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Best airline credit cards of December 2022

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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 start flying smarter on your next business or leisure trip.

Best for flexible travel rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now Lock
On Capital One's secure site
Rating: 4.9 stars out of 5
4.9
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

75,000 miles
Info

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

18.99% - 26.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for flexible travel miles with no annual fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now Lock
On Capital One's secure site
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
4.5
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

20,000 miles
Info

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for travel rewards on dining

American Express® Gold Card

Apply Now Lock
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0
Bankrate review
Info
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™

Intro offer

60,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$250

Regular APR

19.74%-26.74% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

BEST CAPITAL ONE CARD FOR TRAVEL

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now Lock
On Capital One's secure site
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

75,000 miles
Info

Annual fee

$395

Regular APR

19.99% - 26.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Excellent (740 – 850)
Info
Apply Now Lock
On Chase's secure site
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
4.5
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

Earn 75,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$149

Regular APR

18.99% - 25.99% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Apply Now Lock
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Rating: 4.8 stars out of 5
4.8
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

50,000 miles
Info

Annual fee

$250

Regular APR

19.49%-28.49% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Apply Now Lock
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

40,000 Miles
Info

Annual fee

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99

Regular APR

19.49%-28.49% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Apply Now Lock
On Chase's secure site
Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5
4.6
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

Earn 75,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$69

Regular APR

18.99% - 25.99% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Apply Now Lock
On Bank of America's secure site
Rating: 4.4 stars out of 5
4.4
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

Limited Time Online Offer - 50,000 Bonus Miles
Info

Annual fee

$75

Regular APR

19.74% - 27.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for Delta Medallion members

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Apply Now Lock
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
4.5
Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

50,000 miles
Info

Annual fee

$550

Regular APR

19.49%-28.49% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Compare Bankrate’s top-ranked airline credit cards

Card name Best for Rewards Highlights Bankrate review score
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Flexible travel rewards 2X miles on every purchase

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

4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card Flexible travel miles with no annual fee 1.25X miles on every purchase

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

4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
American Express Gold Card 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 amextravel.com

4.8 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card Best Capital One travel card 10X miles on hotel and rental car purchases booked through Capital One Travel

5X miles on flight purchases booked through Capital One Travel

2X miles on all other purchases

4.9 / 5
(Read full card review)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card 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

4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card 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)

4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card Best Delta starter card 2X miles at U.S. supermarkets, restaurants worldwide (including U.S. delivery and takeout) and on Delta purchases 4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card 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 4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card Best airline card with no annual fee 2X miles on Delta and restaurant purchases worldwide (including U.S. takeout and delivery) 3.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card Best companion discount 3X miles on Alaska Airlines purchases 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card Delta Medallion members 3X miles on Delta flights and Delta Vacations® 4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at our best airline credit cards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flexible travel rewards

  • What we love about the Venture Rewards card: Capital One makes it easy for travelers to earn both a high rewards rate on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and a generous flat rate of 2X miles on all other purchases. Plus, the ability to redeem miles for statement credits toward travel purchases made within the past 90 days adds a unique dimension of flexibility compared to other flat-rate cards.
  • Who this card is good for: Travelers who want the freedom to earn boosted miles on any eligible purchase and transfer miles to different travel partners without being tied to a single airline or hotel chain (there are more than 15 Capital One transfer partners).
  • Alternatives: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could provide better value. Points are worth 1.25 cents when booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal—25 percent more than the value of the Venture Rewards mile.

Read our Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for flexible travel miles with no annual fee

  • What we love about the VentureOne Rewards card: With a decent sign-up bonus and a straightforward way to earn miles, this entry-level travel card gives budget travelers a no-frills introduction to travel rewards.
  • Who this card is good for: Travelers who don’t want to pay an annual fee but want the flexibility to transfer miles to one of Capital One’s airline and hotel transfer partners.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Freedom Unlimited® also charges no annual fee but gives cardholders at least 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases and unlimited 3 percent cash back on dining and drugstore purchases. You can also use rewards for cash back, travel and more without sacrificing point value, making this card a great travel rewards alternative if you want to avoid annual fees but aren’t impressed by the VentureOne’s low rewards rate.

