Choosing the Best Airline Credit Card: Ultimate Guide 2023

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Explore the best airline credit card options that offer exceptional travel rewards and benefits, elevating your flying experience to new heights.

These credit cards offer a number of ways to upgrade your flight. Image credit: VladTeodor/iStock
These credit cards offer a number of ways to upgrade your flight. Image credit: VladTeodor/iStock

When it comes to selecting the best airline credit card, the range of benefits is vast, extending from rotating rewards categories to enticing travel perks and promotions. If you’re a frequent traveler seeking to unlock valuable freebies, gain priority boarding status, or earn abundant frequent flier miles for future trips, choosing the right credit card – rather than settling for convenience alone – can truly make all the difference. If you are finding yourself asking what is the best airline credit card, we have compiled a list of top choices in this comprehensive guide.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Best Travel Credit Card for Beginners

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, despite not being affiliated with a specific airline, offers a wide range of benefits and unmatched flexibility, making it a top choice among savvy travelers.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can earn elevated rewards in popular spending categories, particularly travel and dining. These two aspects of life are often intertwined, and with this card, you can indulge in your passions while earning valuable points. But what sets this card apart from others is the sheer value and versatility of the points you accrue.

By using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed in two distinct ways when it comes to air travel. The first option is through the Chase travel portal, offering unparalleled flexibility. This means you can book any flight without the constraints of award availability or blackout dates. If a flight can be purchased with cash, it can be paid for with points. It’s that simple.

When you choose to redeem your rewards through the Chase travel portal, you enjoy a value of 1.25 cents per point. Furthermore, an added benefit awaits: you will earn airline miles for your flight. This is because airlines consider these tickets as regular purchases rather than award redemptions. Thus, you not only enjoy the convenience of using points but also continue to accumulate valuable airline miles for future adventures.

The second option for redeeming your Ultimate Rewards points is by transferring them to any of Chase’s airline or hotel partners. With 11 different airline partners and three hotel partners, you have an array of choices at your disposal.

Aer Lingus AerClub
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
British Airways Executive Club
Emirates Skywards
Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
World of Hyatt

IHG Rewards Club

Marriott Bonvoy

However, it’s important to note that when transferring points, you will only be able to book seats that are available for award redemption. While this limitation may not include every flight, it is a small trade-off for the potential to extract exceptional value from your points. Particularly for those seeking to fly internationally in first or business class cabins, transferring points can be a game-changer, offering an unparalleled level of luxury and comfort.

At a Glance ProsCons
Annual fee: $95
Regular APR: 21.24% – 28.24% Variable 

Welcome Bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. 
Earn high rewards on multiple areas of spending. 

Seamless point transfers to travel partners at a 1:1 rate. 

Comprehensive travel and shopping protections. 
No intro APR offer. 

Exceptional travel earning rates mainly for chase bookings.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card – Best Credit Card for Travel Protections

When it comes to redeeming credit card rewards for air travel, the Chase Sapphire Reserve shines with its unique features and exceptional benefits.

Like its counterpart, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Reserve card earns you valuable Ultimate Rewards points, giving you the flexibility to redeem them in two ways. Firstly, you can redeem your points at a fixed rate through the user-friendly Chase travel portal. However, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, each point is worth an impressive 1.5 cents, compared to 1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred. This means your rewards go even further, allowing you to maximize the value of your points when booking your travel.

Additionally, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an impressive earning rate on airfare. For every dollar spent on travel and dining, you earn a generous 3 points. What sets this card apart is the broad scope of the travel category. It encompasses not only air travel but also hotels, car rentals, cruises, ride-share services, and even parking and tolls.

However, the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve don’t stop at rewards. This card provides you with comprehensive coverage, ensuring peace of mind throughout your travels. In fact, it’s the only card that offers all seven major types of coverage. From trip cancellation/interruption insurance to trip delay reimbursement, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, rental car protection, travel accident insurance, and emergency evacuation assistance, you’re covered in every aspect.

At a Glance ProsCons
Annual fee: $550 

Regular APR: 22.24% – 29.24% Variable 

Welcome Bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Flexible $300 annual travel credit. 

Generous welcome bonus50% more value when redeeming points for Chase travel. 

Points transfer to valuable airlines and hotels
High annual fee. 

