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Best Airline Credit Cards

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by Eric Rosenberg | Updated May. 11, 2017
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Overview

Airline credit cards are meant to take the stress out of flying so the fun can begin sooner. Among the best features for airline credit cards available today, you can find free checked bags, priority boarding, miles towards elite status qualification, and of course, free flights. Do you tend to fly domestically or internationally with your preferred airline? Or do you simply go on Kayak to find the most affordable way to get where you're going? Either way, you can find your next travel companion below. Using available fare and mileage data, we did the math to find the airline credit cards that can help get you where you need to go. We've also included the dollar value in rewards you can expect to get from each of the cards. Keep reading to find out how you can make your air travel more comfortable. See More

Best Credit Card for a Major American Airline

More Details

  • Special offer: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $100 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Your miles don t expire as long as your credit card account is open, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • Use your miles for any seat, any time, on any United-operated flight at the MileagePlus Standard Award level
  • $95 annual fee

Annual Fee

$95

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

16.74% - 23.74% Variable

Benefits

World travelers can only get where they’re going with an international airline. United Airlines has one of the biggest networks of any airline. Booking with Star Alliance partners, United miles can take you virtually anywhere in the world. Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months you have the card. Then earn 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United and 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else. Get your first bag checked free (up to $100 per roundtrip) on any United flight booked with the card. Cardholders get other travel benefits too. The card charges no foreign transaction fees. It comes with an EMV chip for use worldwide.

Things to Consider

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card has a $95 annual fee. Although United is one of the biggest airlines in the world, it does not have the best customer service ratings. Recently, United miles went through devaluation, which could consequently lead to miles being less valuable in the future.

Our Verdict

United can take travelers around the world. The airline serves 108 international destinations in 73 countries. Miles can be used with any Star Alliance partner. The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card can take you virtually anywhere. The lucrative bonus offers enough miles for a free roundtrip flight. Award flights to Europe start at 60,000 miles roundtrip. Miles add up quickly, and this is the best card to use to earn miles for international air travel.

Best Airline Credit Card with No Annual Fee

More Details

  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights. Points required for an Award Flight will vary based on the published base fare at the time of booking.
  • Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don't expire.
  • Earn and share points together with Family Pooling.
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food on JetBlue-operated flights
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip technology & $0 Fraud Liability protection

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% introductory APR for the first twelve billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to your account within 45 days of account opening

Regular APR

12.49%, 20.49%, or 25.49% Variable

Benefits

Airline rewards cards can offer great benefits, but usually with an annual fee. The JetBlue Card® offers valuable travel rewards with no annual fee. Earn 5,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days you have the card. Then earn 3x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x everywhere else. Redeem points for any seat on JetBlue flights with no blackout dates. Points do not expire and can be pooled with other family members for even better redemption options. The card has no foreign transaction fees.

Things to Consider

While the card has no annual fee, miles and points earned from this card are not as compelling as some others. The sign-up bonus is only 5,000 points, not nearly enough for a free flight. If you live in a JetBlue hub, you have some decent travel options. However, JetBlue does have a more limited network than competing airlines.

Our Verdict

If you live in a JetBlue hub city and want to earn airline points for free travel with no annual fee, this is the card for you. JetBlue receives high customer service ratings and has many loyal fans. Earning a compelling 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores helps you build up miles quickly towards your next free flight. Where will your next adventure take you? The JetBlue Card® can help you get there for free.

Best Airline Credit Card for International Travelers

More Details

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $10,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios.
  • Earn a further 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios.
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.
  • Chip Technology allows you to use your card for chip based purchases in Europe & beyond, while still giving you the ability to use your card as you do today at home.

Annual Fee

$95

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

16.74%-23.74% Variable

Benefits

If you love flying around the world for free, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card is an excellent choice. This card offers the opportunity to earn a huge 50,000-Avios (the name for British Airways miles) sign-up bonus, enough for a round-trip flight to Europe! You only have to spend just $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account to earn the bonus. Also, earn 3 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar spent everywhere else. We value 1 Avios at $0.022, so the sign-up bonus is worth roughly $1,075 in free travel. This card charges no foreign transaction fees, offers travel and purchase benefits and a free companion ticket each year you spend $30,000 or more on the card.

Things to Consider

This card comes with a $95 annual fee, with no introductory rate. Cardholder APRs range from 16.74%-23.74% Variable based on your credit history. Also, keep in mind that British Airways does charge taxes, fees, and carrier charges, which can be quite expensive for overseas travel.

Our Verdict

If you love travel, this is a great card for you. With a big enough bonus for a free trip to Europe, the $95 annual fee is easily justified. British Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance, which includes American Airlines and many others so you can reach destinations in the United States and abroad with your Avios. This is our favorite airline-specific credit card available today, and could be a great addition to your wallet.

Best Airline Credit Card for Domestic Travelers

More Details

  • Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days
  • Earn 6 points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights. Points required for an Award Flight will vary based on the published base fare at the time of booking
  • Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don't expire
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food & the primary cardmember's first checked bag is free on JetBlue-operated flights
  • Enjoy TrueBlue Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year with your card
  • Enjoy a $100 statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package of $100 or more with your JetBlue Plus Card

Annual Fee

$99

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% introductory APR for the first twelve billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to your account within 45 days of account opening

Regular APR

12.49%, 20.49% or 25.49% Variable

Benefits

Do you love exploring the country? Do you love flying off for your next adventure? The JetBlue Plus card can help you get there faster, and for free. Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 the first 90 days you have the card. Then earn 6x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x everywhere else. Cardholders also get a first bag checked free. Book flights using points with no blackout dates for any seat on a JetBlue-operated flight. Points never expire and can be pooled with other family members for even better redemption options.

Things to Consider

Unlike the regular JetBlue Card®, the Plus card has a $99 annual fee from the first year itself. JetBlue is a great airline with good customer service ratings but a limited network of flight options. If you live in a JetBlue hub city, these points can take you many places. Many cities, however, are not serviced by JetBlue.

Our Verdict

If you love traveling around the United States or regularly visit family by plane, this is a great card. 30,000 bonus points is enough for about three flights if you book early and choose the lowest cost seat. If you are a loyal JetBlue traveler or just love jetting around the country, this is the best card for you.

Our Methodology

SmartAsset has developed a quantitative and independent system for evaluating the relative value of a credit card offer versus other offers in the marketplace. Our system evaluates cards based exclusively on their features, such as their rewards earning rate (if applicable), fees, perks, and rewards program redemption options. The annual rewards values on this page are calculated using annual spending assumptions in various categories such as, but not limited to, gas, restaurants, airfare, and US supermarkets. These spending assumptions are built on research that SmartAsset has conducted on existing airline credit cardholders. Our promise with our credit card recommendations is that we will always strive to have the most comprehensive, accurate, and objective method of evaluating credit card offers. Any recommendations are solely determined by the result of this research and model, and is never influenced by any fees, commissions, or other forms of compensation that SmartAsset may receive from credit card issuers for leads generated on our website.

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