Introductory bonus of 20,000 miles for making your first purchase
  • An annual bonus of 15,000 miles is awarded for spending at least $25,000 each year
  • Cardholders get 5,000 miles credited to their account for simply adding an authorized additional user
  • Earn 3 miles per $1 spent at Virgin Atlantic and 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Tier points are awarded per $2,500 in purchases as well as for flying with Virgin Atlantic
Show More
Apply Now

on Bank of America's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

16.49% – 24.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$90

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Virgin Atlantic is an airline that was started in the United Kingdom back in the 1980s; now it is an international airline that covers transatlantic and European flights. Since it is such a large airline, it is only natural that it provides its own credit card (with Bank of America) that is dubbed the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard. Despite this fancy title, the credit card is more commonly known as the Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card.

The card comes with an introductory bonus of 20,000 miles. While this sounds like a much smaller bonus than other credit card offers, it is actually fairly comparable. The reason for this is because this intro bonus is awarded for simply making your first purchase with the Black Credit Card. There are other bonus offers with the Black Card as well. An annual bonus of 15,000 miles is awarded for spending at least $25,000 each year. On top of that, cardholders get 5,000 miles credited to their account for simply adding an authorized additional user. There are opportunities to gain status with Virgin Atlantic; for instance, tier points are awarded per $2,500 in purchases as well as for flying with Virgin Atlantic. More tier points essentially mean better benefits. Two standard reward rates accompany the Virgin Black Card. When buying tickets or spending in general at Virgin Atlantic, cardholders earn three miles for every dollar spent. All other purchases accrue miles at 1.5 points per dollar spent.

APR & Fees

Many standard fees are present with this card offer, such as the $90 annual fee. Balance transfer and cash advance transactions warrant a fee of either $10 or 3% depending on which value is greater. Late payments receive a fee of $37. Despite all this, there is no foreign transaction fee with the card. The annual percentage rates are fairly standard with possible rates on the low end of the spectrum. Regular purchases and balance transfers come with a minimum APR of 16.49% and a maximum of 24.49%. Bank cash advances carry an APR of 26.49%. The penalty APR is 29.99%.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic customers who often fly with their airline could benefit the most from picking up the Virgin Atlantic Black Card. The benefits are decent, and cardholders can obtain exclusive access to some cool features with the airline.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card

$75 annual fee 30,000 miles for spending $1,000 in first 90 days

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card

  • When new cardholders spend just $1,000 during the first 90 days, they are eligible for 30,000 bonus miles
  • Cardholders can receive another credit toward a companion’s ticket that is valued at $121
  • Free checked bags for you and up to six companions
  • Earn 3 miles per $1 spent at Alaska Airlines
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on regular purchases
Show More
Apply Now

on Bank of America's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

16.49% – 24.49% Regular APR

Annual Fee

​​$0 for first year, then $75 per year

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

Alaska Airlines began by specializing in flights from Alaska to the contiguous United States; now it is one of the top airlines in terms of customer service and provides international flights. Being well known for its customer service, it is no surprise that the airline offers a credit card: the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card.

There are multiple benefits to the Alaska Airlines Credit Card. When new cardholders spend just $1,000 during the first 90 days, they are eligible for 30,000 bonus miles. In addition to this mile credit, cardholders receive another credit toward a companion’s ticket that is valued at $121. One extra benefit is the free bag checks that come with the credit card; in fact, there are free bag checks for the cardholder and up to six companions. Two spending rates of return are available for the Alaska Airlines Credit Card. Cardholders accrue three miles for every dollar spent at Alaska Airlines, and one point per dollar spent is earned for simply spending with the card in general.

APR & Fees

This Visa Signature Credit Card comes with a $75 annual fee; less qualified applicants can get the Platinum Plus Credit Card for $50 annually. Balance transfers and cash advances are charged a fee of $10 or 5% depending on which is greater. There is a maximum $37 fee for making a late payment. There is no foreign transaction fee.

The Alaska Airlines Card is subject to standard Bank of America APRs. Balance transfers and regular purchases are subject to an APR range from 16.49% to 24.49%. Cash advances are burdened by a slightly higher APR range of 19.49% to 26.49%. The penalty APR is set at 29.99%.

Bottom Line

Overall, getting the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card might be a worthwhile move for qualified Alaska Airlines customers who want to earn rewards.