Read our Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

American Express Gold Card: Best for travel rewards on dining

  • What we love about the Amex Gold Card: On top of its uniquely high 4X rewards rate at both restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year, then 1X points), the Amex Gold offers foodies plenty of perks and annual statement credits, the value of which can easily exceed the card’s $250 annual fee. In fact, the annual dining and Uber Cash credits alone could nearly cover the card’s yearly cost.
  • Who this card is good for: Big spenders who want to leverage their enthusiasm for travel and food into generous Amex Membership Rewards points.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a competitive rewards program that also rewards dining and earns points worth 25 percent more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. This might be a better fit for foodies who love to travel and are more comfortable with a lower annual fee ( $95).

Read our American Express Gold Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best Capital One travel card

  • What we love about the Venture X card: It’s packed with luxury travel benefits, such as Priority Pass Select lounge access, valuable annual credits and excellent travel insurance*—all for a $395 annual fee. Other popular travel cards with similar features charge over $500 annually and feature a long list of benefits many cardholders may not use. Meanwhile, the Venture X retains the same flat-rate rewards and flexible redemption as other popular Venture cards.
  • Who this card is good for: People who are looking to try out a more affordable luxury travel experience than those provided by other premier travel cards.
  • Alternatives: Frequent flyers may squeeze more value from elite cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Though it comes with a higher annual fee of $550, the Reserve card offers the extra value needed to justify it, including a higher rewards rate in categories like travel and dining. On top of a potentially better rewards value, the Sapphire Reserve also offers equal Priority Pass Select membership and up to $300 of annual travel purchase credits.

Read our Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

*Terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Refer to your Guide to Benefits for more details.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Best overall Southwest card

  • What we love about the Rapid Rewards Priority card: There are plenty of features to help offset the $149 annual fee. Perks include 25 percent back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi, a yearly cardmember anniversary bonus of 7,500 points and a chance to earn a companion pass.
  • Who this card is good for: Loyal Southwest flyers looking for top value on domestic Southwest flights.
  • Alternatives: Travelers looking for more flexibility in the airlines they fly as well as with how they earn and redeem miles will want to look at a general-purpose travel card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Read our Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card: Best for Delta Air Lines perks

  • What we love about the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card: A generous welcome offer and the annual domestic companion certificate each year after renewing your card make it easy to quickly offset the $250 annual fee. Cardholders still have plenty of other features to take advantage of, including free first checked bag on Delta flights, priority boarding on Delta flights, in-flight savings and lots of travel and shopping protections.
  • Who this card is good for: Regular Delta flyers looking to save on airfare and other travel costs can squeeze plenty of value out of the SkyMiles Platinum card and its loyalty status opportunities.
  • Alternatives: If you don’t mind flying with airlines other than Delta, the American Express Gold Card is worth a look thanks to its supersized rewards earning potential and dining credits that may help compensate for its lack of Delta-specific perks. The Gold Card’s rewards program offers greater flexibility in how you can redeem points (you can even transfer them to Delta) and more everyday opportunities to earn rewards, including at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants.

Read our Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card: Best Delta starter card

  • What we love about the SkyMiles Gold card: Benefits like a free checked bag, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding and $100 annual flight credit after spending $10,000 within a calendar year give the Delta SkyMiles Gold a big enough edge over its no annual fee sibling and make it a more valuable choice for first-time Delta cardholders. Plus, its $0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 after that) gives cardholders a chance to decide whether the SkyMiles Gold is their best option.
  • Who this card is good for: Budget-conscious travelers who fly frequently with Delta and are looking for a streamlined airline rewards card—especially those who plan to use their card for at least $10,000 in purchases per year to qualify for the card’s annual flight credit.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has greater flexibility. It lets you earn an unlimited 2X Capital One miles on all eligible purchases, which can then be redeemed to cover a broad range of travel purchases. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred may offer more value if you spend heavily  on dining and travel, especially considering its excellent travel insurance and annual bonuses.