High variable APR on purchases. 

Platinum Card from American Express – Best Credit Card for Luxury Perks

Platinum Card from American Express, is a prestigious card that goes beyond the confines of a specific airline, offering a world of possibilities with its flexible rewards program and an array of luxurious benefits.

Unlike Chase’s credit cards, the American Express Platinum Card earns you American Express Membership Rewards points, which can be redeemed directly for any flight or transferred to a wide range of airlines and hotels. While the partner network differs from Chase, you’ll discover an enticing selection of options to suit your travel preferences.

When it comes to earning points on airfare, the Amex Platinum Card stands out with one of the highest earning rates available. For every dollar spent when booking directly with an airline, you earn an impressive 5 points. This surpasses the 3 points per dollar offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve for direct airline bookings. However, it’s important to note that the Amex Platinum focuses on elevated points for airfare, as well as hotels and flights booked through American Express Travel.

Yet, the true allure of the Amex Platinum lies in its luxury perks. As a card member, you gain complimentary access to thousands of airport lounges worldwide, including the exclusive American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and Priority Pass airport lounges (enrollment required, excluding Priority Pass restaurants).

Additionally, the Amex Platinum Card offers a range of elite status benefits. Card members receive complimentary Gold elite status with renowned hotel chains such as Hilton and Marriott. Unlock exclusive privileges such as late checkout, bonus points on paid rates, space-available room upgrades, and complimentary breakfast at select properties.

At a Glance ProsCons
Annual fee: $695 

Regular APR: 20.99% – 28.99% Variable 

Welcome Bonus: 80,000-point welcome offer after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership
High rewards on flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel. 

Luxury travel benefits and elite status with Hilton and Marriott (with enrollment). 
High annual fee. Maximizing statement credits may require effort and could be challenging for many cardholders. 

Reward rate on non-travel purchases is below expectations for a premium card. 

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card- Best Credit Card for Flexible Rewards

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is a powerhouse of benefits that extends to your entire family with included free authorized user cards.

Earning and redeeming Capital One miles is a breeze. With this card, you can effortlessly apply your miles towards a wide range of travel purchases. From airfare and hotel stays to vacation rentals and car rentals, the possibilities are endless. Alternatively, you can transfer your miles to over a dozen travel partners, opening up even more options for your next adventure.

For seasoned travelers well-versed in frequent flier programs, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers an impressive selection of 18 travel partners. From British Airways and Air Canada to Avianca and Wyndham Rewards, you have the flexibility to transfer your miles and explore a variety of travel options.

However, it’s important to note that the card’s only drawback is the absence of U.S.-based airline and hotel partners. This means that transferring miles may require familiarizing yourself with new points programs.

At a Glance ProsCons
Annual fee: $395 

Regular APR: 21.99% – 28.99% Variable 

Welcome Bonus: 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
Enjoy a competitive annual fee, lower than others in its category. 

The annual travel credit and anniversary miles alone could justify the annual fee. 

Miles are straightforward to earn and redeem, making the process seamless and user-friendly. 
The Capital One lounge network is still in its early stages of development. 

Absence of hotel status benefits for cardholders. 

Citi / Aadvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard- Best Credit Card for American Fliers

For occasional American Airlines fliers, the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Card is a valuable asset, especially with its first-year annual fee waiver and subsequent low annual fee of $95. While it may not be the most rewarding option for everyday spending, this card offers savings on baggage fees and even a 25% discount on food and beverage purchases when utilized on American Airlines flights.

One of the standout perks for all Citi AAdvantage Platinum cardholders is the complimentary checked bag benefit. Not only do you receive a free checked bag on domestic American flights for yourself, but up to four additional companions on the same reservation can also enjoy this privilege.

However, if you’re a frequent American Airlines traveler seeking an elevated experience, the Citi /AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard may be more suited to your needs. This premium card offers exclusive benefits such as an Admirals Club Lounge membership, providing you with a tranquil haven to relax and unwind before your flights. Additionally, you have the opportunity to earn bonus Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs), bringing you closer to elite status and unlocking additional benefits.

At a Glance ProsCons
Annual fee: $450 

Regular APR: 20.99% – 29.99% Variable 

Welcome Bonus: 50,000 miles after $2,500 spent within three months
Enjoy a waived annual fee of $99 for the first year. 

