Best Airline Credit Cards For September 2021 - Calculate Rewards

With the right credit cards, you can earn airline miles to put towards free flights more often. Get our best picks and calculate rewards based on spend.

Airline credit cards allow you to earn frequent flyer miles on your everyday spend and typically grant benefits that closely mirror having frequent flyer status. Review the best airline credit cards and calculate which cards can earn you the most rewards based on your spend.

Best Airline Credit Cards

Unitedâ„  Explorer Card
Best Entry-Level Card For United
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Best For Flexible Travel Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Best Beginner Rewards Card For Travelers
American Express® Gold Card
Best For Restaurants & Big Supermarket Spenders
Citi Premier® Card
Best For Everyday Categories & Travel

This page details our top picks for the best airline credit cards from our partners. You can use the calculator to estimate which airline credit cards can earn you the best average return on your spend.

The cards on this page are updated periodically. New cards are introduced from time to time and the benefits of current cards could change at any time. You can use our Credit Card Finder Tool to search by spend across all credit cards in our database.


Best Card For Delta Benefits

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is a great option if you're loyal to Delta Airlines.

The card earns 3X Delta SkyMiles on Delta and hotel purchases, 2X SkyMiles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and 1X SkyMiles on all other purchases.

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is most known of it's annual companion pass for Main Cabin. This pass allows you to bring a companion to travel with you in Main Cabin for just the cost of taxes & fees. This pass alone can offer an easy $250+ in value depending on the flight.

If you're able to run heavy spend through the card, you can earn Medallion Qualifying Miles towards status. You can also spend your way to a Medallion Qualification Dollars waiver which can help you bypass the U.S. spending requirement for Delta Medallion Status.

Another big money saver of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card is that you and up to 8 others traveling with you will receive the first bag checked free of charge. With bag checks costing $25 to $30 per person, per direction, this can save you hundreds if not thousands per year depending on how often you and those traveling with you fly.

Overall, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card offers superb value and is one of the best well-rounded credit cards if you often fly Delta.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card
Intro Bonus
Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
Rewards Rate
3X
Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
2X
Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
1X
Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
Main Card Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Annual Fee
$250
Authorized User Fee
$0
Foreign Transaction Fee
0%

Best Entry-Level Card For United

Unitedâ„  Explorer Card
Unitedâ„  Explorer Card

The Unitedâ„  Explorer Card is an entry-level airline credit card that's great for earning a few miles on spend while receiving some solid benefits.

It earns 2X United Miles on United, restaurant, and hotel purchases and 1X on all other purchases.

Benefits of the card include a free checked bag for you and one other traveling on the same reservation, priority boarding, two annual United Club passes, and up to $100 towards a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.

Overall, the Unitedâ„  Explorer Card offers great value for such a low annual fee.

Unitedâ„  Explorer Card
United Explorer Card
Intro Bonus
Earn 40,000 bonus miles
Rewards Rate
2X
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on hotel stays and United purchases
2X
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services
1X
Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
Main Card Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Clubâ„  with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services
Annual Fee
$0 the first year, then $95
Authorized User Fee
$0
Foreign Transaction Fee
0%

Best Card For Southwest Benefits

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

If you want to earn Southwest Points at a great rate and be given some great benefits with Southwest, you'll want to turn your attention towards the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

It earns 3X Southwest Points on dining for the first year, 2X on Southwest purchases, and 1X on everything else.

The card offers several benefits including 7,500 anniversary points each year, an annual $75 Southwest travel credit, four upgraded boarding per year (when available), and 20% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi.

It's one of the best cards to have if you frequently fly Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Intro Bonus
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Rewards Rate
3X
Earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.
2X
Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases.
1X
Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Main Card Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months..
  • 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary each year.
  • $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
Annual Fee
$149
Authorized User Fee
$0
Foreign Transaction Fee
0%

Best For Flexible Travel Rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

If you're not loyal to any one airline, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card might be down your alley.

It earns an unlimited 2X Venture Miles on every purchase. These miles can be redeemed at a value of 1 cent each towards any travel charged to the card.

This means you can use charge flights, hotels, car rentals, transportation and just about any other kind of travel and use the rewards you've earned to wipe away the charges.

