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Best Airline Miles Credit Cards [2020 Picks]

Michelle Brooks

Michelle Brooks

Financial Advisor

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Best Airline Credit Cards: Overview

Credit Card Known For Editor’s Rating

Our Top Pick for 2020

United℠ Explorer Card

Reward Points
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card Bonus Opportunities

United℠ Explorer Card

Editor’s Rating

Credit Score Required:

Good to Excellent

Our Review

Travel is expensive. However, the United℠ Explorer Card helps you get where you want to go. This card comes with the standard perks consumers expect from an airline card while also offering the ability to earn rewards on non-airline purchases. That means it’s a great way to double up on reward options!

What We Like

40,000 bonus miles after $2,000 spent on purchases in the first three months

No foreign transaction fees

Get 2 miles for every $1 you spend at restaurants and hotels

First checked bag is free on United Flights

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Editor’s Rating

Credit Score Required:

Good to Excellent

Our Review

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is a must-have for anyone that frequently flies Southwest Airlines. It lets you rack up a bunch of rewards and points while you work towards free Southwest Companion passes. This card also has some of the best welcome bonus opportunities on the market

What We Like

No foreign transaction fees

Low Annual fee of $149

$75 Southwest Travel Coupon each year

Earn 2 points for everyone $1 spent with Southwest and car rental partners.

The credit card industry provides a range of different options – you can choose a credit card that has the features and benefits you’re looking for. If you’re in the market for a rewards card, airline credit cards are often the best cards to obtain. This is especially true if you’re someone who travels regularly. If you approach the situation correctly, an airline credit card can be the best way to get more out of your travel.

Introduction

If you’ve never had an airline credit card before, you may find the whole concept confusing. For this reason, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to help you fully understand the industry. This article will provide you with all the information you need to choose the right airline credit card. Applying for a credit card is an important decision – make sure you’re as prepared as possible to choose the right card!

Best Airline Credit Cards

What to Look For

When shopping for an airline credit card, it’s important to look at a few different components when you’re trying to find the perfect card. Below we will analyze the different features to look for when doing your research.

  • Airline – Make sure that the airline the card is provided through is accessible to you and your family. It is often best to work with an airline that is headquartered in your nearest airport. Check what routes they fly to make sure it is an airline that you can benefit from.
  • Miles – Head online and research the value that you get from the miles that you earn through the airline credit card. There are plenty of online forums and blogs that analyze the true value of airline miles – don’t be fooled by big numbers!
  • Additional Benefits – See if any other additional benefits are provided. Many airline credit cards come with travel insurance, extra baggage, and lounge access. Read the fine print to see what else the card offers you. Some may even offer purchase insurance on certain items!
  • Sign-Up Bonus – One of the best things about airline credit cards is their sign-up bonuses. The best airline credit cards provide their users with large sign-up bonuses. This is where you can accumulate large amounts of miles for future travel. Take a look at more of the best credit card bonus offers.
  • Interest Rate – Try and find low interest rate credit card offers. We recommend that you don’t carry a balance on your airline credit card at all – the interest you pay will result in the benefits not being worth the cost.

Airline Partners Matter

It isn’t just the airline that you should be considering, you should also be considering the airline’s partners. Most major airlines have a network of partners across different regions. This helps them cater to different areas of the world – it also means that their clients can enjoy benefits in various regions, instead of only the ones they cater to. This has opened up a variety of different benefits to individuals who are seeking airline credit cards.

Firstly, you’ll be able to enjoy your miles and lounge passes with these partner airlines. This means that you’ll benefit from being able to fly within different regions and take different routes. Secondly, you’ll accumulate miles and benefits for using the services of other partner airlines.

In addition, this means that if your favorite airline doesn’t offer a credit card partnership, you can just obtain a credit card from one of their partner airlines and enjoy similar benefits on both airlines. You should ensure that there is a reciprocal agreement to share benefits and miles – not all partnerships are completely mutual.

Regardless, inspecting the partner network of an airline is an important part of choosing the right airline credit card for you and your family. You want to make sure that you’re receiving the card with the most value possible!

