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Best airline credit cards of July 2024

Updated July 17, 2024

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An airline credit card can be a useful traveling companion for the frequent flyer, offering discounted flights, upgrades, companion fares and more. You might be able to earn points without even booking a flight. Compare the best airline cards available from our partners and let us help you make your next business or leisure trip more rewarding (or affordable).

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Best for bonus value

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.9 stars out of 5
4.9
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Earn 75,000 miles

$1,275 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

2 Miles - 5 Miles

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)

Why you’ll like this card: It offers one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses you can get on a general travel card, a solid flat rewards rate and ultra-flexible miles.

Best starter travel card

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Intro offer

Info

20,000 miles

$340 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

1.25 Miles - 5 Miles

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)

Why you’ll like this card: It offers a streamlined rewards program and is one of the only starter cards that features airline and hotel transfer partners.

Best for travel rewards on dining

Bankrate score

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Intro offer

Info

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points

$1,200 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

3X - 4X

Annual fee

$250

APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Why you’ll like this card: Its dining credits, everyday bonus categories and high-value Amex points make it easy to offset the annual fee.

Best flat-rate travel card

Bankrate score

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0
Info
Recommended credit score: 740 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Intro offer

Info

75,000 miles

$1,275 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

2 Miles - 10 Miles

Annual fee

$395

Regular APR

19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)

Why you’ll like this card: It boasts a terrific mix of valuable, practical perks at a much lower cost than other premier travel cards.

Best overall Southwest Card

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on Chase's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Earn 50,000 points

$750 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

1X - 3X

Annual fee

$149

Regular APR

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

Why you’ll like this card: It easily tops other Southwest cards with its annual travel credit and anniversary bonus points.

Best for Delta Air Lines perks

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Intro offer

Info

Earn 85,000 miles

$1,020 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

1X - 3X

Annual fee

$350

APR

20.99%-29.99% Variable

Why you’ll like this card: Along with Delta perks like a free first checked bag and Zone 5 priority boarding, you’ll score a ton of valuable travel and dining credits.

Best Delta starter card

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.4 stars out of 5
4.4
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Intro offer

Info

Earn 65,000 Miles

$780 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

1X - 2X

Annual fee

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150.

APR

20.99%-29.99% Variable

Why you’ll like this card: Its annual Delta flight credit and everyday bonus categories make it an easy-to-maximize airline rewards card.

Best Southwest starter card

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5
4.3
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on Chase's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Earn 50,000 points

$750 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

1X - 2X

Annual fee

$69

Regular APR

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

Why you’ll like this card: It offers the same sign-up bonus as higher-tier Southwest cards and annual bonus points at a low cost.

Best companion discount

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
4.5
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Buy One, Get One + 50,000 Bonus Miles!

$660 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

1 mile - 3 miles

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

21.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Why you’ll like this card: The Famous Companion Fare is one of the easiest-to-earn companion fare offers you can get at such a low cost.

Best for Delta Sky Club fans

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5
4.3
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Intro offer

Info

Earn 95,000 miles

$1,140 value
Info

Rewards rate

Info

1X - 3X

Annual fee

$650

APR

20.99%-29.99% Variable

Why you’ll like this card: It offers the most comprehensive Delta lounge access you can get with a credit card, plus Amex Centurion Lounge access.

Compare Bankrate’s top-ranked airline credit cards

Card name Our pick for Card Highlights Bankrate review score

Bonus value

5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

2X miles on every purchase

Flexible miles can be redeemed for statement credits toward eligible recent travel purchases

4.9 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Best starter travel card

5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

1.25X miles on every purchase

No annual fee

4.1 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Travel rewards on dining

4X points at restaurants (including eligible U.S. delivery, such as Uber Eats) and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X points)

3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on American Express Travel

5.0 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Best flat-rate travel card

 

10X miles on hotel and rental car purchases booked through Capital One Travel

5X miles on flights through Capital One Travel

2X miles on all other purchases

10,000 bonus miles each year on your account anniversary and $300 Capital One travel credit can help offset the annual fee

5.0 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Overall Southwest card

3X points on Southwest purchases

2X points on hotel and car rental partners, local transit and commuting (including rideshares) along with internet, cable, phone and select streaming services

Southwest perks, including a $75 annual travel credit, boost toward Southwest Companion Pass and four upgraded boardings each year

4.1 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Chase's secure site

Delta Air Lines perks

3X miles on Delta flights, Delta Vacations® and direct hotel purchases

2X miles at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants worldwide (including U.S. delivery and takeout)

Delta perks, including a renewing companion certificate, potential annual Delta flight credit, priority boarding, and more

4.7 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Best Delta starter card

2X miles at U.S. supermarkets, restaurants worldwide (including U.S. delivery and takeout) and on Delta purchases

Delta perks, including a potential annual Delta flight credit, priority boarding, free first checked bag, discount on reward-booked Delta flights and more

$0 intro annual fee the first year (then $150)

4.4 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Southwest starter card

2X points on Southwest purchases, Southwest hotel and car rental partners, local transit and commuting (including rideshares) along with internet, cable, phone and select streaming services

3,000-point annual bonus on your account anniversary, two EarlyBird Check-In boardings each year, a boost toward Companion Pass and other perks

$69 annual fee

 

4.3 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Chase's secure site

Best companion discount

3X miles on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases

2X miles on eligible gas, cable, streaming services and local transit (including ride share purchases)

$99 Companion Fare (plus taxes and fees from $23) each account anniversary after $6,000 in purchases the prior year

4.5 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site

Delta Sky Club fans

3X miles on Delta flights and Delta Vacations®

Complimentary Delta Sky Club lounge access and two free one-time guest passes annually (then 15 complimentary Delta Sky Club visits per year starting Feb. 1, 2025)

4.3 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

What is an airline credit card?