Earn a $125 flight discount after reaching a spending threshold of $20,000 per membership year. 

25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases. 
Not eligible for the bonus if you have received it for this card in the past 48 months. 

Recent changes to the award chart may result in a decrease in the value of AAdvantage miles for American Airlines flights. 

Aeroplan Credit Card- Best Credit Card for International Airlines

The Aeroplan Credit Card is designed for those who fly with Air Canada, offering a multitude of perks and benefits. Cardholders earn 3 Aeroplan points for every dollar spent on Air Canada purchases charged to the Aeroplan Credit Card. Additionally, redeeming these Aeroplan points allows primary cardholders to enjoy discounted rates for award flights on Air Canada.

One of the standout features of the Aeroplan Credit Card is that primary cardholders and up to eight other passengers on the same itinerary receive a complimentary checked bag when flying with Air Canada. This benefit alone can save travelers a significant amount in baggage fees.

Even for those who don’t fly with Air Canada regularly, the Aeroplan Credit Card still holds value through its partnerships with other airlines such as United. By taking advantage of the perks available on partner airlines, cardholders can maximize the benefits of the card and make the annual fee worthwhile.

Aeroplan 25K elite status grants members Star Alliance Silver status, which comes with essential perks including priority airport standby and priority reservation waitlisting. Furthermore, Aeroplan points can be redeemed for award travel on 45 partner airlines, providing cardholders with a wide range of options for their travel plans.

In terms of earning points, the Aeroplan Credit Card offers 3 points per dollar spent in three bonus categories: groceries, dining, and Air Canada purchases. This makes it easy for cardholders to accumulate points quickly and enjoy the benefits of their spending.

At a Glance ProsCons
Annual fee: $95 

Regular APR: 21.49% – 28.49% Variable 

Welcome Bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
The rewards earning potential of the card is excellent, allowing cardholders to earn generous rewards on their purchases.

The card does not charge any foreign transaction fees. 

Travel benefits that include exclusive perks for Air Canada fliers. 
Does not provide as many non-travel-related benefits compared to other cards in the market. 

JetBlue Plus Card- Best Credit Card for JetBlue Fliers

If you find yourself frequently flying with JetBlue, the JetBlue Plus Card is a valuable addition to your wallet, especially if you live in a JetBlue hub city like Boston and New York. While it may not be the top choice for everyday spending, it offers a range of perks that greatly enhance your JetBlue experience.

Having a free checked bag can make all the difference on your next trip. Image credit: simonkr/iStock
Having a free checked bag can make all the difference on your next trip. Image credit: simonkr/iStock

In terms of rewards, the JetBlue Plus Card stands out among other airline credit cards with its generous ongoing rewards program. The benefits, including a yearly points bonus and free checked bags, more than compensate for the card’s $99 annual fee.

While the card may not offer the highest rewards rate compared to some other options, it can still save you money if you fly JetBlue occasionally. As a JetBlue Plus cardholder, you and up to three companions on the same reservation are entitled to a complimentary checked bag when flying with JetBlue. This benefit alone can result in significant savings, potentially amounting to hundreds of dollars with just one trip.

At a Glance ProsCons
Annual fee: $99 

Regular APR: 20.99%, 24.99% or 29.99% variable 

Welcome Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 90 days.
Enjoy earning 6 points per dollar on all JetBlue purchases.

There are no limits on the points you can earn, and they never expire. 

No foreign transaction fees when using the JetBlue Plus Card. 
Redemption options are limited primarily to JetBlue, with fewer opportunities for other airlines or hotels.

The regular APR for the card is relatively high. There is a balance transfer fee associated with the JetBlue Plus Card. 

Maximize Your Travel Experience by Choosing the Best Airline Credit Card

In conclusion, finding the best airline credit card is a personal decision that depends on your travel preferences and goals. Consider factors such as rewards structure, travel benefits, annual fees, and partnerships with airlines. If you’re interested in discovering more about credit cards, we have articles featuring the best credit cards for various purposes, such as travel insurance, booking a hotel, and business travel. Explore our comprehensive guides to find the perfect credit card that suits your specific needs and enhances your overall travel experience. Happy flying!