Advantages

It can be hard to take in so much information when you’re trying to decide on a credit card to use. That’s why it’s important to make sure to view things from a concise perspective – our advantages section is dedicated to helping you understand the main benefits of this type of credit card. Check out the primary advantages of airline credit cards below:

  • Large Sign-Up Bonuses – Many credit card providers give new applicants large sign-up bonuses. Some of these bonuses are only available for a limited amount of time, so you have to be wary to take advantage of them. Some credit card companies have been known to offer 100,000 miles for signing up for a new airline credit card!
  • Miles – One of the primary benefits associated with airline credit cards is the miles that you accumulate when you spend money. In addition, they may provide additional miles for booking flights or hotels with you credit card. You should make sure that each dollar you spend results in a competitive reward.
  • Additional Benefits – Some airline credit cards also offer additional benefits. For example, you may receive access to their business lounge whenever you fly. Some cards offer free checked baggage for individuals who have their credit card. This is a great benefit that can save you considerable amounts of money if you travel often.
  • Travel Insurance – Some airline credit cards provide their users with travel insurance if the travel is booked through the credit card. This is a great way to receive a premium insurance policy at no additional cost. Make sure to read the terms and conditions of your insurance policy. Also look at credit cards with car rental insurance if you think you’ll be needing that.

Disadvantages

While there are plenty of advantages, there are still some drawbacks to consider. Check them out below:

  • Higher Interest Rates – As with all rewards credit cards, interest rates are much higher on airline credit cards. That’s why it’s important that you don’t obtain one of these cards unless you know you are likely to pay the balance in full every month. If you start accumulating debt, the best credit card rewards that you earn will not be worth the interest that you’re paying.
  • Harder to Obtain – Again, rewards credit cards are also much more difficult to obtain. We will discuss this in more detail later in this guide.
  • Annual Fees – Not only do airline credit cards have high interest rates, they also typically have high annual fees. Some lenders will waive the fee for the first year, but you’ll still have to pay it if you want to keep the card in the future.
  • Lack of Additional Bonuses – While sign-up bonuses can be quite enticing, they don’t continue after the initial offering. Many airline credit cards don’t offer additional deals or bonus miles – you’ll be stuck earning rewards by spending money.

Authorized Users

Many Americans have authorized users on their credit cards. This means that someone is able to use the card without being responsible for the payments on it. Many American families may use this function to provide their child with a credit card for emergencies. With many credit cards, it costs little to nothing to add someone onto the account as an authorized user. The downside with airline cards is that you often have a pay an additional annual fee if you want to add on an authorized user.

If you’re planning on having a number of authorized users on your card, top rewards cards are often not the best option to work with. You will end up paying considerably more for the annual fee each year.

Credit Requirements

As mentioned previously, credit requirements tend to be quite high for rewards cards. Lenders want to know that they are providing cards to individuals who will be able to use them responsibly. This is because they are often providing you with large sign up bonuses that opens them up to risk – you may not pay the money you borrow back, which will result in lost capital and lost benefits. For this reason, most people need around a 700 FICO or Vantage score to be eligible for airline credit cards.

This requirement will vary depending on the card, so don’t lose hope if you fall outside this range. Head online to the lender’s site and try and find out what type of credit scores they accept. If you can’t find it on their site, and a customer service representative won’t tell you, there are plenty of credit card forums where people post what scores they had success with. Regardless, there are a couple things you can do to prepare yourself for your airline credit card application – check out our tips below.

Reduce Credit Card Balances

Most credit scores use your available credit as a measure of how trustworthy you are. If you currently use a lot of your credit limit, your credit score will be quite low. Your credit card company sends your credit balances to the reporting bureaus at the end of every month. This means that you have a chance every four weeks to bump up your score. If you pay down your current credit card debt, you may see up to an 80 point in improvement – this is truly the quickest way to have a serious impact on your score.

Fix Errors

If you don’t have high balances, or you can’t afford to pay down your balances, you still have another option. You should check your credit report to see if there are any errors. If there are, credit repair companies can help you get them removed. They can also help you get other items removed – such as inquiries. Make sure to work with a company that only makes you pay for results – you shouldn’t have to pay any money upfront for a repair service.

It is estimated over 20% of Americans have errors on their reports – it’s worth investigating if you’re one of them.

Process

So, what’s the airline credit card application process? You should start by deciding which airline credit card is right for you. You need to narrow the selection down to a single card – you don’t want to apply for multiple credit cards at once, it will damage your credit score. Once you know what credit card is right for you, head online and submit an application. You’ll need to know your SSN, as well as personal information, such as your address and income data.

You’ll typically receive a decision in a matter of moments – most credit card applications are completely automated, which means a computer determines whether or not you are eligible. If they decide they need to review your application, it may take up to five days to receive a decision.

Once you’re approved, you’ll typically receive your card within about a week. Once you receive your card, you call the hotline on the card to activate it and begin spending!