Delta Reserve Credit Card From American Express

Delta Reserve Credit Card From American Express

$450 annual fee 10,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months

Delta Reserve Credit Card From American Express

  • Sign up bonus of 10,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • Cardmembers may earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles and 15,000 bonus miles after at least $30,000 is spent on the card each calendar year
  • If $60,000 is spent during the year, an additional 15,000 miles in each category is credited to the cardmember’s account
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
Show More
Apply Now

on American Express's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.49% – 26.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$450

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

The Delta Reserve Credit Card by American Express is a luxury travel card designed to give frequent Delta Airline travelers a method to earn more through credit card purchases. The credit card offers a flat rate of one mile per dollar spent on all categories of spending except for Delta purchases, which earn two miles per dollar.

The Delta Reserve Credit Card is maximized for new cardmembers who spend at least $3,000 in the first three months in order to earn the sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles. Cardmembers who do not qualify for the sign-up bonus can take advantage of the two miles per dollar spent on Delta-related purchases or the one-mile rate for all other spending with the card. Additionally, cardmembers may earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles and 15,000 bonus miles after at least $30,000 is spent on the card each calendar year. If $60,000 is spent during the year, an additional 15,000 miles in each category is credited to the cardmember’s account. Delta Reserve cardmembers also receive complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs, concierge service, an annual companion certificate, and the first checked bag fee waived.

APR & Fees

Cardholders can get a 17.49% to 26.49% variable APR on purchases, depending on their credit. Cash advances come with a 26.99% variable APR. The card has an annual fee of $450, but no foreign transactions fees or over-limit fees.

Bottom Line

Because there are no caps on miles earned, cardmembers who prefer flying Delta and do so often can earn a significant number of miles toward future Delta flights. However, the card is not suitable for all Delta travelers because of the high annual fee. Cardmembers benefit the most from this credit card when they fly often with Delta and meet the annual spending limits to earn additional bonus miles each year.

Delta Blue SkyMiles Credit Card From American Express

Delta Blue SkyMiles Credit Card From American Express

$0 annual fee 10,000 miles for spending $500 within the first three months

Delta Blue SkyMiles Credit Card From American Express

  • A 10,000-mile bonus is available if at least $500 is spent on the card within the first three months after opening an account
  • Receive 20% off in-flight purchases as a statement credit with no cap
  • Gain access to car rental loss and damage insurance, as well as access to the Global Assist Hotline
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases and U.S. restaurants
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
Show More
Apply Now

on American Express's secure website

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

17.49% – 26.49% Variable APR

Annual Fee

$0

Credit Needed

Good/Excellent

Card Highlights

The Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card by American Express is a co-branded airline credit card designed to offer rewards to frequent Delta travelers. The credit card earns two miles for every dollar spent on Delta purchases and U.S. restaurants and one mile per dollar for all other purchases with the card.

The Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card offers the most value to new cardmembers who are able to take advantage of the sign-up bonus. A 10,000-mile bonus is available if at least $500 is spent on the card within the first three months after opening an account. Cardmembers also receive 20% off in-flight purchases as a statement credit with no cap, and they have access to car rental loss and damage insurance, as well as access to the Global Assist Hotline. The card has no annual fee, and there are no limits on how many miles can be earned. Accumulated miles can be redeemed for Delta flight purchases.

APR & Fees

Depending on creditworthiness, cardholders can get a 17.49% to 26.49% variable APR on purchases and a 26.99% variable APR for cash advances. While there is no annual fee with the credit card, there is a foreign transaction fee of 2.7% of the purchase for transactions made outside the U.S..

Bottom Line

The credit card is specifically designed for travelers who use Delta often but who do not want to pay a hefty annual fee for rewards. This means the credit card is best suited for frequent Delta travelers who want a simple credit card that earns rewards on purchases made domestically.

The Best Airline Credit Cards for 2018

Card Bonus Offer Annual Fee
United MileagePlus Explorer Card 40,000 miles for spending $2,000 within first 3 months $0 annual fee, $95 after first year
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card ​35,000 bonus miles for $1,000 spent within three months $0 annual fee, $95 after first year
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard 60,000 miles for spending at least $3,000 within the first three months $0 annual fee, $99 after first year
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ​40,000 points for spending $1,000 within first 3 months $99
Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card 35,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 within three months $195
United MileagePlus Club Card Annual United Club membership $450
British Airways Visa Signature Card 50,000 Avios for spending $3,000 within first three months $95
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard 50,000 miles for spending $3,000 during first 3 months $89
JetBlue Plus Card 40,000 points for spending $1,000 within 90 days $99
Asiana Visa Signature Credit Card 30,000 miles for spending $3,000 within first 90 days $99
Virgin Atlantic Black Credit Card 20,000 miles for making your first purchase $90
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card 30,000 miles for spending $1,000 in first 90 days $75
Delta Reserve Credit Card From American Express 10,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months $450
Delta Blue SkyMiles Credit Card From American Express 10,000 miles for spending $500 within the first three months $0

Frequently Asked Questions About Airline Credit Cards

How Do Airline Credit Cards Help You Earn Seat Upgrades?