Venture Miles can also be transferred to Capital One's airline and hotel partners which include JetBlue Airways, Air Canada, and Wyndham Hotels to name few.

The best thing about having a card like the Capital One Venture is that you can get great value redeeming your miles towards miscellaneous travel expenses that other travel cards would normally give you low value for such as parking and tolls.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Intro Bonus
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
Rewards Rates
2X
Earn an unlimited 2X miles per $1 spent on every purchase, every day.
Main Card Highlights
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Redeem on travel—including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Annual Fee
$95
Authorized User Fee
$0
Foreign Transaction Fee
0%

Best Beginner Rewards Card For Travelers

Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Chase Sapphire Preferred®

If you're new to earning rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® is the best place to start as it is a well-rounded travel card.

It earns 5X points on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3X on online grocery purchases, select streaming services, and dining purchases, 2X on other travel purchases, and 1X on everything else.

Points are worth 1 cent each for many redemptions, as a Chase Sapphire Preferred® cardholder you'll be able to redeem points for 25% more value towards travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. This gives you an easy redemption value of 1.25 cents.

Ultimate Reward Points can also be transferred to Chase's airline and hotel partners for a chance at even higher value. Airline partners include United, Southwest, and JetBlue.

Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Intro Bonus
Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Rewards Rates
5X
Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3X
Earn 3X points on online grocery purchases, select streaming services, and dining.
2X
Earn 2X points on all other travel purchases.
1X
Earn 1X points per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Main Card Highlights
  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Backâ„ , your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Annual Fee
$95
Authorized User Fee
$0
Foreign Transaction Fee
0%

Best For Restaurants & Big Supermarket Spenders

American Express® Gold Card
American Express Gold Card

When it comes to earning rewards on restaurant and supermarket spending, no card does it better than the American Express® Gold Card.

The card earns 4X Membership Rewards Points at restaurants and on U.S. supermarket purchases, 3X points on airfare booked directly with an airline or through the American Express Travel Portal, and 1X points on all other purchases.

It also offers up to $120 in annual Uber credits and up to $120 in annual dining credits, both dished out in $10 increments every month.

Membership Rewards Points can be redeemed for 1 cent each towards travel purchases made via the American Express Travel Portal.

You can also transfer points to AMEX's lengthy list of airline and hotel partners for a shot at higher value. Airline partners include Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and many more. If you enjoy flying Delta (or other SkyTeam members), you'll want to heavily consider Membership Rewards credit cards.

American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Gold Card
Intro Bonus
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
Rewards Rates
4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery.
4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3X
Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
1X
Earn 1X Membership Rewards® point on all other purchases.
Main Card Highlights
  • Rose Gold is back. You can now choose between Gold or Rose Gold.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • Get up to 12 complimentary months of an Uber Eats Pass subscription when you enroll with your Gold Card by 12/31/21.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$250
Authorized User Fee
$0 for the first five add'l cards, then $35 per card for the sixth card onward
Foreign Transaction Fee
0%

Best For Everyday Categories & Travel

Citi Premier® Card
Citi Premier® Card

The Citi Premier® Card is another solid option when it comes to building rewards points across great categories.

It earns 3X Citi ThankYou Rewards Points on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, air travel, and hotel purchases which makes it easy to earn points at home and earn points when on the road.

ThankYou Points can be redeemed for 1 cent each towards travel or you can transfer them to Citi's airline partners. Citi's airline partners include JetBlue Airways and a bunch of international airlines such as Etihad, Singapore, and Qantas. This makes Citi a great choice if you're aiming to experience 5-star first class flights on international airlines.

Citi Premier® Card
Citi Premier Card
Intro Bonus
FOR A LIMITED TIME, earn 80,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.
Rewards Rate
3X
Earn 3X points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3X
Earn 3X points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel, and Hotels
1X
Earn 1X points per $1 spent on all other purchases
Main Card Highlights
  • Annual $100 Hotel Savings Benefit
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Annual Fee
$95
Authorized User Fee
$0
Foreign Transaction Fee
0%

Best For Airport Lounge Access

The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express

If you're looking for luxury travel perks and extensive lounge access, you'll want to consider picking up The Platinum Card® from American Express.

