Best Airline Credit Cards of 2019

For the frequent flyer, airline credit cards are a rewarding companion. Find the best one for you and you’ll be rewarded with award flights, status upgrades, and special perks you won’t find anywhere else. If you tend to only fly one airline, apply for one of its branded cards. If you fly many airlines, choose a card that rewards you with points or miles you can redeem in a variety of ways. Bankrate has compiled the very best airline credit cards of 2019 from our partners here; choose yours and start flying better.

Editor's Top Picks: Best Airline Credit Cards of 2019

Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which Bankrate.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site, including, for example, the order in which they may appear within listing categories. Other factors, such as our own proprietary website rules and the likelihood of applicants' credit approval also impact how and where products appear on this site. Bankrate.com does not include the entire universe of available financial or credit offers.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.

Best for frequent AA flyers

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Rewards Rate:
2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases 1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases*
Welcome Offer:
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
Annual Fee:
$450
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.99% - 25.99%* (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you*
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for sign-up bonus

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

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

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

Rewards Rate:
2 AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases* 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations* 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants*
Welcome Offer:
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
Annual Fee:
$99, waived for first 12 months*
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
18.24% - 26.24%* (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for accruing miles

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.99%-26.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Want even more flexibility? Pay with Miles is a Card Member feature that gives you the option to redeem miles for all or part of the price of your tickets on Delta.com.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.

Best for Delta SkyMiles members

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (740 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
2 miles per dollar at US restaurants. 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.99%-26.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • Terms Apply.

Best for travel buddies

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Bank of America's secure website

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
Get 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening.
Annual Fee:
$75
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.24%-25.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • Special Introductory Offer: Buy 1 ticket, get 1 for just the taxes and fees with Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer.
  • Get 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of your account opening.
  • Get Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ every year! Each Year on your account anniversary get a companion fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22). Valid on all Alaska flights booked on alaskaair.com.
  • Save with a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation.
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • New - Get exclusive access to discounted redemption levels when you redeem miles for hotel stays at over 400,000 properties using Mileage Plan™ Hotels.
  • Earn unlimited miles and travel with no blackout dates and no foreign transaction fees.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.


Author: Bankrate Staff | Last Updated: January 29, 2019

Have questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.


In this article:


Why you should trust Bankrate

Our review criteria

Bankrate’s team of experts have many years of experience providing advice for every stage of your financial life. Whether you’re looking for help choosing a credit card for general travel rewards or a specific trip in 2019, the crew here at Bankrate can help you with thoughtful and well-researched commentary. Finding the right travel credit card can be complicated because there are so many different types of travel rewards cards to choose from. From points and miles to co-branded airline or hotel cards, we cut through the noise to give you the information you will need to make an informed choice.

Scoring matrix

The travel cards industry is home to some of the most lucrative and expensive rewards cards. At Bankrate, we score each card out of 100 against our matrix, which was devised to take into account various card attributes, such as the card’s annual fee, rewards value, sign-up bonus, and any extras or discounts. However, everyone is unique: Just because a card has a lucrative welcome offer doesn’t mean it is the right card for your regular spending habits. Wherever possible, we have identified where we think a card will suit a particular type of spender or traveler.

  • Travel rewards value: Travel rewards are the main motivation for travelers. Our scoring method measures the rewards structure, how you earn them, and how to make the most of them.
  • Annual fee: An annual fee can give the cardholder access to rewards and benefits and many cards waive the fee for the first year. We assess the annual fee against the benefits to determine if the fee is worth it, how to best use the card to make back the expense of the annual fee, and what type of user would most benefit.
  • Foreign transaction fees: A foreign transaction fee is usually around 3% of every purchase you make abroad. We assess the foreign transaction fees for our recommended travel cards to help you avoid the unwanted surprise extra charges.
  • Extras and Discounts: Advantages such as no checking fee for baggage and trip insurance are useful benefits for travelers.

Bankrate’s top picks for the best airline credit cards

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

The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard offers cardholders similar rewards as the Executive World Elite card — including 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, 2x AAdvantage miles on gas stations and restaurants and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Plus, earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of account opening.

Highlights:

  • Decent sign-up bonus
  • $99 annual fee waived the first year
  • Preferred boarding on American Airlines flights

Read our full Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard review.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

If you value staying rested and relaxed on the road, the main attraction of the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is the Admirals Club access. You and your immediate family members, plus up to two additional guests, will have access to the club – a savings of $925 a year.

You’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines and US Airways purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. What makes up for this standard rewards rate is the 50,000-mile sign-up bonus for spending $5K within the first 3 months of account opening. And if you fly enough to get this sign-up bonus, you’ll earn enough more than enough in rewards to make up for the $450 annual fee.


Highlights:

  • 50,000 bonus sign-up bonus (enough to cover a round-trip domestic flight)
  • Admirals Club membership for you, your immediate family and two guests
  • Free checked bag for you and up to eight companions

Read our full Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard review.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Delta enthusiast? Fly often? The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express will help you maximize your mileage at a minimum cost. Card owners receive 2 miles for every $1 spent on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Even better, SkyMiles® members to earn 7 miles per dollar spent.

Cardholders receive a 30,000-mile sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months – you’ll even get a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within the first 3 months.


Highlights:

  • $95 annual fee waived the first year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Domestic round-trip companion certificate after the first year
  • Travel and auto protections included
  • First checked bag free

Read our full Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express review.

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Looking for an introductory airline card? For Delta loyalists, the Blue Delta SkyMiles card is a great start. This card offers no annual fee and you’ll earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.