One of the most beneficial perks of having an airline credit card is the ability to earn miles for the airline the cardmember flies most frequently. When airline miles accumulate, they are added to the cardmember’s frequent flyer loyalty program automatically, typically at the end of each billing cycle. As these miles build up over time, cardmembers have several options for redeeming the miles toward flying advantages, like upgraded seats.

Most airline credit cards allow cardmembers to redeem accumulated miles for an award flight or other travel-related purchases as a statement credit. However, some airlines allow frequent flyers the ability to use available miles toward an upgrade to first-class or a preferred seat on their next flight.

In most cases, the most cost-effective way to achieve an upgraded seat on a flight is to purchase an economy or coach-class ticket, then use miles to upgrade the seat before the actual flight. For instance, American Airlines allows frequent flyers to use 15,000 miles plus a fee to upgrade one-way on a domestic flight. Using an airline credit card to earn miles on purchases, either related to the airline or otherwise, can be a strategic way to upgrade seats once enough miles are earned.

Airline Miles From Frequent Flyer Programs vs. Airline Miles Earned on Airline Credit Cards

Frequent flyers typically earn miles in two ways: through a loyalty program directly with a specific airline or through credit card miles earned by making purchases. Airline miles awarded from an airline loyalty program are offered free of charge, and participants accumulate miles with each flight completed by the specific airline.

Airline credit card miles, on the other hand, are only earned by making purchases with the specific credit card partnered with the airline. Most airline credit cards offer more miles per dollar spent on purchases for flights or related to an airline expense, but cardmembers also earn on other purchases, just at a lower rate.

The good news for frequent flyers is that miles earned through a credit card can be used the same as miles earned from a direct loyalty program. Both can be redeemed for upgrades or award flights, although the number of miles needed for a redemption varies from airline to airline.

Does It Make Sense to Have Multiple Airline Credit Cards?

It can make sense to have multiple airline credit cards, but there are many considerations for cardmembers to think through before doing so. Cardmembers benefit the most from an airline credit card when they travel frequently with the same airline.

If a traveler spends his or her time on several different airlines, still frequently, having more than one airline credit card can mean accumulating miles toward each frequent flyer program over time. However, having multiple airline credit cards can be a challenge to manage, especially when balances are carried over from month to month.

It can also be difficult to justify the annual fee of multiple airline credit cards if miles do not outweigh the expense over time.

Can You Open Up Multiple Airline Credit Cards to Get the Sign-up Bonuses?

As a frequent flyer, it may be enticing to consider opening several airline credit cards in order to earn sign-up bonuses. This is because sign-up bonuses can be significant and can quickly help a cardmember earn a free flight without spending a substantial amount on the credit card or waiting to accumulate miles from flights.

Sign-up bonuses run the gamut from airline to airline, but some new offers give cardmembers the chance to earn upwards of 50,000 miles—enough for a free round-trip award flight. The downside to opening several cards at once is that many sign-up bonuses have minimum spending limits that must be met in order to qualify.

This could mean putting several thousand dollars on multiple cards just for a free flight or two. Additionally, opening several credit cards at once drags down one’s credit score, making it more difficult to get approved for a new card or other type of credit account in the future.

Is It Worth Paying an Annual Fee on an Airline Credit Card?

Not all airline credit cards come with annual fees, but those that do cost between $59 and $450 per year. Cardmembers who have a relatively low annual fee, say $100 or less, may be able to easily justify paying the expense when they take advantage of perks like free checked bags, in-flight discounts, and earned miles that can be converted to award flights.

However, when the annual fee starts to equal several hundred dollars, even frequent flyers have to determine if the amount they spend on the card and the advantages they receive from doing so are worth the high annual fee.

In some cases, cardmembers receive benefits they cannot get elsewhere, making the annual fee a moot point. It is important to consider these factors when selecting an airline credit card that carries an annual fee.

Can You Qualify for an Airline Credit Card With Fair or Bad Credit?