Read our Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Best Southwest starter card

  • What we love about the Rapid Rewards Plus card: Thanks to its relatively low annual fee, solid rewards rates, airline perks and anniversary bonus, even occasional Southwest travelers can get plenty of value out of this starter airline card.
  • Who this card is good for: Budget-conscious domestic travelers who aren’t worried about loyalty status perks and are looking to sample Southwest travel benefits, including a solid rewards program, sign-up and anniversary bonuses, as well as travel and purchase protections.
  • Alternatives: Thanks to its 2X miles on all eligible purchases, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a standout alternative. However, loyal Southwest passengers may get even more value from the upgraded perks and loyalty status shortcuts that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Rapid Rewards Priority card offer.

Read our Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card: Best airline card with no annual fee

  • What we love about the SkyMiles Blue card: This starter Delta SkyMiles card lets travelers rack up unlimited miles while also sampling a few other perks.
  • Who this card is good for: Occasional travelers who want to fly Delta with the help of a no-frills, no-annual-fee travel rewards card that can help them earn SkyMiles.
  • Alternatives: If you want a few more perks than the SkyMiles Blue offers, the Delta SkyMiles Gold adds U.S. supermarkets to the list of categories you can earn rewards and offers free first checked bag along with priority boarding on Delta flights. And to top it off, the intro annual fee is $0 (then $99 annually).

Read our Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card: Best companion discount

  • What we love about the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card: Fans of this West Coast-based airline will get a lot of value out of this $75 a year card. The sign-up bonus, free checked bag, discounts on inflight purchases and day passes for Alaska Airlines lounges, as well as a chance at a discounted companion fare every year are some of the standout features.
  • Who this card is good for: Loyal Alaska Airlines flyers who frequently travel with friends or family members. They could easily save hundreds of dollars with the Famous Companion Fare from just $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22).
  • Alternatives: Not ready to commit to one airline? The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card lets you earn unlimited miles on all of your purchases that can be redeemed for all sorts of travel costs beyond just airline.

Read our Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card: Best for Delta Medallion members

  • What we love about the SkyMiles Reserve card: Delta packs in plenty of premier features that justify the steep $550 annual fee. Fans of complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs and annual companion certificates should have no trouble offsetting that annual fee.
  • Who this card is good for: Loyal Delta flyers looking to travel in comfort and style.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One Venture X has a lower annual fee ($395) and more chances to earn unlimited miles on everyday spending. Those miles can then be transferred to a number of hotel and airline partners.

Read our Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review.
Jump back to offer details.


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 can sometimes earn miles in other categories. Then, those miles are redeemed for award airfare with that specific airline.

You can use airline credit cards just like a more general rewards credit card, but that may not be the best strategy for maximizing rewards. Airline cards provide the most value when used strategically with other cards and are especially useful for the travel-specific perks they offer, such as priority boarding, seating upgrades and companion fares. Owning an airline credit card while being a member of the airline's frequent flyer program can also help you get maximum value.

How do airline credit cards work?

Airline credit cards work just like regular credit cards—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 redeemable only for Delta flights, while Southwest Priority Rewards card rewards are used for Southwest airfare.

Most airline cards have higher rewards rates for purchases made directly with the airline, but that doesn't mean they can't be used 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 sort of a 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.

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

In contrast, travel credit cards are not tied to specific airlines. Although you won’t earn the exclusive perks, travel rewards cards are more versatile and let you earn and redeem in a variety of travel-related ways. This includes different airlines, hotels and car rentals. Depending on the travel credit card, you might also be able to redeem your points or miles for cash, gift cards and merchandise, though the value may not be as high as when you redeem for travel.

Pros and cons of airline credit cards

Before applying for a new airline credit card, it's important to consider the advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Earning rewards. You’ll earn miles or points that you can apply to travel expenses, saving money and getting more value out of your travel budget.

  • 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 on 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, the annual fees for airline cards 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 credit card?

Cash back cards benefit shoppers and business credit cards are designed for small business owners, but who should get an airline card? The answer might be you if you fit any of these categories:

Still unsure if an airline credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool where you can get personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score, spending habits and daily needs.

How to choose the right airline credit card

An airline credit card can be a great way to make travel more affordable. The best card for you will fit your travel habits and your budget. Getting an airline credit card can be an exciting thing, but asking yourself the right questions about a card is important.