An airline credit card is a type of rewards card, often co-branded with a major issuer like American Express or Citi, that offers rewards and perks for people loyal to a specific airline. Typically, these cards earn airline miles for purchases made directly with the airline, but they can sometimes earn rewards in other categories as well.

You can use airline credit cards just like any credit card. There are defined credit limits and interest rates that apply to your purchases. However, with airline credit cards, you earn travel rewards specific to an airline and can participate in that airline’s rewards program. For example, Delta SkyMiles cards earn miles you only can redeem for Delta flights, while Southwest card rewards can only be redeemed for flights with Southwest.

Most airline cards have higher rewards rates for purchases you make directly with the airline, but that doesn't mean you can't use them elsewhere. Many cards earn miles on everyday purchases, including groceries, gas, dining and other categories.

You might even think of an airline credit card as a sort of VIP airport pass. The best airline rewards cards routinely include perks such as access to airport lounges, priority boarding, free checked bags and more.

Airline credit cards vs. travel credit cards

Both airline credit cards and travel credit cards typically reward you with points or miles. But there are a few key differences.

  • Travel

    Airline credit cards

    These co-branded cards are tied to a specific airline — like American Airlines, Delta, Southwest or United — and reward your loyalty with exclusive perks you won’t find with general travel cards. Typical benefits include free checked bags, priority boarding, companion tickets and even accelerated elite status. Unfortunately, airline card rewards aren’t as flexible since they can usually only be redeemed for plane tickets with that specific airline.

  • Credit Card

    General-purpose travel credit cards

    General-purpose credit cards are not tied to specific airlines. Although they don’t normally carry airline-specific perks, general travel cards are typically more versatile since they let you earn and redeem rewards with a variety of airlines and on general travel, including hotels, rentals and more. You might also be able to transfer your rewards to airline and hotel programs (sometimes at a higher value) or redeem your points or miles for cash back, gift cards and merchandise (though the value may not be as high as when you redeem for travel). Some premium travel cards also provide complimentary access to airline-branded airport lounges.

Comparing top credit card and airline rewards programs

Rewards Program Bankrate value* Estimated value of 50,000 points/miles
American Express Membership Rewards 2.0 cents $1,000
Capital One miles 1.7 cents $850
Delta SkyMiles 1.2 cents $600
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1.1 cents $550
Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.5 cents $750

*Based on weighted average of median point/mile values across economy and first/business class fares.

As you can see, American Express Membership Rewards are some of the most valuable points out there. Although it’s not solely an airline rewards program, Amex Membership Rewards points can be transferred to many airline and hotel partners for a redemption value of over 1 cent per point (the base value you’d get by redeeming for travel with Amex).

If you want to look exclusively at the best airline rewards programs, Delta SkyMiles, Alaska Airlines AAdvantage points and Southwest Rapid Rewards points carry some of the best redemption value. These values bolster the rewards rates and perks offered on each airline’s co-branded credit cards.

According to Bankrate’s points and mile valuations, Southwest Rapid Rewards are about 36 percent more valuable than Alaska Airlines miles, but only 25 percent more valuable than Delta SkyMiles. However, Delta may be determined to be more valuable as it offers more routes than both Southwest and Alaska Airlines.

To choose the right card or rewards program for you, consider which airlines you fly with most and how much flexibility you need with how you can use your rewards.

Pros and cons of airline credit cards

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Earning rewards: You’ll earn miles or points that you can apply to travel expenses or redeem towards future trips.

  • Checkmark

    Extra perks: The best airline credit cards usually come with benefits that make traveling easier, such as lounge access, priority boarding, free checked baggage and more.

  • Checkmark

    Loyalty benefits: With a co-branded card, your loyalty to your favorite airline translates to actual monetary benefits.

Cons

  • No airline flexibility: If you have a bad experience with your airline of choice and decide to never fly with that carrier again, your co-branded airline card loses value. Likewise, your rewards usually won’t translate to other travel programs if your travel plans need to change.

  • Annual fees: Like travel cards in general, airline card annual fees can range from less than $100 to more than $500.

  • Fewer intro offers: Not many airline credit cards offer 0 percent intro APR offers for purchases or balance transfers, making them unsuitable for managing debt.

Who should get an airline card?

Not everyone can benefit from an airline credit card, but those who can are likely to make it the most valuable addition to their wallet. Here are some types of cardholders who would and would not benefit from airline cards.