Spending Requirements

Some airline credit cards require you to spend a certain amount of money to unlock the initial sign-up bonus. It’s important that you know what this requirement is. Sometimes you will have to spend up to $4,000 in your first three months to simply qualify for the sign-up bonus – this won’t be worth it to someone who doesn’t believe they will spend this much money. Don’t spend over what you normally would to unlock the bonus – it isn’t worth it.

Verdict

After reading this guide, you probably have a much deeper understanding of airline credit cards. It’s important to recognize that these cards should be used with caution – high interest rates mean they’re only suitable for those who won’t carry a balance on the card. Make sure to assess the airline that is perfect for you – there is no point in accumulating miles on an airline that you can’t effectively use. You should always be looking for the best airline credit cards for you and your family.

As with any financial decision, it’s important to give yourself time to decide on the right card. Don’t rush to judgement – a denied application will leave you with a lower credit score than you started with.

If you don’t think that airline credit cards are right for you, you should check out some of the other credit card articles we have posted on our site – we provide analysis on a range of different credit cards. Review the various benefits of alternative cards prior to making a decision.

FAQ

Airline Credit Card Basics

If you are a frequent traveler, you might consider the idea of applying for the best travel credit card. To help you make an informed decision regarding the matter, here is a list of commonly asked questions in relation to getting an airline credit card.

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How do airline miles work on a credit card?

Airline miles, also referred to as frequent flyer miles, is a type of loyalty program employed by airline credit card companies. You will be able to accumulate a certain amount of miles every time you fly (with a given airline) and shop or dine with your credit card. You can use any accumulated miles to pay for your next flight (if you meet the miles threshold).

Why do airlines offer credit cards?

Airlines offer credit card to their patrons to enjoy two-fold benefits: 1) to entice people to book their flights through their airline, and 2) to reward patrons who are loyal to the company (and eventually, getting them to book more flights with the airline in the future).

How to get an airline credit card with bad credit?

There are a few airline credit cards that are designed for people with bad to not-so-good credit. Thus, you can consider them when you want to maximize the benefits of these cards. Some cards for you to consider are Discoverit Secured Card, AeroMexico Secured Credit Card, and SKYPASS Secured Credit Card. Take a look at more credit card bad credit options on our site.

Are airline credit cards worth it?

Airline credit cards are worth it if you travel a lot. You will be earning rebates or miles (that can be used for future travels) if you do, which can get you discounts in the future.

How to get a credit card with airline miles?

The best start is to compare airline credit cards online. There are many options out there and each one is designed to offer different bonuses and perks. You must choose a credit card based on your lifestyle, such as the frequency of flying and other travel activities you enjoy. Once you find your ideal card, go to the airline or bank’s website to send in your application. Most credit card companies will let you know if you are approved within a day or two.

Are airline credit cards a good idea?

Before signing up for an airline credit card, you have to weigh the benefits and the potential drawbacks. All credit cards come with a risk, especially if you do not use it wisely. Make sure you consider the fees associated with using your airline credit card and if the benefits you can get outweigh those. Find the one you like and apply for a credit card online.

How do airlines make money from credit cards?

There are plenty of ways that airlines make money from credit cards. One of the best examples of this is through their loyalty program. Cardholders are enticed to fly with the said airlines or book travel accommodation and tours via their partners. Both of these activities mean guaranteed sales for the airlines or commissions through their travel partners.

Do airlines accept prepaid credit cards?

It will vary according to the airline. Some airlines do not work with debit cards, while there are some that only accepts Mastercard or Visa prepaid credit cards.

How do airlines make money from credit card miles?

Airlines make money from credit card miles for the airfare you purchased. You can only earn these miles on your credit card if you spent it on a specific airlines or partner travel firms. This means that the airlines make profit off of every booking, as well. These miles act as an incentive to book with them.

When are you qualified for an airline credit card?

Depending on which airline credit card you want to apply for, your credit score is a huge factor in qualifying. Some credit cards also look at the age of the applicant. If you don’t qualify then check out the top secured credit cards.

How to earn airline miles with credit card?

There are a variety of ways to earn airline miles on your credit card such as using your credit card to book flights, dining out, shopping, and supporting their partners.

Choosing an Airline Credit Card

There are so many airline credit cards out there to choose from. Are you trying to find the best one among them? This section will give you the information you need to know.

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What is the best airline credit card?

The decision on which is the best airline credit card will be determined by your own specific needs. Each airline credit card is targeted towards a specific type of consumer or traveler. Make sure you compare the perks and features of each card to find what is best for you. Among the top-rated airline credit cards include Gold Delta SkyMiles, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, and American Airlines  AAdvantage MileUp Card. Check out more of our credit card reviews.