Blue Delta SkyMiles cardholders receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit using the Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets. They also get American Express benefits like purchase protection, extended warranty, flexible payment options and more.


Highlights:

  • No annual fee
  • No blackout dates

Read our full Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express review.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Have friends, will travel. With the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you’ll get unbeatable access to their airline transfer program and Famous Campion Fare™. Just spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening and receive both 30,000 bonus miles and the Companion Fare offer (buy one ticket, get one for $0 base fare).

You’ll continue to get the companion fare each year from $121, including taxes and fees. Additional perks include a free checked bag for you and six guests, plus an earnings rate of 3 miles for every $1 spent on Alaska Airlines flights (1 mile per dollar spent on everything else).

Highlights:

  • Access to the Famous Campion Fare™
  • Free checked baggage for you and six guests

Read our full Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card review


What is an airline credit card?

It goes without saying but individuals who travel frequently for business or pleasure may benefit greatly from a travel card. Travelers can rack up frequent flier miles, discounts on car rentals and hotels, and receive other incentives when traveling, like lounge access or status benefits. These cards can also be a boon for those who travel overseas. Good travel rewards cards offer no foreign transaction fees, a perk that can keep you from racking up extra charges every time you swipe your card abroad. Foreign transaction fees are charges levied by the credit card issuer for transactions you make outside the U.S. and are usually around 3%.

Airline and travel cards are typically offered to individuals with good to excellent credit. You may not qualify if your credit is subpar. If your credit standing isn’t great, you should work on improving your score first before applying for a travel rewards card.

These cards offer the ability to earn miles for everyday purchases. Some even offer bonus miles and perks on hotel stays, saving you cash every time you’re away from home. That’s a plus. But many airline credit cards come with annual fees, and some are high enough that they can put a dent in the overall rewards you receive. This is especially true if you aren’t spending enough to earn bonuses or don’t pay off your balance each month, negating your rewards with interest payments.

Make sure to pay your bill in full and on time. A travel rewards card can be a great way to save money and enjoy other benefits just for spending the way you normally would. Anyone who typically carries a balance will likely fare better with a low-interest credit card over a travel rewards card as the value of any rewards is far likely to be outweighed by the interest charges accrued on your debt.

More recommendations

Are you interested in a co-branded credit card so you can get points or miles with a specific frequent flyer or hotel rewards program this coming year? Read more about our top choices for each of those categories.

How to choose an airline credit card

For credit card pros and newbies alike, choosing the right airline credit card can seem overwhelming. With so many options and factors to consider before applying, simplify your strategy into a three-step process:

  1. Decide if you want an airline-branded card or a card with transferable points/miles. Let’s say you live in a Delta hub city and travel weekly on business. In this scenario, you’ll likely benefit greatly from a premium Delta-branded card like the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. You’ll get a status boost and free checked bag when you fly, and enjoy a hefty intro bonus you won’t have trouble redeeming. If you don’t live in a hub city nor do you have a favorite airline, status upgrades probably aren’t as valuable, considering you’ll take advantage of them less often. Instead, you’d get better use out of a airline card with transferable miles, like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. You won’t get all the in-flight perks, but you’ll be able to redeem miles for flights on any airline.
  2. Consider how often you fly. If you’re flying quite frequently, you’ll be banking so many miles that you’ll have no problem overcoming an annual fee. If you fly only every once in a while, an annual fee may knock certain cards out of contention. Luckily, many airlines have several branded cards, each with varying annual fees and reward structures. Do the math on whether you’ll be able to make up for the annual fee before applying for an airline card.
  3. Consider how your new card will work with the other cards in your wallet. If you’ve already got a general rewards credit card that offers points on flights, will you really make use of another rewards card with transferable points? Perhaps you’d be better off getting a branded airline card that you’ll use strictly for purchasing flights and leaving the rewards card you already have for other purchases. It’s a balance of annual fees and maximizing the rewards you earn across your budget.

What about benefits and perks?

The best travel rewards cards will offer generous rewards rates and flexible redemption. There aren’t any blackout dates or restrictions on when and where you can use your points and miles.

Top-shelf airline cards often include a ton of travel-centric extras like annual flight credits, insurances, lounge access, and bonuses or discounts. These cards are often designed for frequent travelers valuing luxuries (like upgrades and lounge access) and business travelers who clock a lot of miles every year.

Make sure to check out how your points or miles are redeemed to ensure that they work best for your travel habits.

Airline credit cards vs. flexible travel rewards cards

Each card has its own redemption program. Some issuers prefer that you book your rewards travel through their online Web portal, or by calling a rewards representative to book the travel for you. Other cards require you to book the travel first and then apply the redemption towards the cost of the trip as a statement credit. Still, other cards require enough rewards to pay for an entire trip while some let you use your rewards for partial payment.

Before applying for a travel rewards card, consider carefully the type of spender you are and how much travel you’re likely to do. If you rarely take a plane, a premium travel rewards airline card is likely not worth the high cost of ownership for you. But if you fly at least several times a year and typically with luggage, an airline card with a free checked baggage perk could save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Also be sure to check out booking sites like Priceline and Expedia. As people are planning their travel for 2019, they are often running some pretty lucrative promotions when it might make sense to book through them instead of through another travel portal or directly with an airline or hotel.

Reviews and further reading

If you still feel like you need to do more research to find the right credit card to fund your 2019 vacation, we have plenty for you. Check out our reviews section (below) to browse through our reviews of every single major travel card on the market, and then some. Feel free to shoot us an email or message on social if you have any questions!

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.