Airline credit cards are available from several airlines and credit card issuers, meaning there is possibly a credit card option for applicants with less than ideal credit. The airline credit cards that have fewer benefits and a minimal or no annual fee may be available to borrowers who have had a credit mishap in the past, like a late payment or two, a recent bankruptcy, or an account that found its way into collections.

However, the best airline credit cards—those with the highest annual fees and most robust perks—are often not available to those who have had or currently have poor credit. All credit card issuers want to ensure the individuals they allow to use credit can do so wisely, which means their credit score and history should be in good shape before applying.

Can You Transfer Airline Miles Between Different Credit Cards or Rewards Programs?

Most airlines do not allow frequent flyers to transfer miles to a different airline, whether they are accumulated from an airline credit card or through completed flights. Airlines want to remain competitive, so there is no advantage to allowing the transfer of miles.

However, there are a handful of airlines that partner with other carriers that, in some cases, gives cardmembers and frequent flyers the ability to move miles from one program to another without any reduction or restrictions. For example, British Airways and Iberia have the same frequent flyer program, Avios, which means program members and cardmembers can use accumulated miles for either airline interchangeably. The miles, however, have to be at least three months old before this transfer can take place.

Other airlines allow cardmembers to book award flights with accumulated miles on partner airlines. American Airlines partners with British Airways for frequent flyers. Another option is to pay for an airline miles program transfer through a third-party service, like Points.com.

Through this exchange, frequent flyers can convert miles from one program to another, but there is a cost involved. Most of these services reduce the conversion rate for miles, meaning each mile is worth less once it is converted.

How Do Airline Miles Change in Value?

Most airlines keep the value of their miles the same over time. This means that cardmembers earn the same number of miles per dollar spent on travel-related purchases and other spending for the lifetime of their card membership.

However, there are some bonus offers made available directly through the credit card issuer that give cardmembers the chance to earn more miles per dollar spent on certain purchases during specific timeframes.

Once miles are earned, their value does not change. What does change is the number of miles needed to redeem an award flight. Airlines use the current fares of domestic and international flights to determine how many miles are necessary to cover a one-way or round-trip flight each day.

The closer it comes to the departure of the selected flight, the higher the cost. This means cardmembers could end up using more miles for booking an award flight than they originally anticipated.

What are Some of the Common Perks You Should Expect?

Airline credit cards are beneficial to frequent flyers not only because of the miles earned toward award flights but also because of the added perks offered for simply being a cardmember. While the advantages of an airline credit card vary from issuer to issuer, some of the most common benefits offered at no additional cost include the following:

  • Free Checked Bags – most airline credit cards offer the first checked bag fee waived so long as the flight is paid for with the credit card.
  • Companion Passes – while this benefit is becoming less common, some of the best airline credit cards still offer a companion ticket once per year for cardmembers. Other airline credit cards also offer a companion pass to airline lounges, with a limit on how many times it can be used per calendar year.
  • Priority Boarding – most airline credit cards offer priority boarding when the flight is purchased with the credit card. Cardmembers are moved up in the boarding process based on the type of credit card they hold.
  • Seat Upgrades – some airline credit cards also offer upgrade opportunities to cardmembers. This perk varies from airline to airline, but some cardmembers may be able to move to first-class seats or preferred seating at little cost when the flight is purchased with the card.

What Happens to Your Airline Credit Card Miles If Two or More Airlines Merge Together?

Most airline credit card miles are limited to the specific airline offering the credit card. In some cases, airlines will merge together, which can be both frustrating and confusing for cardmembers who have miles accumulated under one program or the other. In these cases, the airlines often map over the miles earned on the credit card to the loyalty program of the new airline without any reductions.

However, the credit card of an airline that will no longer exist after an acquisition or merger may no longer be offered or available for use by cardmembers. In these cases, the new airline may offer cardmembers the option to switch to their co-branded credit card, or they may require a new application be submitted for a new credit card altogether.

Each of these scenarios is up to the airlines involved in the merger, but all cardmembers are notified of their options when it takes place.

Do Airline Credit Card Miles Ever Expire?

Yes, airline credit card miles can expire, but when they expire is determined by each specific airline. For most accumulated miles through an airline credit card, an immediate expiration may take place if the credit card is closed and miles have yet to transfer to the frequent flyer program with the airline.

If the credit card remains open, airlines may have miles expire anywhere from two years to 10 years after they are earned. It is important for airline credit card members to read the terms and conditions of their credit card and understand how long miles stay active so as not to lose out on the potential for an award flight in the future.