What is the best credit card for airline miles?

If you are looking for the best credit card to earn airline miles, Capital One Venture and American Express Gold are ones that offer travel miles for shopping and dining.

What is the easiest airline credit card to get?

Some of the easiest airline credit cards to get approved for include AeroMexico Visa Secured Credit Card and Southwest Rapids Plus Credit Card. Also check out 0 interest balance transfer credit cards.

What is the best business credit card for airline miles?

The following are some of the best options when it comes to collecting airline miles for business individuals: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, United Explorer Card, and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card. Read through reviews of the best business rewards credit card offers.

What is the best airline rewards credit card?

When it comes to rewards, the best airline credit cards to invest in are Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, British Airways Visa Signature Card, United Explorer Card, and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card. Also look for credit cards with 0 apr even if its an intro rate.

Which credit card is best for airline miles going in Singapore?

If you want the best credit card for airline miles in Singapore, your choices include DBS Altitude, BOC Elite Miles Card, and Citi PremierMiles Card. Also make sure you have credit card travel insurance.

Which airlines offer credit cards?

There are plenty of airlines that offer their credit cards to their loyal guests. Some of the best credit cards are those from Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and JetBlue.

Which airline credit card is best for me?

When choosing between various airline credit cards, you will want to choose what the best option for you is. To choose, determine how often you fly and your lifestyle so you can maximize the rewards offered by the credit card. If you’re a student and you’re finding it hard to qualify for these then look at the best credit card for students. Also if you’ve gone through a negative financial event that has effected your credit score then you may want to consider the best unsecured credit card for rebuilding credit.

What are the best airline miles rewards credit cards?

The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, United Explorer Card, and Southwest Rapids Rewards Plus Credit Card are some of the best credit cards if you want to maximize your airline miles rewards. Also take a look at  high limit credit cards for average credit.

Which airlines give the most miles with their credit card?

As of 2018, the following airlines offer the best frequent flyer miles: JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines (Mileage Plan), Delta Airlines (SkyMiles), American Airlines (AAdvantage), and United Airlines (Mileage Plus).

What is the best airline credit card program?

When it comes to massive bonuses, travel perks, and other rewards, the best reward program from airline credit cards include the following: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (for travel perks) and Discoverit Miles (for every spending travel rewards). If you’re looking for cash back rewards credit cards then we reviewed those in another article.

What credit card gives you miles on any airline?

If you wish to own a credit card that will give you miles on any airlines, your best options include: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. Keep in mind that these aren’t usually poor credit credit cards and your score needs to be good or better in order to qualify.

Should I pay for award flights with airline credit card?

Yes. It would be a great way to maximize the miles you can get so you can use them towards your future travel bookings.

Company-specific Questions

Airlines have varying terms and conditions regarding credit cards. Find answers to common questions about these airlines.

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Do Southwest airlines have a credit card?

Yes. In fact, there are plenty of credit card options from Southwest Airlines to suit the type of traveler and consumer you are. Among your options are the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. Each of these credit cards varies in their annual fee, as well as their rewards and sign-up bonuses.

Which Southwest airlines credit card is the best?

When it comes to annual fee, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card has a higher fee over the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. But the Premier card gets the advantage in terms of bonus anniversary points and the fact that it has 0% foreign transaction fees.  

What is the meaning of points in Southwest Airlines credit card?

Points are designated to your Southwest Airlines credit card account for any qualified booking or purchase. These points will accumulate over time, allowing you to earn rewards or miles.

What credit score do you need for Southwest Airlines card?

The Southwest Airlines credit cards typically have a high credit score requirement. You will need a credit score of 700 to 749 to qualify for a credit score. If your score is lower than that then look at cards for fair credit.

Does my Southwest Airlines credit card cover car rental insurance?

Yes. This applies for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card. When you purchase your travel fare using this card, you will automatically enjoy rental car insurance, as well as travel accident insurance and lost luggage reimbursement.

How to get a Southwest airlines credit card?

If you want to apply for a Southwest Airlines credit card, you must first select from any of the three types of credit cards available. Once you have chosen which card is right for you, go to their website or a local Southwest Airlines office. You can fill out your application form and provide the requirements. You should hear back within 24 hours (or more) about the status of your application. If approved, your credit card should be delivered to you in a few days. If you are just starting out and have no credit history then you can learn more about how to get a credit card with no credit.

What bank is Alaska airlines credit card?

The Alaska Airlines credit card is issued to cardholders via its partner bank, Bank of America.