To be sure an airline credit card is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

Do I have a preferred airline?

If you’re already a member of an airline loyalty program or you have a preferred airline, choosing a co-branded card is a good move. You can earn free or discounted flights with your preferred airline when you choose a co-branded airline credit card.

Do I care about perks?

Many airline credit cards offer great perks,like free lounge access or discounted in-flight purchases. These perks typically come at a cost though. Airline credit cards tend to come with higher annual fees. An elevated travel experience might be worth it if you travel often or just prefer it. Be sure you’re willing to spend the extra money for the benefits.

What’s my credit like?

Any type of travel card typically requires a good-to-excellent credit score (a FICO score of 670 to 850, or a VantageScore of 661 to 850). If your credit score isn’t quite there yet, work on building your credit before you begin your search for an airline credit card.

Does this card match my spending habits?

If you’re not a frequent traveler, but still looking to save money on the occasions that you do travel, look for an airline credit card that allows you to earn points on everyday purchases, like gas and groceries, not just travel-related expenses. This makes it possible to earn points and free-or-discounted airfare, even if you’re not spending on flights or hotels. Conversely, if you do spend a lot on travel, you might be best served by a card that offers a lucrative return on travel-related expenses, including airfare.

Keep these questions in mind when searching for the best airline credit card to add to your financial arsenal. You can also use comparison tools like CardMatch™ to shop for cards that you may qualify for and review issuer offers to find one that works for you.

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Bankrate Insight

If you're looking for an easy way to earn extra rewards with your airline credit card, look no further than your appetite. Several airlines, including Southwest, United and American, have dining programs that let you earn additional points at participating restaurants.

3 ways to maximize your airline miles' value

Once you’ve accumulated thousands of airline miles, it’s time to redeem them for your next vacation or trip. When earning and using airline miles, here are some things to keep in mind to reap maximum value:

  1. Pair airline cards and travel cards. Let’s say you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. Because Southwest is a Chase travel partner, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. This way, you can rack up points to use for Southwest flights between both cards, but you aren’t stuck redeeming with Southwest if you find a better award price for your Ultimate Rewards points elsewhere.
  2. Take full advantage of sign-up bonuses. A sign-up bonus or welcome offer from a new airline card could be worth several hundred dollars or more in travel costs. Keep track of your progress toward the spending requirement and start thinking about how you might use those bonus miles once you’ve earned them.
  3. Track blackout dates and off-peak times. Some airlines restrict when you can use miles to book flights during busy traveling periods. On the other hand, they also may heavily discount award flight costs during off-peak travel periods. Keep track of these fluctuations in cost to maximize the value of your miles.
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Bankrate Insight

With cards that offer airline companion passes, there's a lot of variation in how you qualify. Requirements can include completing a number of flights within a certain time period, earning a specific amount of points or spending a required amount of money with your card. It's another example of how it pays to read the terms and conditions.

Airline loyalty programs and transfer partners

Some credit card issuers offer general travel rewards cards that aren’t tied to a specific airline. Instead, they partner with airlines for more flexibility in redeeming points for airfare. While airline loyalty programs let you earn miles only with that airline, issuers will let you exchange points for miles with their transfer partners. Here are major airline loyalty programs and issuers with airline transfer partners:

Loyalty program guides

Airline transfer partner guides

How we chose our list of the best airline credit cards

Finding the right airline credit card can be complicated, but Bankrate's independent research helps clear the air so that you can make an informed choice. We review cards from our partners using a 5-star system, and our analysis in the category of airline credit cards focuses on:
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    Rewards
    We evaluate each card's rewards program on its rewards rate (mile per $1 spent and inclusion of non-airline spending categories), as well as the ease of redemption.
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    Perks
    We factor in additional benefits, such as priority boarding or free checked bags, that enhance the travel experience and increase the card's overall value.
  • Checkmark
    Annual fee
    We consider the annual cost of owning the card (if applicable) and determine whether the fee is justified by rewards, perks or sign-up bonuses.

Frequently asked questions about airline credit cards