It earns 5X Membership Rewards Points on airfare purchased directly with an airline, airfare purchases through the AMEX Travel Portal, and pre-paid hotel purchases through the AMEX Travel Portal.

While you can get some decent value spending on the card, The Platinum Card gets pretty much all of it's value from the long list of perks and benefits it offers.

The most popular benefit of the card is the AMEX Global Lounge Collection which grants access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Lounges, Delta SkyClub Lounges (when flying Delta), Airspace Lounges, and Escape Lounges.

Along with lounge access, you'll receive $1,400 in credits between Uber, Saks Fifth, Equinox, CLEAR, digital entertainment purchases, hotel purchases made through AMEX Travel, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and incidentals made with an airline of your choice. The card also grants complimentary elite status with Marriott, Hilton, and several car rental agencies.

On top of all this, additional Platinum cardholders also receive access to most of the benefits. You can add up to 3 additional Platinum Cards for $175 which is a superb deal considering each cardholder receives their own elite status, lounge access, and much more.

Membership Rewards Points can be redeemed for airfare at a value of 1 cent each via the American Express Travel Portal or be transferred to a handful of airline and hotel partners which includes Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Hawaiian Airlines.

The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Intro Bonus
A New Platinum Exclusive Offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Rewards Rate
10X
Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
5X
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 per calendar year.
5X
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
1X
Earn 1X Membership Rewards® Points on all other purchases.
Main Card Highlights
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • New! American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships. Enrollment required.
  • $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$695
Authorized User Fee
$175 for up to 3 additional Platinum cards and $175 for each additional Platinum card after the first 3
Foreign Transaction Fee
0%

Best Airline Credit Cards Summary

Credit Card Annual Fee Best For Rewards Calculator
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card $250 Best Card For Delta Benefits Learn More
Unitedâ„  Explorer Card $0 the first year, then $95 Best Entry-Level Card For United Learn More
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card $149 Best Card For Southwest Benefits Learn More
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card $95 Best For Flexible Travel Rewards Learn More
Chase Sapphire Preferred® $95 Best Beginner Rewards Card For Travelers Learn More
American Express® Gold Card $250 Best For Restaurants & Big Supermarket Spenders Learn More
Citi Premier® Card $95 Best For Everyday Categories & Travel Learn More
The Platinum Card® from American Express $695 Best For Airport Lounge Access Learn More

Find The Best Airline Credit Card For You

Use the rewards calculator to get an idea of which credit cards will earn you the most rewards and best return when it comes to airline redemptions.

Results will consist of top-rated airline and travel credit cards from our partners. They will be sorted by net return which is the average value of the total rewards earned, plus annual credits, and minus annual fees.

Remember that airline credit cards offer benefits that can save you money or add significant value to the card. This includes free checked bags, companion passes, and more. You'll want to take this into consideration along with the return you'll get running spend through the card.

Add Categories
Search for categories and click 'Add Category' to add it to the calculator. If you want to be more specific, you can specify domestic or international spend.
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Category Spend

Enter your spend per month, year, or quarter for the listed categories. You can then click Get The Best Cards to get the list of results.
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Spend Duration

You can set the duration of the spend for the categories listed above. If you're looking for the best card for only n-months worth of spend, this is where you change the option.

If you want to calculate based on a full year of spending, you can leave it set to a duration of '1 Year'.

Adjust Transferable Points

Some rewards programs allow you to transfer your earned points to airline, hotel, and other loyalty programs. These programs will generally have higher point values when doing such.

Since these matter so much when choosing a credit card, you can enter your own point value for these programs to include in the calculations.

When set to zero (0), they will calculate based on The Point Calculator's valuations. Any non-zero value you enter will be used in the calculations.

You can click on the to learn more about the value of the currency when applicable (opens in a new tab/window). Depending on the calculations, all programs listed below may not be featured in the results.

Results

Note: Results may take a few seconds to generate after doing a search. The results and values listed are estimates to help guide you towards making the best decision. They are for illustrative purposes only.
Results Will Appear Here
Updated 2021-09-15 By Robert Flowers III
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