How to apply for an Alaska Airlines credit card?

If you want to apply for the Alaska Airlines credit card, go to their website and fill out the application form with your information. If you get instant approval, you can expect your card to arrive in a matter of days. You may get credit card pre approval in the mail too.

Does Alaska Airlines credit card have an annual fee?

Yes. It is actually one of the steepest annual fee for any airlines credit card at $550.

How to pay Alaska Airlines credit card?

There are a variety of options when it comes to paying your Alaska Airlines credit card. Among these options would be to log into your Bank of America account online or pay over the counter at any Bank of America branch.

How to cancel Alaska airlines credit card?

If you wish to cancel your Alaska Airlines credit card, you can call the company’s customer service directly. Let them know of your intent to close your credit card account. Follow the steps recommended by the customer service staff on how to close your account.

How to upgrade Alaska airlines credit card?

If you wish to upgrade your Alaska Airlines credit card, call the customer service directly about your intentions. Let them know about which credit card you wish to upgrade to. You will be given instructions as to the process on how to go about this upgrade and make sure you follow that so you can get the card you want.

Is the Alaska airlines credit card worth it?

The Alaska Airlines credit card does come with a steep $550 annual fee. However, the card does offer a rich array of benefits including access to airport lounges. 

How to redeem Alaska airlines credit card miles?

There are several ways to redeem your miles from Alaska Airlines credit card. You can use it to book tickets for your next flight within Alaska Airlines and its partners. You can also use it on hotel bookings and magazine subscriptions.

Does Alaska airlines credit card have foreign transaction fee?

No. Since June 2016, Alaska Airlines no longer charges its cardholders with foreign transaction fees. Read more about no foreign transaction fee credit card offers in our other article.

How do I pay my Alaska airlines credit card online?

One of the most convenient ways to pay your Alaska Airlines credit card is via your online account for Bank of America. Go to the Bill tab on your online account and choose this option to pay your credit card.

Is Spirit airlines credit card worth it?

The Spirit Airlines credit card will only give you miles points for every purchase made on the card. This means that it won’t give you miles points for cash advances and balance transfers, and so on.

What is National Credit Cards Airlines?

This is a type of airlines credit card issued by Synchrony Bank. It might be indicated on your credit report as SYNCB National Credit Card/Airlines.

What is the best United Airlines credit card?

If you frequently fly with United Airlines, these are some of the best credit cards from this airline that you can use to earn miles: United’s Mileage Plus Card and Chase United Explorer.

What credit card partners with American Airlines miles?

American Airlines credit cards are offered to frequent flyers in partnership with American Express and Citi.

What kind of credit card is American Airlines Citi?

The Citi AAdvantage credit card for American Airlines is a Mastercard.

Where can I use my American Airlines credit card?

You can use your American Airlines credit card for a 25% discount on in-flight purchases, on all flights by American Airlines. You can also use the card on buying grocery and other purchases to earn miles, that can be later used for flight discounts.

How to pay American Airlines credit card online?

If you wish to make an online payment on your American Airlines credit card, simply log into your online account. Once logged in, choose the bills payment option and specify the amount you wish to pay. Since CitiBank is partnered with American Airlines for issuing their credit cards, you may use your Citi account to make online payments, too.

Do you lose miles if you cancel American Airlines credit card?

If the card deposits your miles and rewards to a separate loyalty program, it won’t wipe out your points if you decide to cancel that card. In the case of American Airlines credit card by Citi, your rewards and points are sent to American Airlines on a monthly basis and into your AAdvantage card. The points are subject to the terms and conditions of the American Airlines frequent flyer program. If you cancel your card, Citi won’t ask American Airlines to cancel them.

What credit card can you get miles for Delta Airlines?

If you wish to fly via Delta Airlines, the best credit cards to use to earn miles is the Delta SkyMiles credit card by American Express. This may or may not be a good first time credit card no credit history required since these cards usually require good or excellent credit scores.

Can an airline credit card build credit?

Usually you have to already have good credit to even get approved for an airline credit card. If you already had a card and then your score went down then continuing to be responsible with the card could help your credit come back up. In the meantime if you credit is too low to qualify for one of these cards then take a look at credit cards to build credit. If you do have credit but its low then take a look at unsecured credit cards for 500 credit score or higher.

Michelle Brooks

Michelle Brooks

Financial Advisor - Personalloan.co

Michelle is part of our expert team of financial advisors with a proven track record in the credit card industry. After graduating with an Economics Degree focusing on Personal Finance, she got involved with several credit and debt counseling startups.