Best Airline Credit Cards for Travel Nuts

These are the best airline credit cards for people with serious wanderlust.

Plane tickets can take a bite out of your wallet, but there’s a decent credit card for every kind of lifestyle, including ones that keep you up in the air. If you’re looking to save an extra bit of cash that you’d be glad to spend elsewhere on your travels, then looking into an airline credit card is the best place to start.

There’s a good number of airlines servicing not just the United States, but countries far and wide, so which one has the best credit card for your needs? Weighing your options will depend on where you fancy yourself flying to most often. Will you be domestically bound? Does your personal or professional life let you collect numerous stamps in your passport? Asking yourself these questions right off the bat will allow you to choose from the long list of airline credit cards out there.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest offers one of the best credit cards for domestic travel. Unlike other airlines, Southwest’s reward system isn’t based off miles you need to redeem for tickets, and it’s not distance-based, either. Instead, Southwest uses a structure that prices its awards based on whatever the going cash rate is, so whether fares are high or low, the rewards follow suite. This revenue-based system works well for U.S. travelers.

This credit card will also earn you 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest, and 1 point on anything else. Domestic use for Southwest’s card is best because it’ll charge you 3% as a foreign-transaction fee. Annually, you will receive 3,000 points every year you’re a card-holding member. It has a yearly fee of $69, which relatively speaking isn’t so bad for a branded airline credit card.

The Delta Lineup: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express & Delta Reserve Credit Card

Delta dominates every airport imaginable, so if you fly frequently, it could be a good idea to get on board with one of Delta’s credit cards to rack up some well-deserved points and rewards. The Delta Reserve Credit Card is one of the fanciest, and by that, we also mean one of the most expensive. 

It has an annual fee of $450, but before you shut this card down, consider that the Delta Reserve Credit Card could very well work even considering its pricey fees.

Delta Reserve Credit Card will gift you complimentary Sky Club access as well as allow you to reel in Delta’s Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM), which ultimately contribute to Medallion status. Cardholders who charge $30,000 in a year can achieve 15,000 bonus miles along with 15,000 MQMs, plus an additional 15,000 of each if $60,000 is charged to the card in the same year.

If you don’t fly Delta enough to justify its $450 annual fee, then consider the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, which has a more palatable $95 annual fee along with perks that include a free checked bag, priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees and a solid 20% discount on inflight purchases.

United Explorer Card

United is another big name in airlines and happens to offer a very attractive credit card to help frequent travelers save more and enjoy a multitude of perks on their flights. A nice bonus with this credit card is that you won’t feel limited using it solely in the United States.

To start, the United Explorer Card will allow you to book seats with additional space, a perk that’s always welcomed on longer flights. You’ll also get a free checked bag, priority boarding, and two United Club passes every year you’re a cardholding member. 

With no foreign transaction fees, you can use the United Explorer Card internationally without worrying about breaking the bank on these charges. The card has a standard $95 annual fee, a 2x earning rate for dining and hotels, 25% off inflight purchases and you’ll receive an application credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Like Delta, United also has a higher-tiered credit card available if you find you’re a frequent flyer with them. It’s the United MileagePlus Club Card, and it offers a full United Club membership, two free checked bags, priority check-in, security and boarding perks, as well as no foreign transaction fees.

Also like the Delta Reserve Credit Card, there’s a $450 annual fee, but the current promotion of 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months is enticing as a sign-up bonus.

JetBlue Plus Card

JetBlue is the hidden gem in airline credit cards. The airline already offers some surprisingly low prices on their airline tickets in certain cities, and their credit card can make flying with them even more irresistible.

With the JetBlue Plus Card, you and three of your fellow flyers can get on the same reservation with a free checked bag when you fly JetBlue, saving you a good $20 on every flight you take. JetBlue has its own point system, TrueBlue points, and with this card you can get a 10% rebate when you redeem them plus the bonus of no annual cap in doing so. When you spend $50,000 in a year, you can earn JetBlue Mosaic elite status.

The JetBlue Plus Card has a $99 annual fee, but you’ll get 5,000 points for renewing it each year, which greatly helps in offsetting the annual fee. Aside from that, the earning rate with the JetBlue Plus Card is impressive, allowing you 6 points per dollar on all JetBlue purchases, 2 points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

American Airlines adds to the list of airline conglomerates, so if you fly with them often, consider their branded credit card to earn yourself some points. With the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, you’ll get a free checked bag on American Airline flights not just for you, but for up to four traveling companions on your reservation. You’ll also receive priority boarding and a 25% rebate on inflight purchases.

This card has the standard annual fee of $99, but with the first year you’re a cardholder, the fee is waived. For frequent American Airline flyers who travel internationally, the good news for this card is that there are no foreign transaction fees. If you sign up for the American Airlines card now, you can get on board with their bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months. Additionally, you can enjoy the earning rate of 2 points per dollar at restaurants and gas stations. There’s also the chance to earn a $100 American Airlines discount when you spend $20,000 in your first year and when you renew membership.

Choosing the Best Airline Credit Card

Although it can seem overwhelming with all the branded credit card choices for every airline out there, you can easily narrow down the pool to the perfect one for your needs by reviewing things like foreign transaction fees, annual fees and earning rates at certain establishments. 

For many people, finding the ideal airline credit card means looking to see which airline dominates their preferred airport. If Delta or United corners the market on flights most convenient for you, then opting for their branded airline card will guarantee you hefty rewards and bonuses well worth the annual fees.

If there’s no airline you fly frequently, then you don’t have to go with a branded airline card. There are credit cards that can earn you valuable perks and can allow you to travel internationally to make the most of your reward bonuses.