We've ran the calculations and put together a list of the best travel rewards credit cards for earning airline miles. These cards also offer great benefits ranging from lounge access to annual companion passes.
- Earning Rate: Earn an unlimited 3X points on restaurant, supermarket, gas station, air travel, and hotel purchases and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Annual Credits: $100 hotel credit when you book a $500+ hotel stay through thankyou.com.
- Main Highlights: Grants the ability to transfer ThankYou Rewards points to all of Citi's airline and hotel partners.
- Intro Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
- Annual Fee: $95.
- Summary: If you ever wanted to experience first and business class with top-notch 5-star international airlines like Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and others, the Citi Premier is the best option for building up rewards due to the great earning rates. If you're a local person, it's also the best option for JetBlue, Wyndham, and Choice hotels.
- Earning Rate: Earn 5X miles on car rentals and hotels booked through Capital One Travel and an unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases.
- Main Highlights: Up to $100 towards a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.
- Intro Bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
- Annual Fee: $95
- Summary: The Venture Card is one of the best flat-rate travel rewards credit cards available. Miles earned with the card can be redeemed for 1 cent in value towards any travel purchases including all airlines. Miles can also be transferred to Capital One's airline and hotel partners for increased value.
- Earning Rate: Earn 5X points on airfare booked direct or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 of these purchases per year) and 5X points on prepaid hotel bookings through American Express Travel. All other purchases will earn you 1X.
- Annual Credits: Up to $300 in Equinox credit, up to $240 digital entertainment credit, up to $200 airline fee credit, $200 Uber Cash (up to $15 per month and up to $35 in December), $200 in Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection credit on 2 night minimum bookings, $189 CLEAR® credit, $155 Walmart+ credit (up to $12.95 per month), and up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit ($50 bi-annually).
- Main Highlights: Global lounge access (Centurion lounges, Delta SkyClub lounges, Airspace lounges, Escape lounges, and Priority Pass lounges), superb purchase insurance, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, and up to $100 towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
- Intro Bonus: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
- Annual Fee: $695. (See Rates and Fees)
- Summary: The card has a hefty annual fee, but is easy to offset thanks to the large amount of annual credits, extensive lounge access, high intro bonuses, and many other benefits the card offers. Points earned with the card can be transferred to a large handful of airline partners including Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue Airways.
- Earning Rate: Earn 4X Membership Rewards points on restaurant purchases worldwide, 4X at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1X), 3X points on airfare purchased direct or through American Express Travel, and 1X points on all other purchases.
- Annual Credits: Up to $120 in annual dining credit ($10 per month) and up to $120 in annual Uber Cash ($10 per month).
- 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.
- Annual Fee: $250. (See Rates and Fees)
- Summary: This is the one of the best (if not thee best) credit card for earning rewards on restaurants and supermarket purchases. If you spend moderately across either category, you'll easily rake up lots of points transferable to a large amount of airlines including Delta, JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, and many more.
- Earning Rate: Earn 5X miles on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3X on online grocery purchases, select streaming services, and dining purchases, 2X points on other travel purchases, and 1X on everything else.
- Annual Credits: Annual $50 credit for hotels booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal.
- Main Highlights: 25% boost to point value when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (easy 1.25 cents per point) and 10% bonus points annually based on how much you spent the prior cardmember year.
- Intro Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Annual Fee: $95
- Summary: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one the best flexible travel rewards credit cards. It features great categories and lots of ways to earn bonus points. Points can easily be redeemed for 1.25 cents apiece for travel booked through Chase or be transferred to Chase's airline and hotel partners which includes United, Southwest, and Hyatt.
- Earning Rate: The Delta Platinum AMEX Card earns 3X SkyMiles on Delta and hotel purchases, 2X at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and 1X on all other purchases.
- Main Highlights: First checked bag free, annual Main Cabin companion pass, ability to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles spending on the card, and the ability to earn a Medallion Qualification Dollars waiver.
- Intro Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.
- Annual Fee: $250. (See Rates and Fees)
- Summary: The annual companion pass alone will typically offset the annual fee. Assuming you don't wait until the last minute, it's easy to use and generally offers about $250 to $400 in value (depends on the flight of course). The Delta Platinum AMEX is also a great choice if you're trying to spend your way to higher Delta Medallion Status.
- Earning Rate: The United Explorer Card earns 2X miles on United, restaurants, and hotel purchases, and 1X on all other purchases.
- Main Highlights: First checked bag free, two annual United Club passes, and up to $100 towards a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.
- Intro Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
- Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95.
- Summary: If you fly United, but don't have frequent flyer status with the airline, the Explorer Card offers the best value in terms of benefits as you'll save lots of money with the free checked bag perk and you'll be able to enjoy two lounge visits. The only drawback is that the card doesn't earn a ton of miles, so I recommend pairing it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or, if you want more benefits, picking up the United Quest℠ Card instead.
- Earning Rate: Earns 3X points on Southwest purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare), internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming, and 1X points on everything else.
- Annual Credits: $75 in Southwest credits each anniversary year and 7,500 anniversary points (worth about $95) for just being a cardholder.
- Main Highlights: 4 upgraded bookings per anniversary, the ability to earn Tier Qualifying points spending on the card with no cap, and in-flight discounts.
- Intro Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Annual Fee: $149.
- Summary: The Southwest Priority Card is a solid option if you value the 4 upgrading bookings. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card will probably be the better option.
Best Airline Credit Cards Summary
|Credit Card||Annual Fee||Best For|
|Citi Premier® Card||$95||Everyday Categories & Travel|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||$95||Unlimited 2X Miles On Purchases|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$695||Lounge Access & Luxury Travel|
|American Express® Gold Card||$250||Restaurants & U.S. Supermarkets|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||$95||Flexible Travel Rewards|
|Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card||$250||Delta Travelers|
|United℠ Explorer Card||$0 the first year, then $95||United Travelers|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card||$149||Frequent Southwest Travelers|
Airline Credit Card Miles Calculator
Use the 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.
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These estimates are to help guide you towards making the best decision when it comes to picking up a rewards credit card. They should be used for illustrative purposes only.
You can click on the estimated earnings to see the calculations or click on the card to learn more and apply for the card through our partners.
Do note that all spend amounts entered into the tool above will carry over to every credit card rewards calculator on the site, so there's no need to re-enter spend if you choose to dive deeper into calculating rewards for credit cards on the site.
What's the best credit card for earning airline miles?
In our opinion, the Citi Premier® Card tick all the boxes when it comes to earning rewards and overall value. Use our credit card rewards calculator to find out if it's the best card for you.